Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Where is Patience Jonathan?

Once upon a time, Nigerians so loved their 'shoeless' President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, that they were ready to lay down their lives to ensure that he becomes what he should be under the law. A thick cloud of uncertainty had hung over Nigeria.

Once again, the country glided eerily towards the precipice as the then President, Alhaji Umar Musa Yar'Adua, was flown to a Saudi hospital for expert medical care for a debilitating ailment that eventually took his life. In the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, a war of sort raged as a powerful cabal shrouded the dying president's health status in mystery, and tossed Jonathan back and forth like a derelict orphan.

The cabal would neither tell the public the exact situation of their president's health, nor grant his deputy, or anyone for that matter, access to him. The nation's political temperature spiked dangerously. Even though they knew that the ailing president may never have the presence of mind to return to his job, the cabal held tenaciously to the reins of power, ready to crush any challenger, including the then Vice President Jonathan. Yet, many saw him as a political fresh face that shouldn't be denied his ascendancy. But the cabal was hell-bent on doing just that-stop him.

The country groaned and quaked under the uncertainty of the time. An implosion was imminent. That was not to be as some civil society groups, led by the Save Nigeria Group, SNG, rattled the sabre of war against the cabal and their sponsors, insisting that the president's true health condition be made public and the federal executive council do the needful. Rather than doing just that, the president's men continue to spin all kinds of lies. The battle between patriotic Nigerians and the cabal intensified.

Eventually, the National Assembly that had been hitherto ambivalent suddenly capitulated and cast its vote on the side of the people. It dusted up the doctrine of necessity, and did it needed to do. It passed a resolution that Jonathan be sworn in as Acting President in place of his ailing boss, as the constitution stipulates. Jonathan was sworn in, in Aso Rock Villa, as Acting President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on May 6, 2010. And the love of the people for him waxed stronger.

The love of the people for him never waned. They threw their massive weight behind him even in the 2011 presidential vote, giving him a landslide victory, and an express ticket to begin his first term as substantive president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Let me quickly state that it's not as if Nigerians hated the late President Yar'Adua. On the contrary, they loved him deeply for his transparent and accountable leadership style. Nigerians found no vile in him. Indeed, most Nigerians believed that if he had not had that health challenge, he would have been one of the best presidents Nigeria ever had. But the infirmity and, subsequently, death scuttled that.

The anger of Nigerians was against the cabal in his government who regularly churned out tons of lies to cover his debilitating health condition. By holding the dying president hostage, the cabal turned Yar'Adua, a perfect gentleman, to a villain. Sadly, that is exactly what the spin-doctors in Aso Rock Villa are doing to our First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, and her husband, President Jonathan. For over a month now, a scenario similar to the late Yar'Adua's has been playing out as regards the First Lady's health.

Since she suddenly disappeared from the public's radar in August, the presidency has been spinning all kinds of stories; selling all kinds of dummies to Nigerians over her whereabouts. In the absence of any believable dispatches from government, the rumour mill went to work. It began to speculate. One, they said she had travelled to Dubai to rest. When that didn't fly, they said she was in Germany, to continue her rest, and probably see her doctors for 'routine checks'.

Later, Nigerians were told that the First Lady suffered from appendicitis, an inflammation of the appendix, and she had appendectomy, an emergency surgical operation to cut it off. According to an online medical dictionary, thefreedictionary.com, if appendicitis is not excised as quickly as possible, it may rupture and cause fatal infection. Even if this was all that the First Lady has gone through, she richly deserves our sympathy and prayers.

But those who have resorted to the days of President Yar'Adua by shrouding everything about her in secrecy are inadvertently robbing her of public sympathy and turning the First Family into villains. By refusing to disclose her whereabouts or what's eating her, they have made Mrs. Jonathan look like a super woman who cannot, must not, and will never fall sick. By hoarding information on the First Lady's health status, of course with the explicit approval of her husband, Dr. Jonathan, the gods at Aso Rock have successfully galvanized the rumour mill into action.

They have tickled the rich imagination of the rumour millers; they have stimulated their desire to push all kinds of stories to a supposed gullible public. Although Patience Jonathan is not a federal government official, as wife of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, whatever happens to her should be of interest to Nigerians. Nigerians deserve to have correct information about her.

And it would not have been an aberration or out of order if government had been issuing bulletins on her condition since she was admitted to hospital. Had government done so, it would have elicited the sympathy of Nigerians who would have been praying for her. They would also have been showing perfect understanding to whatever gaffe her husband might have been committing.

As a husband and father myself, I know too well that whatever happens to a member of the family impacts on others-father/husband, mother/wife, and children. Depending on the seriousness of the situation, it could also affect the performance of other members of the family on their jobs or vocations. Make no mistake, there is no way Mrs. Jonathan would be groaning in pain in a German hospital and Dr. Jonathan would have maximum concentration on his job.

Even if his heart were made of steel, he cannot achieve 100 percent concentration at his beat. He would need all the prayers and emotional support he can get to achieve that. Yet, whatever mistake he makes on that seat can make or mar our lives forever. That is why it is important for Nigerians to understand his spirit, understand his feelings, feel his pain, and, if possible, adapt to his moods.

That is why it is ever so important for the government to tell Nigerians the truth about the situation around him, particularly concerning his wife, so that they can, at least, pray for her. Another danger in not giving full disclosure about the First Lady's condition, unlike what applies in the civilized world, is that it fuels speculation. It stokes wild rumours. Rumours thrive in the absence of truthful and correct information. In the absence of honest information, people often latch at whatever they could lap from unofficial sources to form their opinions.

As we well know, these so-called sources may not be anywhere near Abuja, the seat of government, let alone have ears or eyes in Aso Rock Villa. Yet, they would speak with authority, and sell outright falsehood or half-truth with magisterial confidence. There lies the danger. In this extant matter, there is no truth-o-metre to gauge the accuracy and fidelity of information from the so-called sources. And opinions flowing from such process may be off the mark.

Should that happen, as it sometimes does, it might minimize the quantum and quality of compassion and understanding that citizens may want to show to the ailing First Lady at this point. Yet, in these trying times, she needs all the goodwill, emotional and prayerful support she could get. They are therapeutic.

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