Senators oppose motion to debate President’s health

The Senate yesterday declined to deliberate on a motion asking it to debate President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s health. Instead, the Chamber at its closed session urged Nigerians to pray ceaselessly for the President’s recovery. Citing Order 42 and 52 of Senate Standing Rule, Senate Deputy Majority Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, asked to be allowed to present a motion on the President’s health.

Ndoma-Egba said: “Mr. President, the subject matter of my motion, which I discussed with you yesterday and this morning, is the state of health of our dear President, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

Cutting him short, Senate President Mark addressed the chambers, saying: “Distinguished colleagues, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba discussed a motion, which he intends to raise this morning with me. I have no problem with the motion. Basically, it is just to ask us and the nation to continue to pray for the improvement and quick recovery of the President. That is the summary of the motion. I have no problem with it. But as is required by Order 42, I have to seek the consent of the Senate and if we are up to one-fifth in support of his moving the motion, then we allow him to raise the motion. It is a very short motion.”

When Mark put the question, it was greeted by an overwhelming negative response, which put paid to the motion.

Also, the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) has accused the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of unnecessarily attacking the opposition on their concern over President Yar’Adua’s health.

In a statement yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Osita Okechukwu, the CNPP said the PDP should have been more interested in governance of the country than trading blames on who heated the polity over the President’s illness.

Relatedly, the Action Congress (AC) has condemned the PDP for allegedly suggesting that the opposition was exploiting President Yar’Adua’s ill-health to generate tension in the country, saying “the statement is nothing but a clear attempt at muffling the voice of opposition.”

In a statement yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, the party said there was “nothing wrong in the public discussion of the President’s health as well as the issue of succession, since the President is the father of the nation and the citizens, as his children, must be interested in his well-being.”

Also, the Progressive People Alliance (PPA) has insisted that the Constitution should be strictly followed in deciding a successor in the event that President Yar’Adua quits office on grounds of poor health.

Speaking on insinuations that Vice President Goodluck Jonathan might be edged out in the event of Yar’Adua stepping down due to ill-health, the PPA, in a statement by it Chairman, Larry Esin, argued that “nothing but the Constitution must guide that process if this country is to remain one.”

According to the party, any attempt to tamper with the Constitution on the basis of succession in the Presidency could jeopardise the nation’s fragile co-existence.

And, National Chairman, Peoples Salvation Party (PSP), Junaid Mohammed, yesterday asked Yar’Adua to step down for Jonathan.

Mohammed, who spoke with The Guardian in Kano, said the President was no longer capable of running the country for health reasons as he received medical attention in Saudi Arabia.

He adduced selfish desire on the part of “some musketeers in the Presidency” as reason for alleged refusal of the President to hand over the reins of power to Jonathan.

The PSP chieftain also accused the Senate and the PDP of not wishing the country well by insisting on the continuous stay in office by President Yar’Adua.

He asked the Senate to toe the constitutional path by “setting up a Medical Board to determine whether the President is fit to govern or not.”

Meanwhile, Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) has faulted the choice of a foreign hospital for the treatment of President Yar’Adua as well as the low budget for health in the 2010 appropriation bill.

Secretary-General, NMA, Kenneth Okoro, told The Guardian yesterday: “The Nigeria Medical Association is embarrassed by a situation where the nation’s leaders do not have confidence in our healthcare delivery system.

“While joining other well meaning Nigerians to pray for the quick recovery of President Yar’Adua, we are particularly saddened that in a nation blessed with world-class health professionals, treatment for ailments like Pericarditis has to be sought outside Nigeria. Yet, defence takes such a huge chunk of our national budget while health is several steps below on the ladder. Efforts to motivate health workers should include massive infrastructural development in the health sector.”

Briefing reporters on the Ndoma-Egba motion, Senate spokesman, Ayogu Eze, said: “The reason why we did not take that motion is that as a serious chamber, we don’t indulge in frivolities. The Senate President is the chief spokesman of the Senate and chief spokesman of the National Assembly and he has just issued a statement not quite 24 hours on the same matter, on behalf of the Senate and the National Assembly asking Nigerians to pray for our President.

“How do we now turn round to waste the time that we would have invested in debating the budget, for instance, in talking about something that has already been settled? That was why our colleagues thought it was an ordinary waste of time.”