• Mother goes on hunger strike
• Turai inaccessible by phone
• President may resurface in April

IT emerged in Abuja, at the weekend, that ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua had remained  incommunicado three weeks after his return to the country, because his condition was yet to appreciably improve.
Sources at the Presidential Villa said that the ailing leader had lost too much weight and that his voice was inaudible. It was gathered that though he could now sit down on the bed, compared to the sleeping position in which he was brought to the country, he could not clearly recognise people and could hardly communicate.

Besides, a source said that the president had lost so much weight that he was hardly presentable in his current state.

“Anyone who sees him in the present state will write him off,” said a source at the weekend.

It was gathered that members of the kitchen cabinet believed that he could still regain his speech, if the doctors did more work on him.

“The speech area is what the doctors are concentrating now and there is hope of a miraculous healing. Prayers are ongoing and there is hope,” another source said, adding that the kitchen cabinet had insisted on retaining the ailing leader in Aso Rock, so as to preserve the remainder of his presidency.

Other sources spoken to, at the weekend, said that the kitchen cabinet was hopeful that the ailing leader’s voice would come up soon and that over time, he would gain weight and become presentable.

It was gathered that the First Lady, Hajia Turai Yar’Adua, had continued to restrict access to the ailing leader, because of her belief that her husband could still be healed.

“The few people who they seen him were devastated by the sight and that is why the man has remained hidden from the public.”

Sources said that Nigerians should not expect to see the ailing president soon, at least, not this month, since the man’s condition had not really improved.

“The condition has been very bad. It is not presentable at all. We don’t know what the time frame will be but it is very critical,” a source close to the government said.

Sources also said that the first lady and kitchen cabinet members had intensified their lobby of top politicians and top members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on the need for them to have a strong say in the 2011 race.

It was gathered that while they kept persuading top leaders of the party and governors on the need to allow Yar’Adua to recuperate, they were also rallying those plotting the emergence of a favoured  candidate as PDP’s presidential candidate in 2011.

The group is said to be working on members of the National Assembly, behind the scenes, to hasten the constitutional amendment process such that the planned electoral reforms can guarantee early elections.

Meanwhile, the mother of the ailing President Yar’Adua, Hajia Dada Yar’Adua, has reportedly threatened to go on full scale hunger strike any time from now over the continued shielding of her ailing son from her.

An impeccable source in the family revealed that the disturbed mother said that the action was being taken after all frantic efforts to see her son since he was “smuggled” into the country from Saudi Arabia, where he had gone to receive treatment since November, 2009 had proved abortive.

“Wah lahi, Hajia (Yar’Adua’s mother) may embark on a full scale hunger strike any time from now. We have been petting her to eat since the time she was told that the president was sick and the situation worsened when he was brought into the country without her seeing him physically.

“Now that she is not allowed access to her son, she has threatened not to eat at all any time from tomorrow (today), if she is not allowed to see the president. We are still appealing to her that all will be well; we are already contacting some statesmen and traditional rulers to facilitate her seeing the president. We are confused as to why Hajia Turai could be blocking her mother-in-law of over 35 years from seeing her son. Is she so power-thirsty?” our source lamented.

According to the source, Hajia Dada reportedly accused her daughter-in-law, Turai and some of the members of the kitchen cabinet of President Yar’Adua of frustrating her efforts to see the ailing president when it became clear to her that not even the acting president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, had been allowed access to him since he was brought back into the country late last month.

Hajiya Dada had earlier appealed to some powerful northern emirs and former heads of state, especially former President Olusegun Obasanjo, to prevail on Hajia Turai to allow her son to be taken to Kastina for traditional treatment and prayers or be taken back to Saudi Arabia or Germany for further treatment which did not yield any fruitful result.

It was learnt that after this measure failed, she decided to leave Katsina with some close relations for Abuja, to assess the situation herself and to know the next step to be taken.

Hajiya Dada was reportedly barred by Turai from seeing her son and allegedly directed security agents to take her mother-in-law straight to one of the chalets in the Presidential Villa, where she normally stayed anytime she was in Abuja, rather than bringing her to where Yar’Adua was being kept.

Nigerian Tribune source alleged that all efforts to speak with Hajia Turai on the phone by her mother-in-law on her mission to Abuja were unsuccessful, as all her known mobile lines were switched off.

Turai had reportedly acquired new secret mobile  lines immediately she brought President Yar’Adua into the country and the new lines were known to only the aide-de-camp (ADC) and the chief security officer (CSO) to President Yar’Adua and a few others.

The source further disclosed that Hajiya Dada was not comfortable with the mounting tension in the country over the state of health of her son, whom she had earlier advised to resign in honour rather than being chased out of office in shame with the hard-line posture of the first lady over her husband’s health and the continued claim to the president of the country.

Hajia Turai got married to President Yar’Adua in 1975 and they have seven children.

In another development, barring any unforeseen circumstances, the five-month old hide-and-seek over the health condition of President Yar’Adua may come to an end before the first week of April.

Nigerian Tribune learnt that Hajia Turai and others behind the secrecy over the actual state of Yar’Adua’s health were close to giving into the ceaseless public demand for the removal of the veil on the president’s face.

Sources in the family in Abuja said members of the group had come to realise that time was fast running out over their game plan, as they could no longer keep the matter under wraps.

It was gathered, at the weekend, that they had decided to bow to the wish of the family and the public for a categorical statement on the actual state of the president’s health by next month.

It was learnt that those behind the secrecy came under intense pressure in the last one week, with some key members of the Yar’Adua family in Katsina State sending a warning to Turai that they should no longer be kept in suspense over the health of their son.

According to sources, the mother, Hajiya Dada, was particularly angry that Turai had refused to accede to her demand to be allowed access to her son since he was brought back to Nigeria.

Other members of the family in Katsina were also said to be expressing utter disgust with the first lady for shutting them out at the most critical period in the life of the president.

“Members of the family are furious with Hajia Turai for forming a human shield around the president. In fact, everyone is confused and angry with her because nobody knows the actual state of the president’s health,” one of the sources told our correspondent.

They were also reportedly angry because of the perceived ignominy the intrigues surrounding the condition of the president had brought to the entire Yar’Adua family.

The source said though she was not giving up on her pressure on Turai, the matriarch of the family had become more reclusive after futile attempts to gain access to her son in Abuja.

Contrary to the reports credited to some relations, the sources said no member of the family had actually set their eyes on the president since he became incommunicado in Saudia Arabia or after his surreptitious return to Nigeria in an air ambulance on February 24.

Meanwhile, the first lady was said to have curtailed access to herself.

Yar’Adua, who was hastily flown out to Saudi Arabia on medical grounds on November 23, 2010, created a constitutional and leadership crisis, as he failed to transmit a vacation letter to the National Assembly, handing over power to his deputy,  Jonathan.

Members of his kitchen cabinet have also ensured that he remained inaccessible in spite of the persistent calls by Nigerians, culminating in the demand for the invocation of Section 144 of the Nigerian Constitution on the speculation that he was no longer fit to rule.

Also, former Chief Press Secretary to military president, Ibrahim Babangida, Chief Duro Onabule, has justified the decision to return the ailing leader to the country secretly.

Onabule, in an interview on a programme of Channels Television, Lagos, Sunrise Daily, said  Acting President  Jonathan  could not replace Yar’Adua’s cabinet because he was afraid that his nominees would not be cleared by the National Assembly.

Why Yar’Adua returned secretly

Onabule said the decision to bring Yar’Adua home secretly was justifiable because, according to him, there was “struggle for power” in the country.

He said examples of other presidents in similar situations justified the secrecy surrounding Yar’Adua’s situation.

Onabule said on the TV programme that “you don’t seem to know the issues involved. The issue involved is struggle for power and in struggle for power, you have to look for what happened in other parts of the world.

“How he returns to the country from abroad, only he could determine or only those around him could determine that because in many cases in the past, in different parts of the world, what happened was that the man concerned was usually eliminated with regard to the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi. Aquino was opposition leader in the Philippines, he returned to the country, more so, on the assurance of the government.

“At the airport, as soon as he was received and was being led to the arrival hall, he was shot.

“And, of course, back home here, we cannot forget the case of our Chief M. K. O. Abiola; he was in detention for five years and just when the problem was coming to an end, we were going to have an election or he was going to be released and what happened? In the process he died suddenly. In this case, there was that struggle for power. It is so now and we have to recognise it.

“If somebody was rivalling him, so to speak, for the presidency, I don’t think it would have been wise to let loose his travel plans when he was going to come back, that is the issue involved.”

He questioned the desire among Nigerians to see the ailing president, adding that Dr Jonathan was already doing the job of the president.

“The acting president is Jonathan. The other man is ill and up till now nobody has told me how more effective Jonathan will be if he saw Yar’Adua. Only on Sunday he proved himself as an effective acting president by sending troops to Jos. If he could do that, what is the agitation about?

“He could award contracts; he could appoint people to government agencies; so, he is performing the duties of the acting president. Their agitation now is may be they want him to go into history as president of the country at a particular time.”

Why Jonathan can’t sack ministers

Onabule further said Jonathan’s emergence had led to a division into North/South; Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)/Action Congress (AC) and interests.

He said the ministers who reportedly sent a memo to the acting president did nothing out of the world but the acting president could not possibly sack them because he was politically constrained.

“It is normal business for you when you are in a key position to express your views and opinions, more so, in our present delicate situation. All he (acting president) can do if he rejects the advice of ministers and they become recalcitrant, all he can do is to sack them. He has the power to sack them.

“But he is not strong politically to do that now, because the National Assembly is not as united as it was two months ago when they (NASS members) across party lines, across region and religion and across ethnicity, voted for him to become acting president.

“Since then, that concession has been shattered into ethnic, political, business and various interests. I don’t know how that happened.

“So even if he tries to sack ministers now, he must send replacement to the National Assembly and, for political reasons, they may not be cleared. You now have divisions into North/Niger Delta interests; North/South interests; and PDP/AC interests.”

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