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12.03.2009 Africa

Anxiety over Yar'Adua's health

By The Statesman

President Musa Yar'Adua"s health has become a major worry for Nigerians. The anxiety went into overdrive when the president took another "vacation' on 26 January to, according to the grapevine,  seek another round of medical

And what is more unnerving - his official spokesmen continue to say nothing to the nation, reports Osasu Obayiuwana from Lagos.

At the best of times, coping with the demands of running an ethnically diverse and politically complicated country such as Nigeria is tasking, even for a president in peak physical condition.

 But President Umaru Yar'Adua"s decision to say as little as he can about his health worries, obviously a sensitive personal subject - has done little to reduce anxiety in the Nigerian polity, as commentators continually question his ability to discharge the strenuous functions of his office.

 "Anybody ruling any complex entity like Nigeria should be in the best of luck. It is obvious that this president is not in the best of luck, even he will be the first to admit that,' Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka recently commented.

Yar'Adua is alleged - as there is no official confirmation of this - to be suffering from long-term kidney problems. His recent decision to go on a two-week holiday from 26 January, at a time that world leaders were brainstorming on how to plot a way out of the global financial crisis at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, did little to dispel rumours that his health was failing and he was seeking discreet treatment.

Those rumours, however, were not a worry for Segun Adeniyi, Yar'Adua's presidential spokesman, who refused to make any pronouncement on his boss's health.

'I'm not going to react to that story. Whether it is true or false, newspapers can go ahead speculating on the health of Mr President. I won't talk about it,' Adeniyi said.

Nigeria's Business Day newspaper had quoted a special assistant in the presidency as saying aides and ministers were trying to get approval for government business before he left.

Although Yar'Adua made it clear in a statement that all matters normally handled by him will be dealt with by Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan, the capacity in which Jonathan functioned during Yar'Adua's vacation became a matter of fierce debate by parliamentarians and constitutional lawyers.