Is this Man in Nigeria?

He came in the middle of the night. But that was not strange. It was not the first time President Umaru Yar’Adua would sneak into the country at night after his numerous trips abroad for medical treatment.
But this time, something strange happened. The president’s return was unusually secretive. In fact, it was so clandestinely planned that even Goodluck Jonathan, the acting president, did not know about it until few hours to Yar’Adua’s landing at the presidential wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja. Not only that, the co-ordinators of the trip had initially refused to give the names of the passengers on the manifest. But when it became clear that Nigerian authorities were not going to allow the incoming flights a landing right, they were then forced to announce that it was the president and eight other persons including family members that were on board the flight.
That was not the end of the drama. The air ambulance that supposedly conveyed the president touched down at exactly 1.46 am in pitch darkness that was deliberately created by the president’s handlers. They also ensured that the aircraft taxied to a very far and remote bushy part of the runway. Many airport workers were chased away from the vicinity while an ambulance on ground accompanied by a convoy of other cars approached the air ambulance supposedly to evacuate the arriving ailing president. That exercise took one hour.
In all of this, nobody saw the president. All that was seen was the air ambulance and the ground ambulance that later drove in a heavily guarded convoy to the presidential villa. The situation became more curious when the arriving president appeared to have stayed for over 24 hours in the ambulance after it arrived at the presidential villa.
Since then, nobody has seen the president. The man who was said to have directed Segun Adeniyi, his senior special adviser on media, to issue a statement thanking Nigerians for their understanding, prayers and support was never seen by anyone and had not entered any room in the presidential villa. This, perhaps, explains why Bisi Akande, national chairman, Action Congress, AC, described Yar’Adua’s purported return to the country as a grand deception. Asked to comment on the president’s return at a public function, Akande said, “Are you sure he has come back? Have you seen him? Is the president back? Who has seen him?” Akande added that this “is how they (Yar’Adua’s aides) have been deceiving us since he became president. He is a master in deceit. I don’t think that Yar’Adua is here in Nigeria.”
But one Zubaru Ali, who claimed to be Yar’Adua’s first cousin, would have none of that. He said that contrary to speculations, the president could walk, talk, eat and even asked after family members when he met with him (Yar’Adua). Ali told Al-Jazeera, a cable network, that he was allowed to see the president because of his status as his first cousin.
Curiously, while Ali claimed to have seen the president, Hajiya Dada Yar’Adua (the president’s mother) as well as his sisters and brothers have not been that lucky. The same thing can be said of Jonathan, the acting president; David Mark, president of the Senate; Dimeji Bankole, speaker of the House of Representatives; ministers, aides of the president, the leadership of his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, close associates and even members of the much talked about cabal believed to be exploiting the president’s ill health to rule the country by proxy.
Not only that, Turai, Yar’Adua’s wife, believed to have returned with him, has also not been seen in public. In the same vein, the first lady has not received any visitors to either welcome or commiserate with her in her current situation. This is in spite of the fact that in the Nigerian society and, indeed, African culture, this sort of a development appears very strange. Only Jonathan and his wife are said to have met with her.
Meanwhile, weeks before he purportedly returned to the country, some medical equipment had preceded him. The equipment were quite handful. Some of them were said to be billed for installation at the presidential villa, Aso Rock while some others were expected to be set up at his residence in Katsina State. While the president and the medical team that was supposed to have accompanied him back into the country could not be sighted at the presidential villa, a visit to Katsina has also revealed that the president is not anywhere around the ancient city.
At a point, there were rumours that the president might have been secretly flown to his private home in Katsina where he is expected to continue hanging on to power with the aid of life-support machines. Investigation by the magazine in Katsina, however, reveals that there are no signs that Yar’Adua, his medical and life-support machines would be anywhere near the city anytime soon. The president’s modest bungalow opposite the Government House looked like an abandoned building save for the three unarmed policemen seen walking outside the house.
In the meantime, there have been attempts to explain the seeming incommunicado situation in which the returnee president and his wife have found themselves. While trying to justify lack of access to Yar’Adua, Salisu Banye, chief physician to the president, explains that he now has chest infection and this accounts for the need to isolate him. In a report Banye purportedly sent to Jonathan, the doctor said Yar’Adua had “been confirmed by a team of medical specialists to have developed episodes of chest infections that necessitated his isolation and intensive therapy.”
The doctors’ explanation has, however, come under intense criticisms from his colleagues. For instance, Emmanuel Enabulele, a consultant surgeon, described the report as an insult to the medical profession. “Even a third-year medical student can do better,” Enabulele said. As far as the consultant surgeon is concerned, “the medical report should contain documented clinical state in which he arrived in Saudi, the investigations done, the treatment given and the clinical progress of the patient. The medical report should also contain the complications that developed thereafter and the interventions made should also be documented.”
Speaking in the same vein, a consultant cardiologist at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, Idi-Araba, Lagos, who would rather be anonymous for fear of reprisals, said the excuse of a chest infection was not strong enough for keeping the president incommunicado. The doctor argued that there were different types of chest infections but none of them could be so severe as to require quarantine. “The whole essence of quarantine is preventing spread but if it is that bad, people can still wear face masks. There is no patient that cannot be seen. At worst you will wear theatre gown and face mask. They are only trying to fool us.” The doctor, therefore, doubts if the president is anywhere near the country.
So what really could have happened in the early hours of February 24 when Yar’Adua was supposed to have returned to Nigeria? Those who should know in the military told the magazine that what happened on that day could be described as a strategic decoy. They explained that the panoply of presidential convoy and all the drama witnessed at the presidential wing of the Abuja airport on that day was only meant to give the impression that the president had arrived. They, however, pointed out that whatever the condition of the ailing president could be, should not have warranted keeping him in the ambulance for over 24 hours after his supposed return if he was truly there.
Corroborating this, some diplomatic sources in Lagos and Abuja are said to be raising eyebrows on the myths surrounding the president’s ill health. They now doubt whether he is actually in Nigeria. And some security sources contacted by the magazine also confirmed that on a probability basis, it was not likely that Yar’Adua had returned to Nigeria as being claimed by some of his aides.
But why would anybody lie about Yar’Adua’s return to Nigeria? Knowledgeable sources are recreating the entire jigsaw puzzle by saying that the president’s purported return was a decoy meant to pre-empt certain steps that were being taken towards his impeachment. They added that the decoy was thrown in order for the cabal to perfect the oil deals expected to mature in March. To make this happen, the magazine’s sources say there was the need to halt certain sweeping changes that Jonathan was planning to effect, and also throw the acting president out of balance. And this much was achieved within the first week of Yar’Adua’s purported return to Nigeria.
As it is now, not only is Yar’Adua’s health status unclear; his whereabouts remains a jigsaw puzzle. While the drama plays out, the current situation, however, raises questions of the level to which the cabal can abuse the laws of the land, deceive the nation and hope to walk free at the end of the day. Reacting to this, Akande said that “many miracles are happening in this country right now and we don’t know who is ruling us. We must not allow miracles to continue to rule us. The attitude of impunity and lawlessness of this administration will quicken the collapse of the country.”

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