I rose to back to life from a slumber when I heard a news headline on BBC World Service this dawn, mentioning “President Umaru Yar’Adua”. I have been keenly following the news about his health in the past weeks and mentally sifting out the plentiful chaff of rumours from credible information. The substance of the news was that he was alive and recovering well in a hospital. They played an audio clip with what sounded very much like his voice saying:
“At the moment I am undergoing treatment, and I’m getting better from the treatment. I hope that very soon there will be tremendous progress, which will allow me to get back home”.
“I wish, at this stage, to thank all Nigerians for their prayers for my good health, and for their prayers for the nation.”
“As soon as my doctors discharge me I will return to Nigeria to resume my duties”.
The BBC World Service is generally a credible news outlet and I won’t attempt to question the authenticity of the voice I heard on radio. However, a lot of questions arise from this single incidence and one is forced to examine a few of them:
1. If the President can be so eloquent to speak with the BBC, why has he not addressed the nation he leads? Nigerians would be more than happy to see him on TV even if he was in hospital robes, so long he could smile and say a few coherent words. This would have calmed the current tension, to a large extent.
2. His absence has created a lot of unease among the populace with attendant serious security threats. Some are concerned that some military bad-nuts might be tempted to seize power due to the seem vacuum created by his absence and silence. Nigeria has been on the verge of complete anarchy for the past 50 days that he has been away. One then wonders why he did not expressly hand-over power to his Vice before leaving.
3. 234Next, a leading newspaper publication in Nigeria, published a news item last Sunday, explicitly stating that “Yar’Adua is brain-damaged”. I quote the leading paragraph of their report:
President Umaru Yar’Adua is seriously brain damaged, is not able to recognise anyone, including his wife Turai, and can no longer perform the functions of the office of the president, according to multiple sources who have spoken to NEXT on Sunday.
Before now, I have read a lot about 234Next’s credibility. Two key question lines arise:
- Is 234Next still credible? Did they get it wrong? Were they pursuing an agenda with the series of publications that seemed to put the President and his cronies in bad light?
- If 234Next’s report is indeed true and the President truly is unable to facially recognise anyone, was he coached by his handlers to say what he said to the BBC?
4. Nigeria has become a laughing stock of the world because its President seemed to have gone AWOL (absent without official leave). Had the President (or his office) formally notified the Senate of Nigeria of his trip, that might have saved the nation from this embarrassment. He was away at a critical time when Nigeria was in the international news due to 25th December US bomb attempt being carried-out by a Nigerian citizen and the huge security consequences. Would the President get away with this? If it is proved that he was rushed-out of the country in a health emergency and he could therefore not hand-over formally to his Vice nor notify the legislature, would this huge constitutional mess still be understandable? Would there be consequences?
5. There are many many more questions to ask but I would wrap-up at this point with a key question: for how long would the leadership of Nigeria be ferried abroad over health issues whilst the public health institutions in Nigeria remain in poor condition? For how long would the average Nigerian who cannot afford going abroad for health redemption continue to loose their life due to the poor facilities available at the public hospitals in the country?