The health status of candidates for political offices should be more scrutinized

By John Okiyi Kalu on 15/02/2015

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A strong and healthy PDP Governorship candidate for Abia State, Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu, running to the podium during a campaign event.

In 2007 most Nigerians knew there was something wrong with Governor Yar'adua's health. His debilitating ill health was rumored strongly with information leaked  on his unusually numerous medical trips abroad. Yet then President Obasanjo and the members of the  power cabal that included many of today's APC leading lights he headed denied the obvious and sought to cover up the truth. The reported "old age" attack on Buhari and others by Mallam El Rufai happened while he was preaching the gospel of "YarAdua is healthy". It is also on record that President Obasanjo even ridiculed and made jest of Nigerians who were worried about the rumor which suggested that after collapsing during a campaign event Yar'adua was rushed to a foreign clinic and reportedly died. President Obasanjo called a phone number during a Presidential campaign stop and asked whoever was at the other end: "is that you Umaru you are alive..".

With that phone call President Obasanjo seemingly ended the speculations on Yar'adua's death in 2007.  But the man later died, officially in May 2010 but unofficially in December 2009, as a siting President and threw the country into avoidable political crisis that eventually appeared resolved with the "doctrine of necessity" but have remained at the heart of northern political opposition to President Jonathan from 2010 to date. Strangely, the man who started it all by stubbornly hand picking Yaradua in disregard of his health issues, President Obasanjo, is now a darling of the north because he is supporting another northerner from same Katsina State with question marks on his health and age.

Mumuology will soon be a course in Nigerian Universities.

Why will someone who knows he is ill put himself up for political office?

One reason should be the need to reach the highest point in his career such that after he is dead he will still be remembered. This is particularly important in our environment where the dead is a "hero" while villains are the living until they also die, preferably "in service". Dying while occupying high office certainly ensures "immortality" and positive mention even if in life you supervised and murdered hundreds of unarmed men, women and children at Asaba. You will still earn "hero" status, at least during periods of political desperation, and even get an international airport named after you. Dying in office is not exactly a bad idea, in Nigeria especially if you have a dirty past to wash off after death. Ask Murtala Muhammed whenver you see him at the other side of life.

 Even those who selfishly called Abacha names and engineered popular hatred towards him while he was alive ended up going to Kano to declare him "not corrupt" in this same country after his demise in office. Ask Generals Buhari, Babangida and Abdussalam, if in doubt. It is only a matter of time before Tinubu and Rotimi Amaechi also cannonize Abacha as his death in office has earned him sainthood in Nigeria. Who wouldn't want to die in office and become a Nigerian saint?

One of my xocial media political masters called that "realpoliticks" but I mistakenly called it "real politricks made in Nigeria". Forgive my bad learning skills.

The other reason for chasing high public office even with bad health should be man's innate quest to hang on to the faintest hope and straws to live even if it means killing others in the process. Those with better education than me call it "survival instinct". Once you occupy "high political office" like President or Governor you are automatically entitled to virtually deploy all the resources of the state to take care of yourself. It is legal. The state will pay for your medical expenses anywhere available in the world thereby giving you a better chance of survival compared to those who are not occupying same position. It doesn't matter if you were sick long before you came to "serve" the people or that you never had enough strength to serve the people at all. Tax payers money and the resources of common people will be used to keep you alive even as a human vegetable. Many more common people in need of medical attention may be denied basic health care and social services for your sake. Who cares if those so denied die in numbers? Ask YarAdua.

While it is somewhat understandable for a sick man to hide his adverse health status, why exactly will their sponsors who mostly know the truth want to still elect them? The answer again lies with self preservation albeit in the sense of perpetual political self aggrandisement. A sick leader means an opportunity for those close to him to rule by proxy or install their crony through the back door. In this country a vegetative President was signing documents and issuing orders to normal people. His clinically dead body even awarded contracts and paid for them from the common purse and it was perfectly normal until the man who installed him decided that it was time to replace him with someone he believed he can use better as a living "mugu". Of course the arrangement later boomaranged and today the godfather is running from Kenya to United Kingdom seeking to replace his assumed human guinea pig with a more appealing one that also provides an opportunity to possibly return power closer home to the self acclaimed best lover of Nigeria. According to our laws, if anything happens to an elected President Buhari (God forbid) after his election, Prof Osibanjo is guaranteed to lead and power will naturally return to Obasanjo's Ogun. Not a bad plan.

Amazingly the section of the country that was the victim of the 2007 manipulation is also falling for this later bet with glee without asking questions. Only time will tell them how wrong they are if successfully fooled a second time. As in all cases of high wire conspiracy, it is ordinary Nigerians that will suffer again with the expected political unrest that is sure to come if the scheme works.

The major group whose role in all these confound me are the voters who willingly elect a man whose health is highly unstable. Why do they willingly vote sick candidates? After all it doesn't take rocket science to know a candidate with health limitations: he normally reduces his public engagements during campaigns so that people won't see him closely and note his frail looks. Even when such candidates want to appear, such appearances are carefully choreographed and limited to few minutes with the cameras directed well aware from them to avoid close up shots. Alternatively, night events like "all night music carnivals" are preferred to daylight campaign stomps where people will see korokoro and even come close to the candidates and touch them.

The first time Nigerians knew something was wrong with late President YarAdua was during a day time campaign event. The camera man goofed and zoomed his face and body and the nation screamed collectively "whaaaaaat". Shortly after, he was flown abroad and only managed to later attend non intrusive campaign activities on return. He was effectively restricted to granting interviews to international media organizations via satellite and using friendly local stations, mostly radio and print. Is same plot not being executed in 2015?

There is no denying the power of propaganda, especially negative ones bothering on ethnic and religious sentiments on our people. Many people are too lazy to question ordinary lies like "I was there when A slapped B" because their capacity to reason have been blocked with an overdose of hypnotic propaganda. They even see the sick person as a victim, as against the enemy, seeking to do a job he is not capable of doing by reason of failing health. "Boys oye" can turn a wise man into a fool any time any day. Ask Pontius Pilate. It is such hypnosis that makes the electorate ignore the health status of a candidate and vote for him against their own interest. In most emerging democracies, the people are always their own democratic enemies as they hardly make rational choices after over bombardment with  propaganda.

In this country, when people successfully navigate written and oral interviews for most private sector jobs, including those in the banking industry, they are required to still pass a medical test of fitness before being hired. One then wonders why applicants to high positions of President and Governor are not subjected to similar tests. Is that an indication that we consider being President or Governor less important to that of a marketing officer in a bank? Does that explain why you need a first degree to be a marketing officer in a bank whereas only school leaving certificate (sometimes letter of recommendation) is enough to lead Nigeria and Nigerian states?

Make no mistake about it, non of us can truly be said to be totally in great health but not all ill health can prevent us from doing our jobs well. Many illnesses are also routinely cureable and hence can be ignored. That an applicant for a job has malaria fever cannot be as significant as another with Ebola, Cancer, HIV/AIDS or "hole in the heart". Most high offices require long hours at work with little sleep co joined with expectation of an "always high" mental alertness. I once met with a Governor of a South East State from 11:30pm to a few minutes after 1am. He was meeting others before me so I suspect that after I left he met the others remaining in the waiting room when I entered to see him. I returned to my abode and turned in to sleep without even considering a bathe or food because I was tired to my bones. I was still in gear one of precious sleep when my phone rang and one of the governor's protocol people asked me to prepare to leave for the airport with Oga at 6.30am. Suffice it to say I slept through the one hour flight and only had my first bathe around 2pm at Abuja after Oga left for another meeting that does not involve me. It was on the radio the next morning that I heard about the meeting same Governor held in the East same day we arrived Abuja. I slept over whereas he returned same day after his meeting to attend to other state matters at home.

Even the ongoing governorship campaign in my state have further opened my eyes to what it really takes to emerge as a Governor. One day I rushed "early mo mo" to the home of the PDP Candidate, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, to wait for him and discuss a few pertinent issues. On getting there around 7.30am, I met him dressed and seated in his living room attending to visitors with more than 100 others waiting outside. I barely managed to squeeze in a whispered comment before joining his leaving convoy to a political meeting at another politician's house. From there he moved to his Aba office where a group of Anambra-born traders were waiting to meet and endorse him. After his meeting with them, the radio cackled and he was on the road again to another event. The attached picture was taken of him running up to the podium at that event and he left there around 3pm to another event at Umuahia. On his way out I received word that he will attend another meeting at 7.30pm at the home of one of the front line political leaders from my villa's Aba residence and I decided to wait and meet him there. But as I was settling down to eat my first meal of the day around 5pm, I got word he was on his way to Isuikwuato to meet one of Abia's best military "export" and It was not till 11pm that he arrived at the home of the Abiriba-born politician where we were waiting since 7.30pm. When that meeting ended around 12.30am of the next day, amazingly he left for another meeting with a youth group that camped outside his house. When therefore I saw him at 10am of that second day holding a microphone and shouting "PDP...Power to the people" I said a silent prayer for him: "Lord Jesus renew his strength and help him to fulfill his destiny of taking our people to the next level". Frankly, I don't have such amazing energy to spend.

But it also dawned on me how unfit I am as a human being. Of course I know Dr Okezie Ikpeazu is an active sportsman and still finds time to play football on sundays so I have also copied and returned to playing regular table tennis to at least improve my personal fitness. It hasn't been easy since then and a friend of mine told me recently that I now look like one. Lol.

By the way, why is the APGA Governorship candidate in Abia hardly seen in public during the day? Even his campaign team hardly post pictures of him with the people in a campaign environment. Is he avoiding being "infected" by the mouth order of common people or does he think common Abians will contaminate him with our poverty? We heard that after walking along Faulks Road Aba in December he needed a quick knee surgery and have been using walking stick since then. Since we are in mid February and whatever it is should have healed, rumor merchants have started doing  their work very well and it is just normal for the candidate to show up in public in the day time for us to verify. Alternatively, he should address the mounting concerns on his fitness for office. We do not want to have the Umaru Yaradua Katsina situation from 1999-2007 as that will virtually sink Abia State. If the talk of ending medical tourism means building special medical facilities for our Governor in Umuahia we don't want that. Whatever serves our people should serve our governor.

I personally don't see how a man with serious health issues can effectively run a nation or state. The most he can do is delegate as much as possible thereby creating "power cabals" with their own individual agendas that are not necessarily in the interest of the people who elected the leader. Most of us can give examples from the Nigeria of 2007-2010 and some states like Taraba whose governors were away for long because of medical reasons. It beats me why we shouldn't make efforts to minimize such risks and leave the rest to chance.

If a sitting President or Governor is hospitalized as a result of an accident after he is sworn in, we can live with it. But certainly we shouldn't live with electing an unfit and sickly leader who will spend most of his tenure in hospital beds with the attendant high cost to taxpayers and socio-political stability.

The man who said the only thing man has learned from history is that man never learn from history must have had Nigerians in mind. Sad.

Until our law makers legislate mandatory health tests for certain public officers, you owe yourself the duty of using your PVC to stop anyone with questionable health from leading you. If you choose not to exercise that right please don't complain when the s..t hits our political ceiling. My observation is that those who lead or vote us into avoidable errors usually complain more when the worst happens. Was it not Obasanjo that first disowned Yar'adua and then lied to us that he never knew the man was gravely ill? Today he is at the forefront of pushing another potential "doctrine of necessity" just so he can wash off his previous sins against a section of the country. Amazingly people from that section and their "feudal slaves" are clapping for him as a "respected Nigerian Leader". They are not wondering why Atiku was serially bypassed.

Uwa Ntooooooooo!

Enjoy your Valentine celebration joor. Me I dey kampe dey look all of una as you enjoy your mpucious agenda of increasing HiV/AIDS  and unwanted pregnancy prevalence rates. You vowed to "die for love" and Valentine's Day provides a good opportunity to walk the talk abi? Biko unu akwagbula onwe unu n'iko in the name of "making love" or "dying for love".

O metara buru na isi ya.

JOK 14/2/14


Posted on February, 15 2015

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