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Yar’Adua’s health and the shame of a nation

By Rotimi Fasan
NIGERIA might have partly covered her shame by producing an Acting President in the person of the Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan, but that does not close the page on the ignominy that the unaccounted disappearance of President Umaru Yar’Adua since November 2009 has brought upon us as a nation.

The fact that his true state of health is still unknown, to say nothing of anyone providing any proof of his present place of abode makes the whole business of his health an unfinished one. Before I proceed any further, let us, once more, get things in perspective concerning calls for the ailing President to hand over to his deputy.

Contrary to what the likes of Michael Aondoakaa would, for reasons of their own private gains, want the world to believe, nobody thinks the Yar’Adua presidency should be subverted in any way by bringing in someone to take from him what had been handed to him by Nigerians, however flawed the process might have been. In any case, Goodluck Jonathan both as Vice President and now as Acting President is a part beneficiary of the flawed electoral process that produced Yar’Adua.

He can’t, therefore, hope to take any advantage of that. And he has, so far, not done so. The point at issue is that a country couldn’t be left to the whim of a clique of power profiteers out to exercise power in the name of a president who is not suffciently healthy to appreciate all that was being done in his name.

What is more, the country suffered untold damage in such a rudderless state. There was therefore nothing personal in the call that President Yar’Adua ought to have handed over power to his deputy before his departure.

It was all for the good of the country. None of us can decree our own state of health and President Yar’Adua cannot be scapegoated for what he cannot control. The prayer, as always, is that he should get sufficiently well to return to the country to continue his life as a contented Nigerian, not necessarily as president if his health will not permit.

It is thus ultimately futile for anyone or group to fight against the emergence of Goodluck Jonathan as Acting President. Those presently engaged in such act can’t escape the fate of the defeated. They can’t be working for the good of this country.

The Nigerian presidency is not a matter of life and death, and nobody need blame another for what they are not responsible for. Jonathan is an ordinary mortal like anyone else. He has not been found disloyal to his boss, the President. He did not even have the power base to do that. His position today is purely providential, with lessons for us all to learn.

The distractions being orchetrated by some can’t take them far. They will, I repeat, ultimately suffer the fate of the defeated. Having said that, the point remains that the whereabouts of President Yar’Adua still remains unknown. The best we have so far been told is that he is in Saudi Arabia in a state nobody knows. One would ordinarily want to dismiss the matter and say Nigeria should move on now there is an acting president.

But that is precisely why we should not close the page on the matter- and we cannot. It is now incumbent on Acting President Goodluck Jonathan to exercise the authority of his office and insist on full disclosure of the true health condition and whereabouts of President Yar’Adua. That is the least he can do.

For all we know someone people might be out to foment trouble and shame Nigeria before the world. But we, as a people, owe it to ourselves not to allow that. Jonathan should explore every available channel to get to the root of the matter of President Yar’Adua’s health. He is still our president and Nigerians elected him into office.

He cannot be abandoned to any person or group. Not even his own wife who is one of 140 million other Nigerians. Who can tell if the President has not been kept against his will wherever he presently is? To the extent that the government of Saudi Arabia has never denied the presence of President Yar’Adua in their Kingdom, pressure should be put on them to disclose what they know of the President’s health.

This insult must not be allowed to continue. When Yar’Adua left or was rushed out of Nigeria, he did so but as the President and Commander-in-Chief, not as a private citizen. Nigeria’s taxpayers are responsible for his medical bills, not his wife, Turai or any other of his relations or, indeed, the dogooders pretending to love him more than everybody else.

Despite her refusal or failure to provide information on him, Turai Yar’Adua, can’t claim she is responsible for the expenses she incurs shuttling between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia or wherever it is they have kept the President. Jonathan does not need the permission of the President’s wife or his relations or friends to obtain information concerning his health.

He should put the power vested in his office to good and immediate use. If other Nigerians, including members of the National Assembly, governors and traditional rulers have tried to no avail to reach the President and know something of his health, it should not be said that the Acting President equally failed.

Now is the time for Jonathan to let Nigerians know the whereabouts of President Yar’Adua and his true state of health. It is the only way to bring closure to this tragic and shameful episode.


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