After 104 days on medical vacation in the United Kingdom, UK, President Muhammadu Buhari, at exactly 4:48 yesterday afternoon, stepped down from the plane that brought him back, at the Presidential Wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
The plane, Nigeria Air Force 001, touched ground some 13 minutes earlier.
The door of the presidential jet, with the coat of arms and the presidential seal inscribed boldly on it, was flung open at exactly 4:40.
Meanwhile, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the National Assembly leadership have sent goodwill messages to the President as he recovers.
The goodwill of the National Assembly was contained in separate messages from the Office of the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara.
By the same token, the President’s party, the All Progressives Congress, APC; the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF, as well as leaders of Our Mumu Don Do Movement, which has been agitating for the President to resume or resign, also expressed delight at the President’s return.
It was a moment filled with anxiety, excitement and curiosity all rolled into one, as the airport stood still for the much anticipated appearance of Buhari.
Perhaps, for whatever reason, it took almost eight minutes before an obviously anxious crowd – which included but was not limited to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Chief of Staff to the President, Alhaji Abba Kyari, Service Chiefs as well as ministers of the federal republic – waiting at the foot of the plane stairway, could set their eyes on the President.
Firstly, it was the coterie of security details who stepped out of the plane.
They were followed by the Chief of Protocol to Mr. President who came down and rushed back inside. He was soon to make another sortie.
While all these lasted, the ADC to the President kept appearing and disappearing into the plane.
Buhari stepped down to the warm embrace of his deputy, Professor Osinbajo, after which he took national salute from the Presidential Guards Brigade and briefly exchanged pleasantries with some of the dignitaries who trooped out to welcome him, while cultural groups were also singing and dancing in jubilation at his return.
The President, who appeared in traditional attires with a cap to match, went straight to the Presidential Lounge of the airport before moving to the Presidential Villa.
Although there was a standby helicopter to take him to the Presidential Villa, he preferred to enter into the waiting vehicle adorned with the coat of arms en route to the Presidential Villa.
The President, according to a statement earlier by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, is expected to speak to Nigerians in a broadcast tomorrow (Monday) at 7 a.m.
Buhari had left Nigeria on May 7 for the second round of his medical treatment in London after receiving 82 rescued Chibok school girls who were abducted by the Boko Haram sect in 2014.
Among the dignitaries at the airport to welcome the President were the governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje, and his counterparts from Zamfara, Abdulaziz Yari, Muhammed Abubakar (Bauchi) and Abubakar Bello (Niger).
Others are Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi and the Deputy Governor of Kaduna State, Mr Barnabas Bala.
Osinbajo, in his goodwill message, said the recovery and recuperation of Buhari signified that Nigeria was going to recover from any challenge facing her.
The VP, who may handover to the President when he communicates to the National Assembly that he was back and fit to take over, told State House correspondents that the return of the President and the mammoth crowd that went to the airport to receive him was an indication that the people were happy.
“Oh, the message to Nigerians is that, the recovery and recuperation of the President is in some sense symbolic of the recovery of Nigeria. Nigeria is going to recover. We are on the path of strong economic recovery and this is an excellent sign that the country is on the right side. There is great hope, there is great excitement and we are going to make it as a nation,”he stated.
“As you can see from the many Nigerians who lined up on the road to receive the President as he came back, many Nigerians are happy that the President is hail and hearty and that he has come back. It was a natural reaction, most people heard of his arrival only a few hours before then, but as you can see, the response was so spontaneous. So, I think that people were so exited and very happy.”
SENATE President Bukola Saraki welcomed Buhari back to Nigeria, with a promise that the National Assembly would continue to work alongside the President to improve the standard of living of Nigerians and overall development of the country.
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, Saraki, who thanked God for the safe return and recovery of Buhari, said that he had come to continue with the good work.
On his part, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, said the President could always rely on the House in the journey to fix Nigeria.
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media & Public Affairs, Mr. Turaki Hassan, the Speaker expressed gratitude to God for granting Buhari healing and journey mercies back home.
The APC national stalwart expressed joy at the return of President Muhammadu Buhari to the country, saying the president’s return is a nation’s hope fulfilled.
In a statement by his Media Office, signed by Tunde Rahman, Tinubu, who is at present abroad, said the President Buhari had always been a man of moral fortitude, discipline, strength and dedication.
According to him, the attributes had helped him battle medical challenges. “These same attributes will lead him to success in surmounting our national challenges.”
“President Buhari has demonstrated time and again his devotion to this nation and its great causes. His love of country and the realization that he has a mission to fulfill so that Nigeria may realize its better self by providing security and prosperity to all Nigerians has compelled him home.
“Just as we gathered to pray for his health and his return, we must remain united in spirit to support President Buhari as he pursues the progressive agenda for which he was elected and that promises us all a better day.
“It has been a heartening thing to see that our nation has matured to the point where governance continued in a meaningful, seamless manner during the president’s absence. This again was a sign of the harmony between President Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
“On this day, it is even more heartening to think of the things that can now be achieved with President Buhari back to lead the nation.
“Today is a glad and happy one for those who wish Nigeria well. While we rejoice the President’s return, we also must quickly turn to the hard and heavy work at hand. We must do everything possible to help President Buhari and his government accomplish those things we all seek – economic growth, prosperity, justice, security and peace. May we do our best to become our best.
Speaking to State House correspondents at the airport while waiting for the return of the President, Yari, the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, described Buhari’s arrival as the moment Nigerians were waiting for.
He said, “This is the moment Nigerians have been waiting for. We as governors that paid him a visit, what we saw the first time we reported to Nigerians, Nigerians will see for themselves. We pray to God to give the President good health and for him to continue to manage the economy.”
Chairman of South East Governors’ Forum and Governor of Ebonyi State, Chief David Umahi in a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Emmanuel Uzor, on behalf of the body, described the recovery of Mr. President as great work of God and wished him total recovery as he assumes duty.
He thanked Nigerians for praying for the speedy recovery of President Buhari, adding that it showed that Nigerians are becoming more patriotic despite the varying political lines.
He further called for more prayers and dedication to service by every Nigerian, noting that it is only through unity of purpose that the country could achieve greatness.
Also speaking, Ganduje said, “Nigerians are happy and we are happy. We did say when we visited that he was doing better and will soon return. It will impact on the socio economic activities in the country because now that the number decision maker is now around. He and his deputy will take decision together and things will be done in a quicker way. We will see improvement.”
On what will be the impact of the President’s return on the economy, the governor of Kano State said, “It will impact on security. There is no doubt about that because there were certain decisions the Acting President could not take while the President was away and will have to communicate him but now that he Buhari is coming back, that would no longer be necessary.
The conveners of the #ResumeOrResign group, Charles Oputa, a.k.a Charly Boy and Deji Adeyanju also expressed delight over the return of Buhari, the coalition said Buhari’s return came at a time Nigeria is in dire need of leadership. The coalition, which has held several sit-outs both in Nigeria and in London, including a vigil in front of the Abuja House where Buhari had been recuperating in London to demand the President’s resumption or resignation from office if incapacitated, also urged the President to immediately get to work.
The coalition, which equally thanked all Nigerians both in Nigeria and abroad including non-Nigerians who lent voice to its #ResumeOrResign protests, however, urged Buhari to address the various issues threatening the peace and unity of Nigeria especially the issues of quit notices and hate speech.
The ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, also welcomed Buhari back to the country.
The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Bolaji Abdullahi, in a statement, also thanked the Vice President, “Prof. Yemi Osinbajo for his competent leadership in the absence of President Buhari and especially commends him for his effort to unite the country and drive the recovery of the national economy”.
The APC also thanked “all Nigerians who had prayed ceaselessly for the speedy recovery and safe return of the President, assuring them that the APC-led Federal Government is poised to fulfill all the electoral promises the Party made to Nigerians”.
While Buhari took treatment in the UK hospital, some prominent Nigerians trooped there.
A report that he was on a life support seemed to have motivated the visits. Although the report was from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, there was no evidence to confirm the claim.
23 days after the President left the shores of the country after transmitting power to Vice, President Yemi Osinbajo as Acting President, the wife of the President, Aisha, on May 30, went to see him.
As the controversy surrounding the actual health condition of the President continued, and the alleged hijack of the machinery of government by a ‘cabal’, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo on July 11 travelled to London to see Mr. President.
On July 23, some governors elected on the platform of the ruling APC visited Buhari in the UK.
A statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, disclosed that the state governors as well as the party’s National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, met with Buhari over lunch for more than one hour.
In the delegation were Governors Rochas Okorocha, IMO Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, Nasarawa, Nasir El-Rufai, Kaduna and Yahaya Bello, Kogi.
On July 25, seven governors, two from the opposition PDP and five from APC visited the President.
The Governors are Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State, Dave Umahi, Ebonyi, Abdulaziz Yari, Zamfara, Abiola Ajimobi, Oyo, Kasim Shetima, Borno, Abdulahi Ganduje, Kano and Samuel Ortom, Benue.
Another visitor that Buhari hosted in London was the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby on August 4.
On August 12, media aides, led by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, were at the Abuja House, London to see their principal.
In the delegation were the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity; Mallam Garba Shehu, Personal Assistant on DigitalOnline Media, Lauretta Onochie, and the Senior Special Assistant on Diaspora Matters, Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa.
Also in what appeared to be spiritual preparation for the return of the President, on August 18, he received the General Overseer Worldwide of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, Pastor Enoch Adeboye.
The final sympathy visit came on August 17, when Senate President, Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, went to London to see Buhari.