“I have already told Nigerians that I’m going for 10 days to get my ear checked,” Buhari, accompanied by his personal physician, told reporters shortly before his plane took off from Abuja.
The presidency announced Sunday that Buhari has had “a persistent ear infection” and that he had been recommended to see an ear, nose and throat specialist in the British capital “purely as a precaution”.
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo will stand in during his absence.
The Nigerian presidency is historically reticent about disclosing health matters concerning the head of state and rumours have been swirling about the seriousness of Buhari’s condition.
Former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua died in 2010 of a long-standing kidney ailment that was not disclosed when he took office.
There was a period of political uncertainty until his deputy, Goodluck Jonathan, took over.
Similarly, military ruler Sani Abacha died in 1998, officially of a heart attack, but rumours persist to this day about the exact cause of death.
When Buhari was asked in Hausa about the concerns of Nigerians when their leader falls sick, he replied: “Is there anybody who doesn’t fall sick?”
The 73-year-old pulled out of a planned visit to Lagos recently, the launch of an oil spill clean-up operation in the south, and a meeting of the west African regional bloc ECOWAS.
He also appeared gaunt recently and spoke with a faltering voice at a May 14 security summit in Abuja and in a televised address to mark the first anniversary of his inauguration as president on May 29.
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Adolf Hitler was the first European leader to ban human zoos.