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How ill is Nigeria’s president?
Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua left for Saudi Arabia more than two weeks ago for the Islamic obligation of the lesser Hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca. Yar’Adua, who is known to have a chronic kidney problem, has sought medical attention in Jeddah and has still not returned, raising fears about the state of his health. A medical source in Saudi Arabia told Reuters he had undergone an operation.
Government and presidency officials have been tight-lipped about the president’s condition and have not said exactly when he will be back. The opposition has demanded clarity on the president’s health, adding that his absence is having an adverse effect on the workings of government and that the official silence is fuelling speculation and uncertainty.
Should the head of state’s health be a private issue or is it a matter of public interest? Is his prolonged absence from Nigeria a cause for concern? As governor of Katsina state, Yar’Adua spent several months abroad for medical treatment without attracting much public attention, only to return, complete his term and win another one. Can he expect to do the same as leader of the nation?