VIPs’ Health Crisis And Kogi Example, By Zainab Suleiman Okino

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When the Kogi state governor, Captain Idris Wada, was involved in a car crash on Friday, December 28, 2012, Nigerians expected the worst in many forms. He could be dead or in a critical situation. Whatever it was, Nigerians were (almost) unanimous and certain about one thing: his situation might not be managed properly, media wise that is, going by previous occurences. And you can’t blame Nigerians for their cynicism; they have seen so much of such dishonesty to expect anything less.

In sickness, in death and in governance, everything is a subject of speculations. This is how the nation is run until… Yes, the country is run on speculations, the media speculate too. And you can’t blame us.  Nobody knows what the country earns, spends or not spend.  The affairs of the men in (of) power, even personal, are official secrets. What they do and or do not do and how their actions or inactions affect us—positively (?) or negatively are all shrouded in secrecy. Governance is synonymous to how cult activities are run. It’s like a closet affair. It’s mystery all the way and those in government are deified. There is no limit to their secrecy even when the health of public officials is affected. You should, therefore, absolve Nigerians of blame when they expected a huge cover up in the Wada accident case.

However, this time, we were pleasantly surprised when the managers of information about the accident and other officials came clean  with the governor’s progress after the near-fatal crash For the first time in the recent history of tragedies associated with big men in this country, the governor’s media men were on hand to feed the prying eyes of the public. On the first day, they told the public what caused the accident and the governor’s condition. Jacob Edi, the governor’s special adviser on media and publicity, told the media that”the crash was caused by a burst tyre, but we thank God the governor was in a stable condition”  Richard Elesho, his “chief press secretary also confirmed  to journalists that the governor is not dead”. They went beyond this initial clarification to further elucidate on the progress of the governor.

As it is done in other climes, within 24 hours of his (governor) being moved to Abuja, a joint press conference between the hospital management and Kogi state officials represented by Jacob Edi, was organised to shed more light on the issue. The chief medical director of Cedercrest Specialist Hospital, Dr Felix Ogedengbe, at the press conference gave graphic details of what was going on. He disclosed that the governor is back on his feet after undergoing surgery on his fractured thigh, though the accident was a major one. “He is doing very well and not in a condition where his life is threatened”.  Side by side with the SA, the MD explained that the

hospital has the capacity to handle the case and advised the governor accordingly, who on his part agreed to be treated back home instead of being flown abroad. “We received the governor into our care… and explained his injury and the fact that we have the capacity to treat him here as can be done anywhere  in the world. He immediately agreed to have full treatment here. He isn’t that kind of person that will say I don’t care what you can do; I want to be flown to anywhere else in the world…” Still at the press conference, Jacob Edi told of his interaction which further gave credence to the governor’s condition.  These strings of information ended all speculations until full recuperation manifested.

Their effort is unprecedented and remarkable and kudos must be given to the victim, the governor, the medical team that counselled him and the media team that went public with available information on the case. Cedercrest is a specialist hospital I know very well because I go there. Revelations from my enquiries on the matter also corroborated the information in the public domain. When I called Jacob Edi on Sunday, it was not just to commiserate with him; I commended him for his handling of the issue. As someone from the state, I felt hugely proud of him; we belong to the same pen confraternity and he was my colleague in The Sun. Elesho on the other hand has been on the governor’s media team since Governor Ibrahim Idris’s first tenure. He was a former staff of the The News magazine, and he must be discharging his

duties creditably to have been retained by Idris the second time and now Wada.  In contrast to the constitutional crises being created by the absence, incapacitation and ill-health of governors elswhere, the Kogi example is exemplary and will sure set the standard on the ideal way of doing things instead of the political chicanery of shielding a sick governor, in the interest of a few smart political actors.

This is surprising considering the consequences of the action of the men of yesteryears who also played politics with their principals’ health, the most famous being Yar’Adua’s health and death. It would take a miracle for those actors to ever bounce back to power or to be trusted with public office any more. In the absence of a bed-ridden Danbaba Suntai, in Taraba, I understand the SSG, chief of staff and the commissioner of information call the shots in contrast with the functions of the acting governor, who has been reduced to a figure head. The same thing applies in Enugu state, where the acting governor recently  showed up during the state’s budget speech, while the powerful guys remained behind to dictate to him. There is, however, a limit to the exercise of illegitimate powers. From Enugu to Taraba and, to some extent, Cross River, I can only wish these ambitious men wearing ‘borrowed’ crowns, a long reign on shaky thrones. But with the Kogi model, all hope is not lost after all.

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