The health of national leaders

Tue, 16 Apr 2013 Source: Dale-Asiedu, Michael

With the “Apetupre’s singing their hallelujah chorus to the Lord in appreciation for a new day, and Ghanaians commuting countrywide on their daily assignments, the 24th July, 2012, began as a normal day for most people. However, the sky was gloomy as if to suggest the hovering around of the proverbial sinister owl over the whole nation. Nonetheless, no one had the ever minutest pedigree of conviction as to what was to befall Ghana later in the course of the day, not even the “mighty prophets “across the nation and Africa. But alas, the pregnant gloomy nature of the Ghanaian weather was to give birth to a child, a child even posterity will ever dread, since it was totally out of sync taking into cognizance the nearness of the nation’s political grand finale, a child “Asaase Yaa” herself dreads as it renders her enormous and unceasing pain six feet deep any time, a child the good people of mother Ghana will dread over and over again.

Rumors of the child’s birth had been rife but finally certified with the final declaration of the demise of the first gentleman of Ghana, President John Evans Atta-Mills. His death which happened at about 2:15pm at the 37 Military Hospital in Accra was corroborated by Mr. Henry Martey Newman, chief of staff.

Elsewhere in Ethiopia, rumors of the death of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi too were all over the place. In his case, he had been absent from the public eye for quite some appreciable amount of time notably among them was his inability to turn up for the African Union Summit in Addis-Ababa where he was slated to most definitely give the welcome address as the host president. Prime Minister Meles again failed to calm the ascending rumors of doom when he did not show up at the funeral of Abune Paulos, Head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. If a whole prime minister could not show up in gatherings of gross significance as these then there unarguably must be something amiss, a puzzle to be solved or unlocked. But finally on August 20th, last year, the news came that Prime Minister Meles Zenawi had joined the silent majority in a Brussels hospital. Then drawing inspiration from the above paragraphs and guided by personal intuition with the interest of the nation at heart, I ask, “should the health of national leaders be a matter of concern to citizens?” Sharp dissensions arise out of this question with different schools of thought. Some reply in the affirmative whilst others cling strongly to the negation of the matter. Those who say “NO” argue strongly that irrespective of the fact that, national leaders are vetted, called to serve and all that, they are still private people and need space to lead their private lives and as such private matters such as their health, relationships and what have you should be left alone. Vetting and other rudimentary checks are done on prospective national leaders to ensure that they have some level of goodwill cum integrity to drive the nation to a desired or appreciable destination. If through vetting certain facts are revealed that will obstruct an individual in the fluid discharge of his duties I believe none will vouch for his or her approval.

Rumors of President Mill’s ill health have been all over the place but anytime they came up he, the president was seen on national platforms refuting them, saying he was buoyant with life so much that at a point in time, he objected to sitting during his ‘Meet the Press’. Remember, this is a president whom we were later to know could hardly sustain more than three hours a day. A president yet again blossoming in health was seen jogging jubilantly at the Kotoka International Airport after the return of his routine check-up, have you ever thought of his tedious and tiring cutting of suds countrywide? Did anyone ever think of his health condition? Were these activities so daring for a president whom we were later to know had cancer? What is more the nation is at sea as to what actually caused his demise with varying pronouncements including Parkinson disease. Should autopsy for a national leader be dreaded at all? On the other hand,rumours of prime minister Meles Zenawi’s ill health and subsequent death were often disputed by his Deputy prime minister Haile Mariam Desalegne.He often attributed his superior’s absence to a minor illness much to the objection of the opposition until that fateful day.

Then a glaring question suffices again, should we make propaganda in our politics concerning the health of our national leaders? What is worse, a sick president who we now know could hardly sustain more than three hours a day was given another mandate by his party to be their flag bearer.

What is wrong in knowing the health condition of our national leaders as citizens? Should death be used as propaganda in our politics too?

Recently, the Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos announced he was going for a prostate cancer surgery. I fervently believe that the entire nation with opposition members alike stood with him in prayers and wished him well. Added to these, doctors have diagnosed several current and former South American leaders with cancer and all these were made known to their people. Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez first announced his diagnosis last year, Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff while she was a candidate for the office and former Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva underwent treatment for throat cancer. Then Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2010, while Argentinian president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was treated for thyroid cancer. Yet again all these were made known to their people, what is wrong in Africans wanting to know the condition of health of their national leaders? If this is the situation then I hold the view that Ghana and Ethiopia would have been on a safer side if informed decisions were channeled concerning the health of their respective presidents. In the case of Ghana, I am left with no other option than to join former President Rawlings in his notion that “may be something wiser could have been done…”, thus in his interview he granted to BBC concerning President Mills’ death. Let’s all set the records straight since death is inevitable and families that happen to have national leaders in them should do us all some good in health decisions about their members who become leaders including the granting of autopsy. I therefore stress emphatically that as soon as one enters into the public arena as a leader, most of his activities as well become public not excluding his health. We should know the condition of our national leaders so that we will not be caught unawares. This will also help to know our limits concerning how farther we can push them. Good citizens of nations deserve some credence. May the respective souls of our leaders rest in perfect peace, long live African Democracy!

Michael Dale-Asiedu, michaeldaleasiedu@gmail.com michael.daleasiedu@facebook.com

Columnist: Dale-Asiedu, Michael