Skip to main content

BREAKING NEWS: YAr'adua Sacks Military Chiefs; Departs to Saudi Arabia for Medical Treatment

August 19, 2008
SaharaReporters, New York

Umaru Musa Yar'Adua today sacked all the military service chiefs and immediately named new officers to replace them. The ailing Nigerian leader then departed to Jedda, Saudi Arabia where, as earlier revealed by SaharaReporters, he will undertake medical treatment at the Saudi German hospital.

Our source within Aso Rock revealed that Yar'adua had delayed his medical trip for a day in order to announce the removal of the service chiefs following what SaharaReporters had earlier reported as a spreading sense of unease in military circles over the illegitimacy of Yar'adua’s presidency. “Many military officers are still upset about the way the April 2007 elections were conducted,” a source, who is a retired military officer, recently told our correspondent.

Yar'adua has approved the appointment of Air Marshal Paul Dike as the new Chief of Defence Staff. Air Marshal Dike is to take over from General Andrew Azazi who is retiring from service. Azazi irked Nigerian opposition parties and rankled the diplomatic community in Nigeria with threatening comments directed to the country’s opposition. Following the controversial ruling by the Justice James Ogebe panel that upheld Yar’adua’s election, Azazi had issued a statement saying that the military backed Yar’adua and warning opposition parties not to step out of line.

Yar'Adua also approved the appointment of Major-General A.B. Dambazau as Chief of Army Staff. He replaces Lieutenant-General Luka Yusuf who is also retiring. Until his new appointment, Maj.-Gen. Dambazau was the General Officer Commanding the 2nd Division of the Nigerian Army in Ibadan.

Other changes approved by Yar'adua, according to a press statement from the office of his Special Adviser on Communication, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, include some adjustments in the command structure of the Armed Forces with the appointment of Rear Admiral Isaiah Iko Ibrahim as Chief of Naval Staff in place of Vice Admiral G.T.A. Adekeye who retires from active service. Rear Admiral Ibrahim was the Flag Officer Commanding the Naval Training Command, Lagos. Yar'Adua  also approved the appointment of Air Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin as Chief of Air Staff. Until this appointment, Air Marshal Petinrin was the Air Officer Commanding the Nigerian Air Force Training Command, Kaduna.

Yar'adua, who is expected to return this weekend from treatment in Saudi Arabia, is not physically fit to attend a campaign rally for Liyel Imoke in Calabar, Cross River State. A statement issued earlier by the ruling party listed Yar’adua as one of those to flag-off Imoke’s re-election campaign.

A source told our correspondent that the timing of Yar’adua’s military re-assignments also had to do with security reports indicating that some military officers as well as democratic activists were appalled by Yar’adua’s decision to shield Imoke from arrest and prosecution in connection with his role in bilking Nigeria of billions of dollars slated for power projects during former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime.

Our Monday Story:
Saharareporters, New York

Facing yet another health crisis, Umaru Musa Yar'adua may be flown to a German-operated hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He will be treated for a few days at a Saudi-based German hospital known as Saudi German Hospital.

Mr. Yar’adua's present sickness has provided a public relations nightmare for his wife and closest aides who dread the political fallout of public knowledge that Yar’adua remains in fragile health condition.  Last week Tuesday, Yar'adua canceled a meeting with newspaper publishers due to medical emergencies.

A reliable source within Aso Rock told Saharareporters that this concern with public perception led to a decision to announce Yar’adua’s medical trip to Saudi Arabia as a lesser hajj. Muslim fasting commences in two weeks time.

Yar'adua will not be traveling with his aides or his Nigerian doctor in order to make the trip appear like a private religious trip. He is expected to be away for one week starting from tonight.

Yar’adua, who was thrust into the presidency in last year’s massively rigged election, has been bedeviled by a series of health crises.

At the end of July 2008, Yar’adua collapsed in the presidential vehicle on his way to a launch at the Yar'adua Center in Abuja (named for his late elder brother). He was driven back to Aso Rock Villa, missing the ceremony he was to attend.

Dating back to his presidential campaign days, Yar’adua has been flown several times to Germany for treatment. But his present relapse has created a dilemma on how to embark on another international medical trip to Germany. His closest aides calculate that another emergency medical trip to Germany would be politically costly.

“The fear is that another medical trip to Germany might leave the impression that President Yar’adua is too physically ravaged to continue the day-to-day running of the country,” said a source close to the Yar’aduas.

Yar’adua’s wife, Turai Yar’adua, who is personally overseeing the campaign to influence Supreme Court justices to uphold her husband’s election, is particularly worried about any perception that her husband is too frail to continue in office, according to several of our sources. Mrs. Yar’adua has recently rebuffed pleas by some northern leaders to encourage her husband to endorse the idea of new presidential elections—and to announce his retreat from running. She has countered that, even if her husband dies in office, he would not be the first Nigerian ruler to do so, pointing to the case of Sani Abacha, the late military dictator.

The plan to fly Yar’adua to Saudi Arabia became the option once his inner circle decided that it would be politically damaging to return him to Germany to see his doctors.

Saharareporters has exclusively reported that Yar'adua suffers from Churg Strauss syndrome, a condition that kept him hospitalized in a hospital in Wiesbaden, Germany for 10 days last April.

Yar’adua’s medical treatments in Germany have also created a legal problem for Bilfinger Berger, the parent company of Julius Berger, Nigeria's biggest construction company with a reputation for corruption. German State investigators are poring over Bilfinger Berger’s financial documents over improper payments made to Nigerian public officials in relation to several construction projects.

According to published reports corroborated by officials of the Yar'adua regime, Julius Berger has been responsible for flying Yar'adua to hospital in Wiesbaden. Some of the hospital bills footed by Julius Berger are believed to be the subject of investigations and inquiry by the German police, BKA.

The Saudi German Hospital, where Yar’adua is to be treated, has three operational hospitals in different Saudi cities. The hospital’s locations are in Jeddah (with a 250-bed capacity), Asir (400 beds), and Riyadh (300 beds). The hospitals boast world-class facilities, including departments in Nephrology and Psychiatry.

Once his doctors in Saudi Arabia certify him fit enough, Yar’adua plans to embark on a state visit to Brazil and later the United Nations General Assembly in New York early September.

Saharareporters confirmed that Yar'adua would be headed for the Saudi German hospital in Jeddah by tonight or later tomorrow unaccompanied by his aides and personal physician so as to give the impression that his visit is private and religious.

POSTSCRIPT: The planned trip is currently on hold as controversy rages amongst his aides as the news of his latest health crisis is believed to have leaked to Saharareporters.

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('comments'); });

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('content1'); });

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('content2'); });