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Do we need a Surgeon General?

By Donu Kogbara

IN the past couple of columns, I have dwelled on the President’s continued absence and the courage that was so magnificently displayed by Prof. Dora Akunyili, the Minister of Information. I have also said that even though I regard the President as a basically decent man, I despise those of his loyalists who aggressively resisted moves to make Dr Goodluck Jonathan Acting President and think that a medical team should be sent to Saudi Arabia to find out whether Yar’Adua is likely to recover enough to return to his desk at some point in the near future.

I received many responses about these topics from Vanguard readers and decided to publish one that came from Dr. Aghimien Osaronse (

“In the already-troubled atmosphere amidst the President’s absence, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) has exercised its power and certified the President fit(Section144 subsect1a). I think they should redefine the words permanently incapacitated. I do not know if they want the President dead (if still alive) before they would know that he can no longer discharge his duties effectively. Suffice to say that the FEC is not considering the health status of its President; otherwise they would ask him to step down.

Subsection 4 of section144 also empowers the Senate President to set up a medical panel to verify the resolutions of the FEC. This would allow the medical panel report directly to the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representative subsection1b of section144.

If we had a Surgeon-General in this nation we wouldn’t have been tossed around by the here-and-there statements of the former Attorney-General and the following questions should be answered:
*On what basis was the president certified fit by the FEC?
*Can a president who is fit be away for more than 70 days?
We should not forget that no one person is greater than the Constitution of our nation.  A surgeon-general would have been in a better position to speak, as this is a purely medical issue”.

Does ‘The Cabal’ represent Northern  interests?

IT has been rumoured for several weeks that Yar’Adua may never be able to return to active service. If this happens, Dr Jonathan will cease to merely act on behalf of his boss. He will take over completely; and the VP slot will become vacant.

It is widely expected that the PDP will select a Northerner to fill this slot for a few months and then replace Dr Jonathan after the next election. And there has been much talk about who this possible President-In-Waiting might be.

The other day, I asked some Northern friends whom they would select if they were given the opportunity to nominate a representative. And they all came up with different names. No two people chose the same “candidate”. And a lively debate ensued about why X “candidate” might be better than Y “candidate”.

Halfway through this discussion, it suddenly struck me as interesting that none of the above friends had nominated any member of Yar’Adua’s “kitchen cabinet”.

When I asked them why they had totally overlooked this group, they all looked at me as if I was crazy and said that Yar’Adua’s wife and closest Northern cronies are selfish individuals who have behaved extremely badly in recent weeks and have always been more pro-Katsina and pro-themselves than pro-North or pro-Nigeria.

It is a great pity that the Yar’Adua cabal has compromised its reputation by mishandling the challenges they have faced. If Yar’Adua’s most ardent supporters had conducted themselves more appropriately when they were in strong positions, they would have attracted more positive reactions when the chips were down.

Most Nigerians are kind-hearted enough to genuinely sympathise with a woman whose husband is seriously ill or with a devoted employee who doesn’t know whether the Oga he has affectionately served can ever return to work.
But when spouses and cronies behave as if clinging to the Presidency is a desperate do-or-die matter – and lavish disrespect on a pleasasnt, responsible and not-overly-ambitious deputy like Dr Jonathan – they start to attract contempt and condemnation…from their own people as well as from other geopolitical zones.

I guess it’s still possible that a member of the now nortorious cabal will be chosen to represent the North if it turns out that Yar’Adua can no longer perform. But given the enormous amounts of hostility that they have brought upon themselves by failing to do the right thing, I will be very surprised if this happens.

By the way, I have always been a feminist of sorts. And though I certainly wouldn’t describe Hajiya Turai Yar’Adua as an ideal First Lady, I’m quite (grudgingly!) impressed by the fact that she is a highly effective power-broker who flatly refuses to be submissive and inspires fear in the bosoms of so many normally macho Nigerian men! Much of the recent crisis has boiled down to a whole bunch of guys being mortally afraid of what Turai would do to them if they rebelled.

The woman has guts and may have a future as a political leader in her own right.
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