THE Presidency explained yesterday why President Muhammadu Buhari was not at the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting.
He “continues to take a rest from official functions on the advice of his doctors”, Information, Culture & Tourism Minister Lai Mohammed told reporters at the State House after the meeting.
Mohammed said: “The President chose today to rest; he was in his office yesterday (Tuesday), which you all reported. He is taking his doctors’ advice so that he can fully recover.”
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo presided over the meeting, which started around 11.a.m., few minutes after he arrived at the Council Chamber.
Osinbajo has presided over FEC meetings thrice since the President returned from medical vacation in the United Kingdom on March 10.
As part of reasons Buhari did not attend the penultimate FEC, the Information minister had told reporters that Buhari was resting and working at home.
Unlike last week, many ministers were at the opening of the meeting. The Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, was there.
The Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mohammed Bello, and the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma, prayed.
Mohammed denied a report that the President was being fed through intravenous injections, describing as unfounded claims that Buhari was so ill that he could not eat by himself and was being fed through the veins.
“We want to take this opportunity to thank Nigerians who have expressed a lot of concern and sympathy, and who have been praying for him. Like we’ve always said, Mr president will stick to his doctor’s advice so that he can recover much more quickly.” he said.
On those advising the President to go on another medical vacation, Mohammed said: “We thank all of them for their concern, I think it shows how concerned Nigerians are about the health of the president. And all their suggestions are being taken on board.”
Speaking on the report claiming that Buhari was being fed through the veins, Mohammed said: “The answer to your first question is absolute bunkum. It is absolutely untrue that he is being fed. He was in the office yesterday as you all reported. And if the doctors say he should take a rest. I think you’ll recover faster when you rest when you ought to rest, rather than forcing yourself to work when you are not fit to work.
“All he is doing is following the doctor’s advice. Mr President himself told the nation he has never been this sick and he is going to take it easy. He said it from day one when he came back from the UK.
“So, whatever is happening today is not any strange development, it is exactly what he said. That he’s been advised to take it easy by his doctors and that he will soon also go back for further treatment.
“So, I don’t think it’s anything that is out of the place from what he said. He has been quite transparent and upfront in the matter concerning his health.”
The minister also explained that Buhari’s health status won’t adversely affect the celebration of the administration’s two years anniversary.
He said: “We would be two years old in a few weeks’ time. And in our very normal customary way we are going to mark it because we have a lot of stories to tell. We are proud that within two years we’ve made tremendous progress.
“We’ve been able to restructure the economy on a very sound footing. We’ve succeeded in not just looking for quick fixes. But we are addressing the fundamental issues of our economy and which is basically that we are moving away from relying solely on oil to other areas like agriculture, solid minerals and the rest.”
Buhari, it was learnt, actually changed his mind at the last minute.
Ministers and presidential aides were said to have been alerted that Buhari would be at the meeting.
In fact, The Nation learnt, the agenda was compressed to accommodate the limited time the President was to spend at the FEC session.
A source, who spoke in confidence, said: “Buhari actually wanted to attend the FEC meeting. All ministers and relevant presidential aides were notified of the readiness of the President to preside over the session.
“As a matter of fact, many memoranda were pending at the cabinet secretariat for consideration by FEC but due to his health challenge, the President asked that not all the memos should be listed. He was just eager to be part of FEC.
“All the ministers and other aides were already notified of the President’s likely attendance to avoid coming late.”
Responding to a question, the source added: “FEC members were concerned but not disappointed because they know it takes time to recover from any ill-health.
Another source said: “The President is really recuperating; there is nothing much to worry about. He is taking it easy to recover.
“We think that very soon he will recuperate fully for official activities.”