#In other countries : Campaigning for the February 2023 presidential election in Nigeria started ten days ago, but questions are already flying about the health of the ruling party candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is not in the country.
The health of presidential candidates is an important issue in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria.
During his first term, current President Muhammadu Buhari spent several months in London where he was treated for a never-disclosed illness. In 2010, President Umaru Yar’Adua died after a long illness while in office.
The presidential race promises to be tight with two other candidates also aiming to replace Buhari, who will step down at the end of his second term as provided for in the constitution.
Tinubu’s absence from signing a symbolic peace deal with other candidates last week has not gone unnoticed, fueling long-running rumors about his health.
The 70-year-old candidate sought to reassure Nigerians on Sunday when he posted a video on social media of him riding an exercise bike in a tracksuit.
“Many say I am dead, many say I am retiring from the presidential campaign. Well no (…) the truth is this: I am strong, I am in good health”, he writes.
On major television channels, ruling party leaders have succeeded in denying rumors of his ill health.
“He is in good health… Our man needed a few days abroad because the pressure on him is a bit too much,” APC campaign chairman Ayo Oyalowo told TV channels.
Another campaign manager, David Umahi, said the APC is yet to officially launch its campaign and plans are being finalised.
“How many months to the election, to campaign? The first to start is not necessarily the first to finish,” the Ebonyi state governor began on the Uprising channel. “There’s no reason to worry,” he snapped.
But his absence in the first days of the campaign is going down badly with public opinion, underscoring that the next president will face huge challenges, with Nigeria in the grip of a severe economic crisis and insecurity.
On Twitter, the most shared hashtag this week was #WhereisTinubu (Where is Tinubu). Echoing the hashtag #WhereisBuhari, widely shared by Nigerian netizens in 2017, the head of state disappeared for months seeking treatment in London.
“Since Dinubu is away for a long time, it will become an important issue in this campaign,” Nigerian academic Chidi Odinkalu told AFP.
“Tinuput’s health problems — episodes of tremors seen since at least 2015 suggest he suffers from neurodegenerative disorders — could be a significant weakness for his camp,” the Eurasia Group, a consultancy, wrote in a note published in late September.
70 and 75 years
Eurasia says the campaign of Atiku Abubakar, the candidate of the main opposition PDP party, will “aggressively exploit this weakness and seek to portray Tinubu as a frail old man on the verge of a major health problem”.
Abubakar, 75, is running for the top job for the fifth time. He says the former vice president believes in his experience as a leader and a businessman to “save” Nigeria.
This week she posted a video of herself dancing, which is meant to show off her vitality.
In a country where 70% of the population is under 30, Abubakar and Tinubu are seen by some young Nigerians as old-guard politicians who offer little new, analysts say.
This will pave the way for 61-year-old Peter Obi of the Labor Party to challenge the long dominance of the APC and PDP.
The PDP was in power since the return of democracy in 1999 after decades of military dictatorship until it was ousted by the APC in 2015.