By Chioma Gabriel,  Deputy Editor

Since the news of President Yar Adua’s ill-health broke, diverse  reactions and opinions have continued to trail the development. President Yar’ Adua, 58, who has made  series of trips to Saudi and Germany to treat a chronic kidney problem in the past was flown to a clinic in the Red Sea port of Jeddah Saudi Arabia last week after complaining of chest pains and was diagnosed with acute pericarditis, an inflammation of the membrane around the heart that can restrict normal beating of the heart.

This  revelation came with a rumour that the President had died which Vice President Goodluck Jonathan debunked immediately and assured Nigerians that the President was okay. Doctors had also described Yar Adua’s ailment as complex but treatable even here in Nigeria. President Yar’Adua according to Nigerian specialists needed not to travel to Saudi Arabia over the ailment to get cure as the ailment could be handled here in Nigeria. But Nigerians are not buying any manner of assurance over the President’s health.

The initial reaction reportedly came from the northerners who demanded that the Vice President who is from the South should resign for the Senate President, a northerner to hold sway while President Yar Adua is being treated.  But Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan had denied being under any pressure to resign and described as “falsehood and mischievous’’ a newspaper report that he was under pressure to resign as a fallout from President Umaru Yar’adua’s health. The Vice President said that the report was designed to create unnecessary panic and tension in the country.

The  report  had said that “the plan of  those pressuring the VP is to create a situation where he would resign for the Senate President David Mark to take over for three months and then organise elections in the event that the President is unable to complete his term.’’

Vice President Jonathan through a  press statement issued by his  Senior Special Assistant, Media and Communication , Mr Ima Niboro, had  urged Nigerians to discountenance the report as it was borne out of sheer mischief and dwells entirely in the imagination of its authors, their sponsors and co-travelers.

“ Vice-President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is not under any pressure to resign. This  wild and insulting claim requires no elaboration. Certainly, the general public can discountenance such drivel.”

Nigerians across different divides are however losing sleep over the Presidents illness. If Vice President Goodluck Jonathan was under any pressure to resign as reported, President Yar’ Adua  has been more in the heat of the storm to resign and for VP Jonathan to take over.

Recently, about ten Nigerian newspapers reported a press statement believed to have been  signed by more than 50 public figures, calling on Yar’Adua to resign immediately or allow a medical panel to confirm his fitness to govern. The press statement asked Umaru Yar’Adua to “immediately and unconditionally hand over to the Vice-President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan to complete the current term of office.”

As Acting President,  the 50 signatories  said  Jonathan should then conduct the next general elections on the basis of the report of the electoral reform committee headed by Justice Mohammed Lawal Uwais. This statement came despite report citing Nigerian officials in Saudi Arabia  that Yar’Adua was now out of intensive care and is recuperating.

“It is clear to every discerning observer that President Umaru Yar’Adua’s physical condition has had a negative impact on his ability to discharge the functions of the highest office in our nation,” the statement reportedly said.

The list of names reported to have signed this statement included  former presidential candidates, former state governors, lawyers, a former Senate president and a former Chief of Defence Staff.

Many of those  reported to have signed the statement have denied doing so.

In another development, nineteen politicians from Yar’Adua’s northern  region  had reportedly published a separate advertorial in several newspapers saying the constitution must be respected should President Yar’ Adua be unable to continue in office.

The PDP, which has accused the opposition of deliberately generating “hype and tension”, criticised the resignation calls.

In this edition, Saturday Vanguard spoke with eminent Nigerians including leaders of Arewa Consultative Forum; leaders of  Ohanaeze Ndigbo amongst several Nigerians on the issue.

No doctor has declared Yar’Adua unfit- General IBM Haruna, ACF Chairman

It is not in good faith to ask the President or the Vice President to resign. The constitution of the country is very clear on the process of succession.

The speculation that President Yar’Adua is ill is not enough reason to ask him to resign. And asking the Vice President to resign is not in good faith either. The Constitution is clear. If the President is incapacitated, let the proper declaratory authority say so.

The proper declaratory authority in this instance is the doctor. If his condition is critical, let the doctors say he cannot continue, that he is incapacitated. There must be somebody who can say this is the true situation.

As for the Vice President, calling him to resign is not the issue. What did the Constitution say? For everything we do concerning this matter, the law of the land must be applied to the letter.

We must ensure peace and stability– Prof Raph Uwaechue, Ohanaeze President
I have not consulted with anybody in Ohanaeze and therefore cannot state the position of Ohanaeze. But as a an individual, I believe the rule of law should be followed and we must ensure that peace and stability continue to reign in the country. The issues involved are important national issues and should be tackled with caution. But my wish for this country is that peace and stability be maintained in whatever we do.

It’ is unpatriotic to ask  the VP to resign – Ayo Adebanjo, Afenifere Chieftain, lawyer

Those who think Yar’Adua should resign are doing so on health grounds because he is not physically fit to direct the affairs of the state and it will be patriotic of  him to resign for him to take care of himself. The destiny of 150 million people should not be at stake because of only one person.

The fate and economic well-being of 150 million people depend on this. Besides, the Constitution made  provision for this kind of situation. The Constitution provides that if the President should not be able to continue due to ill-health, he should resign. He does not need a doctor to declare him unfit because since he assumed office, he has been battling with his health. He is always flying out of the country to attend to his health.

He has not been healthy since he assumed office. So, he is not strong enough to direct the affairs of the state. He should appreciate that  those asking him to resign are not doing so out of ill-will but for him to take care of himself and for the Vice President to direct the affairs of the state till the next election. He should resign.

Those who are picking on Vice President Jonathan are probably doing so because he is from the South. But that is not right. The Yar’Adua/Jonathan ticket expires May 29, 2011. It is baseless to ask the Vice President to resign simply because the North wants to continue to hold on to power. It is very unpatriotic. They should look for another candidate for 2011.

The whole thing is  utter madness — Dr. Dozie Ikedife, fmr Ohanaeze leader

Those who are calling on President Yar’Adua or Vice President Jonathan to resign are doing so because we are in democracy. Otherwise, I will say this is utter madness. The Constitution is quite clear. Number one, the President should not be asked to resign.

Anybody can be ill at anytime. It doesn’t mean that if your father falls sick, you should go and bury him or if your wife falls sick, you should go and bury her and marry another. It is uncharitable. The President has not gotten to the point that he cannot continue. When he gets there, we will know. Fidel Castro in spite of his illness carried on until he asked his deputy to continue while he went for operation.

Other heads of state had been ill once or twice or several times and continued until the person realised he could not continue. We have not gotten to that level. They want the President to resign because he is sick. They also want the Vice President to resign because they want to side-line him. They are laying foundation for crisis in the country and that is what we don’t want.

Jonathan has no place to hide – John Oyegun, fmr Edo Gov.

There is a level of emotionalism being displayed over this matter which I do not understand. There are all kinds of things being said by members of the executive council and some of them do not make sense. Things shouldn’t be like that.

All kinds of things are being said and it is as if we don’t have a Vice-President and the Vice President himself is not helping matters. He is not  speaking out authoritatively and all kinds of people are making all kinds of statements and they are ignoring the 149.999 million Nigerians. We are now spending all our energies and time over the illness of one man who is supposed to have been selected to manage our affairs. But he cannot manage the affairs anymore and that is very obvious.

So, the whole thing is totally incomprehensible. If you employ somebody to take care of your company and he is ill, you put somebody else to run the place. So, why is that such a big problem in this country? Why must we turn it into a major crisis? We are now at the beginning of a major crisis.

The North cannot say that because the Vice President is from the South, he cannot take over. It is not possible. The constitution is very clear. There is no way anybody can play around that.  We want the President to recover. We pray for his health but leaving the country in a vacuum is not possible.

The next election is coming 2011. The North can nominate another person to become the President in two years time. Why is there so much emotion over this? President Yar’Adua is an employee of this nation. Everything should not come to a standstill because he is ill. There are other 149.999 Nigerians that need attention.

The President is not more important than the nation.
The Vice President is another problem. He is not helping matters by his laid-back position but the onus is on him to direct this nation at this crucial period. He cannot resign.

If he does, he will have no home in Nigeria. He will have no place to run to. If he runs away in the time of crisis, then, there will be a problem. Our people say it better to show a child where his father died fighting than where he ran away into the bush when the heat was on.


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.