The formal physician to President Muhammadu Buhari and many other formal Nigeria president Professor Sadiq Suleiman Wali spoke extensively about his relationship with Mr president, his take on Buhari medical tourism and many more.
“General Muhammadu Buhari requested that I should be his physician and I knew him very well, personally, because we were in Lagos during the January 1966 coup. Murtala, Gowon, Buhari were all around and that was how we got to know each other. So, I felt I should do it. I was also in the army, as during the civil war doctors had to be dragged into service.
“I was posted to Awka, the brigade where Buhari was, and I was impressed by his character, integrity and honesty. So when he became Head of State and requested for my services, I accepted.
‘But a year and a half after, there was a coup. I was actually in the United States together with Buhari’s family at the time. Eventually, we had to come back, and when we returned I went to then president, General Ibrahim Babangida and said, ‘I took two years leave of absence from the university, and even though it hadn’t elapsed, I could go back.’ But he said shouldn’t. So I stayed there, and for a very long time.
“After him came Chief Ernest Shonekan, with whom I worked for only a few months. Then came General Sani Abacha, and that was the most challenging one. I would tell each of them that I would like to go, but they would plead that I should stay.
Speaking about his view of the foreign medical travels of the president, the professor said:
“Foreign medical travel by Nigerian presidents and heads of state are not unusual, so also extension of stay while away on treatment. I remember when President IBB when to France for medical treatment in 1986, for a period of one month, we had to request for an extension by a whole month on the advice of the doctors.
“As for President Buhari, he regularly went for checkups, except for the period of 1985 to 1988 when he was detained. As for the recent extensions requested for by the president on the recommendation of his doctors, it is important to understand the principle guiding the relationship between doctors and patients.
“There are four ethical principles, namely: Autonomy, where a doctor has to explain any action he intends to take with its advantage and disadvantage, possible harms and benefits. The patient has the right to accept or reject the recommendations. Then there is Beneficence, where all actions and procedures should be of benefit to the patient. In the case of Malfeasance, it’s ‘do no harm.”
“Then there is Justice, when benefit to the patient and community should be assessed. If there is danger to the community, the doctor can override the wishes of the patient like Lassa fever, Ebola disease and so on. In such cases, the doctor is obliged to report to appropriate health authorities,” he said.
The professor however encouraged Nigerians to be patient with the president adding that: “We should be patient, sympathize with the president, and pray for his early return home. The acting president is working very hard and governance has continued smoothly.