Legislators ’ll frustrate anti-medical tourism bill, says Omare

THE spokesman for the Ijaw Youth Congress, Mr. Eric Omare, tells CHUKWUDI AKASIKE in this interview that Nigerians have learnt a lesson from President Muhammadu Buhari’s sudden absence from the country

What is your reaction to President Muhammadu Buhari’s indefinite postponement of his return to Nigeria?

In an ideal situation, if somebody says he is sick, there is no need for any eyebrow to be raised. I don’t think that it is proper for us to be making all kinds of insinuations on the President’s health. In this case, the President has told Nigerians that he is not feeling fine and he is undergoing a series of tests. There is no need for people to be raising eyebrow. Let us allow him to undergo his treatment and I think so far, he has followed the due process by informing the National Assembly of his intention to postpone his return from the treatment indefinitely. So, there is no cause for alarm.

What is your comment on the refusal of President Buhari to use the Aso Rock clinic despite the huge budget voted for it?

I think that is a betrayal of his campaign promises. In his campaign, one of the issues he raised was that it is not proper for leaders to be travelling abroad to get medical treatment. But since he came on board, that is what he has been doing. This shows that there is no sincerity in his campaign promises. It was just a way of getting votes from Nigerians. It is most unfortunate he deceived Nigerians. It is a betrayal of trust.

Based on that, do you think that there should be a law banning public office-holders from travelling abroad to take care of their health needs, using tax-payers money?

Who are those that will make the law? Members of the National Assembly are also beneficiaries of the same process? One thing is to make the law, another thing is to implement it. Even if you make such law, they must have a loophole that they (public office-holders) will take advantage of. I don’t think mere making law is the issue. What we will require is a leader that has the will to lead by example while others will follow.

What is the difference between the way the late Umaru Yar’Adua related with Nigerians on the issue of his health and that of President Buhari?

The only difference is that in the case of Yar Adua, it took so much pressure from Nigerians for him to transmit the directive to the Senate for the former Vice-President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, to act as acting president. However, because of the present situation, President Buhari did not do that. But a closer look will show that they are the same because everything is shrouded in secrecy. That is very unfortunate.

Do you think Nigerians have learnt any lessons from all these?

The lesson we have learnt is that if we must move forward, we must give leadership to people who are in good health and people who are much younger. Once somebody is above 50 or let’s say 55, he should not lead Nigeria. The job of being a president is very tedious. So, we don’t need old people who are not strong enough.

Do you think that President Buhari should have addressed Nigerians from the UK to disclose his health status?

From my experience, even if he had addressed Nigerians from the United Kingdom, we will still not believe that he is the one talking. We will say it is digital.

Are you satisfied with the way the Acting President has been managing the affairs of government and what are the implications of Buhari’s absence on the economy of the nation?

It will interest you to know that anytime Buhari is out of the country, things will move fast and anytime he is back, things will move at a snail pace. So far, speaking from the perspective of the Niger Delta peace process for example, having the acting President in charge has made some projects to be in place. If the President was around, those projects would not have been. That applies to other sectors of the economy. The acting President is more responsive to issues than the President himself.

Can you give few examples?

You can see the way the Niger Delta peace project is going on now. You can see that the Acting President is ever willing to visit and talk to the people of Niger Delta region. Even the nomination of the Chief Judge of Nigeria was unduly delayed under President Buhari, but that has just been done under Acting President Yemi Osinbajo.

What are your thoughts on the Buhari’s extended leave? Do you think it is justified?

It is justified. In law, we say only the living can face trial, only the living can rule. If he is not alive, he cannot rule.

Are you not worried about the President’s silence?

His silence may be because of a lot of things that are happening. When it comes to the issue of health, it is not everything that you disclose to the world. I have no problem with them managing their health problem internally.

Do you think the war against insecurity will succeed with Buhari’s absence in the country?

Yes! I have told you one thing that is fundamentally different from his absence and his presence. Things move better in his absence than in his presence. The fight against insecurity will even be better.

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