By Owei Lakemfa
DURINGÂ Â the campaigns leading to what was assumed would be the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) primaries for the 2007 Presidential elections, I stumbled on the campaign team of an aspirant. It was a well-organised, motivated, serious but somewhat naively optimistic group. Off record, the team leader took questions on the campaigns and assessed the chances of other aspirants.
A question cropped up on how the team assessed the chances of then Katsina State governor, Umar Yarâ€™Adua. It sounded like a naive if not daft question. Some giggled, while the team leader confidently responded that Yarâ€™Adua was not an aspirant and cannot be because he is so sick that he is just striving to complete his gubernatorial tenure so that he can have time to go and take care of his health.
The team even mentioned the nature of the ailment which later turned out to be true. But what was not true was that Yarâ€™Adua was not a presidential aspirant; in fact the aspirant of the team, like all the then governors who were jostling to replace then President Olusegun Obasanjo, were elbowed out of the race. They were told that they cannot even aspire to run for the PDP primaries as Yarâ€™Adua had been anointed to succeed Obasanjo.
To further humiliate these aspirants, they were instructed to go and declare support in public for the sick Yarâ€™Adua which they did.
In the campaigns proper, Yarâ€™Adua was so sick that Obasanjo had to do most of it for him. At a particular public rally with rumours flying that Yarâ€™ Adua who was in a German hospital had passed on, the comical Obasanjo phoned the former and asked: â€œ Umoru-u, they say you are dead, is it true?â€
So Nigerians and interested members of the international community knew that Yarâ€™Adua had a life threatening medical condition before he decided to run for the presidency or was drafted to do so. Therefore when political jobbers like Vincent Ogbulafor cry that in discussing the health of the President with some asking him to resign, Nigerians are not wishing their President well,Â they can only be acting like amateurish actors in a third rate Nollywood movie.
If as we all knew, Yarâ€™Adua was quite sick before he was drafted toÂ the presidency, it is inevitable for him to take care of his health and to check into hospitals here or abroad whenever the need arises. So how come the political elites are making this an issue?
Today, there are two main groups. There is the one that says Yarâ€™Adua should no longer allow the issue of his health to affect governance and should therefore resign. Some members of this group are however pushing matters to the extent that they are certain Yarâ€™Adua will answer the ultimate call before them. Although many in this group are people who have lost out of the power game and are now masquerading as super patriots, this should not negate their logical call that the President for once, faces his health problem while allowing the nation to run.
On the other hand are those who present Yarâ€™Adua as a superman whose state of health is irrelevant to his ability to perform his presidential functions. In fact, Senate Deputy president, Ike Ekweremadu told the nation that the President can effectivelyÂ preside over the affairs of the nationÂ even if he is on a Saudi Arabia sick bed for over a year. Such is the sense of patriotism that flows from the top of the National Assembly.
The Presidentâ€™s sister is reported to have said that her very sick brother can actuallyÂ rule for the next 16 years; she obviously calculated a second term which would run out in six years, and an additional 10 years which might mean tenure elongation beyond constitutional stipulations.
Obviously, this group isÂ peopled by beneficiaries of the Yarâ€™Adua presidency ranging from ministers to advisers, businessmen and women to buccaneers who are manipulating the system, family membersÂ and associates whose primary concern is not Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s health, but the fact that their private interest is better served by his clinging on to the presidency.
This group would want to prop up Yarâ€™Adua inÂ power like President Lansana Conte was in Guinea for over five years, and when he passed away, things had so degenerated to the extent that an unstable army captain, Dadis Camara took over power in a country which had serving generals.
It is into this dust over Yarâ€™Adua, Senate President David Mark rode. Putting on the garb of a priest, for whatever reason and relying on whatever power, spiritual or political, Mark declared many days of powerful national prayers. AÂ group then emerges campaigning that Vice President Goodluck Jonathan resigns, leaving that office vacant so that if for whatever reason, Yarâ€™Adua is unable to continue in office, retired General Mark would take over the presidency to ensure that the â€œNorthâ€ continues to occupy that position.
The word for this childish and unintelligent campaign is coup. If there are those who clamour for an unconstitutional transfer of power, then they need not limit themselves to Mark; Mrs Turai Yarâ€™Adua would better fit the bill. First, she is the Presidentâ€™s wife, so the family would not have â€œlostâ€ out entirely; unlike Mark, she is a core Northerner and a Muslim. Also, she is said to be the power behind the throne, so she has political experience, and as a woman, we will have affirmative action.
We need to congratulate the political elites for elevating Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s health to the eighth and most important agenda of this administration.