Nigerian President Buhari to Travel to Meet Doctors in U.K.

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(Bloomberg) -- Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari will travel to the U.K. on Tuesday to meet doctors, raising questions about the 75-year-old’s health as he seeks re-election in February.

Buhari, who plans to run for a second four-year term as leader of Africa’s biggest oil producer, spent more than five months in the U.K. last year for treatment of an undisclosed illness. He saw his doctor last week on a stopover in London while returning to Nigeria from a meeting with U.S. counterpart Donald Trump in Washington, according to a statement from his office late Monday.

Read more on Buhari’s plan to seek re-election

“The doctor requested the president to return for a meeting, which he agreed to do,” the presidency said. Buhari will be back in Nigeria on May 12, it said.

While he was in the U.K. last year between January and March, and again from May to August, some critics told him to stand down if he wasn’t fit enough to hold office. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo took over Buhari’s duties each time.

Many Nigerians believe Buhari “really needs to take a break and attend to his health,” Clement Nwankwo, executive director of the Policy and Legal Advocacy Center, said by phone from Abuja, the capital. “For a lot of people who are asking the question whether he is healthy enough to run for re-election, this trip further reinforces those concerns.”

Nigeria’s information minister, Lai Mohammed, said in an interview last month that Buhari was “very strong and well.”

Buhari’s defeat of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015 marked the first peaceful transfer of power in Nigeria’s history from a ruling party to the opposition. His administration has made some progress on its election promises of fighting corruption and defeating the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency.

But Buhari has faced growing criticism of its response to a spiraling conflict between herders and farmers that’s left hundreds of people dead this year. He visited Benue, the epicenter of the conflict, two months after more than 70 people died in a single attack.

The president’s health woes will ultimately affect his ability to campaign, Olusegun Sotola, senior researcher at the Lagos-based Initiative for Public Policy, said by phone from Lagos. In the meantime, the public perception is that “governance is suffering,” he said.

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