• Says no basis for agitation, President has not violated any law
• No, he should either return to Nigeria or resign – Protesters
The federal government has said that there is no basis for the agitation over the health status and absence of President Muhammadu Buhari, saying that the President has not violated any law of the land.
Speaking through the minister of information and culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the government said that there is no substitute for Buhari.
Mohammed, who stated this during an interview with some journalists, added that though Buhari is being missed, his absence has not crippled or interfered with the smooth running of the country.
The explanation came just as protesters in Abuja and London have asked the President to either return from London
Buhari has been out of the country for 93 days and he is currently in the United Kingdom, receiving medical attention.
But Mohammed said that there is no need for the agitations concerning the President’s health and absence.
He said, “There is no doubt that we miss the President, but I think the government has been functioning very well.
There can’t be a substitute for the President, no doubt but I don’t think it has gotten to any stage whereby we find the kind of acrimony, agitations that is coming up.
“It is normal for anybody to be ill. When somebody is ill, there are certain things he cannot do but we thank God that Mr. President is improving and he will come back very soon. The important thing is that government has been working. We have not missed one single Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting since he left.
“Also, we have not missed one single National Economic Council meeting. Whatever needs to be done is being done because there are serious consultations between the Acting President and Mr President and as such, I don’t see the hoopla about Mr. President being away.
Mohammed also reacted to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) claim that the All Progressives Congress (APC) is the harbinger of hate speeches in the country, saying that the opposition party was only being partisan.
He said people misquote and attack him in a bid to cripple the government.
He said, “It’s a pity that the PDP is not looking at this matter from a patriotic perspective. They are only looking at it from the partisan perspective which does not allow them to get the message we are sending out.
“The message we are sending out is that it is because there is a country called Nigeria that is why there are political parties and that is also why we have media houses and journalists.
“The moment there is instability in the polity, then we are all at risk. On our own part, we are not politicising anything. All we are saying is that empirical evidence shows that there has been a rise in hate speeches, fake news and misrepresentations in the last couple of years and that it is these hate speeches and fake news that have been fuelling disunity as well as destabilising the polity.
“We never attributed it to the PDP. Anybody out there will know that these hate speeches are aimed at destabilising the polity and distracting the government.
“I do not see how anybody can say either President Buhari or the APC is sponsoring hate speeches. But like I said, PDP should not take this issue personal, but see it from a patriotic point of view.
“Our appeal is that those who are sponsoring these hate speeches should desist because the consequences are better imagined.
“I was the face of the APC while in opposition and I believe that many of these people have not forgiven me for the role God made me play in that change. I am also the spokesperson of the federal government, so their belief is that if you want to cripple the government, then attack the spokesperson.”
Mohammed also said that he was confident that the gap between the executive and legislature will soon be bridged, saying that “we have the mechanism to resolve them.”
In a related development, hundreds of protesters under the aegis of “Concerned Nigerians” on Monday in Abuja defied the early morning rains and demanded for the immediate return or resignation of President Buhari just as a simultaneous protest was also staged in the Abuja House in London.
The group also displayed various placards with inscriptions like ‘Resign or Return’, ‘Our mumu don do’; ‘Buhari called for impeachment when Yar’ Adua was sick, Now we are calling for the same’; ‘Buhari, Where are you? We are tired of being enslaved in our country’; ’Our ignorance must come to an end’.
The protesters, who were accompanied by Police patrol vehicles, took off from the Unity Fountain at about 8am but could not move beyond the entrance road to the Presidential Villa as they were prevented by some policemen who formed a wall at the entrance to the road leading to the Presidential villa.
They demanded that the President should resign instead of holding the country to ransom and that the details of the Presidents health situation should be made public as he is undergoing treatment with public funds.
The protest convener, Deji Adeyanju who led the group and popular musician, Charles Oputa, (aka Charley Boy), expressed disappointment on the failure of the National Assembly to commence an investigation into the true health status of Buhari, insinuating that the legislature seems to have been compromised by some cabal in the Presidency and are working against the interest of Nigerians.
Adeyanju said, “90 days is too long for a president to be away from his country without any explanation to the people that voted him into office.”
The group maintained that if President Buhari has become incapacitated, he should do the needful and resign because he cannot continue to hold the country to ransom, alleging that a few people in government have taken the advantage of the President’s ill health to loot the treasury with impunity.
“We hereby demand that the National Assembly invoke Section 144 sub Section 4 of the Nigerian Constitution and direct the setting up of a medical panel in conjunction with the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo to ascertain whether the President is incapacitated,” Adeyanju added.
The protesters also demanded that the President, if healthy enough should address Nigerians on the true state of his health and other national issues, insisting that he should return to the country and resume work as president of Federal Republic of Nigeria in order to lead according to the overwhelming mandate reposed on him in 2015.
They are also asking him to chart a course that will lead the country out of the present economic and security quagmire the nation has been pushed into.
They stressed that if President Buhari fails, refuse or is unable to fulfill the above conditions, then he should honourably resign or be impeachment by the National Assembly.
Other groups represented at the Abuja protest include former director, new media to the PDP, and National Co-ordinator, Foundation for True Freedom and Good Leadership, Prince Deji Adeyanju; Mr. Adebayo Raphael, Publicity Secretary, OurMumuDonDo Movement; Ariyo-Dare Atoye, Convener, Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution (CDNDC); and Mr. John Danfulani for Concerned Nigerians among others.
The London protest which took place at the Abuja House in London at about 11am (UK time) also demanded for the whereabouts of Buhari, his immediate return or resignation. It was also attended by Comrade Chidi Cali, Barrister Bob, Nollywood actor Jim Iyke among others.
Meanwhile, the Senior Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, has described the demands of the protesters as unconstitutional.
But the Presidency has also faulted dual protest in Abuja and London, insisting that Buhari will not resign as he has not fallen short of any known law in the country.
Addressing State House Correspondents, the Senior Special Assistant to the president on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, said that those making the calls are overstepping their boundaries.
He added that the President has complied with constitutional provisions having successfully transmitted power to the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), who has now been elevated as the Acting President.
Garba said, “Those making the calls are exercising their rights in line with the constitution of this country. Of what use, or value is a democracy in which citizens cannot embark on peaceful protests? So we respect their rights to convene or undertake peaceful protest.
“On the call for the President to resign or disclose whatever, I think they are stepping outside the laws of this country. Anyone conversant with the constitution of this country will have noticed or seen that Mr. President has complied 100 percent with the requirements of the constitution of this country.
“He has handed over power to the vice president as required by the constitution and the vice president is carrying out the affairs of this country. He is undertaking activities of government in line with the constitution in a way that the President himself has given words of commendation.
“So the President has not breached any law. What he has done is perfectly in line with the constitution and people are looking for things to say. I think they should do their research very well,”