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President Buhari, Nigerian hospitals and the hapless millions

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Now, that President Buhari has returned and the man himself has told us how sick he was despite the lies from his aides that he was hale and hearty, can we now seriously turn our attention to asking why it is so patently difficult to get our hospitals working?

President Buhari is lucky that as Nigerian leader, his country picked the tab for his treatment. What about the several millions of his countrymen who cannot afford the cost of a sachet of Panadol? What about those we see everyday on television on sickbed looking for millions of naira to travel to India( yes, India) for treatment of kidney related ailments? Who picks up their tab?

Last week, Prince James Uche, a well known actor in this country died after being bed-ridden for eight years; before him, Elder Maya, another prominent Nollywood actor had succumbed to the same kidney-related disease that cut short Uche’s life. These are men in the public glare ordinarily expected to fare better than the unnamed and nondescript millions. Who pleads the cause of these millions?

We get into all sorts of shenanigans and pitch tents across political divides but the truth is whether the so-called “looters” in the former ruling party or the much touted “progressives” in the current ruling party, all have failed and cannot be excused.

President Buhari is lucky that as Nigerian leader, his country picked the tab for his treatment. What about the several millions of his countrymen who cannot afford the cost of a sachet of Panadol?

We have heard it said that the PDP ruined Nigeria in the sixteen years it was in power; if we allow for the sake of argument that the canvassers of this position are right, the question to ask is as far as healthcare delivery is concerned, have the “progressives” fared better than the PDP both in terms of provision of facilities and service delivery?

The answer is of course, a resounding: No! In 2013, Alhaji Ademola Fashola, a former journalist died in London. He was the father of Babatunde Fashola, then Governor of Lagos State. He didn’t die in Nigeria even though his son had been Governor for six years in one of the richest states in the country. The bottom line was that his son in the six years he had presided over of Lagos, had failed to develop the healthcare sector in the state. It was in the same deplorable state, Senator Bola Tinubu, his predecessor in office, left it. As a matter of fact, at the time the senior Fashola died, Doctors in Lagos were on strike.

And then, there’s a man called Godswill Akpabio, a former PDP Governor. Akpabio ran Akwa Ibom State, one of the richest states in Nigeria, for eight years. He spent billions in building a “world class” hospital and when on occasion he was cruising in Abuja, his car tipped over and he sustained bruises, he was not treated at the National Hospital in Abuja or flown to Uyo to receive medical attention at the “world class” facility he had erected. He was flown out of Nigeria where he spent weeks in a foreign hospital.

Nigerians die needlessly everyday even though billions are budgeted annually for the health sector and rather than interrogate this anomaly, we bury our heads in the sand.

I cringed when I heard President Buhari gleefully announce that he would be going back to London at a later date for more treatment and I wondered whether our problem was really about corruption alone or about a lack of commonsense and lack of shame. That we cannot even see the indignity of having our President, the leader of our country God has blessed with a plenitude of human and natural resources, being attended to by foreign doctors in a foreign land, is a matter for serious shame.

Have we asked ourselves whether were President Donald Trump of America in the position that our president found himself in the last two months, the Americans would mindlessly put him on a plane to England for medical attention or they would get the best doctors in America to treat him on home soil?

Why exactly do we have a hospital in the State House if our President and leading administration officials would repeatedly hightail out of the country at the slightest sign of ailment. Why do we have all the Teaching Hospitals spread across the country? Why?

Thank God President Buhari has returned healthier than when he left Nigeria on January 19 this year. With what he has gone through according to his own testimony, he should know that it is incumbent on him to declare an emergency on Nigeria’s health sector. He should remember everyday as he reflects on his ordeal in London that there are millions here in Nigeria not as lucky as he has been and he should do the needful for them.

Written by Nnamdi Okosieme, veteran journalist, Managing Editor, The Federalist Newspaper

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