By Kayode Ketefe
The recent disclosure by the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, of her health challenges which so much aggravated that she was operated upon nine times within a month while she remained unconscious for seven days, was such that attracted empathetic emotions across the land and beyond. Any human being who undergoes such agonising ordeal deserves our sympathy, support and prayers.
The ever-religious Nigerians were however unhappy that they, among other things, were denied the opportunity of full intercessory prayers while the First Lady’s ordeal lasted.
This was because the presidency shrouded the whole affairs in secrecy right from the outset. Correct information was never given out, what we had instead was a cautious ejaculation of doctored news from the government’s propaganda machinery.
We were initially told the First Lady had travelled abroad to rest, this later changed to “a routine medical checkup”. Then, when the First Lady could not return till about seven weeks later and the media had already started a count-up of her absence, it became obvious that some measures of cover-up were actively been deployed and rumours, expectedly, continued to mount.
It was such rumour that the First Lady was at pain to debunk when she said that her serial operations in the German hospital had absolutely nothing to do with cosmetic surgery but was dictated by clinical necessity. If there had been transparency in the affairs from the beginning, there would have been no need for such denial.
The belated revelation of the First Lady at the thanksgiving prayers in Abuja where she made the disclosure was nonetheless masterfully crafted. Imagine her saying “I was dead for seven day!”
Nothing could be more moving! The statement succeeded, in spite of its scientific inaccuracy, (for you cannot be clinically dead and come back to life). We were all thrown into collective empathy on the plight of our beloved First Lady. The inescapable fact still remains that the issue should have been better managed.
In the olden days, rulers especially in this part of the world, were conceived as God’s ordained representatives on earth, therefore, the mythical picture of immortality of the ruler had to be sustained at all cost; the bubble should never burst that the King is after all a mere mortal.
In Yoruba land for instance, the King does not perform all mundane affairs of other beings; the king does not sleep, the king only rests his eyes (Oba nreju) and of course, he does not die, he only join his ancestors, etc.
But this is the twenty first century and we are operating a democracy anchored on the principle of elective representation. The notion of any ruler being immortal and transcendental is therefore archaic and anachronistic. There is really nothing to hide in a president or his wife being sick any longer, we are all human beings with all the natural human susceptibilities.
Modern day concept of governance thrives of openness and transparency, and the culture of full disclosure. Any person who aspires to rule in a modern democracy should know that what would otherwise have been his private affairs and that of his members of his immediate family would be subject to public scrutiny. That is why the game of initial and non-disclosure of the full facts surrounding the First Lady’s heath leaves much to be desired.
Diseases and ailments are things to which no mortal is immune and there was absolutely no reason why Nigerians should be kept in the dark on this matter right from the outset.
The former President Umar Yar’Adua did not particularly set a good example in the regards as he not only actively concealed the nature of his aliment which began to deteriorate progressively until he literally died on the throne.
Only God knows the exact length of time Nigeria was in undisclosed interregnum when the powerful members of the cabal kept the mills of lies and creative propaganda whirling.
Around the same time the former President was actively concealing the severity of his ailment, the late human rights activist, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, SAN ,who was never a public office holder and had every right to keep issue of his terminal (cancer) disease secret, nevertheless, chose, apparently because of his social visibility, to make the ailments known to the public.
When Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State abruptly travelled abroad, the whole of his state, nay Nigeria, was in absolute darkness on the status of his health for about 140 days he spent abroad.
He only came back to disclose he had been battling with nose cancer during his absence. The cancer is now cured, no apology tendered for the concealment.
Let our leaders learn how to put the whole cards on the table as regards their health and that of the members of their immediate family, there is really nothing to hide and I believe Nigerians are not so-hard hearted as to join them in solidarity, well wishes and prayers.
It is even when there is active concealment or subtle distortion that that the mill of rumours would keep running and things like these are capable of alienating the ruled from the rulers.
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