by Anike Jacobs
More excerpts from former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s new memoir, ‘My Watch’ have surfaced online.
In a chapter titled “To be or Not to be: Jonathan” in the memoir, Obasanjo accused late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adau of deceiving him about his health issues.
See excerpts below:
“As can be expected, I was heavily involved in the transition and exit process that saw me leaving office for my successor, Umaru Yar’Adua, as recounted in Chapter Thirty-seven, the ninth chapter of the second volume of this book.
“The unprepared and unplanned transition from Yar’Adua to Jonathan was a more difficult exercise in some respects. One reason was the ‘cloak and dagger’ manner in which Yar’Adua’s illness was handled.
“The illness of a President cannot be regarded as private. His health has implications for the security and wellbeing of the nation. For the president and those around him to have attempted strenuously to keep the fact of the severity of his illness from public smacks of ignorance of the enormity of what the job entails and the level of provinciality of their understanding, attitude, and approach.
“I remember that in 1978 or 1979 Chief Awolowo visited me while I was military head of state and shared with me how he would always stay at home to attend to the work at hand and only make a private visit to the UK once a year for health reasons if he became president of Nigeria. I made it clear to the chief that once he became president of Nigeria, he could have no private visit to anywhere as such.
“Wherever he would be, he would be on duty, and the totality of his life would be public. I jokingly added that the only privacy he might lay claim to would be when he was at home with Mama Chief H.I.D., and that even then his security staff would be on twenty-four-hour duty.
“That was part of the nature of the job.
“In the case of Umaru’s illness, it took me by surprise because I had concluded that all was well, judging from his medical report that I requested and he submitted to me and the specialist advice I received from it. The report said that once he was off dialysis it would mean that he had had a transplant or treatment that had caused his kidneys to work as normal.
“Before he went to Germany, after being rushed to the National Hospital in Abuja, he phoned to tell me that he was going out of the country for medical reasons. What he did not reveal was the nature of his illness. I, however, became somewhat apprehensive when I learned that he was placed on dialysis that night. The persistence of the illness, and the cover up, caused me more apprehension especially when he abandoned Germany for Saudi Arabia. I never heard anything from him after that.
“The story I heard about his visit to Saudi Arabia was awkward. He did not inform his deputy as to how to manage things in his absence.
“On arrival in Saudi Arabia he was wheeled into the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), and for at least forty-eight hours nobody was in communication with him as far as the governance of Nigeria was concerned.
“What it meant was that for that period of time, Nigeria had no government. What a great pity! I wanted to know more about the exact medical condition of Yar’Adua, the president of Nigeria. “I realised that a number of countries would know for sure; among them would be Germany, the US, Saudi Arabia, the UK, France, Israel and maybe Russia. I decided to indirectly check with the ambassadors of these countries. What I heard did not allay my fears. One said, ‘Your President is surely not too well.’
“Another said, ‘We believe he would be able to cope.’ Both were diplomatic answers, but one was more so than the other. “At that point, I was left in no doubt that the arrangement made was shoddy, tardy, unpatriotic, selfish, and reckless. No nation should be left hanging in such a manner. I subtly campaigned for the emergence of Jonathan as acting president to take the country out of tenterhooks.
“I also publicly made the point that if you accept responsibility for a job and, due to no fault of your own but due to circumstances beyond your control, you are incapacitated to the extent that you can no longer perform to your own satisfaction or to the satisfaction of those you are supposed to serve, morality, duty, responsibility, honour, good sense, and patriotism demand that you act appropriately.
“At the same time, as debates were going on in the media as to what should or should not be, I was consulting genuine and objective leaders of thought regarding the way to go. At that stage, almost everybody realised the position of the constitution and recommended that we stuck to its provisions. Jonathan became acting president by the action of the National Assembly,” he wrote.