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By: Kali Gwegwe
Published February, 21st, 2010

Human Silence is very deep, pregnant, and multi-faced. Its underlying spirit is influenced mostly by shock, regret, anger, disappointment, shame, pain, law, or desire for peace. The abnormal tight-lip posture demonstrated by President Musa Yar’Adua on the heels of the political tsunami that arose following his hospitalisation at the King Faisal Hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia has helped to shed more light on the culture of silence and the collateral effects on a democratic society.

Events in the last two months has made it safe for this writer to suggest that the president’s unexpected silence has something to do with both his personal and forged perception of those people calling on him to activate section 145 of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria. As a kid, I was told that silence is the best food given to fools. As a matter of fact, Nigerians have been fed with enough bowls of silence about the health condition of their president. I remember vividly how one of my elder brothers nearly injured me for maintaining sealed lips when he sought information about his dinner. In my brother’s blunt opinion, I had called him a fool. By deliberately refusing to write to formally inform the National Assembly of his prolonged absence from office due to ill-health, many Nigerians believe that the president has squandered the goodwill they extended to him. They see themselves as being perceived as fools.

One other important reason for keeping silence is when one is in the premises of a sitting law court. As far as I know, King Faisal Hospital is not a law court and President Yar’Adua could therefore not be undergoing trial there. Like many others, I feel deeply touched by what the president is passing through at this time of his life. This is one strong reason why he still enjoys some amount of sympathy from Nigerians. Nevertheless, the presidency is like a tap root in a presidential democracy. A vacuum or disconnect in Aso Rock would portend danger for our nascent democracy.

Most of the seemingly anti-Yar’Adua campaigns are sincerely aimed at safe-guarding our budding democracy. Frankly, Yar’Adua’s immediate family and close aides did not manage the health issue properly. They painfully forgot that presidents and prime ministers all over the world hardly enjoy privacy. A president is more of a public property. The pro-Yar’Adua army must therefore appreciate this fact and stop seeing those who openly discuss Yar’Adua’s health as being inhuman. More than that, it is not yet a crime to fall sick. Nobody should therefore be ashamed of taking ill. Family members and close aides of Yar’Adua have painted the picture that it is a taboo for the president to fall sick. That was the reason why everything concerning his health condition has been wrapped in deep secrecy.

It is very difficult to explain why of the four official delegations that went to Saudi Arabia to see the president, none was allowed access. Despite this fact, more delegations are being packaged. The latest being that of the Federal Executive Council (FEC). Why are we joining in celebrating a culture of silence? It is undemocratic. Due Process, Rule of Law, Transparency, Accountability do survive in societies that revere the culture of silence. Little wonder why there is so much corruption and mal-administration in the polity.

The president’s recent BBC interview opened another big chapter on the crude culture of silence. While many doubted the authenticity of the voice in the said interview, I dismissed it as Bibicitocracy- a sophisticated form of silence made to deceive listeners. As far as Nigerians are concerned, President Yar’Adua has not yet spoken. And he really needs to talk to Nigerians. For now, it is only the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) that can protect Nigerians from the artilleries of lies and deceit launched against them by the apostles and zealots of the culture of silence.

On recently, the federal government raised an alarm that some persons are engaging in campaigns of calumny against Acting President Goodluck Jonathan. The aim of the campaign is clear: To derail the acting president. The amount of success to be achieved by Jonathan would be dependent on how he is able to manage the powerful band of unpatriotic elements that have continued to hold this nation hostage in order to protect their parochial interests. Enough is enough!

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