Of Yar’Adua, his wife, and Nigeria

By | February 25, 2010

The Nigerian president got back to the country in the early hours of Wednesday. It is reported that his flight landed in a well-guarded presidential wing of the international airport in Abuja. From an investigative report by NEXT, we learn that the acting president, Goodluck Jonathan, as the acting Commander-in-Chief, did not release the troops that went to secure the airport, and that he did not approve the guards that are currently guarding him.

Mr Goodluck Jonathan apparently called off the Wednesday meeting of the Federal Executive Council because of the uncertainties surrounding the return of the very sick president.

On the same day, the spokesperson of the president, Mr Segun Adeniyi, issued a press release that says that the vice president is still the acting president, until the president is fit to return to work:

After being discharged by the team of medical experts overseeing his treatment in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua returned to the Presidential Villa, Abuja early this morning.

President Yar’Adua wishes to express his profound gratitude to all Nigerians for their prayers for his recovery, their exceptional generosity of spirit and their appreciation of the fact that all mortals are subject to the vagaries of ill-health.

President Yar’Adua is grateful to the Vice-President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, for competently overseeing the affairs of state in his absence.

The President also wishes to thank the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the entire membership of the National Assembly, the Governors’ Forum, the Judiciary, the Armed Forces and other security agencies, former heads of state and other eminent Nigerians for their roles in maintaining order and stability during his absence.

President Yar’Adua wishes to re-assure all Nigerians that on account of their unceasing prayers and by the special grace of God, his health has greatly improved.

However, while the President completes his recuperation, Vice President Jonathan will continue to oversee the affairs of state.

Everything reads pretty normal up to this point, right? Well, it turns out that the spokesperson who issued the press release had not even seen the president up till then. And when you read a headline like Turai Takes Over you start wondering what is really happening in the country.

Obvious questions: Is the president as fit and in the state of mind that the press release says? Who authorised the press release?

And, is Mrs Turai Yar’Adua, the wife of the president, really the one running the country? Did she make them release that press release in order to cover up the fact that her husband is very sick?

Let me try to answer those questions.

According to reports of the return of the president, the man is in a really critical situation. NEXT:

his critical condition has necessitated his continued stay in the Ford E-250 intensive care ambulance that picked him at the Abuja airport. He is expected to be in the ambulance until the intensive care unit that will receive him is retrieved by Julius Berger from Katsina and re-installed in House 7 within the grounds of the Presidential Villa.

If he is in that state then one would not be surprised that nobody is allowed to see him except his wife and his security guards. I don’t think that visitors are allowed in ICUs. This might answer the question as regards why nobody is allowed to see him. The fact that the acting president has not seen him might also be due to that. Remember, the Mrs Yar’Adua has not issued any public statement about the state of her husband’s health.

If nobody has seen him then the press release was probably written by the press office. The main information in the release, besides the part that tries to claim that the president said that he was recovering, is that the vice will continue acting as the president. The part where the report claims that the president asks Nigerian citizens to pray for him might be the work of a press office that is used to writing press releases on behalf of a president who has been in poor health for a long while. They are probably simply used to writing these sorts of things on his behalf.

Now to the issue of his wife taking over.

First, let us assume that she is just a very distraught wife who is able to call on friends of her husband to help secure the airport while her husband – not the president – returned. She obviously would not allow people to see her husband since he is in a critical condition. In any case, the country has an acting president so there is not much to worry over in that.

The second scenario is one in which she is the one calling the shots, taking charge of government, dictating to the Chief of Army staff about how many troops to release in order to secure the airport, and trying to stop Mr Jonathan from performing his duties as the acting president. If this is the case then it is absolutely the fault of those she lords it over that way. She is really nobody, just the wife of a very sick  man who is unable to act in the capacity of a president. If she can command the power she is claimed to be commanding then the so-called ruling elite are to blame for rolling over and letting her take control.

And that might well be the case. In many situations in Nigeria, if you want to curry favour with the boss you do not go to the vice, you go to the wife. Power is often seen as being embodied in the person who holds it. In order to have access to that power one needs someone who has unrestricted access to the Power. That is the wife. Which is why, in order to get the head of, say, a university department to do something one would be advised to talk to his wife.

So, maybe the wife is running the show in that way. Maybe people run to her for favour and she makes them do her wishes because she is the only one who has access to Power.

Whatever the case is, things are going to have to become clearer in the next few days.

And, oh, you are surprised that there has not been any outcry among the populace? Well, it is because nothing has changed in the country. Salary workers still get paid and things appear to be normal. It seems that the machine of government is better oiled than I ever thought.

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