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Health Status of Nigerian President Remains a Mystery


Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua is back home after spending more than two weeks in Saudi Arabia. However, the mystery surrounding his health remains and the lack of information is affecting both the government and business.

VOA reporter Chinedu Offor is on assignment in Nigeria. From the capital, Abuja, he spoke to English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the mood in the country following the president's return.

"The mood is that of confusion. No one actually knows what is going on. Close aides of the president are not talking. The information minister is not talking…. Government business has virtually slowed down. Some businesses are at a standstill as everyone waits for the direction the president wants to take. But the mood all over the country is one of apprehension and fear and everybody's demanding to know the true status of the president's health," he says.

President Yar'Adua returned home without any fanfare. Offor says, "None whatsoever. To put it in context, when a president returns to the country there's usually a guard of honor. There are dignitaries and top government officials. But President Yar'Adua got into the country at 2 a.m., virtually without the knowledge of his close associates. He came into the country with his close family, aides, and he was whisked immediately to the government house in Aso Rock. Top government officials have not seen him. They wanted to see him, but he's not allowed any appointment. But sources say that the president is not in the best of health."

Asked whether there was any new information about reports the president was treated for a kidney ailment in Saudi Arabia, Offor says, "What has come out is finally government officials have confirmed that he may have been in the hospital. When the story broke they said he went to the pilgrimage in Mecca and that he was staying back to get some rest and recovery. When people demanded to know more, then the story came out that he may have used it (the trip) to check in with his doctors. When people didn't buy that, they said, oh, yeah, it was a little bit serious, but that has not incapacitated the president. That he may be back in a few days. When days turned into weeks, they...owned up that something was wrong. But one thing is clear from our sources that it was much more serious than authorities want to acknowledge and they're putting a brave face to it."

Opposition parties are demanding to know the status of the president's health. So far, there's no word from the government as to exactly when the president would make a public appearance.
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