Former Vice President Alex Ekwueme has just been flown out of Nigeria on an air ambulance on his way to London, The Trent has learnt.
The air ambulance took off from Enugu International Airport at about 9am on Sunday, November 12, 2017, a close family source informed our correspondent in the southeastern state.
Prior to this trip to the UK for medical care, Dr. Ekwueme was at Memfys Neuro-surgical Hospital in Enugu after taking ill two week ago. According to his family, the former vice president had a chest infection.
“He [Dr. Ekwueme] has been finally cleared by his doctors to fly to London,” the source told our reporter. “He was scheduled to leave yesterday [Saturday] but the air ambulance arrived. It was too late for the aircraft to leave. So he left this morning.”
Following his illness, there was a bizarre attempt by President Muhammadu Buhari to score cheap political points. On Friday, November 3, 2017, the former military dictator announced that he had “ordered for” Ekwueme, who has been diagnosed of chest infection, be flown abroad for medical treatment.
A family source, who spoke with The Trent, on Wednesday, November 1, 2017, told our newspaper that the former vice president was already scheduled for a medical trip in the UK the next day. However, his trip was delayed by the need for medical tests.
According to the law former presidents and vice presidents of Nigeria are entitled to medical treatment anywhere in the world and there is no limit to their medical coverage. So there is nothing for a president to “order” or “approve” for him to be treated abroad. It is an entitlement and it is at the discretion of the former leader.
According to a statement by a spokesperson of President Buhari, Garba Shehu, the “president gave the order after he received a brief on Ekwueme’s medical condition”.
He said the approval covers cost of chartering an air ambulance for the journey and the cost of his treatment.
Tacky, Silly, Cheap Propaganda: Nigerians Slam Buhari
But Nigerians quickly took to social media platforms like Twitter to expose the hypocrisy and propagandistic nature of the presidential press statement.
Many said it was was an attempt to attract favour in the South East, where Ekwueme comes from and where Buhari has high unfavourable public relations standing.
A number of them pointed out that this move by the president was not a privilege, but a right of past leaders. One of them pointed out that former military president, Ibrahim Babangida from the North, had received such “presidential approvals” without any announcement.
Other activists also reminded the president that he had also received medical treatment on the bill of the Nigerian government approved by former President Goodluck Jonathan without a media statement being made.
Below are some of the tweets by clearly displeased Nigerians.
Alex Ekuweme is Nigeria's former Vice-president & I assume is entitled to an array benefits. Thunder fire PMB's 'authorisation' #Rubbish
— Mr Stanley Nwabia (@MrStanleyNwabia) November 3, 2017
The press release on the evacuation of chief Ekwueme by FG is unnecessary, indecorus& unprofessional. there ar limits 2 propaganda
— Doyin (@doyinokupe) November 3, 2017
Those thanking PMB for approving oversea treatment for Ekwueme ought to know that treatment of former VP is a given under our law
— The Great Oracle (@AbdulMahmud01) November 3, 2017
…forcing yourselves on d south east & you're doing it wrongly. What's all that media razzmatazz abt an air ambulance for Ekwueme @MBuhari
— Jude C. Ndukwe (@stjudendukwe) November 3, 2017
Why are you approving a perk Ekwueme is already entitled to and announcing it?
Just like you did with a court ordered payment to Biafrans?
— Ochicha eji egbe achu 1 (@Clarenceonyeks) November 3, 2017
Buhari is publicising the approval of medical treatment for Ekwueme, something that's in the law, when there's no achievement to brag about.
— AJALA (@UNCLE_AJALA) November 3, 2017
GEJ bought two brand new bulletproof jeeps for GMB(statutory entitlements) without fanfare. Why are people commending Buhari bikonu?
— Kingsley (@kingysly_01) November 3, 2017
In my Abuja years, I’m personally aware that Federal Government sponsored Buhari to SEVERAL treatments in foreign hospitals. WITHOUT NOISE.
— “Kenyan Professor” (@ManiPeters) November 3, 2017
Babangida was flown abroad at least twice in 2016, Germany and Switzerland. Buhari didn't announce those. https://t.co/Y3WvngALJt
— Samuel Ogundipe (@SamuelOgundipe) November 3, 2017
Breaking news: Buhari approves immediate treatment of former VP Ekwueme abroad.
Is that another achievement in the SE?
— Babasola Kuti (@SKSolaKuti) November 3, 2017
— John Danfulani (@john_danfulani) November 3, 2017
This open hatred and fake love for the Southeast:
They don't deserve to be your SGF..
What is air ambulance for Ekwueme?
— Sir.Ariyo-Dare Atoye (@AriyoAristotle) November 3, 2017
Like play, like play, naso Buhari start Presidental campaign . And he started with Alex Ekwueme. What an incompetent team of media aides
— Khaleesi (@AbangMercy) November 3, 2017
This is tacky, disrespectful and extremely political.
Would have been wiser to let the media pick it up and spread it organically. https://t.co/n4MXNovQbf
— Demola Olarewaju (@DemolaRewaju) November 3, 2017
Then the humourous…
BREAKING: Buhari authorises Nigerian Christians to go to Church on Sundays | APC leaders commend action.
— Mr Stanley Nwabia (@MrStanleyNwabia) November 3, 2017
I am feeling sleepy already
Just waiting for President Buhari to approve my ' good night rest before going to bed '
Such a caring leader
— IKECHUKWU (@iykimo) November 3, 2017