Thursday, January 14, 2010

KALU - I spoke with Yar'Adua days after they rumoured he was dead

Govt denies Yar'Adua's death, pressure mounts

Govs hold fresh meeting on Yar'Adua

Soyinka laments lies to Nigeria, Nigerians' docility

Northern legislators meet
From Martins Oloja, Madu Onuorah, John Abba-Ogbodo, Azimazi Momoh Jimoh (Abuja) Abiodun Fagbemi (Ilorin) Emmanuel Ande (Jos) and Saxone Akhaine, Kaduna, Chukwuma Muanya (Lagos)

AMIDST rumours yesterday of the death of President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua in Saudi Arabia, the Presidency has urged Nigerians to ignore the story, saying that it is "not only false, but also a figment of the writers' imagination."

Special Adviser to the President (Media and Publicity), Olusegun Adeniyi, said the public should discountenance the story, insisting that President Yar'Adua was not only alive, but very much conscious and getting better.

Meanwhile, Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka and some other prominent Nigerians and groups yesterday called for an urgent solution to the quagmire

According to Adeniyi, who sent his response from Angola where he said he was attending the opening ceremony of the African Cup of Nations as a member of the Presidential Task Force on Nigeria's participation in 2010 World Cup: "The speculations are false. The President is alive and actually getting better. He is very much conscious, can talk and has been talking , including making phone calls to some people back home."

The presidential spokesman added that he travelled to Angola with the permission of President Yar'Adua. "I am here officially. But I am coming back home, hopefully tomorrow, because he has so directed," Adeniyi said.

Indeed "last night, former governor of Abia State, Oji Uzor Kalu told The Guardian what he called "the most authentic proof that the rumour is worse than a lie."

"How could a man I spoke to on December 31, 2009 could have died on December 10?"

According to him, "Mutawallen Katsina spoke to me. I know his voice. Hamza, his Special Assistant who was his ADC when he was Katsina State governor, facilitated the call. " I was in Lebanon. I called Hamza to ask after the President's health and he told me he wouldn't see him until about four hours later."

After that, said Kalu, "he indeed called me back and handed the phone to President Yar'Adua. His voice was low but we exchanged banters the way he and I would normally do."

According to the former Abia governor, the President may have been moved to one of the residential houses of the Saudi King from hospital to stave off pressures.

"But to say keeping him in-communicado means he is dead is stretching the imagination too far."

Inside the Presidential Villa Abuja, the atmosphere was normal all through the day. There were no public engagements by Vice President Goodluck Jonathan who was still in his office at about 6pm.

But he received some visitors. The first was the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu and, later, chairman of the National Ports Authority (NPA) and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Tony Anenih. Also, the Director General of the State Security Services (SSS), Mr Afakriya Gadzama, was with the Vice President. All officials were also on the ground in the Presidential Villa.

When The Guardian contacted the Minister of Information and Communications, Prof. Dora Akunyili, she said: "I am not aware. What I do know is that Mr. President is responding to treatment, and he recently spoke with the Vice President."

Minister of Health, Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin, also told The Guardian that he was not aware of anything on the President "Chukwuma! You should take it easy. I have not heard of any such thing," he said in response to the rumour of the President's death.

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