Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The 215th good thing about Lagos: The President is a man of mystery

In the United States, the president has a LOT of exposure -- sometimes too much, as in a famous incident where we learned the underwear choice of our President. We hear frequent news reports of the US President's schedule, speeches and activities. President Yar'Adua of Nigeria has been in the news recently for his lack of exposure. He traveled to Saudi Arabia in November for medical care and hasn't been heard or seen in public since. (There was a supposed radio interview in January, but they aren't sure that was actually Yar'Adua speaking.) The government came pretty much to a standstill until a couple of weeks ago when finally the parliament voted to give Vice President Goodluck Jonathan (isn't THAT a great name!) power to become the acting President, even without the letter of empowerment that the constitution says the President must give to cede power to the Vice President should he become unable to fulfill the duties of his office. For the past few months there has been unending speculation about the health of the President, but his wife and Saudi officials have kept anyone from any verification of the state of his health. He is from Northern Nigeria and Goodluck is from the South, so the government officials who benefit from Yar'Adua staying in office are doing everything they can to continue the charade that he is still in control of things and will return to public life very soon. Of course, the political powers in the South want to declare him out of the picture so their man Jonathan can give them some Goodluck. Well, the Phantom supposedly returned to Nigeria last night as the Presidential aircraft and another commercial plane returned from Saudi Arabia, unfortunately just missing the team of government ministers who had headed to Saudi to meet with the President and verify the state of his health. The planes were met in the middle of the night by an ambulance and the arrival was blacked out from any photographer or news coverage, so no one has been able to verify that the President was actually on that plane. After a day, he still has not publicly spoken or been seen, so there is some question as to whether this was all a charade or if he has actually returned to Nigeria, and if he came here to die, or came here to resume his duties as President. I asked my driver this morning what he thought about this and he just shook his head and laughed and said "This country is such a mess." Well, you wouldn't have caught me saying that because I'm trying to put a good spin on it looking for the good things here and all. There's always something intriguing and appealing about a man of mystery, isn't there?

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