by Itunuoluwa Adebo
This day marks the seventh year of the death of the 13th President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Umar Musa Yar’Adua who died in office in similar circumstances to the current situation the country is facing presently.
Sitting President Muhammadu Buhari, who assumed office in 2015, finds himself in the same position as Late President Yar’Adua. The Grand commander of the Federal Republic is in his own words “sicker than he has ever been in his entire life”, the nature of the illness or the extent to which he is sick, Nigerians are yet to know.
The Buhari administration is playing the same mute game the Yar’Adua administration did, and Nigerians will have none of it. We think this is a good time to look at some Presidents who died in office and how the situations were handled.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (January 30, 1882 – April 12, 1945), commonly known as FDR, was an American statesman and political leader who served as the 32nd President of the United States from 1933 until his death in 1945. He was a Democrat who won a record presidential four elections.
On the afternoon of April 12, at the Little White house in Warm Springs Georgia, Roosevelt slumped forward in his chair, while sitting for a portrait painting by the artist Elizabeth Shomatoff: the painting would later become known as the famous Unfinished Portrait of FDR. The president’s attending cardiologist, Dr. Howard Bruenn, diagnosed the medical emergency as a “massive cerebral haemorrhage. At the time he collapsed, Roosevelt’s declining physical health had been kept secret from the general public and his death was met with shock and grief across the U.S. and around the world.
President John Evans Fiifi Atta Mills (21 July 1944 – 24 July, 2012).
A Ghanaian politician and legal scholar who served as the President of Ghana from 2009 to 2012. Mills died on 24 July 2012, just three days after his 68th birthday.
His cause of death was not immediately released, but he had been suffering from throat cancer and had recently been to the US for medical reasons.
However, in Ghana, this information was classified as a “state secret”, the information being closely guarded by officials at the Castle, a majority of who have now moved to the Flagstaff House. The Late president was another clear example of miscommunication by the Presidency to those they lead. He was said to have been sustained on steroids being pushed by his cabinet members so as not to risk him filing nomination and then dying. Yet still, he rushed back to Ghana to put on a show, ignoring his doctors request to stay back two months to rest and jogging on the tarmac at the Kotoka International Airport, wearing a suit.
Levy Patrick Mwanawasa (3 September 1948 – 19 August 2008) was the third republican President of Zambia, he ruled the country from January 2002 until his death in August 2008.
On 29 June 2008, while in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, for an African Union summit, Mwanawasa was hospitalised due to a second stroke. On 1 July, he was evacuated him by air ambulance to France for further treatment. The head of the Egyptian hospital to which he was taken said that the doctors there had stopped the brain haemorrhage and that he was in a semi-comatose state, on the other hand, his Vice-President Rupiah Banda said that his condition was stable, “but had to undergo surgery, which was described as minor, to correct a breathing problem. Banda said the operation was successful and that his doctors were “satisfied with [his] current status”. On 19 August, a family member who wished to remain anonymous stated that Mwanawasa had died early that morning. The news of Mwanawasa’s death was confirmed by Banda through a television broadcast.
Kim Jong-il (16 February 1941/1942 – 17 December 2011) was the supreme leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), commonly referred to as North Korea, from 1994 to 2011.
It was reported that Kim Jong-il had died of a suspected heart attack on 17 December 2011 at 8:30 a.m. while travelling to an area outside Pyongyang. It was reported in December 2012, however, that he had died “in a fit of rage” over construction faults at a crucial power plant project at Huichon in Jagang Province.
He was succeeded by his youngest son Kim Jong Un. On 12 January 2012, North Korea called Kim Jong-il the “eternal leader” and announced that his body would be preserved and displayed at Pyongyang’s Kumsusan Memorial Palace. Officials also announced plans to install statues, portraits, and “towers to his immortality” across the country.
Hafez al-Assad (6 October 1930 – 10 June 2000) was a Syrian statesman, politician, and general who was President of Syria from 1971 to 2000.
By the late 1990s, Assad’s health had deteriorated. American diplomats said Assad had difficulty staying focused and seemed tired during their meetings; he was seen as incapable of functioning for more than two hours a day. His spokesperson ignored the speculation, and Assad’s official routine in 1999 was basically unchanged from the previous decade. Assad continued to conduct meetings, travelling abroad occasionally.
Due to his increasing seclusion from state affairs, the government became accustomed to working without his involvement in day-to-day affairs. On 10 June 2000, at the age of 69, Hafez al-Assad died of a heart attack while on the telephone with Lebanese prime minister Hoss.