February 12, 2017

Death & Sickness In Aso Rock: What Is Happening?

When last year Dr. Reuben Abati wrote about "The Demons In Aso Rock", many people laughed at him, saying he was trying to excuse the failure of the Goodluck Jonathan government.

Olu Famous was one of the few who took his write up seriously. The truth is, there are evil forces at work, either you want to believe it or not. Even in the UK or America, there are some mansions today that have been abandoned for decades because people keep dying without any sane explanation once they move into the house. Such "back" things happen everywhere...don't get it twisted!

Now to the issue of the mysteries of death and strange sickness in Aso Rock:

Sickness In Aso Villa as shared by The Nation

Aso Rock, the seat of government in Nigeria, has hosted eight occupants; out of these, five have fallen ill while in office. And in most of the cases, Nigerians were left guessing their leaders’ true state of health. Dare Odufowokan, Assistant Editor, in this piece, seek to outline the circumstances of those illnesses and how the varying situations were handled, as well as how citizens reacted to the news of such illnesses.

IT is human to be ill, but leaders of nations have been known to be indisposed and the fact hushed up or said in whispers. As consequences of illnesses, Nigeria has had causes to mourn the sudden departure of some of the occupants of its presidential villa. In fact, two leaders have in recent past lost the fight against grave sicknesses while still tenants of Aso-Rock. Consequently, on two occasions, Aso-Rock had hosted mourners on account of deaths in the highest corridors of power.

Presidents that fell ill in office...

BabangidaIn 1987, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, then the Head of the Military Government was announced to have travelled to France, first as an official trip. However, following an unusual delay in his scheduled return, the government promptly announced that the self-styled President (in military uniform) has used the opportunity of his being in France to attend to a nagging leg injury. Babangida spent weeks in the American Hospital in Paris, France, obtaining treatment.

Babangida soon returned but it appeared the trouble with his leg was far from over. And in 1988, he flew to Germany to treat the same injury. Speaking about the trip back then, the government said it was still unclear what exactly was wrong with the leader’s leg. It, however, said the German trip is expected to shed light on the exact problem.

And so it was that Babangida was diagnosed to be suffering from Radiculopathy in Germany. It was a strange ailment which many did not understand. The name of the ailment was also new in the lexicon of those who were versed in medical jargons. The government at the time wasted no time in making the diagnosis public. The announcement was followed with several get well messages and programmes by fans of the leader and other well wishers.

Radiculopathy, according to the announcement back then, is a disease of the spinal nerve roots and spinal nerves. It is characterized by pain which seems to radiate from the spine to extend outward to cause symptoms away from the source of the spinal nerve root irritation. Thus, Babangida’s condition was indeed a painful one needing urgent medical attention.

Speaking about the illness that saw him travelling abroad several times, Babangida made it known that an injury he sustained in his right leg following a bullet which pierced him during the Nigerian Civil War, has constantly troubled him. According to him, it has constantly relapsed, causing him great illnesses and pains.

“When I was President of the country, I had to travel to Germany where the sickness was finally diagnosed to be Radiculopathy. It has troubled me since I sustained a gunshot injury during the Nigerian Civil War. It has been relapsing since then, even after treatments,” the former President said of his medical challenge.

Muhammed Babangida, the son of the former head of state, speaking recently about his father, also confirmed the medical challenges his father battled while in office. According to the younger Babangida, it is no longer news that his father suffered, and is still suffering from Radiculopathy. He also revealed that the old man has gone through a number of corrective surgeries.

“It’s nothing new that IBB has radiculopathy, everybody knows that. But he has just gone through a corrective surgery and he’s recuperating at the moment. And if you will reason with me, being an old man it will take some time for the surgery to heal,” Muhammed said of what has become an age-long health issue for his famous father.

Speaking on the handling of Babangida’s medical trips in comparison to what he described as the “norms these days”, Comrade Ladi Falade, former National Co-ordinator of the Joint Action Congress (JACON), said prompt explanation of the trips and the health situation of the former president was one of the few things the IBB administration did well back then.

“We fought IBB for many things because his government was a dictatorship in all ramifications. But I can’t recollect us having to raise issues over his trips because prompt and adequate information were offered. At a point I even suspected the information about his health challenges were meant to generate sympathy. If that was so, it worked for him,” he said.

Abacha
Although he was not known to have made any foreign trip on account of ill health all through his reign, General Sani Abacha, as Head of the Military Government that succeeded the short-lived Interim National Government led by Chief Ernest Shonekan, according to sources, close to the seat of power at the time, was not without serious health challenges.

Professor Sadiq Suleiman, who was the personal physician to Abacha recently revealed that though no one could say for sure what exactly killed the late military strongman, as no autopsy was carried out on his corpse before he was buried according to Islamic rites, the former leader did have some health challenges while in office as Head of State.

“Abacha was generally healthy though he had some health issues. He was treated and responded very well. He didn’t have any heart-related diseases at that time,” Suleiman said.

Not much was said about Abacha’s obvious health issues. And given that at no time was he away for longer than scheduled, not much questions were asked either. But on one or two occasions, Nigerians had reasons to be worried about the state of health of the late General. At such times, his handlers wasted no time in giving assurance of his fitness.

Falade, who led several protest rallies against the alleged plan of the late dictator to transmute into a civilian President, recalled that at a particular point in time, Abacha was rarely seen in public for weeks. This, according to him, generated suspicion and rumour that something serious may have happened to him.

“We asked questions. We even demanded to see him or we will march on Abuja. The government responded and few days later, the Head of State attended a public function for the first time in weeks. There was no doubt back then that he was gravely ill. But, if I can recall correctly, the government said back then that he was suffering from a “rare skin reaction.”

The steps that eventually led to Abacha’s death might never be fully and truly unravelled. In the absence of a lucid account of his sudden passing, there are various narrations, but with common denominations. Said to suffer from liver cirrhosis, Abacha succumbed to a heart attack on July 8, 1998 and died in circumstances that were clearly controversial with different kinds of reports still trailing his sudden demise.

Abacha is believed to have given up the ghost by 6.15 am, not long after he retired to bed at 4.30 am. He was just 54. On the day he died, he was supposed to open the plenary session of a conference on National Information Trust in Abuja. It was organized by the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture and he was supposed to grace the OAU Summit later in the day at Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

According to Professor Suleiman, “Around 6a.m, I had a phone call from his security officers, and they said, “Please come to the Villa, come urgently!” Before I even could get ready, they came and picked me up. I had no idea what it all was about. I arrived then I saw the chief security there and he said “Doctor come in, please, come in!” We all rushed and I just saw him. There was another doctor who came earlier, resuscitating him.

“Abacha was in the sitting room. He was on the couch. He was in his normal work clothes. I didn’t panic. I’ve seen a lot of serious problems before in my practice, but to affect him was very tough, definitely. I joined and we did as much as we could to resuscitate him. But I realised that he was dead because he was foaming. We just continued resuscitation and even injected some things, but it didn’t work.”

Professor Wali said he had tried to carry out an autopsy to ascertain the cause of death, but his family declined and buried him immediately according to Islamic law. I still tried to take some samples of blood and urine and hair and things like that, just thinking for the future chemical tests.”

Yar’Adua
Of all cases of presidential illnesses so far witnessed in Nigeria, that of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua remains the most controversial and lingering. Right from his first day in office following his swearing in as President on May 29, 2007, the Katsina-born ex-governor, his immediate family and his kitchen cabinet, kept the nation guessing as to the true state of his health.

Even before his election, during the electioneering campaign, Yar’Adua had suddenly gone abroad for treatment, leaving his campaigners to explain his whereabouts. Amidst talks that he was either dead or seriously incapacitated, former President Olusegun Obasanjo publicly placed a call to him on his sick bed, asking the now famous “Umoru, are you dead?” question.

In spite of the many questions and agitations that trailed that sudden disappearance, not much was said about the real medical condition of the then presidential candidate of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He went on to win the election, and thus started a ding-dong game of allegations and denials concerning his medical condition until his eventual death in 2010.

On Wednesday, May 5, 2010 when news of his death broke, many Nigerians who had believed the government’s constant tales about how fit and ready-to-rule Yar’Adua was were left surprised. But many also believed that the president was clinically dead long time before the official announcement. This reason, according to them, informed the secrecy over the true condition of his health.

On many occasions, the late Yar’Adua travelled abroad for treatment without informing Nigerians. And whenever news about his being hospitalised surfaced, his handlers were quick to explain it away either as outright lies or exaggerated truths. On one occasion, he had to rush back to the country in the middle of a therapy, just to cover the truth about his health.

Sources said as Katsina State governor, Yar’Adua could not function at full capacity because of his then failing health condition. Dr. Aliu Dut’sinma, formerly of the Federal Medical Centre, Katsina, recalled that the late President was out of the state for more than six months at a time when he was the state’s helmsman.

“And while the people wondered where he was, he was moving from hospitals in Germany and Saudi Arabia. Yet, no official explanation was given to the people. Those who revealed his whereabouts were tagged liars and political detractors. A young man then schooling in Kano, who had written about the Governor’s sickness was arrested and bullied into silence.

“Yar’Adua suffered from the Churg Strauss syndrome. The disease has no cure; it can only be managed and conditioned. He was on heavy steroids to manage the disease for many years. The steroids were given to prolong life, but it depresses immunity as its side-effect. The depression of his immunity was the real cause of his constant illnesses,” he said.

According to Dut’sinma, if the truth had been told about the late Presidents’ sickness, he would have lived longer. All he needed was for the disease to be managed appropriately. But the constant demand for his presence as President made this impossible. His handlers thought they could do the same thing they did when he was governor.

“But the Presidency was a different ball game. Nigerians were not fooled and the several attempts to cover up how sick Yar’Adua was led to constant breaks in the therapies he ought to go through undisturbed,” he added.

By the time Yar’Adua was flown to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for treatment in November 2009, it was obvious to his kitchen cabinet that the end to their game was up. But they weren’t willing to let go just yet. While many sources said his condition was critical and in need of serious medical attention, the government insisted he was hale and hearty.

For the Yar’Adua government, especially the cabal managing his appearances and disappearances, there seemed to have been an unwritten code of secrecy about his state of health and also an arrangement by people in power never to disclose the true situation to Nigerians. Thus, government officials kept reeling out conflicting stories while Nigerians were left in the dark about Yar’Adua’s health.

At a point, the scales were forced off the eyes of many Nigerians when some members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) openly admitted not knowing where the President was or his state of health. The then Minister for Information and Communication, Prof. Dora Akunyili, was the first to say, though she was in a position to know, but she knew nothing.

“If President Yar’Adua were to be my father or my brother, I would not allow anybody to do to him what they are doing to him today. This is the President of a country. This is a man so loved by Nigerians. At least, he is humble. He is from a rich family, but his humility is disarming. He is sincere. Look at what he did with Niger Delta. He has done a lot for this country and suddenly, a few people are rubbishing it. They stole him into this country in the night,” Akunyili said back then, shocking many Nigerians.

The sudden return of a very sick Yar’Adua into the country aboard an air ambulance on February 23, 2010, exactly three months after he left the country for treatment, rather than lessen the tension in the land, heightened it. To make matters worse, nobody outside the late President’s kitchen cabinet saw him, not even the Vice President Goodluck Jonathan. The President was allegedly wheeled into Aso Rock in the middle of the night, and for weeks, he was not seen or heard from by Nigerians.

In no time, it was widely alleged that the hurried return of the sick President was done largely to destabilize the then Vice President Jonathan, who had then been declared Acting President by the National Assembly. To buttress this, Jonathan was referred to as ‘Vice President’ in a statement announcing the return of the ailing Yar’Adua.

Efforts by PDP leaders, Ministers, Governors and several others to see the President proved abortive. And while that lasted, the ship of governance bounced back and forth as Jonathan, then in office as Acting President, could not do anything substantial. Stories of how he was being pressurized to resign rented the air amidst untold uncertainty.

This was the situation until Yar’Adua was announced dead on Wednesday, May 5, 2010, bringing to an end the era of misinformation, lies and stage managed deceits meant to keep Nigerians in the dark about the late President’s true state of health. And many years after his sad demise, not a few Nigerians still cringe whenever they remember the webs of lies spurned to keep his medical records a secret.

Jonathan
The years of former President Goodluck Jonathan in office also witnessed some drama about ill-health and lack of full disclosure. Although there were one or two trips by the President suspected to be on medical grounds and undisclosed to Nigerians, it was not until 2013 that the first uproar over Jonathan’s state of health was heard.

And the situation was promptly managed by his team in such a way that not much fuss was made of it beyond the initial anxiety shown by Nigerians when the news broke that the President, who was abroad on an official trip, had suddenly taken ill and sought medical attention in a London hospital. The news was followed by insinuations that his situation was very critical.

The president had travelled to London for a business meeting, but could not attend. The news of his sudden illness was first broken by foreign media outfits before being latched upon by local news media.

And when agitation over his health status rose, the presidency wasted no time in admitting that Jonathan was actually in a London hospital for medical attention. “The Presidency wishes to assure all Nigerians that President Jonathan’s condition is nothing serious,” his then media aide, Reuben Abati promptly said in a statement. He said the medical attention sought by the 56-year-old president was “only precautionary”.

The president’s spokesman added that the president became indisposed and could not be present at the opening of the meeting a day earlier. He said the President had since been examined by competent medical practitioners and “has been advised to rest for a few days”. As it is with most presidential illnesses in Nigeria, Abati did not state the ailment the president was diagnosed of.

Nonetheless, the President returned to the country few days later and that ended the anxiety over his health.

On another occasion a year later, precisely in August 2014, President Jonathan, billed for a private visit to Germany, was discovered to have jetted out to the European country largely to attend to emergency health issues. News from Germany had put a lie to government’s earlier announcement about the President’s trip to the country. Abati had issued a statement saying that the President will be heading to Germany for a private meeting along with his principal aides.

According to reports, President Jonathan on arrival in Germany, in the morning of Friday, August 22, 2014, was immediately admitted into the hospital for treatment. When the news broke, immediate efforts by the media back home and other concerned persons, to get a reaction to the story from the government proved abortive.

With the President’s aides unwilling to break their silence for days, the rumour mill was agog with various reports and assumptions of how sick Jonathan was. A few even had it that he had passed away. It was not until Sunday, August 25, 2014, that the federal government deemed it necessary to respond to the many questions about the President’s condition.

In his response, Abati shared photos of President Jonathan and his team watching Nigeria versus Germany final match at the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Canada. The aide also emphasised that the leader of the country is ‘hale and hearty’. The statement did not explain when Jonathan left Germany and why he headed to Canada without any information. But the belated response and the President’s eventual return home ended the matter.

Buhari
The current brouhaha over the state of health of President Muhammadu Buhari is not the first time he would be in the eye of the storm for allegedly being sick and refusing to admit it. Even before he became president, during the electioneering campaign in 2015, allegations of his being ill and hospitalized raged when he left for London for a short rest, until he returned to the country.

The President, who with a letter to the National Assembly, had announced that he was proceeding on a 10-day official leave, failed to resume when the leave lapsed, but instead requested, through another letter, that the National Assembly should allow him remain on leave (length of period not stated) so as to be able to await results of tests carried out on him as suggested by his doctors.

This request came amidst speculations in many quarters that he is gravely ill and on admission in the hospital. While his letter mentioned his seeking treatment during his leave, the numerous questions from Nigerians seeking to know the illness he was treated for and the hospital where he was treated remained unanswered.

Rather, before the president sent in a letter asking for the extension of his leave, his handlers had been very consistent in saying he is not ill and will promptly resume at this desk on the expiration of his initial ten-day leave. And when Buhari failed to show up as promised, agitation for him to address the country from wherever he is heightened.

Not even the couple of pictures allegedly taken of the President and some eminent Nigerians, being released by the Presidency, had done much to douse the tension. Instead, the agitation for the government to give full disclosure of the health status of the president is gaining ground. But mum remained the word from the presidency concerning the requests.

In light of the secrecy of the nature of the president’s ailment, the National President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Prof. Mike Ogirima, called for openness. Admitting that nobody w as above sickness, he said transparency on the part of the Presidency would lay to rest doubts, “speculation and confusion surrounding the matter. Nigerians deserve to know the nature of the sickness afflicting their president,” he said.

Also reacting, National President, National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), Dr. John Onyebueze said, “in a family where a father or mother is sick and the circumstance surrounding the illness is hidden from the children, this creates suspicion and mutual distrust. As a nation and country, we don’t need this distrust. The nature of the president’s ailment should be disclosed. Nigerians praying for Buhari should know the exact nature of his illness to enable them channel their prayers properly.

In response, the President’s men are insisting he is not sick. This is just as request for full disclosure of the tests he allegedly ran while on vacation is yet to be attended to. “President Muhammadu Buhari has written to the National Assembly on February 5, 2017, informing of his desire to extend his leave in order to complete and receive the results of a series of tests recommended by his doctors,” presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, said.

“The president had planned to return to Abuja this evening (Sunday, February 5) but was advised to complete the test cycle before returning. The notice has since been dispatched to the Senate President, and Speaker, House of Representatives. Mr. President expresses his sincere gratitude to Nigerians for their concern, prayers and kind wishes,” Adesina further stated.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Police Affairs, Senator Abu Ibrahim, said President Buhari was not sick as being speculated. He, however, admitted that the President may be exhausted by the sheer weight of the country’s mounting problems.

“President Buhari will soon come back, There Is no need for Nigerians to be unduly apprehensive because Mr. President is not sick but exhausted by the weight of the problems the country is going through. Those saying he is sick are missing the point. We should be praying for him to come back and join us soon,” he said.

THE TREND: 
- Babangida, the first leader to occupy Aso Rock lost his wife. - Abacha lost his own life. - Obasanjo lost his wife. - Yar'Adua lost his own life. 
- Jonathan almost lost his wife...in fact she said she was 'dead' for days in a German hospital during surgery, (but once he and his wife left Aso Rock, her sickness disappeared, she had not have reason to go to hospital not to talk of surgery). 
- Now Buhari is battling his own, to the extent he had to postpone his vacation/medical check up indefinitely. Hmmm!