BBC Hausa interview with President Yar'Adua
BBC Hausa got a telephone interview in English and Hausa today with President Yar'Adua. It generated a huge reaction in Nigeria and around the world. Here is some background from Jamilah Tangaza, Editor of BBC Hausa.
By Jamilah Tangaza
Nigeria has been a whirlwind of rumour and speculation over the last week. The speculation was driven by uncertainty over the whereabouts and state of health of President Yar'Adua. He has been out of the country for more than 50 days.
The Hausa Service has an audience of 23 million people and they were contacting us, they were e-mailing us, they were texting us, they were blogging about us, and they were challenging us - "Please tell us what is happening with our President."
They were saying things like, "We rely on you to provide us with the truth - and we want the BBC to tell us the truth about Yar'Adua."
Senior government officials, who said he was receiving medical treatment in Saudi Arabia, maintained he was on his way to a full recovery following heart problem.
Four weeks after his departure, rumours were rife that President Yar'Adua was in a coma, others said he was brain-damaged. One report even claimed that he had died on the 10 January.
Rumours are not new to Nigeria; but then neither is speculation that Yar'Adua had died. During his presidential campaign in 2007 the would-be President Yar'Adua collapsed and was subsequently hospitalised in Germany.
In a dramatic response to speculation that he was dead, the then President Olusegun Obasanjo made a nationally televised phone call to Germany to convince Nigerians that Yar'Adua was indeed alive.
That was three years ago and Presisdent Obasanjo's intervention happened only hours after Yar'Adua had arrived in Germany. Last night, one of my thoughts was: if Nigerians needed to be convinced that Yar'Adua was alive after so short a time from falling ill in 2007, then such assurances were long overdue after 50 days of silence and absence.
The interview today aired across Nigeria and the World and put to rest the wilder stories. It has not put to rest complaints from the opposition about the extended absence and uncertainties it raises. And on the internet some new questions have been flying such as "Was it really Yar'Adua on the BBC?"
By way of an answer let me say that I and the interviewer thoroughly researched the interview before it was done. We dealt with people we know who are close to the President to set it up.
Before recording, Mansur Liman, who did the interview, had an informal chat to convince himself who we were talking to. In short days of checking on the president's whereabouts and condition culminated in the interview taking place.
One of my key concerns in broadcasting to a country as complex and sensitive as Nigeria, is making sure the BBC gets it right and our editorial checks have to be rigorous. With over 20 million Nigerians listening to the BBC on a regular basis, I feel pretty motivated to get the checks right.
One final thought: this is not the first time BBC Hausa has had cause to get to the heart of the story surrounding President Yar'Adua. In 2007 BBC Hausa service was the first to get an interview with Yar'Adua while he was receiving medical attention in Germany - again dispelling the rumours.
Jerry Timmins is Head of Africa Region, BBC World Service.