Written by ByLawal Sabo, Louis Achi and Lilian Agih:
‘He couldn’t talk’ || Chief Imam of Abuja National Mosque, Sheikh Musa Muhammad, has disclosed that he and three other Muslim clerics have met ailing President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in the presidential villa last night.
Sheikh Muhammad had, shortly after the Maghrib prayer last night, said he wanted to make “an important announcement” to the Muslim faithful in the mosque.
He told the congregation that the reason he was a bit late to the prayer at sunset was because he and three others had been summoned to the villa where they met with Yar’Adua.
Answering a question from LEADERSHIP’s deputy editor who was inside the National Mosque, the chief imam said his companions on the visit were: Sheikh Isa Fantami, Sheikh Yakubu Musa Hassan, and Dr. Ibrahim Datti Ahmed.
Sheikh Isa Fantami, a lecturer at the Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa University, Bauchi, is a well known Muslim preacher; Sheikh Yakubu Musa Hassan is a well known leader in the group Jama’atu Bid’a wa Iqamatus Sunnah, who is based in President Yar’Adua’s hometown of Katsina, while Dr. Ibrahim Datti Ahmed is the Chairman of the Supreme Council on Sharia in Nigeria.
Sheikh Muhammad told LEADERSHIP that he and the others had personally requested to see the president, and they were obliged.
He recounted that they arrived the president’s residence a few minutes after 4 o’clock p.m. and stayed there for over two hours before they left.
“Four of us were with him and we prayed for him and the nation. We also shook hands with him when we arrived and when we were leaving,” the Imam averred.
He, however, said that although Yar’Adua did not speak to them throughout the duration of the visit, the president had, at all the intervals during the prayer sessions in the room, supplicated with them.
He added that Yar’Adua was just sitting throughout their stay, which means he did not get up and walk or do any other thing.
Sheikh Muhammad lamented what he referred to as the divisive role of the Western world in Nigeria’s current difficulties. He queried why former U.S. President Bill Clinton, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice did not visit the country when Yar’Adua was around.
He called on Nigerians not to allow anyone to divide the country or its people along whichever line, as Yar’Adua and Jonathan were in office based on a joint ticket.
A presidency source that did not want to be mentioned confirmed to LEADERSHIP that the visit has indeed taken place, saying, “Yes, Dr. Ibrahim Datti and three others came to see the president.”
When our correspondent sought the views of some Nigerian leaders on the development, they all expressed surprise that Yar’Adua and his minders facilitated the clerics’ visit when Acting President Goodluck Jonathan was barred from seeing the president.
One political analyst asked: “If Yar’Adua can see these people, why is he not allowing the acting president, the president of the Senate, the speaker of the House of Representatives or the Chief Justice of the Federation to see him?”
President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Arch-Bishop John Onaiyekan, said last night: “Yar’Adua is not a village chief. If he is well enough to see anybody, we should know. Until he comes out to say he is well, we’ll continue to pray for his recovery.
“As far as I am concerned, he is not well yet. And I won’t be involved in any irresponsible act of speculation or rumours.”
Osita Okechukwu, National Publicity Secretary of the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP), summed it up this way: “While Nigerians have always prayed for Yar’Adua’s recovery, if the venerable chief imam was playing politics with the president’s health that would be very unfortunate.
“This is not the first time we have heard similar stories. That’s why we say the president’s handlers are not doing him a favour. Yar’Adua is not a private citizen.
“The bedrock of democracy is openness and transparency, but if this is just one of the series of strange propagandas we have witnessed, then, that would be very unfortunate.”
Asked about the implication of exclusion of Christian clerics in the team that were said to have met with Yar’Adua, the CNPP spokeman said this was not important.
“We are not looking at this from a religious prism. The question of hiding him is what is giving room for the subsisting speculation.”
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