Members of the council of NHIIC are a glittering array of dignitaries drawn from all over the world. They include the chief executive officer of the Investment Corporation of Dubai, Muhammed al-Shaibani, a former South African Minister of public enterprises, Mr Alex Erwin, Vice President of Hewlett Packard’s enterprise group and others.
Ostensibly therefore Goodluck Jonathan’s attendance of the NHIIC’s meeting was to put the case why Nigeria should be the destination of every genuine investor. As it happened however the opportunity never came for him to do that, as he was struck by some ailment whose nature has yet to be revealed. Thankfully though, he is back home fully recovered to continue with his onerous responsibilities. A prolonged absence would have occasioned an unnecessary constitutional issue of who would hold the presidential fort, as happened during the tenure of late president Umar Yar’adua. On arrival back home, the president met with the press and confirmed that he was indeed indisposed but he has been given a clean bill of health by medical doctors under whose care he was put and had judged him sufficiently healthy to allow him to come back home to continue with his duties.
President Goodluck Jonathan, on arrival thanked Nigerians for their goodwill and get- well- quick messages he got from them. Hear him: – “I have to thank Nigerians about the issue of my health. I really had some health challenges. I have to thank God again because of the concern shown me by Nigerians and the love. Thank God I am very okay to resume work. I believe from this night.” You do not have be a political communication expert to appreciate the president’s encounter with the reporters. On arrival, he could simply have scurried back to Aso Rock without bothering to announce his arrival, which would have given vent to all manner of speculations about the real condition of his health. But there he was at the airport, standing on his feet, decked in his tradition Niger Delta jumper and bowler hat to match, talking to reporters. Yes, he may have looked a little wan and drawn, but he still stood, talked and fielded questions alright.
Wittingly or unwittingly, his repartee with reporters killed off any speculations about his fitness or otherwise for his duties. It was a master stroke by his handlers and minders to salvage something from the unfortunate impression his sickness has conveyed. The London event is not the first time the president would be battling ill health, a similar thing happened in Addis Ababa not too long ago while attending an African Union meeting, when it was speculated that he missed giving his own speech at the meeting. So his encounter with reporters would go a long way to dispel rumours one way or the other, which could have a deleterious impact on the image of his administration, which does not enjoy a robust standing in public eyes.
Well, happily he is back amongst us again, that fact is clear. But is he really hale and hearty as Nigerians are being led to believe? What actually ails our president that he succumbs to indisposition, particularly when he is away on foreign lands? For the avoidance of doubt these queries are posed with all sense of goodwill and fellow feeling towards the president. But not very long ago, the nation almost got grounded when it ignored the telltale signs of ill health of a former president whose eventual demise while in office plunged the country into a quandary. The political ramifications which his demise engendered have continued to threaten to rend a party once thought to be cohesive and solid, asunder. Since the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is the ruling party, whatever affects it affects the country, literally. Put in a more poignant metaphor: whenever the PDP sneezes, the whole country catches cold. This is the reason why Nigerians need to know what actually ails the president.
Late Umar Yar’adua was known to be unwell even before he became the president, but Goodluck Jonathan did not come to power with such burdensome baggage. The theatrical trivialisation of the issue by former president Olusegun Obasanjo would remain indelible in our minds when the issue came up at a PDP nomination event and he put a call to late Umar to confirm whether he was well to run the country. Of course, he has since told the whole world that he never knew the sickness was that serious.
But if Goodluck Jonathan was not suffering any afflictions when he came to power, in the same breath, it can be said that he is not an Obasanjo or even an Obama. The former was a military man whose training is fabled to prepare them for super-human endurance, which Obasanjo displayed when he came to power in 1999 as he flew non-stop from one country to the other, arriving late in the night to attend to matters as well as attend a government function the next day. So frenetic was his pace that many thought then that he was going to burn out, but so resilient was he that he never once was reported to be indisposed while he was in power. Those who know him well say his legendary stamina was also due to the marathon game of squash he played.
As for Obama, who has not seen him trotting into the air force one or in his spare moments joining in the game of basket ball with his security details? His lean and athletic look depicts him not only as a man who put a great store on how he looks, but also aimed at maintaining that aura of radiant health and vigorous vitality which Americans always want to see in their presidents. Woe betides any American president who succumbs to a moment of weakness or infirmity as George Bush (senior) did when he slumped on a foreign trip, it partly cost him a second term.
So what ails Goodluck Jonathan that he succumbs to infirmity whenever he is abroad? Nigerians need to know because already some wicked wits have caused a rumour on inebriation to take wings, poisoning the minds of the people about their president. Being human, even presidents are permitted to let their hairs down once in a while and paint the town red, as it were, but not to the point of inebriation as the rumours claim. It is the duty of the presidency to dispel such rumours by coming clean about what actually ails the president. Anyway, it will be well worth it for Goodluck Jonathan to put on his track suit and hit the road –Obama style– as anyone in his age should do regularly. Or simply emulate his former Oga—Baba Iyabo himself, by taking to tennis and later graduate to the more gruelling squash. Or even golf.
All said, the president must be helped to develop a keep fit regimen. So get properly well sir, as you tee off!