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Controversy Grows In Nigeria Over Visit With Ailing President By Ten Religious Leaders

In Nigeria, controversy is growing over the visit by ten religious leaders to ailing President Umaru Yar'Adua.

The clerics, five Muslims and five Christians, will not discuss Mr. Yar'Adua’s health, they say, because it was a private visit and they were invited in their personal capacity as religious leaders.

Critics say it was organized by the president’s allies to undermine the administration of acting president Goodluck Jonathan. Supporters of Mr. Yar’Adua say the point of the visit was to reassure Nigerians that he is recovering from his serious illness.

Several prominent opposition leaders are demanding that Mr. Yar’Adua address the nation or resign. Among them is Dr. Fredrick Fasheun, founder of the political advocacy group the Odua People’s Congress.

Fasheun criticizes the clerics’ visit to President Yar’adua.

“Where were they (the clerics) when the entire nation was looking for the president and they couldn’t find him; where were they when the National Assembly was groping in the dark looking for the president? Of course we know that the clerics don’t study the constitution of the land and did not realize that the constitution of the country was being flouted.”

While there is nothing wrong in allowing Nigerians to see the president, says Fasheun, such visits should not be selective.

“It’s not just the Christians or the Muslims that are interested in the whereabouts of the president. The entire nation, 150 million people, want to know where their president is, his state of health, his condition and his capabilities to perform his duty. It’s not just the few people that are interested.”

The clerics should not have announced that they visited the president, says Fasheun. All hands must be on deck, he says, to support the acting president in trying to turn the country around