By: Tunde Rahman
With the release of the photographs taken last Thursday when the All Progressives Congress(APC), national chieftains, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Chief Bisi Akande, visited President Muhammadu Buhari in London, one or two things are now clear about the president’s present health situation.
At first the President is not dead as speculated in some quarters. President Buhari may be ailing but he is not dead.
The president is in a residence in London, not in a hospital as some would also want to have us believe.
The presidency, which circulated the photographs, had disclosed that President Buhari received Asiwaju Tinubu and Baba Akande in the Federal Government’s official residence in London, Abuja House. Not in a hospital.
Information Minister Lai Mohammed had told the nation that president is not sick and not in a hospital.
Despite all the verbal attacks on his person for mounting a bulwark for Aso Rock, it seems the minister knows more than we thought he knew after all.
The shots were taken as Tinubu and Akande were received by Buhari in the living room, when they launched into what looked like a discussion with the president and when he saw his guests off to the door.
It is puzzling that even after the release of the much-publicised photographs, some have continued to grovel in disbelief and denial.
The rumour mill is still agog with all kinds of speculations and innuendoes. The conspiracy theories swirled. Some claimed the pictures were taken long ago. They said photoshop was deployed. They asked mischievously: if it were a recent photograph, why was Asiwaju Tinubu wearing just caftan in the present winter in London? They also asked why President Buhari was wearing the same jalabia (pyjamas) he wore in a previous picture they had seen before?
Meanwhile, many of those who asked this question perhaps wear only one pyjamas at all times in their homes.
They alleged that Asiwaju Tinubu and Baba Akande came to London to cover up the so-called lies about the real health situation of the president.
But real pictures don’t lie. It is dismaying that some still doubt or disbelieve what they see in pictures? Why do some still continue to live in denial, even after being confronted with live pictures? Let me attempt at two guesses for this.
One, having experienced something like this before, some Nigerians now get skeptical when it comes to issues relating to their president’s health.
Remember the case of late President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua. The information about the real health status of President Yar’ Adua was hidden for so long. Nigerians were kept in the dark until it engendered a big crisis.
Two, the way and manner the presidency has handled the present situation has not helped matters. It has given room for suspicion. When the president was proceeding abroad, the information dished out was that he was proceeding on holiday and would use the opportunity to do a check-up. It was that casual. Yet, four days before the official commencement of the leave, the president had taken off or had been flown abroad.
Yet, the president who, following the statement from Aso Rock, would merely use the opportunity of the leave for a check-up did not come back as expected.
He was later to seek an extension of his vacation. The extension, according to Presidential Spokesman Femi Adesina, was to await the “results of some tests” the president underwent and to “complete the test cycle”. This time, no specific time was given or has been given till date for his return. All these are bound to birth suspicions and engender unhealthy speculations.
For the life of me, why is it difficult to disclose President Buhari’s real health condition? As many have stated, like every other mortal, the president may fall sick at some point or another. It is also not out of place to expect a 74-year-old to have some health challenges. So what’s the big deal about the president falling ill, you may ask?
I’m not saying here that the president is at present enjoying the best of health. Far from it. But why do we continue to distrust information around our leaders, particularly when they concern their health, even when we are presented with pictorial evidence?
Now, back to the photographs in question, the persuasive force is not just in the pictures, it is also in the people in the pictures. I mean the efficacy of the message is not just borne by the pictures, it is also engendered by those captured by the camera, the political enigmas therein and the powerful messages they seek to send to all of us.
This point becomes more salient when it is remembered that this is not the first visit by politicians to Buhari and not the first picture to be rolled out since the health rumours around the president began.
I cannot agree more with Amit Kalantri, who posited in his book “Wealth of Words,” that “a photograph should not just be a picture; it should be a philosophy”. What is the spirit behind the visit to Buhari and the pictures taken? In my view, it is to demonstrate to the whole world that though President Buhari may be ailing, he is recuperating and recovering fast. T
his is perhaps why within seconds of their release, the pictures had become national and international headlines.
The major newspapers in Nigeria lavished the picture on their front pages. Those photographs are not just pictures, they have meanings; they convey messages of truth, messages of hope.
As pictures, there is no doubt that they will conjure memories later, memories of this period in our national history.