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Nigeria Releases New Photo of Ailing President Hoping to Allay Nation’s Fears

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari ( back center) during a meeting with Nigeria ruling party’s governors, in London. (Nigeria State House via AP)

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria’s government has released a photo of President Muhammadu Buhari more than two months after he left for London for medical treatment amid growing health concerns.

The photo released Sunday is the first sight of the 74-year-old since he left in early May. Buhari also spent a month and a half in London earlier this year and said he had never been so sick in his life.

The absences and lack of information have caused tensions in Africa’s most populous nation, which faces an ongoing threat from the Boko Haram extremist insurgency and has one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises with millions malnourished. Some have called for Buhari’s replacement, and the military has reminded its personnel to remain loyal.

The new photo shows Buhari sitting and smiling at a table with a number of visiting governors. His office says he will return “as soon as his doctors give the go-ahead.”

A separate statement released Sunday by the president’s office cited Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha, who was at the meeting, as saying Buhari was “completely unperturbed by the cocktail of lies” about his absence.

Buhari met with the delegation for more than an hour over lunch and “was very cheerful and has not lost any bit of his sense of humor,” the statement said.

The exact nature of Buhari’s illness is unknown although he has spoken of receiving blood transfusions.

On July 12, acting president and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo told reporters he had met with Buhari for an hour and that the president was “recuperating very quickly” and would return to Nigeria “very shortly.”

Observers fear political unrest could erupt in Nigeria, particularly in the predominantly Muslim north, should Buhari not finish his term in office. The previous president was a Christian from the south.

Buhari’s four-year term ends in 2019.

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