When the mental health of a President matters – By Duncan Odey

February 25, 2021


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Most will agree that mental health, like physical health of public figures should be a legitimate topic for public discussion and concern. In medicine, mental impairment is considered as serious as physical impairment and it is just as debilitating and of equal, if not more, impact on fitness for public office.

In the wake of the bloodletting that has become the hallmark of the Buhari presidency, it has become pertinent to put some of Buhari’s decisions within the purview of his mental fitness for office.

There are many examples, including but not limited to his abnormal silence on herdsmen and bandit terrorism, his impulsive violence towards the IPOB and his open disdain for people of Eastern Nigeria, especially the Igbos and his abnormal appointment of only Fulanis to most federal offices, to the chagrin of the Southwest that assisted him to power.

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Past violence is the best predictor of future violence and Buhari has shown other predictors, such as verbal aggressiveness, boasting about the atrocities of the civil war and inciting violence in others (the infamous baboons and dogs soaking in blood).

Specific traits that are highly associated with violence include: impulsivity, recklessness, paranoia, a loose grip on reality with a poor understanding of consequences, rage reactions, a lack of empathy, belligerence towards others and a constant need to demonstrate power, all of which Buhari boasts in sufficient quantity.

There is another pattern by which Buhari is dangerous. His cognitive function, or his ability to process knowledge and thoughts, has begun to be widely questioned. Many have noted a distinct decline in his outward ability to form complete sentences, to stay with a thought and to use complex words. This is dangerous because of the critical importance of decision-making capacity in the office that Buhari holds.

Cognitive decline can result from any number of causes – psychiatric, neurological, medical, or medication-induced – and therefore needs to be noted. It’s instructive that Buhari underwent a debilitating level of different medical procedures while he was in the UK, and around then, it was reliably reported that he lost his cognitive abilities to the point that his handlers prevented his own wife from seeing him. This is what stoked rumors of his death which persist to this day with quantum credibility.

Indeed, at no other time in Nigerian history have people been so concerned about a sitting president’s dangerousness. This is not because Buhari is an unusual person – many of his symptoms are very common – but it is highly unusual to find a person with such signs of danger in the office of presidency of a complex country like Nigeria.

The barrage of public criticisms of Buhari in recent times is worrisome for the effects it would have on the president’s stability. Given that Buhari has shown marked signs of psychological fragility under ordinary circumstances, barely able to cope with basic criticism or unflattering news, it’s highly likely that he would begin to unravel with the encroaching public criticisms especially in the sphere of social media that he is unable to gag.

And if his mental stability suffers further, then so would public safety and national security. A case in point is Buhari’s fast-paced building of an expensive railway link into a part of Niger Republic known to be a migratory route for foreign herdsmen, bandits and terrorists.

It’s becoming evident that Buhari views violence as a solution when he is stressed and desires to assert his power. Paranoia and overwhelming feelings of weakness and inadequacy make violence very attractive, and lethal weapons very tempting to use.

It does not take a mental health professional to see that a person of Buhari’s impairments is a mortal danger to all Nigerians, except the few that personally benefit from his unusual decisions. And it is even more worrisome that he tolerates violence against Nigerians from people he considers his own.

So, with over two years to the sunset of Buhari’s tenure, vigilance and readiness for self defense seem to be the only options for the segment of those Nigerians that have been at the receiving end of Buhari’s predilection for violence.

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