How to Report the President's Illness: Why Nigeria's Case Is Different

by Adepoju Paul Olusegun

While I totally agree with Rufus Oteniya’s comparison of Zambia’s case with Nigeria’s current predicament, I will like to point out some salient facts why it might be impossible for such to surface in Nigeria.

Unlike Zambia, Nigeria has an enormous population and expansive demography which makes it almost impossible for those in authority to relinquish power. It’s widely said that how powerful a man is solely depends on the size of his kingdom, and the number of people under his rulership. Zambians are not as numerous as Nigerians hence power is more valued here.

Before his current bed ridden status, Yar’adua acted like the Oluwo of Egbaland by administering oaths of secrecy on his cabinet members. While we are aware of the formality, no one, except the oath takers, knows the terms of the convenant, the sacrifices involved and aftermath effects on defaulters. The secrecy of the presidency makes it impossible for Nigerians to see the inside of Aso Rock, talk less of getting true reports on the health of their president.

Thirdly, those who ought to be reporting have also been compromised. PUNCH newspapers is now in the middle of several allegations and counter allegations emanating from a summarily sacked over ambitious journalist. The newspaper’s managements are not the only ones with skeletons to hide. Politicians, especially Yar’adua loyalists have successfully infiltrated the media houses with exorbitant adverts, exclusive sponsorships, mouth watering and tongue drooping honorarium and several tempting overtures which are making publications that were once credible mere town criers for the government.

A forth fearful factor is that of the true state of the president’s health. Considering the manner in which the issue is being handled, one begins to ideate that it’s not just acute pericarditis that our president is suffering from. If the package, ferry, smuggle, hide-and-seek games are put into consideration, one begins to think of conditions like highly contagious extremely drug resistant tuberculosis, heart transplant or magun, among other scary health conditions that might keep us all at the edges of our seat in awe.

The silence of the opposition is another issue that makes it seem as if it’s a normal thing for Nigerians, especially those voters who dared the harsh weather and sharp cutlasses on Election Day, to be kept in the dark. Till date, none of the hundred and something have made any concrete meaningful action to checkmate the continual desecration of the presidency. With members in both chambers of the national assembly, and strong members of the Governors’ Forum, Nigerian opposition political parties and their candidates seem to find nothing wrong. The only set of voices being heard are that of activists, crusaders and those whose interest is not in the bounties of politics but the dividends of legitimate, good, vibrant and accountable governance. The Zambia’s case was different as the voice of opposition was loudly heard from the Victoria Falls to Luanda!

Nigerians can also be blamed for the paucity of information on the health status of those at the helm of affairs. On the various streets across Nigeria, Nigerians go about their daily chores as if all is well in the well. They are unruffled, unconcerned and less bothered by the situation. National issues are only discussed when tabled with isi ewu, nkwuobi, pepper soup, idikangikong, paraga and ofe owerri. To them, the plight befalling Nigerian leaders are self inflicted. Nobody develops pericarditis when in power; it’s been there all along.

It is quite disheartening that after 50 years of independence, Nigerian leaders still fail to fathom leadership, the opposition parties are not even aware of what opposition is all about while the only voices heard are those of well meaning Nigerians under the auspice of the Save Nigeria Group (SNG).

How will Nigeria fair if Prof. Wole Shoyinka had stayed with lecturing, if Yinka Odumakin stay only with the preservation of Awoism and Tunde Bakare preaches only on Sundays and at high profile events? It would have been worse than this. It is evident that even if Yar’adua camp decides to say the truth like Zambian political did, Nigerians are undeterred and summarily but regrettably uninterested.

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