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Date Published: 12/03/09



The first wealth is health. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
For life is only life when blest with health. (Martial)

Health, the greatest of all we count as blessings. (Ariphron)

Health and intellect are the two blessings of life. (Menander)

Happiness lies, first of all, in health. (George William Curtis)

You should pray for a healthy mind in a healthy body. (Juvenal)

 Good health and good sense are two of life's greatest blessings. (Publius Syrus)

A basic tenet of a healthy democracy is open dialogue and transparency. (Peter Fenn)

And when a woman's will is as strong as the man's who wants to govern her, half her strength must be concealment. (George Eliot)
 Take care of your body with steadfast fidelity. The soul must see through these eyes alone, and if they are dim, the whole world is clouded. (Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe)

All persons harboring or secreting the conspirators or aiding their concealment or escape, will be treated as accomplices in the murder of the President and shall be subject to trial before a military commission, and the punishment of death. (Edwin M. Stanton)

Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. A person’s health always seems much more valuable after he/she loses it. Health is not valued till sickness comes. Leigh Hunt wrote that “the groundwork of all happiness is health." An Arabian Proverb has it that “He, who has health, has hope. And he, who has hope, has everything." That’s why every sick person should make his/her own recovery the first priority in life. Nothing else, other than that; matters!

A man is not rightly conditioned until he is a happy, healthy, and prosperous being; and happiness, health, and prosperity are the result of a harmonious adjustment of the inner with the outer of the man with his surroundings. Izaak Walton wrote “Look to your health; and if you have it, praise God and value it next to conscience; for health is the second blessing, a blessing money can't buy."

The president is sick likewise the nation. They (the president and Nigeria) need our prayers badly! The President has been admitted to King Faisal Hospital in Saudi Arabia for acute heart situation, while no one knows how long it would take him to recover. This writer is urging all Nigerians to pray for the president as well as the nation. The clerics, both Muslims and Christians, should lead us here during their services. The ordinary citizens should also pray within the four walls of their homes. The president deserves all the well wishes he can get, right now. At the same time, all sick Nigerians should also be prayed for.

It’s unfortunate that Nigerians do not really know how grievous the president’s condition is. All we know is that the president has heart and kidney problems and the rigours of his office can only exacerbate them (these problems). If it were in other climes, where things are being done the way they are supposed to, the president’s health condition should have been in the public domain, but, in Nigeria, there’s concealment of it (the president’s real condition), which allows rumour mongering to be rife.

Last week, rumour of Yar’Adua’s death rocked the country and even Saudi Arabia, forcing the vice president, the senate president and the speaker of the House of Reps into a crucial meeting. The speaker even cancelled his Sallah holiday because of it. The rumour became rife on November 24 and 25 2009, with many Nigerians becoming apprehensive about the state of the health of the president. Given the frequency of the foreign medical trips of the frail-looking president, the opposition had been clamouring for a public disclosure of his state of health, declaring that he was not strong enough to discharge his official responsibilities. Who would blame them?

The issue here transcends personality, ethnicity or partisan politics; it’s a very grave constitutional issue. If a president is found wanting in the discharge of his constitutional duties, he relinquishes that position through resignation or impeachment.

This writer has always maintained that the president should decide how distressful his health condition is and if his work load is aggravating his situation, he should “throw in the towel” and should not allow the sycophants surrounding him to push him to his early grave. The flagitious people around the president have their own selfish interests to protect, that’s why they want him to trudge on despite his sickness. The president’s wife, we are told, is very ambitious, and can throw all cautions to the wind, just to hang on to power as she takes most of the decisions. Nigerians expect her to review her husband’s situation and know if it’s time to advice him (her husband) to quit, but, nobody is sure, she can overcome her ego and selfishness to do that. This writer hopes she knows what’s at stake here, unless she thinks her husband’s life means nothing to her. Someone just wrote: “But I don’t expect her to tell her husband the truth. She will rather, due to power drunkenness, encourage him to stay in office. Obviously, she and her husband have not learnt anything from the former dictator, Sani Abacha. Sani Abacha had a heart disease. He needed urgent medical treatment in Germany. But he did not go. He was afraid of being overthrown. He remained in power. He did not resign. What happened? He died in office. Mrs. Yar’Adua should advise her husband to resign. Those mindless people and haters of Nigeria urging President Yar’Adua to go for a second term should advise him to quit now. Nigeria should not be allowed to derail because of one man. It is only in Nigeria that a terminally sick and incapacitated man is allowed to become a president. During the last general election in America, both Senators Obama and John McCain made their medical history public to the press. This was to enable the American people ascertain the medical condition of their would-be president. In Nigeria devilish Obasanjo imposed Yar’Adua on Nigerians even when the man collapsed during the campaign. Yar’Adua should resign now. Mrs. Yar’Adua should reject the lure of power and advise her husband to resign for the sake of Nigerians and Nigeria”. 

Few days ago, this writer sat back to think of what would become of Nigeria, if, God forbids bad thing, the president passes on. It would create a constitutional crisis with the attendant ripple effects. It would be devastating as such that Nigeria already teetering on the brink, might not survive it all. The president is admitted in a Saudi Hospital while the business of the people is left unattended to. Nigeria is always in a limbo, each time the president goes for medicals abroad. One does not know who’s really in-charge here right now. A sick president is not what a sick country (Nigeria) needs or to put it differently, a sick country does not need a sick president. We learnt that Yar’Adua, who was ferried to a Saudi Arabian hospital in an air ambulance, was undergoing treatment for acute pericarditis caused by Churg-Strauss Syndrome, a condition that had plagued him (the president) for sometime and led to his developing end stage renal disease and ultimately kidney failure. Pericarditis is an inflammation of the pericardium, the membrane forming the outer covering of the heart. The inflammation may cause a thickening and roughening of the membrane and an accumulation of fluid in the sac surrounding the heart.

Dr. Enabulele told us that the president would not be returning very soon. He said, as recorded by the SUN Newspapers, that as “somebody who had been chronically ill, and now developing acute pericarditis, in health terms, it means that he has more days of hospitalization. Most acute pericarditis cases take a minimum of six weeks to resolve; usually when pericarditis occurs it becomes a little difficult to know what must have caused it. But we know that he (the president) had a renal condition, and uremia is a known cause of pericarditis, it just means that days of hospitalization ahead of us are still many. Definitely, he would have more days of hospitalization and government must find a way to keep working. That is the way it should be taken.”

 The president left for Saudi Arabia without properly handing over to his vice and the office of the vice president has been reduced to that of a “prefect”. For the ordinary Nigerians, in the event of the passing on of the president, if it becomes the will of God, there might be no problem as everything would work itself out, but, for the discerning mind, that would throw the country into political turmoil as some people would want to sabotage the constitution as regards to the succession process. We just read from the Tribune of November 29, 2009, that indications emerged that some northern political power brokers are set to do battle with the South-South in the event President Umaru Yar’Adua is unable to continue in office due to his state of health. The Paper continued “It was gathered that some power brokers in the North have said that since Yar’Adua is currently utilizing the slot of the north in the power shift arrangement, the post of the President should still be reserved for the area, even if Yar’Adua is unable to continue his job. The North is not finding the scenario funny at all and the Northern power caucus believed that the area should be entitled to two terms of office after former President Olusegun Obasanjo had completed his two terms in 2007.Although the plot currently being wrapped under the table is against the letters of the constitution, it was gathered that the North would make its stance known when it becomes obvious that Yar’Adua can no longer do his job.

The northern political class, which has been concerned about Yar’Adua’s health for sometime now is said to have mapped out some options that will ensure it doesn’t lose out of the power equation. One of the options is to first allow Jonathan take over the reins of power if it becomes obvious that Yar’Adua’s health can no longer sustain his hold on power and then seek his resignation to pave the way for a bye-election into the office of the President. It was reasoned that the North would be able to produce another candidate in a bye-election.

Another option is to first secure Jonathan’s resignation before the eventual health situation of the President is made public if it becomes a reality that he can no longer continue in office. That option is to ensure that the President of the Senate assumes office as interim president pending the conduct of a bye-election.”

This writer thinks that such affront on the constitution (above), that some Nigerians are contemplating, is a recipe for disaster. They would never augur well for Nigeria. The same Paper rightly quoted some right thinking northern Nigerians, when it wrote: “A group of opinion leaders are of the view that if it pleases God that the President will not continue in office, we should not try to engineer any unconstitutional move, because that could trigger other unpleasant developments across the country. Remember that the Vice President is from one major ethnic group as well and attempting to shuffle him aside in the power equation would mean rejection for his people and that could be counterproductive.”

 But, this writer wonders why anybody would want the vice president to resign. Rather, the vice president should be encouraged and supported, because, he’s supposed to take over in the event of the president’s death or resignation due to his illness. Some one wrote: “Why would anybody ever think of Jonathan resigning. Jonathan is not the sick party! The earlier the ethnic bigots among the Northerners realise that the right to rule Nigeria is an undeniable and inalienable right of every Nigerian, the better for them and for the whole Nation. The economic problems of Nigeria, the inability of Nigeria to move faster than it is today… and several of all our other problems can be traced either directly or remotely to the arrogance of people who think they were born to run our affairs at the expense of all other Nigerians – some of whom are far better qualified, intellectually, emotionally, and in terms of both achievement and vision than they may ever be… Yar’Adua seems to me a good man. But the flakes of unreality placed over his eyes by the hungry and very selfish group of wolves he has around him, make it difficult for him to do the right thing, both for himself and for this Nation which, I am sure, he loves dearly. While I wish him speedy recovery from his ailment, I hope that God gives him the fortitude to listen to his inner voice and see things in the proper perspective”.

Professor Omo Omoruyi wrote:  “Nigeria is governed under a Constitution that makes provision for three occasions when a vacancy exists in the position of No. 1:

if the No. 1 resigns;

if the no. 1 is impeached and

if the No. 1 dies in office.  

In any of these three occasions the VP becomes an automatic "standby“ generator and becomes the No. 1 thus creating a vacancy in the position of No. 2 that would have to be  filled through the interplay of political forces. 

As one of the founding fathers of that Constitution, I was aware of the debate that we had to engage in, leading to these three occasions.
 The various actors in the Presidency from the No. 1 and no. 2 to the media and armchair politicians should allow the Constitution to work.
 Sections 144, 145 and 146 of the Constitution apply to cases when the office of the President is to be declared vacant and to be filled through the "interplay of political forces.
Section 144 applies to cases of "Permanent incapacity of President or Vice President";
Section 145 applies to cases of "Acting President during temporary absence of President"; and
Section 146 applies to cases of "Discharge of functions of President".


We seem to have a big problem here. And that is, the officials are not divulging enough information to Nigerians. There are elements of deceit and cover-up here. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Dimeji Bankole, said that there was no cause for alarm as he was in constant touch with the president. And the vice president did not help matters when he said last week, that the president is healthy and thanked the Islamic leaders for their prayers for the president. The President’s aides also insisted that he was hale and hearty, and recovering at the foreign hospital where he had undergone tests and received treatment for the ailment he was diagnosed.  All these statements are bogus and did not say much. Someone took the vice president on this, when he wrote:

“How could Jonathan claim that the President is healthy when in the same report, he admitted that the President is currently receiving treatment at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for heart condition? Is the President receiving the treatment for being healthy? I don't get it!

How could the President be healthy when the President's Chief Physician, Dr. Salisu Banye has disclosed that Yar'Adua has been hospitalised for acute pericarditis? Is pericarditis a form of good health? Is hospitalisation a euphemism for being in good health? I don't get it!

How can the President be healthy when his Chief Physician added that the president is expected to recover soon and return to the country, but no specific day has been fixed? Is anticipated recovery from illness not a testament that the President is currently unwell? Is the uncertainty over the specific date of his return not a clear indication that the President is currently unwell? I don't get it! 

President Umaru Yar'Adua has a serious health problem that the burden of the office of the President can only make worse. I advise that the President step down to be able to look after himself properly, and for the good of the country. With his deteriorating health, I can neither see Nigeria nor himself moving forward”.

Another wrote: “Goodluck Jonathan, the obscured Nigerian VP, in his attempt to play an obligated script, is making mockery of his office, and worse, the Nigerian nation. Why did it take him almost a week, to comment of his boss's health or where about? It is pity that he's shamefully reading a card handed to him, not by Turai or the two greedy Sons-in-law, but by a Presidential adviser.

Jonathan Goodluck is as confused as most of us are about the President's condition in Saudi. The truth is that, except the first lady and her household, no one knows exactly what's the condition of President is. Right now, I can report with accuracy that Jonathan doesn't have access to the President in Saudi Arabia. Nor has he spoken to the president's physicians. That it took him this long to comment on the President's prognosis, describes a man who, not only is isolated, but is inexperienced. Sadly, at this time of national anxiety, the constitution relied on him to lead the nation, and boy, has he failed?” 

The president illness is taking a big toll on Nigeria, it’s also costing Nigeria a lot to maintain a sick president who jets out every now and then for medical treatments abroad. Because of the president’s illness, the Presidency also raised the expenditure on health. One the whole, the presidency has proposed the sum of N1, 052,820,475 in next year’s budget for State House health care delivery.  Of this sum, N386 million is meant for the procurement of medical equipment for the State House Medical Centre, 394 million is for drugs, while the completion of the extension works at the centre is to gulp N162 million. The expansion work is apparently to reposition the State House Medical Centre (SHMC) for the new health challenges of the president and other occupants of the State House. The project commenced in 2009, when the sum of N119 million was set aside for the ‘completion of the extension work.’ 

The questions become: why is the Presidency still budgeting such sum again for the completion of the SHMC extension in 2010? Why is it taking them so long to put the State House Medical Complex in order for our sick president? Why is it that the president cannot even act fast, for once, in getting something done, even something that can benefit him greatly? He’s slow to a fault; he has been there for more than two years and still has not put the medical complex in order, knowing too well that he would need its services every now and then. A well equipped and maintained State House Medical Centre would have stopped our president from this constant jetting out to foreign lands for medical treatments. A president of a country as big and important as Nigeria, shouldn’t have been a frequent patient in foreign hospitals, had we known who we’re and what we’re doing. This goes on to show that this administration has no robust health care plan for Nigerians.

This writer wishes the President God’s speed and all the best. We hope and pray that he would find the courage to do the right thing, if he feels incapacitated. We hope that he knows that the best love he can show to Nigeria and to himself, is to call it a quit, when the flesh and soul become weak. We hope he would not allow those around him to push him to the brink.  We hope he understands that life is the most important to have. May God heal our president and every sick person everywhere.


Temple Chima Ubochi writes from Bonn, Germany through ubochit@yahoo.com

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