By NBF News

Yar'Adua: Full disclosure, please
By Wale Sokunbi
Wednesday, March 3 , 2010


It had all the trappings of a movie. Around 1.32 am, Wednesday, February 24, 2010, Dateline: The International Airport, Abuja. The majority of hardworking Nigerians were fast asleep on their beds, dreaming of better days ahead. But, for the cabal controlling the president and shielding him from Nigerians who elected him, it was the moment to perfect a plan to smuggle the ailing president into the country like stolen cargo.

News that the President might return to the country that day emerged about midnight. Unfortunately, the nation's Information Minister, Professor Dora Akunyili, who should be the eyes, ears and mouth of the nation on such matters, was fast asleep, taking a well-deserved rest after the day's job.

So, she missed the news that the president was about to be airlifted from Saudi Arabia on the foreign television channel, Al Jazeera. It was not till the president landed in Nigeria the following morning that she heard the news, like every other Nigerian, on Cable News Network (CNN). What manner of country are we running?

The president was flown into the country in thick of the night, 'like a thief in the night.' The air ambulance that brought him was reported to have parked close to a bush, a little way off where it should, normally. The lights in the airports were reported to have been switched off while the ambulance and other vehicles that came to evacuate Yar'Adua to Aso Rock also switched off all their lights to ensure that no 'nosy' reporters saw what was about to be done. Some reports said people in the airport were asked to switch off handsets.

Thereafter, troops lined the route from the airport to Aso Rock, even without the approval of the Acting Commanding in Chief, Goodluck Jonathan.

As if the way the President was smuggled into the country like a contraband sack of potatoes without NAFDAC no was not enough, the president has since been kept from public view, leading to all manner of rumours.

Some have gone as far as describing his ' purported' return to the country as a speculation.

Newspaper reports say not even all the powers of Acting President Yar'Adua has made it possible for him to see Yar'Adua. Thrice, Jonathan was reported to have made the attempt, only to fail.

On one occasion, he reportedly waited till 10.30pm only to be told that Yar'Adua had 'slept', and 'Madam could not be bothered to come down to see the Acting President. On the third attempt, he was reported to have left a message that he should be called whenever the president is able to see him.

So what exactly is the truth about the president's state of health? A foreign publication, had, some few weeks ago, published an embarrassing story captioned 'Where in the world is Nigeria's president?'

In that story, the country was made to look stupid, as the president of her 140 million or so citizens was more or less declared missing.

The story at least gave raise to the brief broadcast by Yar'Adua on a foreign broadcast channel. The broadcast only assured the nation that Yar'Adua was still alive, and nothing else.

When the national uproar about the president's prolonged 'absence' was about to lead to some dire consequences, the National Assembly, strangely adopted the broadcast on the foreign channel as the communication that the constitution required that the president should send to the National Assembly in the event of his inability to discharge the functions of his office, and promptly declared Vice President Jonathan 'Acting President', based on a 'doctrine of necessity' that is strange to our constitution.

That declaration at least achieved one thing. It brought Yar'Adua back to the country.

That, undoubtedly, was designed to scuttle the Jonathan Acting Presidency and restore the Yar'Adua administration, even if by proxy. But trust Nigerians, that proposition died on arrival (doa). Nigerians would have none of the 'I am directed by President. Yar'Adua stuff' that presidential spokesman, Segun Adeniyi, was about to start dishing out, and cried out loud until President Yar'Adua's aides jettisoned the idea of addressing Jonathan as Vice President and acknowledged him as Acting President.

The issue now is? Why is Yar'Adua hiding, or is being hidden from Nigerians? If he is in such a poor state that he cannot talk to Nigerians, is there any hope that he can exit that state of seeming total incapacitation to assume his responsibilities?

If he is able to assume his responsibilities soon, where does that leave Acting President Jonathan? Can Jonathan truly wield the powers of the office of president when he has not see his principal to know for how long he will be in office, and how far he can go in his projections and decision making for the nation?

The tenterhooks on which the matter of Yar'Adua's ill health has placed the nation in the last thirteen weeks is unfortunate.

Now that we have an Acting President, and the hopes that Yar'Adua would be well enough on arrival in the country to continue his work has been dashed, how can the nation move on and get governance back on track?

The people either need to see Yar'Adua, live, or be saved the continuing trauma of his inability to function.

Actually, the president's men have not handled the matter of his ill health, as they should. The simple truth is that the various claims of the 'improvement' in the health of the president have only increased the desire of the people to see the president. The fact that even the acting president has also not been allowed to see Yar'Adua has also not in the best interest of his case.

Such things only make the imagination of the people to run riot, and they become game to believe any wild reports of which Nigerians are never short.

There is certainly nothing new about illnesses. Everyone is sick at one point or the other. But the management of the information on the president's health has been made to be an issue that is questioning the credibility of his aides.

Truth is constant. It is sacrosanct. If the presidential aides can tell the nation such blatant untruths such as 'he is recovering quickly and doing 25 minute excercises such as the nation's Ambassador to Saudi Arabia has been feeding the nation for two months now, what else can they not tell the nation.

If the president has been improving very quickly as we have been told for two months, how come he is still unable to say ordinary 'Fellow Nigerians', on public television.

Calls are becoming strident for the Federal Executive Council to constitute a medical panel to examine Yar'Adua and confirm his capability to discharge his presidential duties. This may not be necessary if the president publicly addresses Nigerian.

Already, former Kaduna State governor, Alhaji Balarabe, has spoken the minds of many Nigerians when he said that if Yar'Adua is not brought out to the full glare of the public, Nigerians can assume many things, and go ahead to find a solution through mass action.

The President's handlers should not allow things to degenerate to that state all because of a failure to give full disclosure of the president's condition. Transparency and adherence to due process have for long been known as the president's mantra.

If his handlers really love him and this country, they should stop treating Nigerians as if they have only cotton wool between their ears.

Nigerians should not be treated as fools, or taken for a ride. Let us have the truth on the president's health.