Thursday, January 7, 2010

Nigerians in diaspora write to Saudi king over Yar’Adua

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah attends the final session of an Arab summit in Doha March 30, 2009.  Photo/FILE

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah attends the final session of an Arab summit in Doha March 30, 2009. Photo/FILE 

By AGENCIES

LAGOS, Thursday

There is a thick cloud of uncertainty over the claim that ailing Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua had telephone conversations with key officials of his administration from his sick bed in a Saudi Arabian hospital.

At the same time, Nigerians in the diaspora have written a letter to Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud on the continued absence of President Yar’Adua from the country, demanding true information on the state of his health.

The Forum, which is based in London, said in the letter made available to Thisday newspaper that it had become compelling because Nigerian leaders have decided to hoard information on the exact state of the President’s state, adding that the situation has inflicted harsh conditions on 150 million Nigerian people to whom the President is accountable.

Reports yesterday

There were reports on Wednesday that the President, who left the country exactly 46 days ago, spoke with Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan, President of the Senate, David Mark and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Dimeji Bankole.

But none of the three key officials of the Yar’Adua administration spoke directly on the said telephone conversations which allegedly took place with the President. Minister of Information and Communications, Prof Dora Akunyili, who spoke with journalists at the end of the Federal Executive Council meeting, said Mr Jonathan told FEC members that he spoke with the President on Tuesday.

Asked to give an update on the President’s health, Ms Akunyili said, “What I know is what the Vice-President told us just before the council meeting that he (Jonathan) spoke with Mr President at about 8pm yesterday (Tuesday).” When asked if President Yar’Adua gave Mr Jonathan any information concerning his return to the country, Ms Akunyili said, “This is the only information I have.”

The letter to the Saudi king, Nigerians in Diaspora alleged that the Saudi government has unfortunately been part of the conspiracy, which has continued to deny Nigerians of the truth about the health situation of their president — whether he’s still alive or not, improving or worsening in his health condition.

The letter signed by Nigerians in the United Kingdom, including former Minister of the Federal Capital Terrotory, Nasir el-Rufai, implored the Saudi King to respond promptly to avert a repeat of the situation in 1983, when the military government of General Muhammadu Buhari was toppled while he was away in Saudi, a situation which it said the Saudi Kingdom found embarrassing.

The letter read: “We the under-listed concerned citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria address this open letter of appeal to your government to reveal to Nigerians the exact location and state of health of our president, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, who we believe has been your guest and patient in one of your hospitals since November 23, 2009.

This Open Letter of Appeal has become necessary because a nation of nearly 150 million has not seen or heard of its president for six weeks without any credible information..” “Your Royal Highness, Umaru Yar’Adua is not a private patient but our President and an employee accountable to millions of people. Information about his physical and mental well-being cannot be subject to the usual medical confidentiality of any ordinary citizen. This information should not be kept secret from the people he leads.

Sadly, we must admit, that our current government has failed to be truthful and transparent about the extent of infirmity of our president. “In the eyes of many Nigerians, the Saudi government has by default, become part of the conspiracy of secrecy that threatens to destabilize our democracy. Because without information on whether the president is alive or dead, permanently or temporarily infirm, the appropriate provisions of our Constitution cannot take effect to deepen and broaden our democracy. The effect of this leadership vacuum on our nation’s peace, progress and orderliness is self-evident, your Highness,..,” the letter read.

In another development, yesterday in Abuja, Governors who are members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) held a “solidarity” meeting with Vice President Jonathan, after which they declared that they do not know when President Yar’Adua would return from Saudi Arabia.

The Governors, led by Bukola Saraki of Kwara State, had met on Tuesday night in Abuja and resolved to brief Jonathan on their deliberations. Asked on Wednesday to comment on Yar’Adua’s state of health and the possibility of his returning home soon, Saraki said: “These are two different issues. (His) health is different from the time that he will come back, and we are happy to see a great improvement in (his) health.

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