On the President’s Health and The Rumbling in the North

On WhatsApp today, with two of the very educated Northerners I know, I’ve had conversations where they insinuated that Northern presidents/heads of state have been dying in power in Nigeria, counting as far back as Tafawa Balewa through Murtala, to Abacha and UMYA due to some southern conspiracy. I’ve also seen people circulating Fayose’s election campaign advert around President Buhari’s health using pictures of the aforementioned. I’ve received reports of sermons in mosques in which it has been said that President Buhari’s ill-health is caused because Southern Christians poisoned him again as part of some grand southern conspiracy. Many of us said such insinuations were unreasonable at first but I’m told it has spread like wildfire amongst many in the North. A policeman was even reported to publicly declare that he would kill 200people if President Buhari dies.

All these point to a very dangerous eventuality — if the president dies it is highly likely that violence will erupt in the north targeted at those whom this narrative deems responsible, from many who believe these things, no matter how absurd we think it is.

This is why the president and his team must act promptly now to fill the information vacuum the unnecessary secrecy they have built around his health. It is that vacuum that these dangerous rumours are filling and whatever political power and jockeying they are doing, they must know that it is not worth the shedding of a single drop of Nigerian blood.

Nothing will kill these rumours faster than President Buhari himself coming out publicly to not only debunk them but to come clean with the truth about his health. I think it is now a security issue and it is his duty for as long as he is president to ensure the security of the lives and property of all Nigerians.

I am not so naive that I don’t recognize the political situation that the cabal around the president and by extension the Northern establishment does not want to lose political power and hence they have decided to practically discount sound action on the president’s health for this reason. If they continue this, they will only hasten the day when that loss will arrive but also provide fuel for these rumours. Their best bet now is to do the right thing for the president, the government and the country while they still have the opportunity to negotiate the outcome politically.

The report of the meeting of Generals Obasanjo, Babangida and Abubakar today means that like it or not, these men are weighing the options and hopefully are looking for a path of zero chaos and possible bloodshed. These men have the influence to move the needle in this direction and I sincerely hope they do. I urge those around the president to do the same.