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In memory of Umaru Yar’Adua

By Tony Momoh
The issue I want to raise here is sensitive, but I want to be able to sleep well after I have said my say.  I did mention last week that the passing on of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was a relief to many because all the plots, the shenanigans that were engineered in his name had to end. 

The declaration of seven days of national mourning naturally brought out the best in a man whose image had been diminished because of the greed of those who thought they loved him more.

But must we accept that what people thought about our man who would have been a great president if he had not been ill, may have been true?  It is the very possibility that some people do believe that our late president was the one in charge of the puppet show, pulling the strings while we watched angrily on stage, that we must come clean with what happened.

I do sincerely believe we must put the records in respect of the management of his health straight. Many would say that we do not need the straightening out of the records “so that his soul may rest in peace”.  But I know souls are more active there, but when you have tonnes of debris hanging in your name and you now see clearly that you were being used, that people were just being greedy, the departed waits, is, as we say earthbound, and cries for justice.

There is a spiritual dimension to the point I am raising.  I know many would not accept that the dead bite.  Even if they are not seen to be biting so that the ones being bitten shout and yell for all and sundry to hear them cry, they do haunt those who wrong them.

I am pleading most sincerely that we do not end the mourning of our departed president with putting a lid on what we did when he was alive.  Let the living tell the story, if not publicly; but the investigating must be done and the findings classified so that the future can judge our man more sympathetically.  But to let sleeping dogs lie is unfair to the dead, the living and history.

The period of investigation is that period when we were told that he was going to Saudi Arabia, that is on November 23, 2009, to the day his passing was announced on May 5.

There may well be very sensitive areas that would not come out for national discourse, but what of the areas about whether or not he wrote a letter to the national assembly that he was travelling; whether or not he had an interview with the BBC, whether or not he spoke with some people telling them he was recuperating and that he would soon be back; whether the teams that went to Saudi Arabia saw

him or were just told about his health; what prompted the sudden return that was shrouded in secrecy; the detention in Aso Rock; who handled his case and how much access did our security agencies have to him;  the truth behind all the information pumped out about his health and recuperation; the case of the visiting clerics; the heavy-duty spending to divert attention from what may well have been deliberate lies et al.

People are alive to provide the information we need.  Senate President David Mark, and House Speaker Dimeji Bankole should tell us why they put up that act about who hosts the President’s budget speech. The House has always done so, but from the blues the Senate claimed they would do so.

With the benefit of hindsight, was it not likely that our President was so ill that we did not want a disaster on our hands as he presented the budget live on television!  We need this explanation because we will judge our President more favourably if we know that in the build-up to his evacuation, his condition had so degenerated that he may not have been fully conscious of what was going on, and so could not be held responsible for all those ugly things we thought he was responsible for.

If medical reports were anything to go by, we had a lot of tips on the potential of our President’s ailment to eat up its victim.  So what they said was that he would die slowly, eventually be on life support, lose his senses of cognition et al.  How embarrassing would it be for those who went to see him to be confronted with a man who would not recognise them!  Would we not then also be sympathetic with Hajia Turai, the president’s wife who may have decided, even if ill-advisedly, that no one would see the husband.  Can you see the difference – stopping people from seeing the husband instead of understanding the implication of stopping people from seeing their president!

She was in a position to call the shots, and it is the state of mind of the minder that matters here.  You may well have been the one to take the decisions and may have done the same thing in some other way.  But Turai may have decided that it would be unfair to present to the world, to the president’s countrymen, a figure that would haunt them rather than give them hope.  But if so, why would he not resign?

If he had resigned and recovered miraculously as she hoped he would, how would he have reclaimed the presidency which was a mandate given by the people for a term defined.  So, in revisiting the period we want to put a lid on, we would give everybody a chance to state their case.  Otherwise, the period between the time Yar’Adua left this country, came back in the dark of the night, remained generally unreachable until the announcement of his passing on May 5, will remain a dark spot in our history about which tongues will wag, and which will sadden the man whose image would be pelted in thoughts and in words and even in deeds.

We must clear the name of Yar’Adua to show that he had no hand whatsoever in what happened, that he had no part whatsoever in the things done in his name; that those who did things, really dirty things to sustain their hold on power, were doing so in good faith, hoping that God could work miracles and return their leader to health.
In this intervention, three reasons have emerged for my asking that we establish the truth about our late president.  The first reason is to find out what happened.

We may not be bothered now, but posterity will one day want to judge those who moderated their affairs in their march through time, and Umaru Yar’Adua would be listed as one of them. We cannot risk posterity saying here was a man who ruled his country and refused to abide by the constitution he swore to uphold, who ignored the lawmakers and completely shut his deputy off the affairs of state; a man who was well enough to grant an interview to a foreign radio station but ignored his people back home, who could sign the appropriation bill but could not send a note to the national assembly that he was on a health vacation.

No, I don’t want this recording against the name of   the servant leader to deny him a better place in history. The second reason for the need to address the period of seclusion is to set standards for management of emergency situations such as we had on our hands when our president was ill and a group of people refused to accept that he was more Nigeria’s problem than his family’s.

The third reason is to use the opportunity of establishing the details of the management of his heath to build a memorial in form of a specialist hospital to be named after Yar’Adua so that never again in our history are we going to send our leaders to anywhere outside Nigeria because they are ill and we have no place to treat them.

I understand the hospital our president went to in Saudi Arabia was established when they were confronted with the problem our leader had.   We should not sustain this national disgrace, should we?


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