AFRAID of the dangerous dimension the rumour of the ill-health of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua is taking on the polity, three of his predecessors – Generals Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar – have met to urgently halt the drift.
Yar’Adua, Nigeria’s 13th Commander-in-Chief, left the country since November, last year, for the King Faisal Specialist Hospital, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to attend to his health.
Since then, he has not been seen publicly and this has led to speculations on his ability or otherwise to continue with state functions, even when he returns.
Obasanjo, who handed over to Yar’Adua on May 29, 2007, was said to have initiated the meeting at the Hilltop Mansion of Babangida in Minna, Niger State.
It was held on Thursday, last week, when the former President, who governed Nigeria twice (between February 13, 1976 and October 1, 1979; and from May 29, 1999 to May 29, 2007) visited Babangida to commiserate with him on the death of his wife, Maryam.
Babangida was military President between August 27, 1985 and August 27, 1993.
Abubakar was Head of State from June 8, 1998 to May 29, 1999.
A former minister during the Babangida regime, who confirmed the meeting, said Obasanjo, before arriving Minna, had told Babangida on phone that “we must discuss something urgent.”
The former minister, a retired military officer who held a strategic position during the regime, said on arrival, Obasanjo sympathised with Babangida and even prayed for the repose of the soul of Maryam before the visitors “in one of Babangida’s living rooms where he sat.”
Under the guise of sympathising with the bereaved, he said Obasanjo beckoned on Babangida, held his hand, “then, they started talking, moving round the house in the process.”
“It was like a recce in the military when you are trying to find out if an enemy is in a particular place. The movement, which Obasanjo started, was to ensure that there is nobody who will follow them or eavesdrop. Then, they moved to one of the spacious rooms in the mansion for the meeting. Of course, Abdulsalami followed them. They locked themselves up for about an hour.”
He disclosed that top on the agenda was the tension in the country, bordering on the ill-health of the President “and they opposed any unconstitutional move which may truncate our democracy.”
“They discussed the dangerous drift and they were alarmed with the way some people have personalised the absence of the President in the country for their own selfish interests. Whatever happens, they declared that nothing must affect the interest of the North in the polity.
“What stopped them from coming out with a position after the meeting was because of Maryam’s death. They also decided to wait for the outcome of the Governors’ Forum meeting which will hold on Wednesday (today) and see if it tallies with their own position.
“One thing is clear. The former Heads of State have made it clear in their minds that there is no provision for the position of a Vice-President. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan is the Vice-President and Yar’Adua is the President. Whatever Jonathan is doing now is in an acting capacity. When Yar’Adua returns, and he will return very soon, Jonathan will revert to his position as the Vice-President.
“They also insisted that the provisions of the constitution must be followed on any issue. So, those speculating that some Northern governors have been pencilled down as deputy to Jonathan are just wasting their time,” he said.
Meanwhile, some United States-based Nigerians have declared that acute pericarditis, the ailment which the President is officially said to be suffering from, does not normally require treatment “for a long period of time.”
Dr. Oluyemi Badero and Dr. Ola Akinboboye, New York based award-winning cardiologists and American board certified doctors declared that treatment of the ailment should take no more than a few days.
Akinboboye, a nuclear cardiologist, explained that the Federal Government “has been deliberately vague” on the nature of President Yar’Adua’s ailment because “simple acute pericarditis treatment does not take too long in most people.”
Akinboboye, who is among top New York doctors and is also a Professor of Medicine at the New York State University, argued that the President’s handlers may have just held back pertinent information about his medical condition.
Badero, a cardiologist who has won praises from the US Congress for his professionalism, also said “if no surgical procedure is needed, the usual hospital stay is less than five days with medication.”
Akinboboye listed three possible instances and treatment, at least one of which Yar’Adua may have indeed encountered.
He said in some cases, Motrin, a pain medicine can help.
But he warned that where there is fluid around the heart so big as to restrict the functioning of the heart, which he called Tamponade Pericaditis, a more serious treatment is called for. This condition, he said, can cause inflammation and the medical team would have to drain the fluid through a tube passed through a hole made to the area.
A third and most serious instance, he added, would be if the heart has become encased by a solid, cement-like foreign object. He said that would be Constrictive Pericarditis and would certainly require an “open heart surgery.”
Badero further explained that Pericaditis is inflammation of the outer covering of the heart, known as the pericardium, adding that “the commonest causes are viral infection, complication of heart attack, collagen vascular diseases like lupus, and uremia (excess toxic body waste products) from chronic kidney disease.”
“Given Yar’Adua’s history, it would seem his most likely cause is Chronic Kidney disease. The usual symptoms are dull, constant chest pains, worse on deep breathing and if there is development of fluid around the heart because of the inflammation of the lining, there can be low blood pressure, shortness of breath, dizziness and swelling of the neck, abdomen and legs.”
The treatment, he said, consist mainly of treating the underlying cause together with the use of anti-inflammatory drugs ( ibuprofen, indomethacin or in severe cases steroidal drugs like prednisone).
In Yar’Adua’s case, the US-certified cardiologist said “Dialysis will remove the toxic wastes and the fluid build up around the heart, if any. In rare cases, he may require pericardiocentesis, a minor surgical procedure to remove the fluid directly from around the heart.”
By Sadeeq Amokpa, Minna