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Nigeria's Opposition Demands Full Disclosure About President's Health


Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua returned home over the weekend after spending more than two weeks in Saudi Arabia where he is alleged to have undergone treatment for his kidney condition. But information minister John Odey was quoted Saturday as saying that President Yar'Adua was strong and well.

However, Nigeria's political opposition says the federal government must give full disclosure of the president's health condition.

Kawu Sumaila is deputy minority leader of the House of Representatives and a member of the opposition All Nigeria Peoples Party. He told VOA that President Yar'Adua as father of the nation must come clean about the true condition of his health.

"All that we are after from the opposition side is clarification from the executive about the real position of the health of Mr. President. This is what we are asking. Mr. President is human; he can fall sick like everybody. Therefore what we are looking for is explanation from the executive. The president is the father of the nation. A child has the right to ask the position of his father. Therefore we are asking the executive and the federal government to come up with the full disclosure of the situation," he said.

Sumaila said the opposition does not believe some reported accounts that President Yar'Adua had gone to Saudi Arabia on a religious pilgrimage.

"Actually there is a strong belief from Nigerians that Mr. President was in the hospital in Jeddah. The lesser Hajj starts from the morning to the afternoon and you can return the same day. But his overstay in Saudi Arabia actually puts the nation into serious condition. Therefore we need the real position of the situation. This is what we are saying," Sumaila said.

He said the opposition ANPP does not subscribe to earlier comments that President Yar'Adua should turn the affairs of the government to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan.

"No, no we are not in support of that position. There is a provision in our constitution that if the president is incapacitated to discharge his duties, then the national assembly will write a medical team with his doctors to examine his position to see if he is able to discharge his duties or not. If not, then the vice president will take over. But I don't think it is at that level yet. It has not reached that level. That is the reason why we keep insisting the federal government to come up with the position of the president's health," he said.

It had been suggested in some published reports that President Yar'Adua had undergone treatment for his kidney condition while in Saudi Arabia.

Sumaila said information is one of the ingredients of every democracy, and the federal government should make available the complete information about the president's health.

"You see we are not the personal physician to Mr. President. All what we as the children of Nigeria have the right to ask the health position of our president. Up till now the federal government is denying that the president is not well. But it clearly shows that the president is not well, he is in the hospital. We are a democracy, and information is an ingredient of every democracy," Sumaila said.

Sumaila said even though President Yar'Adua deserves some privacy, but he said people expect the president to follow his own doctrine of due process.

"Well, he needs privacy, but according to the constitution of Nigeria, the president is the father of Nigeria. It is his responsibility to run the affairs of Nigeria on day-to-day activities. You see Mr. President is a product of due process. He is the one who even came up with his financial position before he took over. Therefore we are expecting him to give full disclosure of his health too," Sumaila said.

Sumaila said the federal government has been stagnant in conducting the affairs of the country. He said the federal government still does not have a budget even though it is September.


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