Yar’ Adua’s Ailing Health: Nothing Sacred

I do not know for how long the President’s spokesman, Mr. Segun Adeniyi will continue to fool Nigerians with respect to President Yar’ Adua’s health condition and his medical trips abroad. Everyone knows that Yar’ Adua is battling kidney problems; hence, he needs a regular medical check-up. But information regarding the President’s health has always been a source of controversy due to insincerity on the part of the President’s aides.

Recently, it was reported that President Yar’ Adua would spend eight weeks abroad having medical checks from January 26, 2009 but the statement credited to the President’s spokesman, Mr. Segun Adeniyi is an indication that President Yar’ Adua’s trip abroad on health grounds is not a mere speculation. Mr. Adeniyi was quoted as saying “I’m not going to react to that story, whether it is true or false, papers can go ahead speculating on the health of Mr. President. I won’t talk about it.” With this statement, Mr. Adeniyi is probably trying to be careful in handling the matter due to the sack of the former Secretary to the Federal Governmenet (SFG), Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe as a result of the manner in which speculations about the President’s where about was handled in August last year.

President Yar’ Adua may not be immune to ill-health just like any other human being but his health condition appears to be far from normal and this is obviously affecting his performance besides many concerned Nigerians have asserted that the President is too slow and incompetent. The issue of whether or not President Yar’ Adua is fit to lead the country have been re-occurring more over the last two years and there is no doubt that the President would be needing frequent medical check-up owing to his heal conditions. But must Nigerians be deceived?

It would be recalled that President Yar’ Adua sometime last year filed a suit against Leadership Newspaper for allegedly reporting that the President did not attend any public function for two days. In the same vein, Channels Television, a lagos-based TV station was shut on government’s order for its report about President Yar’ Adua’s proposed resignation. This shows that the Yar’ Adua administration is not in support of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill which has been described as the longest pending bill ever sent to the National Assembly. The frequent denial of the President’s ill-health by the former Minister of Information, Mr. John Odey is a testament to this fact. Odey during his appointment as the Information Minister encouraged journalist to report lies to Nigerians all in the name of giving premium to national security but lies don’t attract the sympathy and prayers of the people.

The fact about President Yar’ Adua’s absence at a jumma’at prayer sometime last year was expected to have been kept secret by the Leadership Newspaper. Little wonder some people were calling for a retraction of the report. Mr. John Odey insisted that “the President was in good health and he attended all his official duties.” The former Information Minister lied in the process of defending President Yar’ Adua because according to him (Odey), information about the President’s health must be kept sacred.

But really, nothing is sacred about the ailing health of Yar’ Adua. Information regarding his (Yar’ Adua) health status is like any new story for the newspapers but unfortunately, the health of the President has been politicized due to fears that section 146 of the 1999 constitution might be invoked if the event of President Yar’ Adua’s medical trip occurred again. The PDP-controlled National Assembly did not deem it necessary to follow constitutional provisions when the President traveled for more than two weeks last August because President Yar’ Adua belong to the PDP. Despite staying away for more than the official time, the two legislative chambers were cautious about invoking relevant sections of the constitution.

Over the last two years, the leadership of the country has been making wrong information available to the public on the President’s health and also what is really going on in public offices. One wonders if the FOI bill will ever be passed because this law (FOI) will allow Nigerians access to public information- information regarding decisions about public governance and it is in view of government’s actions that I feel the FOI law may not see the light of the day.

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