By Muhammad Ajah

Mr. President, Nigerians warmly welcome you back home from London after your medical vacation. You shall live long for our dear country. You shall live to see part of your elaborate, long-term, prosperous plans and solid foundation for national growth. Welcome ‘Baba Development’, even though slow and steady win the race. Our hearts are gladdened, our hopes are heightened, our fears are smoothened, our thoughts are sharpened, our beliefs are strengthened and our future is brightened. Nigeria has a destiny which is success and development. The time is ripe. All are because our dear President Muhammadu Buhari has been straightened, lightened, tightened and proven. We thank God that our President is back to our motherland and that we did not wait for godot.

Nigerians are overwhelmingly happy. There were wild jubilations across Nigeria. Crowds shouted “Baba Oyoyo” locally meaning “Baba welcome” in cities and some villages across the country. Certainly, many are frightened. Some are traumatized. Many have been shamed. Others will surely but secretly apportion blames. Some will overtly trade blames. Ultimately, the country will be redirected, refocused and revived. The return of Mr. President from London on Friday 10th March, 2017 has not only triggered the ever lively love for him by compatriots, but has also charted a renewed course in the administration of the nation. The challenge for the delivery of dividends of democracy has been reactivated, the expectations from the citizenry have been rekindled and the political will to deliver has been pricked and repackaged.

The President touched down at about 7.40 am at the Air Force Base in Kaduna on board the Nigerian Air Force 001 before he was airlifted by Air Force chopper to arrive at about 8.37 am at Presidential Villa where he was received by the members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), all heads of security agencies and Governors Yahaya Bello of Kogi, Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano and Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara‎. He later met with them at the First Lady’s Wing of the Presidential Villa in Abuja at a 30-minute reception for him.

Though we have been with our leader spiritually, among prominent Nigerians who physically welcomed the President were the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, the presidential chief of staff, Abba Kyari, deputy governor of Kaduna state, Barnabas Bala, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Muhammad Musa Bello, Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, Director General of the Department of State Security, Lawal Daura, the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, Senator Abdulaziz Nyako, all service chiefs, presidential spokesperson, Femi Adesina who tweeted that the president will formally resume his duties on Monday. “PMB will Monday transmit letter to National Assembly on his return to the country. That makes his return to work formal and constitutional,” he said.

The President had been nostalgic indeed. He said while away. Notwithstanding the whole stress, he met the Federal Executive Council where he thanked Nigerians for their patience and prayers and appealed for more support, promising a rededicated life to service. He admitted that he had never been so ill even during his long stressful military career, noting that he feels much better and would resume duty with renewed energy. He has, however, kicked against sending of delegations to Abuja to welcome him.

“I have rested as much as humanly possible, I have received, I think, the best of treatment I could receive. I couldn’t recall being so sick since I was a young man, including the military with its ups and downs. The best way to pay back Nigerians is to rededicate myself to serve the country and protect the nation’s interest in order to keep the trust.”

On the powers of his vice to whom he constitutionally handed over, he said “I am pleased that the Vice President enjoyed this break and he has to do much more. Youth and intellect is squarely behind him, age and purely military experience is behind me.” And for the vice president, Nigerians and the Federal Executive Council were happy to receive the President back in the country in a hail and hearty condition. Osinbajo proclaimed: “It is a day of joy not only for us but for the whole country, Africa and the world. Mr. President, I must say that personally, this has been a very interesting few days for me. First I must say that I want to thank you very much for the confidence reposed in me by handing over the realm of government to me in the capacity of acting president.”

“I think more important is that you demonstrated the belief in our system which is even more important than anything else. 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 maybe in borrowed robes. I must say I had a very interesting and challenging time but above all, the president gave us the good support”, he said.

The wife of the President, Mrs. Aisha Buhari who received her husband amidst cheers from families, friends and well wishers, at about 9am thanked Nigerians for their support and prayers for the President. She was joined by the wife of the Vice-President, Mrs. Dolapo Osinbajo, wives of State Governors, Ministers, family members and her close associates.

The governors expressed happiness too. Chairman of Nigeria’s Governors Forum, Abdulaziz Yari,‎ welcomed the president on behalf of the 36 governors of Nigeria‎. Information Minister, Lai Mohammed described the president’s return as a vindication of their position, thanking Nigerians for their prayers and VP Osinbajo who gave cabinet members a sense of belonging. The Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Abayomi Gabriel Olonishakin gave assurance of the military’s renewed commitment to achieve the president’s desire on national security.‎ The Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, expressed happiness and urged Nigerians to continue to pray for their leaders to enable them deliver good governance to the people.

Millions of Nigerian jubilated on hearing about his return. Brief contacts with several citizens across the country showed the ecstasy with which he was received by countrymen in their respective states and the unalloyed support they have for him. Some exchanged beautiful messages congratulating themselves and also praising God for the life of the president and his safety return back to Nigeria. Others thanked God and prayed for steady good health for the president which they believed has been a kind of disruption to his focused strategies to reclaim Nigeria for Nigerians. One of my friends when I released the news to him was short of words. He simply replied saying: “If God be with our President, who can stand against him?”

In Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Ebonyi, Rivers, Bayelsa, Oyo, Imo, Enugu, Cross River, Lagos and Ondo, amongst others, the general retort was “Thank God, our president is back”. Madam Eberechi Okoh shouted: “Halleluiah, Jesus is Lord.” Luke Bonmene and Rosemary Okiri exploded in corroboration: “We are glad that President Buhari returned to Nigeria alive! We pray and hope for his quick recovery.” Adebayo Adeniyi said: “I pray for the president and wish that his first action will be building medical centers, hospitals all over the country that will provide the type of care he received in overseas hospitals. Having such hospitals in every state, he said, will be a major accomplishment. Such will save millions of Nigerian lives. Such will allow future presidents and other officials to stay within the country when sick. “A nation gains nothing when their leaders do not provide them with adequate healthcare. Nigerians love money but they do not know how to use the money. Thus they die needlessly amidst the very wealth they spend so much time acquiring.” For majority of friends from the north, “sai baba and Alhamdulilaahi baba is back” were their words.

Abuja-Nasarawa road was shut down as Nigerians celebrated the President’s return. They chanted “sai baba” in vehicles and bikes and caused serious holdup on the way. Some poured sachet-water commonly called “pure-water” on themselves or on one another as some chanted “baba is back, mai sugudu sugudu” meaning “those who want to run should run”. That is for those who wished otherwise for the president or have skeletons in their cupboards. Police and soldiers were, however, standing by to forestall any breakdown of law and order, though they scared them at times with gun sounds.

Moreover, the All Progressives Congress (APC) joined compatriots in welcoming him back. In a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, the party commended the President for following due process by properly handing over power to Vice President Osinbajo, which naturally saved the country the needless controversies and crisis that Nigeria experienced in the past. We can recall the controversies and tension the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s saga caused the nation. Therefore, the ruling party lauded Osinbajo for competently holding forte on behalf of his principal and for his loyalty and commitment to the party’s ‘Change Agenda’.

At the National Mosque Abuja, the area usually reserved for top government dignitaries was virtually vacant which was an indication that all were at the Aso Rock Mosque to have a physical glimpse or touch of Mr. President. The President, however, did not attend the Jum’at prayer at the Aso Rock Mosque. So the government officials were left in disappointment.

Though the president may not be willing to utilize precious times in receiving delegations from states and organizations which may soon begin to troop into Abuja to show solidarity, the APC leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is said to have assembled all the Yoruba Obas to go in his delegation to welcome Buhari. It is reported that they will depart to Abuja after consulting with the Emirs. Some states might be closed in coming days to show allegiance and to welcome Mr. President. Some may declare public holidays. Some state may employ other means. The crux of solidarity in this regard is total support to the President in fighting treasury looters, recovery of national assets and funds and rebuilding the national economy. Corrupt politicians should sincerely return stolen commonwealth to show solidarity and support to President Buhari’s leadership. Hypocritical interfaces, eco-political manipulations and parochial tinges must be limited. As Nigerians stood behind, are happy for the president’s health and safe home return, let justice and fairness in governance prevail.

Muhammad Ajah is an advocate of humanity, peace and good governance in Abuja. E-mail [email protected]



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