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Sentiments and traditions that destroy

By Rotimi Fasan

CONTRARY to the Senate’s spokesperson, Ayogu Eze’s advice that talking about President Yar’Adua’s health is time-wasting and Nigerians should simply move on and support Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, Nigerians must continue to insist on full disclosure of Yar’Adua’s health and whereabouts even while supporting the Acting President.

The question of the President’s health is one matter that just won’t go away, not because Nigerians want it so but because a few people have made it impossible for us to look away.

And we must neither look away nor sweep the matter under the carpet as that would be playing into the hands of the President’s wife and those of the clique that have shrouded in secrecy questions of the President’s health condition while conflating the fate of a nation with that of one man.

As far as this matter goes, the Federal Government team sent on that fool’s errand to Saudi Arabia to find out what had been happening to President Umaru Yar’Adua since he was rushed out of the country last November returned to the country with a report that every Nigerian had known in the small hours of Wednesday February 24, namely that they could not see the President.

One wonders how they could have seen the President if at the material time they were airborne, the President was, like someone with a shameful disease or a common thief or both, being secretly flown into the country under the cover of darkness by people who ought to have been rounded up for their criminal act but are yet at large and have continued to spit in the collective face of Nigerians.

The point bears repeating even if it is being mentioned here in the past: President Yar’Adua is probably being held hostage and against his will by persons, perhaps including his own wife, who cannot imagine life outside power. Nigerians have the responsibility to confront this power-mongering clique and run them out of town.

To be silent in the face of their serial acts of impunity is to be both irresponsible and complicit. It is not a waste of time for Nigerians to insist on seeing or knowing something about the health of their President who is being maintained, no matter his present health condition, by the state.

If as some claim the President is alive, well and healthy and if he must continue to be addressed and seen as the president, then neither he nor anybody else speaking in his name can choose when he would see Nigerians. He simply has to appear and be seen to be functioning fully on all cylinders. There is no room for a presidency run by proxy.

Given what has happened and is happening on the matter of the President’s health, Nigerians cannot believe the words of the President’s wife or his brother any more than they can or should believe that of a tale bearer in a roadside beer parlour.

If all is well with the President then he cannot continue to hide from his own people more than one hundred days since he was taken out of this country and two weeks after some mental dwarfs smuggled what they claim was the president back into the country.

Framers of the Nigerian Constitution did not have it in mind that a man, any man, can or should occupy the office of the president in absentia whether in good or bad health. Allowing the rape of the Constitution in the manner we have seen in the last three months is a consequence of the personalisation of power and governance in Nigeria.

Rather than living by time-tested universal principles of governance we have chosen to allow unwarranted sentimentalism and disgraceful respect for traditions that ought to have been thrown into the waste bin of life to prevail in our society.

In the first instance, it is unnecessary sentimentalism that amounted to criminal breach of the Constitution for the Executive Council of the Federation not to have notified the National Assembly as to the true health condition of the President to enable it mandate the Vice President to step in as Acting President when it became clear that the President was too ill to continue in office as at the time he was flown out.

But most of the Council members were more interested in keeping their jobs and breaching the Constitution than fulfilling a constitutional requirement.  They didn’t want to be seen as not showing ‘pity’ for or ‘sympathising’ with the President even when they could see what their action portended.

Michael Aondoakaa, now in ignominious silence, became the all-purpose minister that spoke from both sides of the mouth with regards to all matters concerning the President. Following the lead of the Executive Council, the National Assembly started pussy-footing and simply left the country to the ministration of a so-called kitchen cabinet with sole access to the President.

When finally the National Assembly woke up from its self-induced slumber and passed a resolution mandating Goodluck Jonathan to become Acting President while initiating moves to amend sections of the Constitution that have been violated by Yar’Adua’s (in)action, it was the turn of the Governors Forum, last week, to stumble over themselves telling Nigerians that they were satisfied with the state of the nation even as the President’s whereabout remains unknown.

Surely, this set of rulers who have chosen to sacrifice national interest for personal interest can’t be acting in the interest of Nigerians. Nigerians must not accept this nonsense.

Enough of third party information. If Yar’Adua is healthy, is not being kept against his will and is in the country, then he must appear before Nigerians. Otherwise both the National Assembly and the Goodluck Jonathan presidency would be setting a dangerous precedent for which Nigerians will some day hold them accountable.


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