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For Yar’Adua, it was a whimper not a bang

By Rotimi Fasan
WHEN momentous events occur we tend to remember what we were doing when we got the news. The news announcing the passing of President Umaru Yar’Adua came to me in Ibadan via a phone call from my younger brother. It was in the very early hours of Thursday, May 6- some 35 minutes or thereabout into the new day.

He had got a call from an older sibling who had heard the news, the previous night, on the NTA. I didn’t know what to make of it but to wait for further confirmation. The nearest medium of information to me that moment was a transistor radio and I naturally turned it on.

The few stations on air ran those call-in/request programmes either treating matters of the heart or simply responding to song requests for the callers’ favourite artists. But soon a friend with whom I’d had a discussion before going to bed received a call from a neighbour with the same news.

The caller’s source? The NTA. It was beginning to sound not like the hoaxes of previous months when the President was rumoured dead. But all doubts were soon ended as an announcer on one of the ‘agony’/request programmes offered his condolences to Nigerians and prayed for the repose of the President’s soul. Details would follow in the morning.

After many months of agonising over the true state of health of our President and the nature of his ailment, the man finally went home. And the news of his death came, not quite unexpectedly, with a whimper rather than the bang that would have otherwise followed such news.

Nigerians, it would seem, had at some point suffered Yar’Adua news fatigue and had chosen to follow the lead of their leaders, by which I mean members of the Goodluck Jonathan’s ‘acting presidency’, as it then was- they’d simply chosen to move on and either ignored or forgotten about President Yar’Adua and the tantrums from the cabal scheming to rule in his name.

Their several attempts to destabilise Goodluck Jonathan by constantly issuing threats about the late President returning to office had been exposed for what they were- at once empty and foolish threats. Nobody could be bothered anymore.

And but for the recent call on Jonathan to insist on seeing Yar’Adua by Wole Soyinka, the Yar’Adua health issue had been virtually swept under the carpet. The only media organisation that constantly brought the matter up in the last few days, as far as I can recall, was the Nigerian Tribune.

Their last report on the matter told of a disagreement between Turai, the late President’s wife, and other members of the cabal as to the necessity or otherwise of returning Yar’Adua abroad for medical attention. At some point I though either Soyinka or the Tribune was in the know of something the rest of us didn’t know.

Whether they did or not, the point is that the rest of Nigerians had chosen to downgrade Yar’Adua’s health matters and with them the cabal and their matron that had been inadvertently kept in the news and lionised for too long. One wouldn’t know to what extent such quiet rebuff led to the decision to end the morbid game of locking up for months, not just an ordinary man but the president of the largest black country on the planet and denying any one outside the cabal access to him.

Which might seem a tortuous way of saying that Nigerians need independent confirmation of the actual time President Yar’Adua died and the cause of death. Did his death come as a consequence of the kidney or heart-related ailments we were all told he had suffered from or something else? And which doctor confirmed him dead?

This might not sound to some like the appropriate thing to say right now but there cannot be a more appropriate time than now to ask what role certain individuals, members of the cabal that held the President hostage for nearly six months, including his wife, played or did not play in the disgusting drama that preceded the announcement of his death.

Let it be said that it is a crying shame that for the last six months of his life President Yar’Adua was a virtual prisoner in his own home: nobody outside those the president’s wife chose saw him to say nothing of knowing when he died, how and of what ailment.

The NTA report said the president passed on some hours before the announcement and a report was made to the National Security Adviser, Aliyu Gusau, for onward transmission to- to whom really? Was it the Acting President, as he was, Goodluck Jonathan that was denied access to his boss all through the period he was taken to Saudi Arabia and his hurried return in February?

When and why did it become necessary to acknowledge the position of the Acting President and apprise him of the passing of the President? The crass disrespect, serial acts of insult and scorn poured not just on the person and office of the Acting President but also on the generality of Nigerians by President Yar’Adua’s wife and members of his so-called kitchen cabinet ought not to be overlooked.

Not as a matter of assuaging a nation’s bruised ego but as a way of laying precedent for future conduct. Somebody should explain why questions of the late president’s health had to be made a matter of secrecy but his death was deemed a matter fit for public consumption.

What was there to hide about him? He was the President of Nigeria and if there was anything shameful about his health that shame was that of Nigerians who elected him into office, not the personal business of his wife who is but one of hundred of millions of Nigerians or anybody else for that matter. Could President Yar’Adua have been the victim of foul play?

That he was surrounded by persons who were family or claimed to be close associates is no reason to suppose otherwise. There would be ample time to talk about his legacy and sing his praises. There are, for now, grounds for suspicion and President Jonathan could do worse than ignore the circumstances under which his predecessor died.


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