By Emmauel Uffot
For the 11th time in his first four year tenure which ends next month, President Muhammadu Buhari has jetted out of the country to London, for a private visit. The visit to London which has become a recurring feature of his presidency was announced by the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said President Buhari would leave Nigeria after a visit to Maiduguri, the Borno capital to commission projects in the sectors of education, healthcare and roads.
Adesina said: “Further to the official visit by President Muhammadu Buhari to Lagos Wednesday where he commissioned a number of projects executed by the State Government, the President is scheduled to depart for Maiduguri, the Borno State capital for another official visit Thursday. “He is expected to commission developmental projects especially in the sectors of education, healthcare and roads. “At the end of the visit, President Buhari will be proceeding to the United Kingdom on a private visit. He is expected to return to Nigeria on May 5, 2019.”
The President’s trip, ahead of his inauguration next month evoked memories of his protracted and extended medical vacations he took upon assuming office in 2015, raising concerns about the toll of the campaign on his fragile health. Although his last trip to the UK was about eight months ago, the president’s visits to the UK have been mostly for medical tourism.
Prior to the latest trip to UK which critics have tagged his annex ‘Aso Rock’ President Buhari has been to the UK 10 times since taking office in 2015. The first visit came eight months into his tenure, on February 5, 2016, when the president travelled to the UK for his first vacation. He returned to the country on February 10, 2016. He stayed home just for two months and from 13 May to May 15 2016, Buhari attended the first ever Anti-corruption summit in the United Kingdom. The summit attracted various heads of state from around Africa. The summit was vital to getting international support for anti-corruption and terrorism in Nigeria.
Next, on June 6, 2016, Buhari left Nigeria for his first medical vacation. The president took another 10-day medical trip to London to treat an ear infection. He extended his trip by 3 days to rest. He returned from that journey on June 19, 2016. The fourth trip came on January 19, 2017, the President travelled to the UK on medical leave and returned on March 10 after spending 51 days out of the country.
Forty days later, he travelled again to the UK for medical attention on May 8, 2017, and remained there till August 19, 2017, spending 104 days, a record which surpassed that of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua. On September 21, 2017, he travelled from the US to the UK for medical purposes and returned to Abuja on September 25, 2017.
The president was in the UK for 13 days from April 9 to 21, 2018 for his annual leave. He participated in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and also met with the British Prime Minister, Theresa May. On May 2 to 4, he had a “technical stopover” at the UK from a trip from the US after a meeting from US President Donald Trump. Buhari had left the American capital on the morning of May 1 and arrived at the presidential wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja on May 4, 2018.
Four days after returning to Nigeria, He traveled again to the UK for medical reasons on May 8, 2018, and he returned on May 11. The president travelled to London on a working leave on August 3, 2018, and returned on the 18th of the same month, spending a total of 16 days.
For the record, when the President returns home after 10 days, as announced by his spokesman , he may have spent has spent a record 220 days visiting London in the first four years of his tenure as president since 2015.
However, speculations are already flying as to the reason he is travelling for such a long time again shortly before his coming Inauguration on May 29. Although to an average onlooker, the president is just taking a rest from the hectic campaign prior to the election, while to others the visit as usual is not unconnected with medical issues. But sources has it that though the president will used the visit to also do his routine health medical check- up, but the primary reason for the trip is to have that privacy to scrutinize the ministerial nominees devoid of prying eyes of lobbyists.
Unlike in 2015, when it took over six months for the President to announced his cabinet, this time findings show that he already has the list which he wants to used the London visit to scrutinize for a possible announcement before May 29.
But for avowed critics, he will be remembered as a globe- trotting president that went to London for 11 times and over 100 trips outside the country.