BY EMMANUEL AZIKEN, DAPO AKINREFON, CHARLES KUMOLU & GBENGA OKE
The disclosure by First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan of the critical nature of her health, Monday, aroused scathing criticisms from opposition political parties and some of the country’s leading civic society groups.
The opposition parties and civil society advocates slammed Federal Government for projecting a government of deceit with several saying the administration officials had presented the government as one that cannot be trusted.
Mrs. Jonathan at a thanksgiving service last Sunday disclosed that she literally rose from the dead as she went through nine surgeries on account of an illness the nature of which she, however, did not disclose.
Her media assistant, Mr. Ayo Osinlu, was repeatedly quoted last August and September as saying that Mrs. Jonathan was abroad on vacation following what he said was her hectic work schedule in August.
“If you look at her itinerary in August, you will be wondering how she was able to accomplish that.
“In the course of this week, she will be back home. But remember, it all depends on her plans,” he had said.
Monday, Osinlu could not be reached on his reaction to the development.
Biting reactions came from the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, Arewa Youths Consultative Forum, AYCF, and Save Nigeria Group.
Presidency misleading Nigerians — ACN
In a statement issued in Lagos by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said the revelation by the First Lady on the extent of her illness, especially the fact that she passed out for seven days was a cause for concern to Nigerians wondering why government chose to lie to them on the issue.
“While we felicitate with the First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on her recovery from whatever illness it was that afflicted her, we will be remiss if we fail to recollect how the presidency denied ‘rumours’ of the First Lady’s illness and poured scorn on the media and the imaginary enemies of the government for fuelling the ‘satanic rumours.
“We will also like to remind the presidency that its denial, instead of full disclosure that would have elicited nothing more than fervent prayers from Nigerians, fuelled the rumours that the First Lady suffered from sundry afflictions or the consequences of tummy tuck’’.
“Like we have said time and again, any government needs to be credible to win the trust of the citizens, without which it cannot govern effectively. With the revelation by our back-from-the-dead First Lady, it is clear that the Jonathan Presidency has egg on its face, and must apologise to Nigerians for lying to them. Also, the spokesmen for this government have lost total credibility, hence their words will henceforth be taken with a pinch of salt.
“It is sad that despite what we and many Nigerian groups and individuals have said on this issue, the Jonathan Administration took its script directly from the Yar’Adua group’s book of deceit when the late President was ill and flown abroad. Now, Governors Sullivan Chime of Enugu, Danbaba Suntai of Taraba and Liyel Imoke of Cross River are all playing according to the Jonathan script.
“We are therefore renewing our call for openness and full disclosure on the state of health of public officials. Life itself is transient, not to talk of positions. And as a spiritual leader of the calibre of Pope Benedict has shown recently, no office is more important than life itself.”
This govt has exhibited dishonesty — CPC
The Congress For Progressive Change, CPC, on its part said that if the presidency could lie over the health of the First Lady, it then showed the capacity of the administration to lie on anything.
“What is undoubtedly plausible is: If the administration could show such dishonesty in an innocuous matter as the disclosure of the true state of the first lady’s health, it revealed, without doubt, that this presidency is irredeemably sold to casting deceptive veil on the minds of Nigerians! Indeed, this administration is a continuing story in indulgent opacity and metaphor of a rudder less ship.
“Truly, this is another reason for the total rejection of the ruling PDP that has consistently been responsible for the depreciating quality of leadership in Nigeria’s body politic in the last 13 years. Gratefully, there is hope for a credible alternative to what the ruling People’s Democratic Party represents with the current effort of the progressive parties in the Nation.”
FG lacks integrity—SNG
The Save Nigeria Group, SNG also slammed the presidency for lying to the citizenry on the state of health of the first lady.
Speaking through its spokesperson, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, the SNG said:
“As a human being, one empathises with her on all she has gone through in her moment of trials. We are happy for her that she has recovered. But it shows a degenerate government with many that are totally bereft of honour and integrity to be lying to the whole nation that she was holidaying abroad and that all was well.
Leading civic right advocate and lawyer, Mr. Bamidele Aturu on his part said: “Once again this has shown that many Nigerians shouldn’t even believe government officials and that is a very tragic thing. This hoarding of information about the health status of people who are in government is characteristic of primitive societies and this cannot bring about development.
“Now it is clear to Nigerians that the aides to the president were engaged in barefaced lies when they said that the wife of the president went on a vacation when in fact the woman was going through surgeries. Nigerians will find it difficult to believe such aides and take them seriously whenever they come to tell them anything, even when they are not lying and that is the danger about lying”.
The Arewa Youths Consultative Forum speaking through its national president, Alhaji Yerima Shetima described the revelation as a national embarrassment.
“It can only happen in a country like ours, where illegalities are perpetrated and celebrated. In developed nations like the UK and United States, people don’t politicise such issues, but anything goes in Nigeria. It is only in Nigeria that wives of public office holders spend tax payers’ money on all manners of surgery. We experienced it during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
“Other countries will be making mockery of us over the statement, because the health status of high profile citizens are supposed to be in public view. They have to realise that the office of the first lady is unconstitutional, and should not in anyway become a national issue.”
Leader of the Odua Peoples Congress, OPC, Dr Fredrick Fasheun, however, dismissed the issue as irrelevant saying: “For me, it is nothing. You can decide to get medical attention during holidays, but I don’t think there is any difference with what she told us. It is just that she couldn’t have been brain dead, she might have had what we call suspended animation but not brain dead like she said.”