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In sickness and in health: A world governed by sick Presidents (Part 3)

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A NATION ON TENTERHOOKS

Frederic Chopin, once opined that as long as I have health and strength, I will gladly work all my days. Based on this, we continue our discourse on world’s sick presidents.

WORLD’S SICK PRESIDENTS

Zachary Taylor, was the 12th President of the United States, serving from March 1849 till July, 1850.

Before his presidency, Taylor was a career officer in the United States Army, rising to the rank of major general. On July 4, 1850, Taylor reportedly consumed copious amounts of raw fruit and iced milk while attending holiday celebrations and a fund-raising event at the Washington Monument. He later became severely ill with an unknown digestive ailment. His doctor “diagnosed the illness as “cholera morbus, a flexible mid-nineteenth-century term for intestinal ailments as diverse as diarrhea and dysentery, but not related to Asiatic cholera”.

The latter was a widespread epidemic at the time of Taylor’s death. Despite treatment, Taylor died on July 9, 1850 at 65.

PRESIDENTS WHO WERE SICK IN OFFICE

Some US Presidents were terribly sick while in office. Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921), for example, suffered a severe stroke that had him paralyzed during his entire presidency, which ended in 1921. Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933- 1945), was diagnosed with Polio in 1921, at a mere 39.

He served for twelve good years, could not stand or walk without support. John F Kennedy (1961-1963) (JFK), suffered from a chronic bone disease.

He was hospitalized nine times in his short two and a half year presidency, before his assassination.

This was hidden from the American people. He appeared in public only with the support of others. He never disclosed the full extent of his health condition, as he used a wheel chair in private. George Bush (1989 – 1993), during his presidency, vomited and then fainted in front of cameras in 1992, while on a visit in Japan. Dwight Eisenhower (1953 – 1961), in 1955, suffered heart attack which sent him to the hospital for several weeks. He later underwent surgery to treat Crohn’s disease in 1957, Eisenhower suffered another stroke that temporarily halted his speech.

Surprisingly, he later still campaigned and won. During the British Prime Minister’s second term of office from 1974-76, Harold Wilson suffered symptoms that were later diagnosed as colon cancer.

He may, like Reagan, also have suffered from Alzheimer’s while in office. Neurologist Dr Peter Garrand analyzed Wilson’s changing speech patterns and found evidence that the Prime Minister might well have been suffering from Alzheimer’s without knowing it.

Tony Blair as British Prime Minister in 2004, was rushed to Hammersmith Hospital in West London for emergency treatment after he complained of chest pains and an irregular heartbeat.

No 10 immediately played down the incident, but the image of the youthful Prime Minister (born 1953), struck down by a heart condition, sent shockwaves through the government. He was found to be suffering from supraventricular tachycardia; and the following year, was treated for a heart flutter.

Blair said later. “I’ve had it for the last couple of months and it’s not impeded me doing my work and feeling fine, but it is as well to get it done.”

At the time, Blair placed a great deal of emphasis on being fit and healthy.

He told interviews that, at 51, he weighed about 83kg (13st), less than he did a decade before. In part, this was due to his healthy lifestyle – playing tennis regularly and insisting his aides ensure time for workouts in his daily diary. Konstantin Chernenko (1911-1985), the fifth General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was terminally ill when he took office in February, 1984.

He began smoking aged nine and continued the habit as an adult, suffering emphysema and heart failure as a result.

A year before he succeeded Yuri Andropov, he had been absent for three months because of bronchitis, pleurisy and pneumonia.

Despite these seeming disqualifications for office, he still managed to serve, albeit in name, as the leader of the Soviet Union for 13 months. Winston Churchill (1874-1965), gave the name “Black Dog” to “the prolonged fits of depression” from which he suffered”.

Churchill who was clinically depressed, acknowledged in his book, “Painting as a pastime”, that he was prey to the “worry and mental overstrain [experienced] by persons who, over prolonged periods have to bear exceptional responsibilities and discharge duties upon a very large scale”.

Churchill therefore took solace in whisky and cigars, especially during the darkest days of the second world war.

He suffered a heart attack at the White in 1941, and contracted pneumonia a few years later.

Ageing and increasingly unwell, Churchill often conducted business from his bedside.

He had suffered a stroke while on holiday in 1948 and, while in office in 1953, suffered another.

Despite being paralyzed down one side and doctors fearing he might not survive the weekend, he conducted a cabinet meeting without anyone noticing his indisposition.

News of this stroke was kept from parliament and the public, who were told that he was suffering merely from exhaustion.

He left office in 1955. A year after his retirement, he suffered another stroke. Prime Minister Gordon Brown (born 1951), gave a detailed description of his difficulties with his eyesight. He lost the sight in one eye after a teenage rugby accident and has a retinal detachment in his other eye. He labored under the “same fear” that he will completely lose his sight.

“Although I have problems with my eyes and it has been very difficult over the years, I think people understand that you can do a job and you can work hard.

And I think it would be a terrible indictment of our political system if you though that because someone had this medical issue, they couldn’t do the job. I feel that I have done everything to show people that I can do the job even with the handicap that I’ve had as a result of a rugby injury.”

Fidel Castrol (1926-2016), in 2006, the Cuban leader, underwent surgery for intestinal bleeding.

The then US President, George W. Bush, was not thrilled about the news of Castro’s recovery: “One day, the good Lord will take Fidel Castro away.”

Castro retorted”: “Now I understand why I survived Bush’s plans and the plans of other Presidents who ordered my assassination: the good Lord protected me.”

Instead of being taken down by America hitmen, Castro at almost 90 voluntarily step down in 2008, writing: “It would betray my conscience to take up a responsibility that requires mobility and total devotion that I am not in a physical condition to offer.”

It was said that Fidel suffered from diverticulitis, a digestive disease in which pouches within the large bowel wall become inflamed. (To be continued).

NOW THIS

MY THOUGHTS ON PRESIDENT BUHARI’S LETTER TO THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY DESCRIBING HIS VICE, PROF YEMI OSIBANJO, SAN, AS COORDINATOR OF  NATIONAL AFFAIRS

The National Assembly that has the sole prerogative to accept or reject the President’s letter under section 145 of the Constitution, can actually reject the letter from Mr. President which referred to Osibanjo as “Coordinator of National Affairs”.

In that case, a needless constitutional crisis would have arisen, as a big vacuum in governance would have been created. In my humble opinion, in these times that try our souls, task our patience and sap our energy, matters like this are better left to lie low.

There is nothing like “Coordinator of National Affairs” in our Constitution.

That is a strange importation of an unknown term into our Constitution. Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution specifically refers to “Acting President”, who “shall perform the functions of the President as Acting President” whenever “the President is proceeding on vacation or is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office”. PMB may have used the term jokingly, to represent one who is fully in charge in his absence. Certainly, it is not legally or constitutionally corrent.

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

“When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless and intelligence cannot be applied”. (Herophilus).

LAST LINE

Hope all Nigerians are reading, digesting and praying for the full recovery of PMB as we await the next tranche of this Sunday Sermon on the Mount of the Nigerian Project, by Chief Mike A.A Ozekhome,SAN, OFR, FCIArb.

• Follow me on twitter @ MikeozekhomeSAN

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If in doubt, please quit!

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A major trust of news reporting in journalism is: “if in doubt, leave out or drop the story.” In my days as a News Editor, whenever a reporter couldn’t substantiate his facts, I will drop the news item. It is a norm that conforms to the best professional practices. Integrity and truth are the hallmark of media practice but with the advent of social and online media, those valued ethics seem to have been practically jettisoned. And the consequences of such professional delinquency daily stare us in the face, regrettably though.

This same ethos applies to those planning their conjugal affairs on a sandy soil of anxiety, doubt and uncertainty. If betrothed lovers are frequently experiencing rancour, threats of breakup and relating to each other with mutual suspicion and fear, they don’t need a soothsayer or a prophet to tell them that they are not compatible. Many of those in desperate mood to remain in troubled relationships are women.

Reasons adduced for their tenacity usually centre around fear of the unknown, age, social class, low selfesteem, economic factor, religious affinity and beauty among others. Some of them prefer to go into ‘trial’ marriage and fail than let go their abusive partner.

The reckless decision they often make is to blindly walk down the aisle with partners they can’t have peace and desired happy matrimony with. A 31-year-old woman would not let go off her fiancé of two years despite her frustration and constant abuse in the relationship.

Twice she had called it quit but she reconciled on both occasions without her boyfriend showing any sign of remorse. Devising a way to end regular disputes, she moved into his apartment unannounced thinking perhaps they would understand themselves better by living together. Her boyfriend’s response was to bring another woman home for the weekend. Yet, she stayed on, weeping, begging for his love. They eventually got married and it only lasted for nine months! She packed out with seven months pregnancy when she almost lost her life due constant battering.

A young man is currently battling with high blood pressure arising from constant cases of cheating, insults, threats to quit the relationship and coping with hardline rules of his fiancée. His reason for hanging on with this woman is her beauty. He said he would rather learn to endure than let her go.

“All my friends envy me because of her beauty,” he said. More than thrice, he had caught her pant down with other men. She cheats a lot. She insults him at will and set rules for him as condition to remain in the relationship. As you read this article, they are planning to wed in a couple of months’ time. Should we then ascribe these kinds of relationship to genuine love?

If yes, then, love is truly blind! It shows love can blindfold lovers when they are engrossed in it. In most cases, the love charm usually have a vice-hold on one of the partners. When blinded in love, they usually act blighted. Consequently, the traits of such desperate, confused and helpless partners are to:

• Defend weaknesses, character flaws that would eventually shred the union.

• Get fixated and unreasonably enslaved to their partners by trying to please, satisfy, compromise and sacrifice to tag along; forgetting that once they beg or manage to go into marriage, they need to keep begging and managing to remain married for the rest of their life.

• They are afraid of the unknown. Attitudes they won’t tolerate ordinarily or naturally would become their choice just to remain in relationship.

• They accommodate those things to feel “fulfilled” among their peers even when eventual failure looms large in the horizon.

• They often ignore every counsel that is not in tandem with their sentiments, interests and expectations.

• They often learn their lessons at a time the situation is beyond remedy. They calmly live with the scars because it was their choice. There are three levels of marriage:

• Marriage contracted in fear – desperation, low self-esteem, age consideration and social class

• Marriage contracted in reluctance – family and peers pressure, abstract considerations, marrying partners not wholly convinced or satisfied with many things about.

• Marriage contracted in wilful decision – marrying one’s dream partners, desired choice, best friend, feeling satisfied, fulfilled and complementary to her life. It is advisable and wiser to avert awaited marital failure by quitting troubled relationships. As it is often said, “A broken relationship is better than a broken marriage.”

Some are currently regretting their decisions in marriage because of the choices they made. While many of them have tried frantically to make their marriages work; but alas, they couldn’t get it right not due to their own faults, but because they paired with wrong partners.

There are those who might feel heeding a counsel that is against their wish is obviously denying them the right of choice in their personal affairs. I wish to submit that counsel is not a law. There’s no compulsion in it. Counsel is a piece of advice steeped in rich experience and knowledge. My sincere prayer is that may the song: “Had I Known” not be your anthem at last. Amen.

 

Send your responses/private issues to: mikeawe@yahoo.co.uk or 08035304268 (SMS/WhatsApp)

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Tinubu’s uphill task

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“You cannot influence a political party to do right if you stick to it when it does wrong” – John Bengough

 

When a doctor is called in to handle an ailment after the disease has eaten deep into the patients, the task of saving that life would depend only on divine intervention. It does not matter the quality of that doctor or his antecedents in handling such issues in the past.

The challenge of such doctor is analogous to the one being faced by the former Governor of Lagos State, Aswaju Bola Ahmad Tinubu, who was recently appointed the arbitrator and at the same time a reconciliatory officer to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

 

Incidentally, President Muhammadu Buhari who gave Tinubu the gigantic task cannot absolve himself from the problem. In fact, political observers believe that the problem of APC derives largely from the shortcomings of its leader, the President, due to his indifferent approach to political party matters.

 

Going by the analysis of experts, the style of the President in political party management has been underwhelming and clearly falls far below the required standard and this has led to the emergence of all kinds of cliques within the party. Pundits in political matters would always say that there can never be a vacuum in political space. The space President Buhari’s poor political strategy could not fill easily got occupied by pockets of chiefdom.

 

It is largely believed that the foundation of the myriads of APC challenges was long laid when the President at the inception of his administration told all who cared to know that he would not be interested in who emerges as the leaders of the National Assembly but when those he did not want emerged, he led the onslaught against them since June 9th 2015.

 

Political watchers believe that on the issue of National Assembly the hide and seek approach from the President actually helped to fertilize the crisis that eventually engulfed the ruling party.

 

Among those within the party who shared in the President’s obvious bitterness and anger against the leadership of the National Assembly was Tinubu who ostensibly remain embittered because his cronies in the parliament lost out in the scheme. Tinubu then literally supplied the amour with which the National Assembly particularly the Senate was and is still being tormented.

 

The sudden appointment of Tinubu as chief arbiter at this time is therefore curious and raises a number of questions. The appointment is trying to help observers discern the mind of the President on the situation in the party.

 

Could it be that the President after his review of the situation has decided to embrace one of the factions in the party at the detriment of the others? Or is it that Tinubu has been identified as the bigger problem and has to be given the task of confronting the task of removing the heap of refuge he probably helped to assembly?

 

For Tinubu, the view out there on his new job is similar to what happens when a party to a case is appointed to make peace, two things are likely to play out, he buries his own interest and accommodates other people’s interests for peace to reign or he stands on the point of advantage and pushes through his own agenda. Either way Tinubu decides to go it’s not going to be an easy task both for him and the party.

 

That is why it is very germane the verdict of the embattled Comrade APC Senator of Kaduna State, Senator Shehu Sani that APC would be finally ruined if Asiwaju Tinubu fails in his mission to bring peace in the party.

Even though Tinubu is a master in the game of politics and the intrigue therein, he would need the courage of biblical David and the Wisdom of Solomon, David’s son, to figure out an acceptable solution to the APC crisis.

 

Other posers waiting to be unravelled in Tinubu’s assignment is whether the National Chairman of APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun who has spent the last three years of his political life eulogizing President Buhari would be thrown out just like that as has been the wish and desire of Tinubu? Why not, you may say, election year for politicians is a time of betrayal and sacrifice especially of those whose electoral value is inconsequential. Electorally, Tinubu stands head ahead of Oyegun, and this is not in dispute.

 

Also, can Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State dine together politically with Comrade Senator Sani and Senator Hunkuyi whose building was even demolished during the fight?

 

After Governor Ibrahim Ganduje of Kano State declared publicly recently that he has parted ways forever with his former boss, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, and his Kwakwasiyya group, would Tinubu make him leak his vomit?
What of Tinubu himself, can he stand with the Senate President Bukola Saraki to say old ways have passed away for a new way to begin? Even when it’s widely believed that he contributed to the inconveniences that prevented Saraki from enjoying fully his number three position? Today if you Google Saraki the image you get is not that of a nation’s head of parliament presiding but that of a criminal suspect in the dock, can this wound be easily healed by Tinubu’s drug box?

However, there is this optimistic attitude indicating that in politics everything is possible. Believers in this optimism easily embrace Maurice Barres, the French novelist who captured the never say die spirit of politicians in his statement that “the politician is an acrobat. He keeps his balance by saying the opposite of what he does”. How sincere is Tinubu and Buhari on this reconciliatory project?

 

 

There are so many other possibilities to Tinubu’s assignment that cannot also be overlooked. It could have been a strategy of a drowning Presidency itching into general election and hoping to keep up with whoever can help at such a critical period.

 

It could also be the geo-political North’s own strategic response to halt the seeming unity in the Southern Nigeria, a development that could be the deadliest blow to the Northern hegemony. There couldn’t have been a better way to tie apart that dangerous geo-political romance in the South than pulling out the biggest political tree in the region and whispering into his ears, the goodies that await him. There couldn’t have been an easier way to achieve this especially as the Aswaju is not enjoying the best of relationship with the Yoruba socio-cultural and political group, the Afenifere, who has been at the forefront of this crusade. There is also the other treachery aspect indicating that Tinubu might just be playing a fifth columnist role against the system for deserting him after victory only to rush coming because the day of reckoning has arrived.

 

 

Also as a possible instigation to Asiwaju’s assignment is the scorching attack by the former President Olusegun Obasanjo on both President Buhari and his ruling party. The easiest way to contain and possibly help divert the conversation away from the huge effect of that outburst on the government and the party is cleverly to draft from the same region as Obasanjo a formidable political iroko to quell the accompanying political uprising.

 

It could also have been that what President Buhari did in drafting Tinubu to go and make peace in a war where he has been a top commander is just the extension of taking the people for granted. No wonder American Journalist, Franklin Adams once remarked that “there are many politicians who believe, with conviction based on experience, that you can fool all the people all of the time.”

 

But in reality, after President Buhari and his party rode to power cruising on the falsehood of propaganda and deceit, can they fool Nigerians again after the hellish journey since 2015?

 

For Tinubu, there are some landmines on his political career that he must apply all his political wizardry to manoeuvre his way in this difficult assignment. At stake is his goodwill with the people and no politicians would want to toy with it.

 

American businessman, Marshall Field, aptly captured it better in these words: “Goodwill is the only asset that competition cannot undersell or destroy.” Nigerians are watching to see how the Jagaban will writhe out of this. God help Nigeria.

 

 

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A national security strategy

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The present government should as a matter of national emergency roll out a comprehensive, forward looking, national and acceptable strategy for combating extant and emerging security challenges in Nigeria. This national security strategy must of necessity involve a summit of all the critical stakeholders involved in the prevention and detection of any crime against the internal and external security of Nigeria.

 

It must involve all the agencies and organs of government charged with the responsibility of or employed for the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations.

 

The security summit must involve all those vested with legislative and judicial powers. It must involve religious, traditional, community, professional and civil society leaders. The National Security Summit (NSM) must map out extant and emerging and future security challenges and design strategies of combating, degrading and neutralizing them.

 

The Summit must review the report of past conferences and their recommendations and flesh out the ones that are still fresh and can assist in tackling the myriad security challenges affecting the country.

 

In undertaking this assignment, the government must avoid puritanism and grandstanding. When the nation is grieving or in pains, national security interest demands that all patriots must unite and chart a common agenda of national rebirth and reconstruction.

 

This period demands that opposition political parties and other vested interests must not play politics with national security issues but must unite with the government in finding solution to the security challenges of the nation. In constituting the membership of the summit, government must realise that the issue of security affects everybody and government must never play politics with the security of lives and properties.

 

The government must marshal the best brains and the representatives of individuals and organisations with credibility. National security challenges should not be used for the settlement of the “boys” or for opportunistic purposes.

 

We must not allow the country to go to blazes before we realise that the country is drifting and requires urgent surgical attention. It should be very clear to the leadership of our country that Nigerians are increasingly becoming apprehensive about the security of their lives and properties.

 

 

It is not as if the Nigerian people expect magic or miracles from the government. No, the people know that the government is run by human beings and that government is based on rules and procedures.

 

The Nigerian people know that government controls the means of gathering information and that the government controls the instruments of coercion and law enforcement.

 

The people expect the government to listen to their concerns. The people expect the government to react to their concerns and the people expect the government to degrade, neutralize and or obliterate extant and emerging security challenges threatening their lives and their properties.

 

 

The Nigerian people have the right to be apprehensive about the future and their conviction that the government of President Goodluck Jonathan did not have the will power or commitment to protect lives and properties contributed in no small measure in their resolve to dispense with the regime.

 

The Nigerian people find it difficult to connect with the cyclical and unending security challenges bedevilling the country.

 

The country went through the crisis in the Niger Delta that resulted in the blowing up of pipelines, the kidnapping of expatriates and the proliferation of small arms by self-styled militants. The government declared a ceasefire and granted monetary amnesty to the repentant militants and there has been relative calm in the Niger Delta with pockets of resistance.

 

 

 

This does not mean that the military has pulled out of the Niger Delta. The presence of the military is still very strong as they are maintaining internal security in the whole of the Niger Delta.

 

From the Niger Delta challenge the country witnessed heightened cases of kidnappings and ritual killings. From there we migrated to and progressed to the “Boko Haram” challenge that has led to the death of thousands of Nigerians, the displacement of millions of persons and the killing of countless number of security operatives.

 

 

The country is still battling with the challenge and committing millions of dollars to the “Boko Haram” project. As if the “Boko Haram” challenge was not enough, we had separatist agitations in the South-East that threatened the corporate existence of Nigeria. Fair enough the present regime acted decisively even if too late in putting it down.

 

 

As if we revel in new issues and new challenges, the farmers/ herders conflict, cattle rustling and rural banditry has assumed a monstrous and murderous dimension.

 

The government has a constitutional and statutory obligation to listen to the Nigerian people when they say that the government is not doing enough in the area of security. When the citizens are uncertain or steeped in confusion regarding what tomorrow portends for them, every other activity being carried out by them or by the government becomes tentative as fear and apprehension becomes the order of the day. It is my opinion that the present government is too slow in reacting to the mounting security challenges in the country. When something happens the people want to hear from their government and from their leaders.

 

This is because the government has security agents on the ground and has multiple channels of getting information. When the people do not hear from their government, opportunists, merchants of conflicts, speculators and gangsters take over information dissemination and fill the void left by the government. In Nigeria, rumours and rumour mongering is a big business and rumour travels at the speed of light.

 

There must be something alluring and salacious in embracing and believing unbelievable tales and stories which on their face value appears unbelievable.

 

 

Yet, government sometimes out of a culture of silence leaves the people no choice than to believe what ordinarily a rational and thinking fellow should not believe. We must therefore constantly remind the government at all levels that the security of lives and the guarantee of their welfare is the primary purpose of government and there is no ambiguity in this.

 

 

Any government that lacks or loses the ability to protect lives and properties is not worth being in power and the oath of office taken by persons in government loses its efficaciousness.

 

Saying so does not amount to running down any government. It does not amount to playing partisan politics. It means being patriotic because if the country goes down, Nigeria goes down and nobody can determine who will be internally displaced and who will become a refugee and nobody can determine who will die and who will survive.

 

 

We must consciously map out some of the security challenges bedevilling the country and make conscious efforts at degrading them. We must remain vigilant at all times and degrade potential security threat before they overwhelm us.

 

To this end, the government has a responsibility to find out why intolerance has become the order of the day and why ethnic nationalities that hitherto lived in peace have become murderous enemies.

 

The government should and must remain proactive in dealing with and speaking out on measures it is taking in tackling security challenges as silence in the face of threats to the nation amounts to abdication of responsibility.

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