In soccer parlance, one could say that Buhari fans who had been going through a devastating experience since their team captain took off on what is now accepted as a medical leave exploded with joy and relief yesterday Friday morning when the captain returned, walking on his feet. For fifty days, they had patiently endured the taunts and boos of the opposition at the disappearance of their captain. It was a ten day leave. When the captain did not make it back, it was extended and then it was extended indefinitely causing the opposition to explode with mirth, mockery and morbidity. It did not help that Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu, the captain’s PR managers were as much at sea as everybody else but dutifully circulated snipets of fake news about the captain, chilling on vacation. Their cluelessness which became increasingly clear to all left the opposition in stitches and embarassed Buhari fans.
Why the lies, people wondered. It was clear to most that Buhari was ill and getting medical attention. Was there anything strange about being ill? Ofcourse, the Kaduna Mafia allegedly headed by Mamman Daura remembered Umaru Musa and the opposition was already convinced that history was repeating itself.
The political North dreaded the possibility. The opposition in the South South taunted that it was payback time for the sacking of Goodluck Jonathan. Pro-Biafran youths boasted that a new country was coming. Many wondered why the Fulani would rather die in power than live without it while the Yoruba kept a poker-face. Ofcourse Fayose raved. Many across the country made no secret of wishing that Buhari would not return, one way or another. Some left nothing to the imagination. Every problem was blamed on Buhari; the hardship, starvation, price of rice, brutality of security forces, power outage, killing of ipob boys, army checkpoints all over the South East, the crashing value of the naira, custom officials harassing drivers on the highways and more.
By Buhari’s thirtieth day out, more than a quarter of Nigerians believed that he would not make it back. Atleast a second term was out of the question, pundits theorized. The voice of his stalwarts had gone down a bit on the meter. The rumor mills claimed that he had gone for a heart surgery; prostrate cancer and crohn’s disease made the news. Someone said privately that he had been ‘jazzed’, that he had lost his memory, could not keep in things said to him beyond minutes. As he neared the fiftieth day out, a lot of folks had given up on his return. And so, it was a huge surprise when he turned up on Friday morning at the Kaduna airforce base, cheekbones jutting out but very much on his feet. The roar of relief that went up from his supporters’ stands is still booming, widespread celebration in certain areas of the North. There is celebration in the Rotimi Amaechi camp. His national influence is toed to Buhari. In Ekiti, Ayo Fayose is naturally a bit subdued. He should have kept a tab on Buhari’s recovery instead of depending on the rumor mills.
The economy remains Buhari’s worst enemy. The pain inflicted by it had caused many Nigerians to forget that he was human, a grandfather, a husband, father, brother and cousin to many. He still needs rest after fifty days. He still needs an acting president. In football parlance, his return was at best an equalizer. Who will shoot the winning goal? Bashing the opposition for their ill-will towards the ailing leader will not win the argument, ultimately. Turning around the economy is the answer. The administration must understand that a great deal of Nigerians are engaged in a battle of survival even fiercer than Buhari’s. Atleast the tax payer pays Buhari’s bills and he has our prayer. Who remembers the poor sick forgotten? Who pays their bills?