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President Yar'Adua's Health - The Spin Doctor's Creed or Greed?

September 6, 2008

The shambolic efforts of President Yar'Adua's spin doctors to mislead Nigerians during the past two weeks concerning the state of his health had the makings of classic comedy but for the fact that the reality of the situation is anything but funny.

The shambolic efforts of President Yar'Adua's spin doctors to mislead Nigerians during the past two weeks concerning the state of his health had the makings of classic comedy but for the fact that the reality of the situation is anything but funny. Those responsible for misinforming us might themselves have been misinformed - especially as it is becoming increasingly clear that a small coterie of the President's family members, advisers (spiritual and otherwise, from all indications!) and friends have monopolized both influence at, and access to reliable information from, the centre of power.

Then again, perhaps they just happen to be patently incompetent. Or some combination of the three. Due to the glaring inconsistencies and contradictions that quickly emerged following the story that the President had travelled to Saudi Arabia to perform the lesser hajj, it was just a matter of time before his inherently defective propaganda vehicle ran out of fuel. It is now clear that the President is sick, probably very, very, sick. The unceremonious way in which he sneaked back into the country a couple of days ago, like a thief in the night, supports that theory. Reports that he is virtually being quarantined in the presidential villa do not help matters. However one looks at it, the President must accept responsibility for the disservice that was done to Nigerians by the barefaced and insulting lies that we were fed with in his absence. Quite frankly, Nigerians deserve an apology from him. The people of this nation, any nation, have the right to know whether their president is hale and hearty or not and certainly if he is suffering from a life-threatening illness. It is common sense and, moreover, nature abhors a vacuum (a fact that applies equally to the availability of reliable information). An apology would amount to common courtesy towards all Nigerians but, more importantly, it would be the right thing to do. Those citing national security concerns as the justification for withholding the truth regarding Yar'Adua's health are morally dishonest and unashamedly self-serving. The only security that would be at risk were the president to become incapable of continuing in office, for whatever reason, is theirs - in terms of their access to presidential patronage. Period. An interesting parallel can be drawn with President Mwanawasa of Zambia who died last month in France. He had suffered a stroke in June during an African Union summit in Egypt. Like Yar'Adua, the Zambian leader suffered from poor health even before he became President in 2002. Mwanawasa was involved in a serious car accident in 1991 in which his aide died on the spot. His injuries were serious enough to require hospitalization for three months outside Zambia; and a lasting after effect of his injuries was his slurred speech. In 2006 Mwanawasa suffered a minor stroke just months before he was due to stand for re-election. Despite claims by his political opponents that his poor health should preclude him from continuing to run the country, he went ahead to win the election. A poignant feature of Mwanawasa's presidency, right up until his death, was the full disclosure that always emanated from government sources concerning his health. Indeed, on the day before his death, the country's acting Vice President, who took over affairs of the state following Mwanawasa's admission into a Paris hospital, announced to Zambians that their President had undergone emergency surgery following a sudden deterioration in his health. That is responsible, transparent, politics. What we are witnessing in Nigeria concerning the President's health merely confirms the death of decency and the absence of even the slightest trace of altruism among the political class in this country. From the way they assume power to the desperate way in which they cling on to it, self-aggrandizement is the name of the game. While other urgent corrective policies are urgently needed in order to turn the country around - to the benefit of all Nigerians - my prayer is for this relatively small group of shameless parasites who hover around the person and the office of the President like a pack of hyenas to be exposed and flushed out of the system for good. Nigeria deserves better and there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Nigeria can do better.

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The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

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