Since Monday when it was announced that President Muhammadu Buhari was going for a medical check-up in London, there have been a lot of controversies. While some argued over the health condition of the president, others revisited some of the promises he made before his emergence in 2015.
The social media was rife with claims that Buhari promised not to go for medical care abroad. A statement in circulation quoted Buhari as making the promise while speaking as a presidential candidate at Chatham House, London, in 2015.
But Femi Adesina, spokesman of the president, was quick to dismiss the rumour, describing it as a new twist on the part of mischief makers.
“The comments are a new dimension in the plot to diminish the stature of President Muhammadu Buhari before millions of Nigerians who love and adore their president. Fortunately, the Chatham House lecture of 2015 is in public domain. The concoction by haters and agents of disunity is not part of the text of the lecture at all,” Adesina had said in a statement issued on Wednesday.
This is not the first time that the presidency would debunk reports on Buhari’s health. During one of the president’s medical trips to London in 2017, it was rumoured that he was on life support for some time in the hospital. Later, another rumour surfaced that he was dead.
Garba Shehu, senior special adviser to the president on media and publicity, had described the reports as ”plain lies spread by vested interests to create panic”. He maintained that nothing unpleasant had happened to the president.
Now that the rumour mill is agog not about Buhari’s health but what he said, TheCable decided to fact-check the statement in circulation.
CLAIM: BUHARI SAID AT CHATHAM HOUSE THAT HE WON’T SEEK MEDICAL TREATMENT ABROAD
Buhari was alleged to have asked: ”What is the difference between me and those who elected us to represent them, absolutely nothing. Why should the Nigerian president not fly with other Nigerian public? Why do I need to embark on a foreign trip as a president with a huge crowd with public funds? Why do I need to go for a medical trip abroad if we cannot make our hospital functional?’
During the president’s visit to Chatham House in 2015, there was no discussion around him treating himself in Nigeria or overseas.
The health-related issue was on how Ebola was tackled, and Buhari said: ”I think health is one of the areas that had been allowed in those 16 years we have had to deteriorate. The life, especially in the rural areas is pathetic. And because of lack of basic facilities in the rural areas that aggravate the movement of able-bodied bodies to population centres and that has increased the rate of crime because of lack of jobs, lack of facilities, lack of even basic things to survive; So, I think APC government has done a lot of studies and our manifesto has consciously looked at this.
”We will try as much as possible to make sure that infrastructure led by power and the social sectors led by education and health as rapidly as possible are given to the people. That is a promise and we have got it in our manifesto. We will keep our promise intact.”
WHAT A FACEBOOK USER POSTED
However, it appears the quote attributed to Buhari was taken from the wall of a Facebook user, named Lanre Babatunde.
He said Buhari was speaking at a townhall meeting in London with the Nigerian community on February 22, 2015 when he made the promise.
Significantly, no media house reported it then — either foreign or Nigerian. It went viral at the time and it was not denied by the APC media team. Until now.
Babatunde’s profile describes him as a 2012 graduate of the Ladoke Akintola University, Oyo state.
He did not say he was at the townhall meeting, neither did he attribute the extensive quote to any source.
This is what the Facebook user posted:
#GMB speech while addressing Nigeria community in the United Kingdom.
I Will Maintain a modest lifestyle as President – Muhammadu Buhari.
“One of the major killers of our economy apart from corruption is waste. Our scarce resources are being plundered away very carelessly and unnecessarily wasted. Let me give an instance, presently, there are more than 6 aircraft in the presidential fleet. What do you call that? Billions of naira is budgeted every year for the maintenance of these aircraft not to talk of operational cost and other expenses.
You may want to ask what a Nigerian President is doing with so many aircraft when a Prime Minister of Britain fly around using the same public aircraft like an ordinary Briton. Go and check and compare with that of any developed country in the world, the office of the Nigerian President is a very expensive one inspite our high level of poverty, lack and joblessness. Despite all these, you still find a Nigerian Minister spending about N10billion to charter an aircraft for just one year. Now, for me, when we come into office, all these waste will be blocked and properly channelled into our economy. We intend for instance, to bring back our National carrier, the Nigerian airways. We shall do this by bringing all the aircraft in the presidential fleet into the Nigerian airways and within a year increase the fleet into about 20. What is the difference between me and those who elected us to represnt them, absolutely nothing.
Why should Nigerian President not fly with other Nigerian public! Why do I need to embark on a foreign trip as a president with a huge crowd with public fund? Why do I need to go for foreign medical trip if we cannot make our hospital functional? Why do we need to send our children to school abroad if we cannot developed our university to compete with the foreign ones? Why, and why must our people be servants to the foreigners in the midst of plenty? I can go on and on. I came here to the UK and I chose to trek just to make sure I send a message back home to some people who wish us dead. This is not my struggle, it is our collective efforts to save Nigeria from those who have failed us for 16 years.”
Buhari never promised not to travel abroad for treatment at the Chatham House engagement. That is settled. Below is the full video of Buhari at the Chatham House.
However, it is difficult to ascertain if what the Facebook user attributed to him at the townhall meeting is accurate. TheCable would not find any video evidence.
The APC media team did not debunk the post then but it is also noteworthy that no newspaper reported it. The quote was extensively discussed on Nairaland but it was also attributed to Babatunde.
The Osun Defender, another website that reported it, attributed it to Babatunde with a caveat that it could not confirm if Buhari actually made those statements.
TheCable has contacted Babatunde via Facebook for clarification but he is yet to respond.