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‘I have never been this sick’

By Saxone Akhaine, Kaduna and Terhemba Daka, Abuja
11 March 2017   |   4:28 am
President Muhammadu Buhari arrived the country after 49 days of undergoing medical treatment in the United Kingdom (UK).

Nigerian President Mohammadu Buhari (C) shakes hands with state officials upon his arrival at the Nigerian Airforce base in Kaduna, on March 10, 2017. Buhari arrived back in Nigeria on March 10 after nearly two months in London receiving treatment for an undisclosed ailment. The 74-year-old landed at the airport in the northern city of Kaduna at about 7:40 am (0640 GMT) and was flown by helicopter to the capital, Abuja. PHOTO: STRINGER / AFP

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President Muhammadu Buhari arrived the country after 49 days of undergoing medical treatment in the United Kingdom (UK).

Buhari, who landed at the Air Force Base in Mando, Kaduna and was received by top state government officials led by the Deputy Governor, Mr. Yusuf Bala Barnabas Bantex, wore a navy blue Kaftan and Zanabukar cap to match.

The Air Force plane that conveyed the President, with number N5 FGT, landed at the Air Force Base tarmac at exactly 7:47am.

He alighted from the aircraft at 7.55am and was received by Bantex and other top military officers with handshakes.

He then walked about 50 meters to a waiting helicopter that conveyed him to Abuja.

Speaking to journalists, Bantex said the President was hale and hearty, contrary to speculations, saying: “I am happy to receive him. He is going to Abuja to resume duty.”

In Abuja, Buhari landed at the helipad located within the Presidential Villa at exactly 8:43am yesterday and proceeded to meet and shake hands with top government functionaries.

He was later chauffeur-driven to the First Lady Conference Hall where he held a meeting with the service chiefs and other top government officials.

Addressing the brief meeting, which held in the First Lady’s Conference Room, the President said he had never been so weighed down by sickness throughout his life, both as a young man and as a serving military officer in the Nigerian Army with all of its ups and downs.

“I couldn’t recall being so sick since I was a young man, including in the military, with its ups and downs.

“I couldn’t recall when last I had blood transfusion. I couldn’t recall honestly, I can say in my 70 years,” he said.

The President, who said he received the best of treatment while on medical vacation in the UK, stated that he had also rested as much as humanly possible, adding that Osinbajo would continue while he rests.

He commended Osinbajo for effectively piloting the ship of state while he was away in London, adding: “I am pleased that the Vice-President enjoyed this break and he has to do much more this time around.

“I deliberately came back towards the weekend, so that the Vice-President will continue and I will continue to rest,” he said.

Buhari also thanked Nigerians who he said prayed and continued to pray for his good health while he was away, saying the development was “a testimony that in spite of the hardship being experienced, Nigerians support the government in its efforts to tackle our country’s challenges.”

He added: “The best way for me to pay you all is to re-dedicate myself to serving you, protecting your interest and keeping your trust. I thank you very much.

“I feel much better now. I am feeling much better now. There may, however, be need for further follow up within some weeks.”

Earlier in his remarks during the meeting, Osinbajo thanked Buhari for the confidence reposed in him by handing over the reins of governance to him in the capacity of Acting President.

Osinbajo who admitted that he “had a very interesting and challenging time” while Buhari was away, also thanked the President for what he described as “the good support” while piloting the affairs of the country for the almost two months of acting.

“Mr. President, again, on behalf of FEC, we welcome you back home. We are very grateful to God that you are back home hale and hearty.

“Mr. President, I must say that personally, this has been a very interesting few days for me. First, I want to thank you very much for the confidence reposed in me by handing over the reigns of governance to me in the capacity of acting President.

“I think more importantly is that you demonstrated the belief in our system, which is even more important than anything else.

“The constitution, which we all swore to, is important, because it outlines the code of conduct. I want to say not only am I, but I am sure the entire nation is grateful to you.

“For me, I must say that it has been an interesting period, going around the nation in borrowed robes. I must say I had a very interesting and challenging time, but above all, the President gave us the good support.”

Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, described Buhari’s return as a day of joy, saying it has vindicated the government’s position, while also thanking Nigerians for the prayers that kept the government going.

Mohammed thanked Osinbajo for giving the executive a sense of belonging and prayed that God would continue to heal the President Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Abayomi Olonishakin, on behalf of the service chiefs and armed forces of Nigeria, thanked God for granting the President journey mercies back to Nigeria.

Olonishakin assured that Buhari’s desires for the country, in terms of security, would be achieved, even as he appreciated the President’s support for the armed forces.

Zamfara State Governor Abdulaziz Yari also welcomed the President on behalf of the 36 state governors.

Adesina, in a tweet on his handle yesterday afternoon, said the President would transmit a letter to the National Assembly on Monday to make his return to work formal and constitutional.

“PMB will Monday transmit letter to National Assembly on his return to the country. That makes his return to work formal, and constitutional, he twitted..

Several journalists, who trooped into the airport as early as 5:00am yesterday, were not allowed access to the tarmac when Buhari landed. Only a few reporters and photographers were allowed to cover the occasion..

Adesina had in a statement on expiration of the 10 days confirmed that the President was extending his stay in the UK to “complete the test circle before returning.”

There were indications that the President might later return to the UK for further treatments.

Specifically, Buhari was expected to resume from his vacation on Monday, February 6, but he wrote to the National Assembly informing the parliament of his desire to extend his leave to complete and receive the results of a series of tests recommended by his doctors.

The Presidency’s failure to come up with a categorical statement on when Buhari would return to the country continued to fuel agitations, with many Nigerians demanding hourly bulletin on the President’s status, as was the case when the late former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was indisposed.