Thursday, January 28, 2010

President Yar'adua's Health And The Nigerian Politics

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President Umaru Musa Yar’adua left Nigeria about 66 days ago for Saudi Arabia on account of ill health. The president left the country on the 23rd of November 2009 after he was diagnosed with a heart problem and ever since his health and the seat of presidency have remained a subject of national debate.
Interesting as this national debate has been, the national house of assembly seems to be helpless about the whole situation. To start with, I understand there is a provision in section 145 of our federal constitution (1999) which says that in the event that the president could no longer perform his duty the vice president should be declared the acting president. This section of our constitution has been interpreted differently by different people just to keep heating up the polity. While a faction of the house of senate strongly advocates a strict adherence to the provisions of our constitution another group believes the president is strong enough to continue in office; the third group is on the fence: they are neither in support of the constitutional provision nor are they against it.
While the senate is busy debating section 145, the House of Representatives seems to be completely indifferent. They do not seem to be bothered that their country has been without a president for 66 days. The best they have done so far on this issue was to send a delegation to Saudi Arabia to see how the president was faring. Well, I understand they never had an access to the president. The Federal executive council had earlier done the same thing with the same result, so the mission embarked upon by the Reps was no longer necessary since everybody has been tactically prevented from seeing him or even speaking with him. The minister of information, Professor Dora Akunyili does not even know anything about Mr. President’s health and so she has remained helpless; she even owned up that she has been in the dark. She complained that the President was supposed to have briefed the nation through a press conference but surprisingly a BBC interview was arranged for the president, which is casting doubts on the minds of so many Nigerians as to whether their Head of State is still alive.
The Federal Executive Council has also added more confusion to the whole thing by saying that the President was fit to continue in office and was even free to rule the country from anywhere and for how long he cared. They have by that declaration added support to the earlier one made by the minister of justice. History should not be forgotten so soon: in 1998, our then head of state Gen. Sanni Abacha had a protracted illness but those hanging around the seat of power encouraged him to remain in office instead going to seek medical help. What happened later, he died in office. This I think should be a food for thought for our president.
Besides, the civil service law in Nigeria allows a civil servant to be absent from office on account of ill health for 42 days after which he should be declared no more fit to continue. Having spent 66 days and not certain when to be discharged, do we really think President Yar’adua is fit to continue in office? Come to think of it, this a man who already has renal problem and recently heart problem surfaced, is the stress of running the country not enough to compound his health problems? Anybody who truly loves him should advise him to honourably vacate his office and rest so he could have enough time to fully recuperate.
The ruling by the federal high court last week on this matter should be respected as the president himself believes so much on the rule of law. The people’s Democratic Party should fast to save this country from anarchy.

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