Jan 25


The Ghanaian Times Tuesday January 25, 2011

The one thing the WikiLeaks cables has made stunningly clear is that we live in two worlds at the same time.

In the one, in which most of us live, our governments tell us what they think is allowed by a so-called science called “information management”. The product of this “science” is massaged information masquerading as truth.

Those who practise the art? (science!) remind me of what the people of my village said long ago about one of their chiefs. They named him ‘Ananse’, and added that “If he tells you to look up and you don’t look down, a snake will have bitten you before you know it!”

Almost all the governments in the world practise such mendacity. Indeed, in some countries, good journalists never believe anything until their government has denied it!

Why governments continue this practice, since all it does is to turn their more intelligent citizens into cynical disbelievers of information that emanates from official sources, is difficult to imagine.

The only explanation one can find is that governments so despise most of their citizens that they take it for granted that they can sell the citizens any line and have it believed by the majority of citizens, who, they believe, have a low mentality incapable of analysing events thoroughly and arriving at the truth behind them.

In the second world are those who know the real truth. Most top government officials are included in this group. But they don’t let it on that they know the truth. They, however, laugh at the distortions of the truth governments serve to the public – amongst themselves, in their clubs or at exclusive social gatherings.

Now, diplomats accredited to a country are usually among the best organisers of “social gatherings” in that country.

They open their ears wide at such gatherings, and as soon as they get back to their computers, they send reports of what they have heard back home.

In the case of American diplomats, WikiLeaks has helped us to gauge the efficacy with which they went about their business of obtaining the real truth behind governmental lying in the countries to which they were posted. The ambassadors of the US also had access to many important people, some of whom told them the real truth, because they wanted the US to understand their position.

And that is why every time a new WikiLeaks cable is made public, we just have to put our hands to our mouths and mutter, “So, that’s what was really happening?”

The people of Nigeria will have woken up on Monday morning, the 24th of January 2011, to put their hands to their mouths (again!) and mutter a two-word phrase that in German is more eloquent than hundreds of words: “Ah, so!”

For it would have been reported in their newspapers that the President whose health problems caused them so much wonderment between the time he took office on 29 May 2007 and when he died on 5 May 2010 had received a kidney transplant five years before he became President.

Now, what was wrong with that? In these days of great advances in medical science, it is no big deal to receive a kidney transplant.

The most complex – and important – of our organs, the heart, can be successfully transplanted. Yet Yar’Adua, both as Governor of Katsina and as national presidential candidate, managed to hide this information from his fellow countrymen.

Even after he became President and fell seriously sick, looking so ill that even a layman could tell he was not long for this world, the true state of his health was hidden from his fellow countrymen.

His own physician was quoted as telling the world that he was suffering from “acute pericarditis, an inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart”. Not a word about a kidney transplant.

Was it necessary that the truth be known? Yes, because it would have saved his countrymen a great deal of needless speculation. An illness is an illness: why was it okay for Yar’Adua to have “acute pericarditis” but not okay for him to have a kidney transplant?

Even ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, who is generally credited with being Yar’Adua’s godfather, appears to have had no knowledge of the kidney transplant (or that was the impression he gave).

When he was asked about why he had foisted a sick man on Nigeria as President, he was quoted as replying with words to this effect: he had asked about the man’s health and had been assured he was all right. It was a “matter of honour” for Yar’Adua to have told him. But he had chosen not to do so. In one funny instance, when rumours were rife in Nigeria that President Yar’Adua had died abroad, Obasanjo called him at a public meeting and asked him, “Umaru, are you dead?” Thus, the important issue of the  health of their President, was turned, for Nigerians, into the biggest joke of the day. For how can you ask a man whether he is dead?

The lesson in this for the Ghana Government’s propagandists, who appear to me to be too quick on the draw and often do shoot from the hip, when what they conceive to be “bad news” breaks out about our government, is to bear in mind that one day, the truth ‘go commot’! (if one may use a pidgin expression.)

The people who lied about Yar’Aduas condition will continue  to live in Nigeria. What will their fellow countrymen make of them in future?

Here is how the Associated Press told the world about YarAduah’ kidney transplant:

“The late Nigerian president Umaru Yar’Adua had a kidney transplant in 2002 while he was a state governor, but avoided having another one while he was President, over fears it would cause unrest, according to diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.

The cables suggest power brokers in the ruling People’s Democratic party knew about Yar’Adua’s condition, but propped him up to become the winning presidential candidate in 2007.

“Aides to the president stuffed his clothes to hide his weight loss and used makeup to hide his pallour, [emphasis added] the cables claim, but his illness ultimately led to a long absence from the oil-rich nation that fuelled public discontent.

Yar’Adua died in May 2010, propelling the Vice- President, Goodluck Jonathan, into the presidency. Jonathan is the ruling party’s presidential candidate for the April election….

“What is clear is that the president’s health is a matter of growing concern, particularly on the minds of the northern Nigerian elite,” a diplomatic cable from February 2009 reads. “We have noted a considerable uptick in what appears to be behind-the-scenes machinations and back-room dealing.”

“A spokesman at the US Embassy in Abuja, has said officials would have no comment on anything released by the website.

A diplomatic cable from June 2008 claims Yar’Adua first began experiencing renal failure in 1999, just as he became governor of the northern state of Katsina. The cable says German company Julius Berger, one of the dominant road construction firms in Nigeria, set up a dialysis clinic in Yar’Adua’s home.

“The firm later would fly German experts in and out of Nigeria to privately treat Yar’Adua, the cables claim….Yar’Adua received the transplant in 2002 from donor Sayyadi Abba Ruma, who would [later] serve as Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources, when Yar’Adua came into power. Ruma denied the cable claim, calling WikiLeaks a “witch-hunting device” and “a strategy for blackmail.”

“It never happened,” Ruma told Associated Press. “It’s not true. It’s malicious. It’s mischievous.”

The discolourations long noticed on Yar’Adua’s face, fuelling rumours about his ill health, came from the steroids doctors gave him to help his body accept the transplant, according to the cables….

“His health continued to fail. Doctors apparently told Yar’Adua he needed a second transplant and Ruma’s brother was sent to Germany to be checked as a possible donor…. However, a planned trip was put on hold over political calculations.

“Yar’Adua did not take this planned trip given public reaction to rumours about travel and concerns about his ability to govern,” the February 2008 cable reads. “We have no information on whether this trip may be rescheduled.”

“The president’s health continued to worsen. Yar’Adua left Nigeria on 23 November 2009, to seek medical treatment in Saudi Arabia. His physician later told journalists Yar’Adua suffered from acute pericarditis, an inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart.

However, Yar’Adua’s stay in Saudi Arabia drifted from days to weeks to months, stalling government activity in a nation vital to US oil supplies.

“Yar’Adua returned to Nigeria in late February 2010, but never appeared publicly. He died 5 May.”
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