The days that followed Late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s harried trip for medical treatment abroad turned to weeks. The weeks became months, and as the uncertainty concerning the whereabouts of Mr President grew, so did the campaign of calumny against him, his wife and family grow. The din was loud and the cacophony of voices calling on the president to resign, be declared incapacitated or be impeached outright and make way for Goodluck Jonathan, then his vice-president reached heaven and hell. To many people, it seemed as if that was the only thing to do then, particularly as our country seemed to be rudderless and adrift.
As things have turned out, all of those calls were unnecessary and they have turned out to be reprehensible too – the press and papers had a field day churning out all sorts of analyses mostly based on speculations. While some online magazines reported that our President was already dead, the local press had the fieldest day of their productive lives as media outfits – they fed fat on pockets of gist creeping in from Saudi Arabia. Not one media took the pains to send a reporter to the King Fahd Hospital to ascertain what was really going on. And even when the BBC conducted that interview with the ailing president, some supposedly learned people I spoke with said they could swear on their mothers’ graves that the voice of the sick president was a phoney and an acoustic manipulation by Turai, the culprit-in-chief in the ill saga of the late president.
Others vilified the late president as well. Civil society groups led by all sorts of eminent and non-eminent people took to the streets leading processions to the National Assembly, demanding the impeachment of the sick president. They said all kinds of things – that Turai is a Lady Macbeth bent on holding on to power at all costs; they said that she single-handedly held the late president incommunicado preventing even the vice-president from having access to him. To me, this was all arrant nonsense and I did not keep quiet about it [check my piece on this paper and on www.nigeriansinamerica.com with the title, UNNECESSARY HOT AIR OVER TURAI. My take in that piece was that we were being childish in holding Turai responsible for our inability to ‘see’ our president. What did we need to see him for? The man was sick, period. I have been very sick once and my doctors did not allow visitors to see me. Those who tried to felt the sharp lash of my elder sister’s tongue. That that happened to me shows that it could happen to anybody. A UN doctor who had access to the late president’s medical records and who told me that if anybody apart from Turai had been allowed in to see him, he would have died two months earlier confirmed this. Many people insulted me for saying this. Some accused me that I was a PDP-ite supporting the late president desecrating the office of the president with his illness. I could not understand all that scrap. Which was more sacred – the office of the president or the life of the man that occupied the office of president? Before that piece however, I had said in another one, WHILE WE PRAY FOR MR PRESIDENT published here and on www.allafrica.com of February 8, 2010, that my confidence in the late President remained unshaken because he ‘could have upped our power ante by as much as 6000 megawatts by December 2009 if he had not taken ill. The man had promised to deal with the Niger Delta problem, and we saw that he was indeed dealing with the problem despite our everlasting skepticism. He managed to win us over in the manner he conducted a response to the attack on the Atlas Cove by the freedom fighters from the Niger Delta. He dealt decisively with the Boko Haram hydra, making a lot of his critics who had accused him of being a closet jihadist in his days as Katsina State governor blush in disbelief by suddenly transmuting to one of Nigeria’s trusted leaders, ever’.
The politicians too did not help matters to disinfect the foul air of speculations surrounding the president’s health. Like double-minded people that are unstable in all their ways, they spoke from both sides of their mouths. While the late president’s party people were fighting at the Executive Council meetings, hurling dirty words like ‘cabal’ at each other, the opposition bayed for blood, instigating the press to publish all sorts of sensational stories about the sick man. For me, I thought that we were sicker than the sick man whose illness became a matter for so much chicanery and debauchery. The one thing I know now however is that this mess could have been avoidable if the provisions relating to a temporary transfer of power from president to his deputy were followed. I believe too that people would have reacted differently if they knew what the UN doctor told me.
However, the campaign of calumny and bad blood for late President Yar’Adua did not begin when he traveled to Saudi Arabia. It began in the days of the PDP presidential campaign when he dashed to Germany for a routine check. The media was agog with the rumour of his death, resulting in the now famous ‘Umoru-are-you-deaid’ question posed to him by Olusegun Obasanjo. Just after he became president, he promised to rule as a servant leader, to respect the rule of law and proposed a 7-Point Agenda. In no time, the late president earned the sobriquet ‘Baba Go-Slow’, for doing things one at a time. So deep was the acrimony for this president that Nigerians visiting fast food joints would ask to be served ‘Yar’Adua’ [snail].
But just after the president died, those who took one cheap shot or the other at him and are his family at the very ones now praising him to heaven and hell. On air, in the papers and on television, Nigerians are expressing their undying love and admiration for this man they once wanted impeached, declared incapacitated and replaced. Those who insulted him when he was sick are saying they are going to miss him. Many people are now saying that ‘he will be remembered for being a detribalized leader, a hero of the people, a man who abhorred corruption in all ramifications, a believer in due process and rule of law, committed family man and devout Muslim. Nigeria will surely miss his good qualities’.