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Nigeria’s Buhari returns home after medical leave in UK, but health rumours persist

© AFP | Nigerian President Mohammadu Buhari arrives at an airforce base in Kaduna, on March 10, 2017.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-03-10

President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday returned to Nigeria after nearly two months' medical leave in Britain but said his deputy would remain in charge for several days as he needed more rest.

A Nigerian Air Force jet carrying the 74-year-old landed at the airport in the northern city of Kaduna at about 7:40 am (0640 GMT). He was then flown by helicopter to Abuja.

In the capital, the head of state, looking gaunt in a billowing black kaftan, stepped off the helicopter and walked across the tarmac to be greeted by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.

He also met security chiefs and senior government officials before being driven away in a black official car to meet ministers and officials of his ruling All Progressives Congress party.

At the meeting, he did not give any indication of what illness he was suffering from but said "I have received, I think, the best of treatment I could receive.

"I couldn't recall being so sick since I was a young man," he added, referring to "blood transfusions, going to the laboratories and so on and so forth".

But he said he was "pleased to be back", although he disclosed that he may need "further follow-up within some weeks".

Buhari's return from London was announced on Thursday evening and he said he "came back towards the weekend, so that the vice president will continue and I will continue to rest".

The president's spokesman Femi Adesina later clarified that Buhari would not resume his duties at least over the weekend but would formalise his return to power next week.

Adesina said in a tweet that he will send a letter to the National Assembly on Monday, adding: "That makes his return to work formal, and constitutional."

Former military ruler Buhari flew to London on January 19, officially on holiday and to have what his office said were "routine medical check-ups" for an undisclosed condition.

But while he was away, aides had to counter persistent rumours online that he was seriously ill or even dead, despite photographs showing him meeting senior Nigerian politicians.

On Thursday he was shown in photographs looking painfully thin at a meeting with the most senior cleric in the Anglican communion, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.

His admission that he needs at least a few more days rest and further treatment will undoubtedly fuel speculation about the seriousness of his condition.

His office has repeatedly maintained he was "hale and hearty" throughout his time in London.

Persistent rumours

Buhari has been dogged with rumours about his health even before he came to power in May 2015 after a landmark election win against president Goodluck Jonathan two months previously.

Jonathan's Peoples Democratic Party claimed Buhari was critically ill from prostate cancer. He dismissed the assertion as an unfounded smear designed to show him as unfit for high office.

The PDP repeated its claim about Buhari's health in May last year after he appeared frail at a security summit and cancelled a series of engagements.

Buhari then travelled to London the following month to receive treatment for what was described as a persistent inner ear infection.

He left for London again in January but on the eve of his expected return on February 5, his office announced he had to extend his stay to receive medical test results.

The health of Nigeria's president has become a sensitive issue following the 2010 death of president Umaru Musa Yar'Adua from a long-standing, but previously undisclosed, kidney complaint.

Yar'Adua's initial illness and treatment in hospital abroad triggered months of political uncertainty. His deputy, Goodluck Jonathan, took over on Yar'Adua's death.

Buhari's office has been keen to avoid the impression of a political vacuum and Osinbajo, a 60-year-old lawyer and church pastor from the southwest, has been a visible presence.

His consensual style has contrasted with that of Buhari, who has been criticised for ruling with a close-knit, tight-lipped inner circle.

(AFP)

Date created : 2017-03-10

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