Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari has made his first public appearance in weeks, amid mounting concerns about his state of health. There have been calls from the public asking the president to take medical leave.
President Muhammadu Buhari was seen at Friday prayers at a mosque in the presidential villa in the capital Abuja. This was the first time in weeks that he had been seen in public. Earlier this year, Buhari spent nearly two months receiving treatment in London for an undisclosed sickness.
He returned to work in mid-March but now often works from home, according to his aides. Nigerian Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, sought to allay public concern, saying that Buhari had decided to take a rest from official duties on the advice of his physicians. "The president is fit," Sirika told DW. "He said it himself when he came back from a medical check-up in London that he will rest for some time and he will go back for more check-ups."
Buhari's wife, Aisha, tweeted that her husband's health "is not as bad as it's being perceived."
A video posted on Twitter by presidential aide Bashir Ahmad showed Buhari dressed in white, shaking hands with fellow worshippers at the mosque and waving after the service.
Rumors about the president's health have given rise to considerable uncertainty in the country, with some people comparing the current situation with the leadership drama that characterized the end of the late Umaru Yar'Adua presidency. President Yar'Adua died in office in 2010. His death sparked political infighting before the swearing-in of President Goodluck Jonathan, Buhari's predecessor.
Support for the president
Buhari had been due to meet his Nigerien counterpart, Mahamadou Issoufou, for talks on Friday but the meeting was canceled, Buhari's office said in a statement on Thursday. "The rescheduling is at the instance of President Issoufou who has another domestic engagement," presidency spokesman Femi Adesina said.
Meanwhile, a non-governmental organization, The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center (CISLAC) advised the president to take a rest. "We have learned that the health condition of the president is deteriorating further and further," Director of CISLAC Auwal Musa Rafsanjani said. "We think it is good for him to have more rest and also to take good care of his health condition so that he can continue with his presidential duties," Rafsanjani added.
Buhari's sickness is still being treated as a private matter even though he holds the highest public office. Some people suspect he came to power knowing full well that he was not fit enough to do the job. However, political analyst Mallam Abdulrahman said there is no need to inform Nigerians about the health condition of their president. "Nigerians voted him into office. They so much love him and have their trust in him," Abdulrahman told DW. He, however, advised Buhari to seek medical attention. "We need him alive and fit."
Nigeria continues to grapple with crises that include Boko Haram extremist attacks, millions facing starvation in the country's northeast and an economy that last year contracted for the first time in a quarter-century.
Al-Amin Mohammad contributed to this report.