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Nigeria: First Lady's Sickness – Fact and Fallacy?

Nigeria’s First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, is currently in Germany but uncertainty is surrounding her trip. SaharaReporters broke the news on September 2, 2012, that Mrs Jonathan was admitted to a German hospital:

Nigeria's First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, has been in a hospital in Germany in the last four days, Abuja State House sources have told SaharaReporters, undergoing treatment for food poisoning. The sources say Mrs. Jonathan, who is also a Permanent Secretary in the Bayelsa State civil service, was airlifted to the hospital by an air ambulance in midweek under emergency medical conditions. Presidency sources stated that the emergency airlift departed for Wisbanden, Germany, but it is not clear if her treatment was being undertaken in that city.  They said she was only able to speak earlier today, four days after her arrival, because the illness had been so severe that she lost her voice.

First Lady Patience Jonathan of NIgeria. Photo released under Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0) by Flickr user mdgovpics.

Almost immediately the First Lady’s Media Assistant, Ayo Osinlu, refuted the news saying that Dame Jonathan was not sick but on vacation:

“If you look at her itinerary in August, you will be wondering how she was able to accomplish that. In the course of this week, she will be back home. But remember, it all depends on her plans,” he said. But when contacted yesterday, Osinlu refused to comment further on the matter, saying that reacting to the issue would amount to giving credence to a mischievous report.

 The media assistant lied!

SaharaReporters was not deterred by the denial and shed more light on the First Lady’s health trip:

The “food poisoning” condition that landed Mrs. Patience Jonathan in a hospital in Germany reportedly started in Dubai eleven days ago where she had gone to see a doctor because her hands were twitching. Presidency sources said she had gone to Dubai after the recent African First Ladies Summit in Abuja, an event that imposed an unfamiliar and grueling schedule of meetings and late nights on Mrs. Jonathan, saying she needed some rest.

Her visit to Dubai was explained as a vacation but our sources said it involved a medical procedure, while in Dubai, she reportedly had “food poisoning” alongside her medical doctor,  soon after she returned to Abuja last Monday, the emergency broke and she had to be airlifted to Wiesbaden, Germany for food poisoning.

Since SaharaReporters broke the news yesterday, the Presidency has officially kept mum about the First Lady's condition.  Despite a media arm recently fortified to give Mrs. Jonathan a more aggressive press presence, it has provided neither denial nor confirmation.  There have, however, been half-hearted denials and spins in some newspapers and blogs claiming that Mrs. Jonathan is only resting, but none of those outlets have provided her location or shed light on her condition.

SaharaReporter’s position was confirmed by other sources:

Contrary to denials by presidential spokesman Reuben Abati, and the bare faced lie by Dame Patience Jonathan’s spokesman, Ayo Osinlu that the first lady is only “resting” in a foreign country, it has been revealed that the First Lady, Mrs Patience Jonathan, has undergone surgery in a German hospital for ruptured appendicitis. According to THISDAY sources, she was flown out for medical treatment over a week ago.

[...] It was learnt that Mrs. Jonathan, shortly after returning from a trip to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), took ill, prompting the invitation of the First Family’s medical personnel to attend to her. She was said to have been treated for food poisoning for four days, “but her condition kept worsening by the day,” the source said.

By the fifth day, President Goodluck Jonathan was said to have yielded to the suggestion that she be flown abroad for “thorough treatment.” It was not certain if the inability of the president’s doctors to treat her was because of faulty diagnosis or insufficient facilities.

AllAfrica.com published this:

 It was learnt that the Presidency was worried over the heat generated by the First Lady's sickness and the poor handling of the information. [...] Close associates of the President, it was learnt, had warned against the backlash of trying to cover up the woman's health condition on the grounds that it was not an offence to be sick.

The source said: “We have made it clear to those who want to hide everything that Dame Jonathan has not committed any offence by being sick since she is a human being. That is why there may be a change of attitude and Dame's whereabouts and type of sickness made clear by her handlers. We do not want a repeat of the Yar'Adua episode [see below] this time around.”

Nigerian bloggers have not ceased speaking and asking questions. TTOwonubi recalls the drama that surrounded the health of late President Umaru Yar'Adua:

This is not the first time the health condition of an important public figure in the country will be shielded from public scrutiny; in 2010, during the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua administration, Nigerians were regaled with conflicting stories about the fitness of the president and multiple phantom sightings by aides who apparently had something to benefit from the widespread misinformation. We do know that a first lady is unelected and doesn’t hold a constitutional office. However, she is beloved by millions who admire her as wife of the number one citizen of our country, and those people deserve to know what the state of her health is. The waiting game continues.

Health care in Nigeria

Akintunde Oyebode asserts that the First Lady's search for health is not merely a manifestation of health problems at home but also a glaring vote of no confidence on her husband’s government:

The nature of her illness is less relevant; it does not matter if she suffers from exhaustion, food poisoning or a ruptured appendix. The irony is that neither the President nor is wife has shown faith she can be treated in Nigeria. This is a damning self-assessment of the Jonathan administration, and the ones before it. The list of serving government officials that seek solace elsewhere when their bodies show the slightest sign of weakness is endless. To them, the National Hospital in Abuja is a museum that houses medical artifacts.

The Federal Government plans to spend N282 billion on healthcare in 2012. This seems like a tidy sum at first glance, but when you remember that the same government plans to spend over N60 billion on a bogus amnesty program, it is a sign we are yet to understand our priorities. While the aptly named Government Tompolo Ekpumopolo earns over N3 billion to protect pipelines, the National Health Insurance Scheme has a budget of N1.6 billion. It seems surreal that a man who should be locked up in Ita-Oko Prison for an indefinite period is paid more than a National Health Insurance Scheme; we need not wonder why less than 1 in 20 Nigerians have health cover of any kind.

Julius Umogbai was satirical in his ‘Letter to Dame Patience Jonathan‘:

My dear Dame Patience Jonathan, I thank God for your life o! The bad thing that bad people wished on you, food poisoning-appendicitis, did not come to pass! All glory to Jah, the Most High, for spearing your life for Nigeria!

As you are ensconced in the luxurious setting that the German people have created through their building an open, transparent, and democratic society, there are a few things I would like to trouble you with!

How can a presidential medical team, miss it so grossly? Could it be that the long-standing medical personnel, who were probably not from your husband's ethnic group, were replaced with new, inexperienced ones, who are ethnically correct? It is not possible, that such vital positions are now being staffed on the bases of ethnic considerations! I know your husband does not do things like that!

Madam, if you, the Very First, and Only Lady of Nigeria et cetera et cetera et cetera, could suffer such egregious medical malpractice, you can imagine what the rest of us, your always humble subjects, who patronize the popular side, when it comes to medicare, have to put up with!

His letter ends with an appeal:

My humble appeal to you is this, when next you find yourself lying on the chest of your husband, our president (I know it does not happen often, because you are so busy serving Nigeria, and are not given to such worldly matters), tell him to give us hospitals that actually save lives, and not the mere portals to morgues they are gradually becoming!

Please give our love to the doctors that treated president Yar’Adua, you may be shocked to find out, that the hospital is probably owned by a Nigerian who stole public money, and went to Germany to invest!

As you recuperate with delicate Deutsche delicacies, I bid you, auf wiedersehen!

  • http://twitter.com/MatildaKerry360 Dr. Matilda Kerry

    Lol! The letter to The first lady is so hilarious but on point! Food poisoning or appendicitis flown to germny to treat? Shame shame shame on the Gov! Emergencies happen everyday, fix our healthcare system. Next time you may not have hours to spare between life and death! Again I wonder, is the curse of the Nigerian Presidency manifesting already. Wish you all Good luck.
    P.s stop stealing funds it only leads to death! Adieu

  • Clinton Adams

    am gratefule that enamy could not successfule with their eveil plane Glory be to God we thank God

  • Margahayuland

    No matter if some one searches for his necessary thing, therefore he/she desires to be available that in detail, therefore that thing is maintained over here. Margahayuland | Penting, Panas, Perlu dan Seruu

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