Umaru Yar’adua, the president of Nigeria, has been in a hospital in Saudi Arabia for a heart condition since November 2009—and he forgot to tell anyone. For six whole weeks. No phone, email, wave from the balcony, or blog. Not even a simple tweet, which is downright rude. 150m plus Nigerians, united only through football and skin colour, did not have a leader to tuck them into bed and tell them this it’s all going to be okay. Previous to now, I didn’t know much about him—Nigerian politicians are about as interchangeable as Blair and Cameron. I didn’t even vote—I’m in Britain, and Nigeria didn’t ask for my opinion on the guy. I guess that’s why, when I found out, my response was “huh.”
Not “huh?” mind, but “huh.” Like it’d started off as a serious question but felt a little man-flu-ey and went back to bed. More like “meh.”
I asked my brother what he thought. His first response was “What?” but then his eyes and thoughts went back to his computer screen and Modern Warfare 2. Better than “huh,” but still nowhere near the level of emotion this momentous event deserved. We’ve lost a president for god’s sake! He’s locked himself in his room and won’t answer the door! My brother and I have had longer, more satisfying discussions about computer games. “What” is only “meh” with more wind.
I told my mother.
Finally! A real life, old school, normal Nigerian response fit for the occasion. She turned on CNN. CNN was busy with Obama. Then she checked Sky News, which said something about snow. Hell, even NTA (Nigerian Television Authority), the one channel that could be milking this story for all it’s worth…and nada. She didn’t believe it. I pointed her to the internet. The internet told her that this time I wasn’t lying. Then she spat out a mothball of conspiracy theories, blaming everyone except the Pope. It was two minutes long, then she stomped into the kitchen, not to be seen until dinner. All roads point to “meh.” Online, my Nigerian friends posted comments. Summary: “Oh. Meh.”
The Guardian online said he’d disappeared. Pooey. He was in a Saudi Arabian hospital. It’s sort of like when Fidel Castro was ill, except Fidel Castro went to a hospital…