Immediately the news broke early yesterday, it was only a matter of minutes before it swept across the country and even beyond: President Muhammadu Buhari was on his way back home. A hundred and three days after departing these shores for medical treatment in London.
The social media burst into life, lapping unto Femi Adesina’s (the President’s spokesperson’s) statement.
Abuja, usually sleepy at weekends, went agog. The mobilization to welcome back the President home had begun in earnest.
The road to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport suddenly got busy as people started moving, in twos, threes and bigger numbers, in the direction of the airport.
The story was not different at the Presidential Villa where preparation to receive the President was in full swing.
As early as 8:45 am, a luxury bus belonging to the Guards Brigade had begun dropping off soldiers at various points in the Villa.
Policemen and personnel of the Department of State Services (DSS) and Federal Road Safety Corps were also deployed in various parts of Abuja.
By 9am members of a Mobile Police unit were seen rounding off a parade rehearsal close to the Presidential Villa’s gate.
By 3pm, the vicinity of the airport was practically filled up with people.
People lined the streets and the perimeter of the Presidential Wing of the airport for the welcome party.
Providing entertainment on the sideline were cultural dancers.
Some admirers of the President carried placards welcoming him back home. Some of the inscriptions on the placards were: “Sai Baba”, “Welcome Back Home.”
Excitement filled the air.
The crowd went ecstatic once they sighted the presidential plane in the sky.
The Nigerian Air Force Plane 001 finally landed at 4:35 pm.
Buhari, wearing a brown kaftan stepped out, and walked down the aisle to be received by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, leading a team of senior government officials.
They shook hands warmly.
The rendition of the National anthem followed.
That over, he proceeded to shake hands with state governors, ministers and other government officials who had waited all day to receive him.
Each of the dignitaries had been given sanitizer to clean their hands before shaking the president.
Among state governors at the airport were Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Mohammed Abubakar (Bauchi), Rochas Okorocha (Imo), Nyesom Wike (Rivers) and Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara).
Cabinet members at the airport included Information Minister Lai Mohammed, Defence Minister Mansur Dan-Ali, FCT Minister Mohammed Bello, and Women Affairs Minister Aisha Alhassan.
Also there were the president’s Chief of Staff Abba Kyari, National Security Adviser (NSA), Babagana Monguno, and the Service Chiefs.
The President then walked towards the airport VIP lounge entrance, and then entered a waiting vehicle that took him to the Presidential Villa.
He is scheduled to make a radio and television broadcast to the nation tomorrow.
As the crowd awaited the president’s arrival, his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said that Buhari’s return had nothing to do with the protests by some people that he should return home or resign.
“The return of the President has nothing to do with the protest. It is about continuing with the work he started,” he said.
Governor Yari of Zamfara State who doubles as the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum described the President’s arrival as the moment Nigerians “have been waiting for, for over 90 days.”
He added: “We, as governors that paid him a visit, what we saw the first time, we reported to Nigerians and said Nigerians would see for themselves.
“We pray to God to give the President good health and for him to continue to manage the economy.”
Governor Ganduje said Nigerians “are happy and we are happy.”
“We did say when we visited that he was doing better and would soon return. His return will impact on the socio economic activities in the country because now that the number one decision maker is around.
“He and his deputy will take decisions together and we will see improvement. There were certain decisions the Acting President would have to communicate to him but now that he is back that would no longer be necessary.”