So where is Yar’Adua?

Casmir Igbokwe

Published in SUNDAY PUNCH, Feb. 28, 2010

We have heard that President Umaru Yar’Adua is back in the country. We have also heard how his wife, Turai, allegedly directs affairs in the presidency; how some prominent Nigerians including the ones close to the First Family went to Saudi but failed to see him.

Presidential spokesman, Segun Adeniyi, conveyed Yar’Adua’s profound gratitude to Nigerians for their prayers shortly after his purported arrival last Wednesday.

 And this is a man who, as at press time, is reported to be marooned in a mobile ambulance. The question then arises, is he truly back? Or put differently, where is our President?

I asked a similar question in September 2008 in a piece titled, “Mr. President, where are you?” The man had gone on a medical trip to Saudi Arabia. But for 17 days he was in that kingdom, his spin doctors told us he went for lesser hajj.

The then Information Minister, John Odey, told the nation that the President was also free to take that opportunity to undertake medical check-up.

Hear Odey, “We inquired from the vice-president, who has been in touch with him, they also spoke yesterday and by the close of work today, we will also confirm his schedule when he will come back…One thing I will like to solicit from the general public and the gentlemen of the press generally is to exercise patience. I would confirm to you whenever he will be coming back but he is hale and hearty.”

Odey was not comfortable when he was making this statement. But he had to do the bidding of his paymasters.

Nigerians were still waiting for him to tell them when Yar’Adua would come back when the man arrived in the country in the early hours of Saturday, September 6, 2008 under the cover of darkness.

What is happening in the country now is a tragic repeat of the events of 2008. It shows that history keeps repeating itself here without any attempt to learn from it. In the 2008 episode, Foreign Affairs Minister, Ojo Maduekwe, played the role of a comic character.

 Recall that Yar’Adua was to visit Brazil on an official assignment. He could not make that trip because of his ill-health and medical trip to Saudi. But Maduekwe told us then that the President’s scheduled visit was adjusted or readjusted.

In the current dispensation, he has not also disappointed. As the spokesman of the six ministers who went on a jamboree to Saudi Arabia last week, Maduekwe told a bewildered nation that their mission to Saudi was to thank the King.

“We will be expressing our deep appreciation to the King of Saudi Arabia for the excellent and generous attention, both the government and people of Saudi have given to our President…We need to be on record to thank the King for that…”

This is executive foolishness! So six ministers wasted public funds on a fruitless trip not to ascertain the health of their President but to thank the Saudi King. Couldn’t two ministers have done that? And for what reason are we even thanking him? For keeping our President incommunicado for three months? For the scarce resources Nigeria spent to keep the man there? For the visa fees Nigerian officials paid in order to visit the Kingdom?

In this country, anything goes. Troops were deployed the day Yar’Adua was brought home, but the Acting President, Goodluck Jonathan, knew nothing about it.

 The State Security Service reportedly ransacked Jonathan’s office. It is still not clear who sent them and what their mission was. We have moved on as if nothing happened.

So far, it’s the South-South leaders that have threatened to pull out of Nigeria if anything happens to Jonathan. To the best of my knowledge, some northern leaders have spoken in his favour.

This is a departure from the largely expressed fear in 2008 that the North would never allow Jonathan to rule if anything had happened to Yar’Adua. 

We don’t need to bring ethnic sentiments into this issue. What we should do is to unite in our quest for truth and total adherence to the tenets of our constitution.

 I don’t see why the Acting President has not seen Yar’Adua since his return to the country. I don’t understand why he has not addressed the nation since he can now do 25-minute exercise.

 And I wonder why his aides are crediting certain statements and actions to him when he has reportedly remained in an ambulance. How are we even sure he has come back as reported? Who has sighted him?

Those hiding our President should know that the world has left such secrecy behind. Just last week, the world media reported the hospitalisation of the former Vice-President of the United States, Dick Cheney, in Washington.

Cheney, who has a history of heart problems, has had quadruple bypass surgery. Immediately he experienced chest pains last week, his office made it public.

 This is somebody who left power in January last year and is not in the public arena as such anymore.

The cabal who brought Yar’Adua home have put a foot wrong. Rather than douse tension, that singular action has worsened the situation.

Many Nigerians will want to see their president physically. There will be renewed clamour for him to address the nation on national television.

That is the only time we will know how well his body has responded to the exercises he has been doing of recent.

 That is when we will know how nourishing the food he eats is to his body. And that is when we will know if the President actually signed the 2010 appropriation bill or not.

In the next few days, the question that will be on the lips of many Nigerians will be where is our President?

 If there is no satisfactory answer to that, then the Federal Executive Council should declare him incapacitated.

 And the National Assembly should take it up from there.

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