Since his return to the country on 10 March 2017 after an absence of 50 days, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is still missing in action.

Upon his return from London, the 74-year-old, who landed at an air force base in the northern city of Kaduna, told dignitaries in the Nigerian capital Abuja that he has never been “so sick in all his life”.

President Buhari said that he was “feeling much better now” but added that further medical checks would be required. No details of his condition were made public. His return triggered great jubilation in most northern cities and towns, like Maiduguri, Kaduna, Bauchi, Daura and many more.

Speculation is risky and, more than anything, easily ruins a politician’s credibility and image.

Buhari recieves a briefing from Vice President Yemi Osinbajo after his return on March 10. Photo: Buhari/Twitter Buhari/Twitter

Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo was left in charge after Buhari left for the UK on medical leave in February. This was the second time since Buhari became president in May 2015 that he had left Nigeria to receive treatment elsewhere. Although Mr Buhari’s spokesperson, Femi Adesina, had tweeted that the president would formally return to power on 13 March, Buhari rarely appears in public, even after his seven weeks of medical leave in the UK.

It is worrying to read that the leader of Africa’s most populous country stayed away from the meeting on 26 April because he chose to work from home.

Regardless of what his spokesman says, it appears that all is not well with the president. He has failed to attend the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting twice: first on 12 April 12 and then on 26 April.

President Buhari weeks after he returned from his medical trip to UK Photo: Buhari Twitter handle.

“We just concluded the Federal Executive Council meeting; I’m sure you noticed that the President was not there,” Nigeria’s Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, was quoted as saying by a local newspaper, the Vanguard. “He was not there because he asked that he be allowed to rest and asked the VP to preside. He will be working from home. He has asked that all his files be taken to him at the house. He will be working from home today.”

Speculation is unhealthy

It is worrying to read that the leader of Africa’s most populous country stayed away from the meeting on 26 April because he chose to work from home. In addition, the president became the subject of serious debate after he failed to attend the congregational prayer held every Friday at the Aso Rock Mosque located right behind his office.

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Today, many more Nigerians are worried about his health, and this has sparked a hashtag on Twitter – #WhereIsBuhari – with hundreds of Nigerians tweeting to demand proof that the president was fit to govern after spending nearly two months in hospital overseas.

“In addition to declaring assets, presidential candidates should start declaring state of health too,” tweeted a Nigerian based in Lagos.

Buhari was last seen when the governors of Kaduna and Ogun states joined him for Jumaat Prayers at the State House in April 14 Photo: Buhari Twitter Handle

Somto Onuchukwu, a tweep based in Abuja, tweeted: “We warned that 6 months without ministers will destroy our economy; we are warning again: a ghost president cannot fix Nigeria.”

Buhari’s continued absence from the public eye will only raise anxiety. Speculation will run rife if details about his health continue to be shrouded in secrecy. Secrecy surrounding the president’s health should be avoided, especially when one considers what happened in the case of Nigeria’s late president Musa Yar’adua, who took office in 2007 only to be airlifted out of Nigeria in November 2009.

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The severity of the 58-year-old Yar’adua’s illness had been open to speculation until he died in May 2010 after a long battle with what turned out to be a combination of lung cancer and auto-immune issues. President Buhari has to learn from the past and avoid repeating the same mistakes.

Speculation is risky and, more than anything, easily ruins a politician’s credibility and image. The president’s absence from public life should not be dogged by a growing lack of information about his medical condition, given that the hangover from Yar’adua’s death seven years ago is still there. What is more, the situation might get even worse, with people beginning to demand concrete evidence that Mr Buhari is fit to govern Nigeria.