Yar’Adua’s Health and the Need for Full Disclosure

The illness of any man or woman is a cause for concern. And for that matter, the ill-health of a president — the president of any nation — is a serious matter that portends several implications. For example, there is the issue of secession when a president is incapacitated or passes away. And this can be problematic if the country does not have constitutional guidelines or precedents to fall back on; or, if elements within the ruling oligarchy decides to abridge the rule of law.

The level of difficulty in the constitutional exchange determines several issues: First, whether or not there is continuity in governance; whether or not there is continued confidence in the country’s ability to play its role and fulfill its global obligations; and finally, whether or not the country’s prestige and reputation suffer decline. Being a nation-state comes with several duties, obligations and expectations; and none wants to be seen as a banana.

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. And that is to say that the declining health of the president, or his passing, generally does not overly affect the country. There will be murmurs, and that’s about it.

In these countries, there are laws and institutions in place to regulate such an eventuality. But in Nigeria, as in most African countries, the declining health of the president is mostly handled in secrecy. The government engages in all sorts of deceptions and lies in order to put the lid on an issue that should otherwise be part of the public conversation. Sadly, most African governments 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 does not seem to be any national security issues involved. None that is apparent.

President Yar’Adua has been flown abroad on numerous occasions to be attended to by foreign medical personnel. Among those treating him 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. Other competing powers also had human and other listening devices all over the place.

Given that the national security argument does not apply here, why is the Nigerian government bent on deceptions and lies? It was an error of judgment on the part of the Nigerian government, with or without the connivance of President Yar’Adua, to lie and deceive the people on such an important matter.

By so doing, they encouraged the growth of rumor mills; and they also encouraged an atmosphere of suspicion, distrust, and cynicism. A full disclosure would have put to rest the cloud of fear, insecurity and fabrications that now envelope and permeate the country.

In the mind of many, we have moved beyond the 2007 electoral malpractices. Umaru Musa Yar’Adua is the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. There is no doubt about that. There can be no doubt about that until the Supreme Court says otherwise. As the President therefore, he and his team owe Nigerians the truth. In regards to the health of the president therefore, the 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. Aso Rock needs to come clean. The government should level with the people. The people have the right to know what is going on with their president.

If the people knew the truth, they will pray for his quick recovery and wish him Allah’s grace and blessings. If the people knew that their leader is having health related issues, they will rally round him. If the people knew that their president is not feeling great, they will understand, give him longer rope and forgive his failings and shortcomings. We are not that callous as to be indifferent or be iniquitous towards President Yar’Adua.

In spite of our political, religious and ethnic differences, 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 ruling oligarchy does not give the everyday Nigerians enough credit for their humanity and their kind nature.

Today, all the government need do is to announce to the people that “President Yar’Adua is suffering some ill-health and needs your prayers, understanding, and compassion.” If they are honest about it, and lay everything on the table, I have no doubt that Nigerians will shower the President and his family with prayers. They will! Such honesty, and the accompanying response, will draw the people and the President closer.

Simply put: the people and their president will benefit from such mutual honesty and admiration. It is not too late for the government to come clean. It is not too late for Aso Rock to address the nation. But really, what benefit do the people and the government gain from all these lies and triple-lies? Should “something untoward” happen to the president, how are the people expected to react?

Nigeria does not have extensive history of presidents (head of state) in declining health, or at least, the state of their mental and physical well-being 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.

If good medical care, along with prayers and goodwill, will save our president, well then, this is the time to start praying. We need our president. We need our man. We also need a dose of honesty from him and his handlers. I wish the President a quick recovery.

Written by
Sabella Ogbobode Abidde
Join the discussion

1 comment
  • I have yet to see an African country where the state of a president’s health is not held as a secret. The problem is that the government cannot be seen to be vulnerable and therefore will do everything possible to avoid the Truth! sometimes until it is too late. It is a question of greed and holding on to power.