A cross-section of Nigerians and a pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, have knocked President Muhammadu Buhari for shunning Nigeria to spend his vacation in the United Kingdom, and similarly choosing to have ‘routine’ medical checkup in the foreign country.
They described as embarrassing President Buhari’s trip abroad for vacation and medical checkup despite the N3.87bn allocated to State House Medical Centre, Aso Villa, Abuja in the 2016 Appropriation Act.
The President had on Thursday, departed Abuja for London on a medical vacation.
That would be the President’s third medical trip abroad since inauguration.
The President had in June 2016 taken 10 days off to travel to the UK to rest, as well as see an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist for a “persistent ear infection.”
A factional Chairman of the Kwara State Chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Iyiola Oyedepo, and the Executive Director, Community Outreach for Development and Welfare Advocacy, Mr. Taiwo Otitolaye, also said that it was not appropriate for Buhari to be travelling abroad for vacation.
In separate interviews with our correspondent in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, they said that there were many places in Nigeria where the President could have had his vacation.
They also said if the N3.87bn budgeted for Aso Villa Clinic was well spent, there was no justification for him to travel abroad for medical checkup, especially with his administration’s campaign against medical tourism.
Oyedepo said, “There are so many places in this country where the President can take his rest, especially now that we have many challenges. We have an insensitive administration around now and to that extent anything can be done by those who are not sensitive.
“With what was budgeted for the Aso Villa clinic and with everything that ought to have been put in place, he should not be seeking medical attention abroad. If you spent that amount on the clinic, then the President had no excuse to go abroad.”
Otitolaye said Buhari’s penchant for foreign vacation and medical tourism abroad was an abdication of his responsibilities as Nigeria’s President.
He said, “It exposes the fact that our facilities are dilapidated and there is no attention given to them. There are recreational centres in Nigeria where he could have his rest.
“Despite the huge amounts of money budgeted for the Aso Villa clinic, President Buhari still travels overseas for medical checkup, this is not the promise he made to Nigerians while campaigning.”
Former Special Adviser to ex-President Shehu Shagari in the Second Republic, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, on Friday, criticised Buhari’s latest trip, saying he should work to improve health care services in the country.
‘’If President Buhari ensures the availability of precise drugs and equipment, as well as specialised doctors to carry out the right diagnosis, Nigerians will have no business travelling abroad for medical treatment.’’
Similarly, a former Chairman, Nigeria Medical Association, Akwa Ibom Chapter, Dr. John Udoabang, said it was wrong for the President to be asking Nigerians not to rely on foreign services while he was doing another thing.
“The President going abroad for rest or medical checkup is completely unnecessary after spending so much on the Aso Villa clinic.
“He does not spend that much on all the hospitals in the country, but he now travels outside the country to rest. Is Nigeria not good enough for him to rest? Are the hospitals in Nigeria not good enough for him to do medical checkup?
“Currently, doctors, resident doctors and consultants have not been paid their December salaries, yet the President is going outside the country to rest,” he said.
Chairman, National Conscience Party, Katsina State, Alhaji Abdulmumin Shehu Sanni, who described the timing of Buhari’s trip as wrong, said it was a waste of money.
Sanni called for Buhari’s resignation, saying it was clear that the President was incapable of leading the country well.
He said, “Buhari has become a big deceiver because he betrayed the masses by always making sentimental trips abroad to waste our resources.
“The administration of the All Progressives Congress is doing trial and error and it is about nothing but propaganda with no policy plan. He has no reason to be going abroad for medical checkup while the people are in abject poverty.”
The Secretary-General of Afenifere, Chief Sehinde Arogbofa, while condemning the President’s foreign trip, said,
“We have medical facilities in the country that can be developed to first class medical institutions in the world. I believe this is what the government should do unless the President is telling us that he is not ready to upgrade our hospitals.”
Also, the Coordinator, Academic Staff Union of Universities, Port Harcourt Zone, Prof. Beke Sese, expressed concern over the President’s penchant for travelling overseas for medical attention.
He said, ‘’When I heard the President was going on vacation in the United Kingdom, I started wondering how many times we have had the Prime Minister of the UK or President of the United States of America coming to Nigeria to spend their holidays?
‘’But if his travel has to do with his health, it becomes more worrisome. Over the years, our government has deliberately and systematically killed the educational sector because they can afford to send their children abroad. The same has now been extended to the health sector.
“If this is the kind of change we are talking about in Nigeria, it is unfortunate.’’
Sese, who flayed the whopping amount budgeted for the Aso Villa clinic in the 2016 budget, said the figure offended the sensibilities of Nigerians.
Ekiti State Commissioner for Information, Youths and Sports, Lanre Ogunsuyi, said, “When you look at the about N4bn budgeted for the upgrade of the Aso Villa clinic, for him to now travel abroad for bed rest is a waste of taxpayers’ money.”
Former governorship candidate of the PDP in Adamawa State, Umar Ardo, described the President’s trip as fraudulent, saying he started his leave some days earlier than the date in the notification he had sent to the National Assembly.
He also said that the trip had exposed the President’s “contradiction.”
“You can’t be advocating a campaign against medical tourism and yet you are the one breaking it,” he said.
“President Muhammadu Buhari’s leadership is contradictory and this is disturbing. It is a contradiction when you say something and refuse to stand by it.”
A former Presidential candidate from the state, Andraus Sawa, who also frowned on the President’s trip, said, “It would have been exemplary if the President, in this particular case, had said ‘I could have gone abroad to be treated but instead, I chose to be treated in Nigeria.”