Tayo Busayo, Abuja
DAILY COURIER – A legal Practitioner, Amos Onokevagbe, has through his lawyer, Pius I. Oiwoh Esq, demanded the public release of medical and academic records of the Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and that of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, saying that if they failed to do so within 14 days of the receipt of the letter, he will be forced to institute a court action to compel the release of the information.
In separate letters written to the two presidential candidates on behalf of Onokevagbe by his lawyer, Pius I. Oiwoh Esq., copies of which were made available to DAILY COURIER, Oiwoh said:
“It is our client’s instructions that considering the innate rigours of the office of President and the mental and physical toll it can take on the health of an individual, our client requests that you instruct your physician to publish to the general public, a medical report detailing the state of your health, any chronic conditions you may be suffering from and any other sundry information on your health, which the general public would need to know to guide them to make an informed choice in the 2023 general elections. We also demand the publication, in the same manner, of your academic qualifications.
“TAKE NOTICE that the above demands are our client’s minimum demands. If however, these demands are not met, our client shall, within the next 14 days from the date of the receipt of this letter, proceed to a court of competent jurisdiction, to compel the release of this salient information in the overarching public interest.”
The letter further read: “Our client, a Nigerian, voter, community leader, and patriot have become increasingly worried by the absence of information on the health status of the 18 presidential candidates. This lack of clarity on the health statuses of the presidential candidates particularly the leading political parties has led to conjecture and rumour-mongering on the health statuses of the various presidential candidates. Lest our client is labelled a rabble-rouser or a meddlesome interloper who wants to know the private medical information of individuals, our client’s worry is borne out of his lived experience in Nigeria, where the health statuses of Presidents were shrouded in secrecy and which almost brought Nigeria to its knees.
“Our client refers to the health crisis of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, which eventually culminated in his death and which also made the National Assembly invoke the doctrine of necessity to make the then Vice President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the Acting President when the President was away without any official explanation.
“This unfortunate and sordid saga, which sadly led to President Yar’Adua’s death, led to a constitutional amendment. The second scenario which agitates our client’s mind was the ailment which plagued President Muhammadu Buhari during his first term in office, which led him to spend a long time away from his job as President while convalescing in the United Kingdom.
“The lack of information on the President’s health led to rumours, which ultimately and thankfully turned out to be false, that President Buhari had lost his life and led to the now infamous “Jubril of Sudan” narrative peddled by a few people with very fertile imaginations.
“Having noted the reasons why our client’s mind has become agitated, our client recognises that the argument usually against releasing medical records of candidates is that they are private records, but our client is firmly convinced that it is in the overarching public interest for you as a candidate to waive this right to privacy as voters must make an informed choice.
“Candidates must sometimes forgo their perceived constitutional rights which though in this case is not absolute, because of the public nature of the office and its significance, Candidates must specifically disclose any medical conditions that could seriously impair their ability to carry out the “core functions” of the presidency. This requirement is necessary because:
(1) Only with their consent do people have the right to be governed.
(2) People’s consent is meaningful only when they have access to the information required to cast an informed vote;
(3) Such information is required to vote intelligently; and
(4) There are no compelling competing interests to override this right.
“Given the well-documented history of deceit and secrecy surrounding Presidents’ and presidential candidates’ health, it is especially crucial to safeguard the public’s right to this information.