The illness of any man or woman is a cause for concern. And for that matter, the ill-health of a president is a matter that portends quite a few implications. For example, there is the issue of secession when a president is incapacitated or passes away. This can be problematical if the country does not have adequate constitutional guidelines or precedents; or, if elements within the oligarchy decides to abridge the rule of law.
But more than anything else, a president’s declining health or death adversely affects the psyche of the citizenry. This is so because a president is a thread in a nation’s blanket. Across the world, especially in well established democracies, such issues are usually well handled: the declining health of the president, or his passing, generally, does not overly affect the country or its continuing governance. A few African countries, such as Botswana and Senegal, have demonstrated this fact.
In Nigeria, as in most other African countries, the declining health of the president is mostly handled in secrecy. The government, or a segment of people within the government, engages in all sorts of deceptions and lies in order to put lid on an issue that should otherwise be part of the public conversation. For the most part, we forget that the people have a stake in their president’s ill-health or good fortune. He is, after all, their president. He is their leader. They have the right to know how their Man is fairing.
There are exceptions to this rule, though. But such exceptions are rare, i.e. when national security matters are involved. But in this instance, there seem not to be any national security issues involved. None that is apparent. We know for instance that, in Germany, as was the case in Saudi Arabia, the president was attended to by foreign medical personnel. Among those treating him were/are spies and agents of foreign powers. He was naked — figuratively and in the real sense — before them. They had access to his mind and his body.
For more than two years now, we have been inundated with half-truths and boldface lies — half-truths and boldfaced lies that have encouraged the growth of rumor mills and an atmosphere of suspicion, distrust, and cynicism. A full disclosure would have put to rest the cloud of fear, insecurity and fabrications that have now enveloped and permeated the country.
The President’s wife and her team of confidant owe Nigerians the truth. Unadulterated truth is a debt they owe the people. The more lies they tell, the worse off they look and sound. The more deception and duplicity they engage in, the wider the gulf they create between the president and the people. The fabrications, the double-speak, and the mendacities are not necessary. Mrs. Yar’Adua and her team needs to come clean. The people have the right to know what is going on with their president. Is he in a coma? Does he need more time to recuperate? What exactly is the status of his health?
In spite of our political, religious and ethnic frictions, no Nigerian will celebrate the president’s ill-health. From the Creeks of the Niger Delta to the cascading hills of Plateau State and the flat lands of Sokoto and Maiduguri, no Nigerian will make a toast to the infirmity of the President.
Too many a times, the oligarchy does not give the everyday Nigerians enough credit for their humanity and their kind nature. It is therefore not too late for the Yar’Adua family to address the nation, to tell us the truth. We need to know and demand to know what is going on with our President. For goodness sake, he is our president. Should “something untoward” happen to him, how are we, the people, to react?
And frankly, how his wife and her team of advisers have handled the President’s ill-health is a cause for concern. But beyond that, it is a shame, a colossal embarrassment. To sneak in our president in the dark of night? Oh no! Where is the dignity? Where is the pride? Where is the sense of self? Yar’Adua is not an ordinary human being. He is, after all, the President of Nigeria. He is our president! And to treat him the way they have treated him? What a shame! What a pity!
They may not know it; they brought shame to our country. They may not know it; they disgraced our country. They spat on the presidency and humiliated our President. All those involved in this game of shame should bury their face in the sweltering sand. What good did they think they were doing for the president? What favor were they rendering? There is no dignity in the manner the president and his condition was handled.
I repeat: In the fullness of time, the president’s friends, along with the president’s wife, will come to realize that their acts, pronouncements, directives and stratagem of the last seventy or so days have been hostile to the presidency, injurious to the health and dignity of the president, and damaging to the prestige of our country.
Nigeria does not have a history of presidents, or heads of state, in declining health, or at least, the state of their mental and physical state is generally not in the public domain. Still, the time for a new approach is now. We cannot continue to perpetuate a culture of lies, deceits and double-speak.
Umaru Musa Yar’Adua is, first and foremost, a human being. As with all humans, he will at one time or another, fall sick. His illness and the medical treatments he gets should not be a spectacle, a divisive issue. It is so unfortunate that, that is what his condition and his handlers have made it out to be.