By Donu Kogbra
My columns appear on Fridays but have to be submitted two days earlier, on Wednesdays, which puts me at a disadvantage in terms of topicality. A lot of unexpected and dramatic new developments can occur during a 48-hour period, especially in a crazily unpredictable country like Nigeria.
Events are constantly being overtaken by events. And one can never be sure that what is true today will still be true tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.
But I am a slave to publication deadlines and can only write about what I know at the time of writing, so please kindly bear with me if any of the following comments sound outdated.
Shortly before I settled down at my desk to compose this latest edition of â€œSweet And Sourâ€, President Yarâ€™Adua was flown into Abuja from Saudi Arabia under cover of darkness. Journalists were banned from the landing area of the airport, which means that no objective observer currently has a clue what condition the President was in.
The entire country is reeling from the shock of this unannounced arrival and is waiting with bated breath to find out what the real score is and what will happen next.
Since rumours always rush in to fill any informational void, all manner of uncorroborated and conflicting stories are flying around. Some folks are saying that the President was transferred from the ambulance plane to a stretcher prone and in a completely comatose state. Others say that he was fully conscious and well enough to sit up in a wheelchair.
Some say he was immediately taken to Katsina. Some say he was taken to the Presidential Villa. Then there are those who insist that the Acting President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, was not notified in advanceâ€¦and those who say that Jonathan was not only notified in advance but was the one who made all the necessary protocol and security arrangements.
I am also hearing on the feverishly buzzing grapevine that many individuals who are dependent on government are terrified because Yarâ€™Adua cabalists have (allegedly) made it clear that they will ruthlessly deal with everyone who reacted â€œnegativelyâ€ to his prolonged absence and encouraged Dr Jonathan to take over in an acting capacity.
Meanwhile, a friend just called me to say that a statement that gives Dr Jonathan clearance to continue as Acting President will soon be issued by one of Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s aides.
Whenever someone gets in touch to share the latest titbit of gossip with me, I experience mixed feelings. On the one hand, I am glad that Mr President didnâ€™t die abroad and has finally been able to come home. On the other hand, I am furious with his wife and cronies.
For three whole tortuous and nightmarish months, they have played a sick, secretive, primitive cloak-and-dagger, cat-and-mouse game with the Nigerian people. They have kept us guessing. They have kept us in limbo. They have made us look stupid on the world stage.
They have obstructed the official delegations that were sent to Saudi Arabia to find out how the President was getting along. They have carried on as if the Presidency is their birthright and private property. They have failed to acknowledge the fact that Yarâ€™Adua is a public servant. They have treated us like morons and serfs. They have behaved arrogantly, appallingly and absurdly. And I think that they should apologise to the nation.
I urge all Nigerians in general â€“ and those in positions of influence in particular – to flatly refuse to be intimidated or bamboozled by bravado, lies, smokescreens or vindictiveness.
Searching questions must be asked. And proper answers must be provided. If Yarâ€™Adua turns out to be healthy enough to resume his job in the near future, fine. But he must prove beyond all reasonable doubt that he is physically and mentally capable. We should not lamely accept assurances that are not backed up by concrete visual and aural evidence.
I believe Yarâ€™Adua to be a fundamentally decent man. But he has lost a lot of credibility and moral authority since last November; and he should tread very carefully if he ever returns to work. If he or over-zealous members of his fan club try to abuse power by launching a witch-hunt, they must be firmly repelled because Dr Jonathan and the many people who supported his elevation have not committed any ethical breach.
If anything, Jonathan et al were too cautious and too willing to put their loyalty to the President before their duty to protect Nigeriaâ€™s interests. And there were times when I felt like screaming at them for not resolving the constitutional crisis more speedily.
Ah well. Enough said for now. We are all human; and we sometimes misbehave when we are seriously stressedâ€¦and then see the error of our ways when the pressure eases off.
And I pray that Yarâ€™Adua die-hards will pleasantly surprise me by changing direction, reacting sensitively to the public mood, conducting themselves impeccably from now onwards and giving Dr Jonathan the respect and gratitude he deserves.
Letâ€™s siddon look and watch events as they unfold.
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