A dispute between the Presidency and an online news medium, SaharaReporters, has introduced a new dimension to the health challenge that President Goodluck Jonathan had in London on Thursday.
The matter was provoked by a response by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, to a story by SaharaReporters on the illness.
The medium had, on Friday, alleged that Jonathan’s health broke down in London after engaging in a drinking spree during a bash organised to mark his 56th birthday. That this angered the Presidency is evident in the tone of statement issued by Abati, which indicates that the government may institute a legal action.
In the statement that has sparked online reactions by many Nigerians, Abati said contrary to SaharaReporters’ claim, Jonathan observed his birthday on Wednesday quietly with better part of the day spent on air from Abuja to London – while the remaining part was spent in the privacy of his hotel room.
The statement partly read, “It is very regrettable indeed that after complying with President Jonathan’s standing instruction that Nigerians must never be kept in the dark about the state of his health, the public was duly informed that the President had received precautionary medical attention for an unexpected indisposition in London. SaharaReporters and some other reckless, lawless, impudent and unpatriotic Internet-based media chose to assault the sensibilities of all decent Nigerians again with their entirely fictional, malicious, hate-driven and scurrilous distortion of the facts of the President’s indisposition.
“The suggestion by SaharaReporters that President Jonathan took ill following a ‘heavy birthday party thrown to celebrate the President’s 56th birthday at his Presidential suite in the InterContinental Hotel in London’ is fictional nonsense as there was definitely no party in London to celebrate President Jonathan’s birthday on Wednesday night.”
With the latest development, the presidential spokesman has once again come under fire from Nigerians who say the response is hardly necessary. A majority of Nigerians who have taken to Twitter, Facebook and The Punch news website, where the statement was also published, say Abati’s response has thrown the hitherto ‘unpopular and unknown report’ into the open.
Meanwhile, in the midst of the debate, New York, US-based SaharaReporters says its report on the President’s health is valid. It made this known in a statement on its website, saying, “Despite Mr. Jonathan’s threats and deployment of scare tactics, SaharaReporters, stands by its account of the events in London in the past few days.
“While we have the attention of the president and the hawks in the Presidency, we take this opportunity to draw their attention to the scandalous quality of Nigerian governance that SaharaReporters and most of the Nigerian media have been reporting for many years, of which his government forms only a part.
As the 2015 election approaches and Mr. Jonathan tries to invite the sympathy of Nigerians in his favour, we challenge him to prove — including in a court of law – that these reports have been “entirely fictional, malicious, hate-driven and scurrilous distortion of the facts.”
Stating his views on the issue in The Punch website, a certain Uba wrote, “They now respond to every gossip – even beer parlour gossips. The Internet is a cesspool of gossip and millions of Nigerians were not even aware of this gossip because it was not carried by the mainstream media. Why on earth is this president now replying to bloggers?’’
Abiodun Adeniran, who also dropped a comment on the website, corroborated Uba’s stance in his post which read, “I think the press relation managers of the President are a big apology by making him to respond to a ‘beer parlour gossip’. The truth is that excelling and making an indelible performance in a post like the Presidency or any other exalted office does not necessarily require the office holder to have exceptional knowledge.”
Akin, on the other hand, expressed his opinion in a rather humorous manner, saying, “Abati! Abati!! Abati!!. How many times did I call you? Why are you using ‘big big’ grammar that even your Oga does not understand? Your use of big grammar and abusive words shows a desperate man trying to be defensive by all means. Ok what caused the ‘abdominal pain’?”
Another respondent, Adaku, also shares Akin’s thought, arguing, “You make me vomit with your attempts to protect your principal. Please, try to sound a little bit believable. There is still life for after your days in the Presidency. Or will there not be?”
Comments have also been flowing in torrents on Twitter where respondents to the ongoing debate have not been milder either. Mooha posted a sarcastic tweet which read, “Make they tell Nigerians the truth about Jonathan’s health . Rueben Abati, make una tell us the truth and no propaganda please.”
Lawrence Aknwumi also noted that it is important for the Presidency to establish the meaning of ‘precautionary treatment’.