US President Barack Obama‘s administration has put an urgent request to Aso Rock: What is the condition of President Umaru Yar’Adua‘s health?
A US-based Nigerian news agency, Empowered Newswire, reported that after a US government statement, issued by the State Department on Friday, an answer to the American request is still being awaited. This is amid growing concern in Washington DC about the future of Nigeria, especially since last week‘s sudden return of Nigeria‘s ailing President.
According to a daily US government bulletin circulated among top US government officials and a handful of interested reporters, “The US diplomats in Abuja have asked Nigerian officials about Yar‘Adua‘s condition.”
Although the Americans are yet to get a response, the government bulletin said the US was aware that the Nigerian “President is in ‘dire health’ and is unable to govern the country.”
It is believed that based on US intelligence and diplomatic reports, the Americans knew clearly that Yar’Adua was in no condition to return to his seat because of the seriousness of his medical problems.
This explains why the US sent its Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Mr. Johnnie Carson, to meet with Acting President Goodluck Jonathan recently to assure him of America’s support.
That knowledge, it is also believed, influenced a series of US government activities on Nigeria like the US Senate’s hearing last Tuesday on the matter and the press availability of top US officials dealing with Nigeria this past week.
The daily US government bulletin quoted a top State Department official as saying, “We do have concerns about his movement from Saudi Arabia back into Nigeria and what some people around him might be trying to do with that.”
The US official also added that this was “the basis of the warnings that have been issued from Washington to Nigeria in recent days.”
The bulletin was titled, “Concern in Washington over Nigerian Political Stability” and was written as a news story by a US State Department official, Mr. Stephen Kaufman.
According to Kaufman, “The Obama administration has concerns over the stability of Nigeria and says that while it welcomes the return of incapacitated President Umaru Yar‘Adua, the country needs a ‘strong and effective leader’ in charge.”
The bulletin also quoted the US Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, P.J. Crowley, as saying on Friday that ”what‘s important first and foremost is who is … the recognised leader of Nigeria,…and right now I believe it is Acting President Goodluck Jonathan.”
According to Crowley, as quoted in the bulletin, the US is concerned that Yar’Adua’s return could be “an effort by his senior advisers to upset Nigeria‘s stability in an effort to forward their personal interests.”
Crowley added, “We have tremendous concern about stability. And our message to all of the players in Nigeria is: make sure that this moves forward in a stable, constitutional and democratic way. Nigeria at this point needs a strong and effective leader to ensure the stability of the country and to manage Nigeria‘s many political, economic and security challenges.”
Carson had earlier stated that the US had determined that Nigeria could be ignored or dismissed, hinting that the US would likely continue being particularly outspoken until the matter was completely resolved in Aso Rock.
On Wednesday, President Yar’Adua’s spokesman, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, issued a statement addressing Goodluck as Vice-President instead of Acting President. This drew the ire of some Nigerians and Nigeria‘s foreign partners like the US, which issued a prompt statement openly rebuking a situation whereby some senior advisers were trying to turn the President‘s return into an opportunity to promote their selfish ambitions.
The US statement reacting to the sudden return specifically raised doubts about the President‘s medical fitness, forcing Adeniyi to retract the statement the following day and address Jonathan as Acting President.
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