Fr. Timothy Etsenamhe
Nigerians woke up on Tuesday the 30th of March 2021 to a somewhat disturbing news. Mainstream newspapers and television stations have it as their headline the visit of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Mohammadu Buhari, to London for his routine medical checkup. No doubt he has been London sick. The last time he visited the beautiful and conservative city was on 20th January, 2020 for the UK-Africa Investment Submit. His last medical trip was on 25th April, 2019. It is indeed a long time away from the luxury of his London medical tourism. It is therefore not a surprise to hear of the president’s jetting out to the capital of the Queen’s monarchy. London would afford him at least the opportunity not to only have access to sophisticated medical care but also to relax his nerves from a long period of disturbing issues of incessant killing of innocent Nigerians and the bizarre kidnapping by bandits and terrorists and a host of other problems he has been attending to. Giving his age and the stress of governing Nigeria today, our dear president needs a medical checkup.
However, it is worrisome for a president of a country to easily jet out of his country just for medical checkup at a time when the country’s Resident Doctors are warming up for an industrial strike action. Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity to the President, admits the President is hale and hearty. ‘’He has gone for his normal routine medical checkup’’, he said. The big question is: can’t our medical doctors examine him here at home, at least just for the moment? I am aware that there is a clinic that should take care of the health challenges of the ‘First Family’ and all the staff in the villa. I am aware too that billions of naira are allocated to this clinic yearly. I am also aware that there are qualified doctors, nurses and other medical personnel working in this clinic. What I am oblivious of is the fact that there is availability of medical equipment and medicine in the clinic. We heard of the rant by the beautiful wife of the president bemoaning the non-availability of paracetamol in the clinic some time ago.
The president’s continuous flight from the villa clinic and other hospitals in Nigeria belittles, discriminates against, and rubbishes the Nigerian Health Sector and all her seasoned medical personnel. This is what I call the Buhari’s Snub. It is a supremacist attitude that relegates the standard of doctors, nurses and other medical personnel in Nigeria. Sad enough, almost every Nigerian is guilty of this. Unfortunately many do not have the money to live out this their fantasy. We tend to prefer goods and services from abroad while we snub our locally made content. At a time when the federal government should strengthen her health institutions and discourage her citizens from medical tourism, it is really unpatriotic for the president to resume his routine London medical checkups. It is a global shame! The medical tourism of the president portrays to the world the poor state the country’s health sector and the general maladministration going on in Nigeria. Nobody comes from London to access medical attention in Nigeria; nobody comes from Dubai to Nigeria for medical checkup; a country that was like a desert in the recent past. Strange enough Nigerians troop to Dubai today for treatment and checkup. This attitude presents Nigeria as a ‘shit hole’ country- it shows the filthiness of the Nigerian state.
It is a Fact that Nigeria loses about N576 billion yearly to medical tourism yet our health sector is in doldrums. Every sector in Nigeria is epileptic and substandard and yet we have all the natural and human resources to get the best out of anything. Everyday thousands of people die from illnesses that could be easily cured if there were functional medical facilities. Our schools are a mockery of what the British and missionaries left for us, citadels that are dwarfed by regular strike actions occasioned by lack of care for teachers and lecturers. The only sector that is thriving today is the religious sector, if it meets the category of a sector. Perhaps that is why Nigerians who are sick and are supposed to be hospitalized are kept in ‘‘Holy Ghost clinics.’ As a pastor in a village these days you would easily fill in for a midwife. Village women cannot access antenatal care only to be left to trust in God via the pastor’s prayer for safe delivery.
The Nigeria health sector leaves nothing to be desired. It is poor and not given due attention. Our Teaching Hospitals are jam packed. Patients would have to bribe before getting a bed in a ward. Many patients with serious health issues are told to go home and given appointments because of the paucity of medical facilities to accommodate them. Many of such patients’ illness relapse and even die before their appointment. This has given rise to quack doctors and nurses who ply their trade with human life. Medical doctors are poorly remunerated. Young Doctors who are eager to work after school have no placement for their internship. This has led to the humongous brain drain experienced in the medical sector. No thanks to the pandemic, young brilliant doctors and nurses are leaving the country in their thousands to where they will be valued and given the opportunity to work in good working conditions. Medical facilities to a large extent are in a state of comatose. We find dilapidated medical centres belonging to government everywhere. In these buildings, are torn out patient beds, it is either there are no equipment or they are not functional.
A country with a poor health sector is literally a sick one. We cannot be grateful to God enough for saving us from the harshness of Covid-19. If it were devastating down here we would have been dying like sick chickens lumped in an infected poultry. Yet we have not learnt the lesson of developing our health institutions. One would expect that the president at this trying time occasioned by the pandemic, knowing how poor the country’s health sector is would give priorities to revamping the health sector.
Buhari’s government should invest in our health sector. This is the lesson the pandemic is teaching us! More public health crises will come that might hit Nigeria hard, we should prepare for eventualities. The president should ensure that Medical personnel be cared for. Salaries of our health workers are the poorest in the world over. It is insane to hear that Nigerian doctors’ hazard allowance is N, 5000. Doctors and all other medical professionals should be well remunerated. Apart from this, securing a job as a doctor should not be a difficulty thing. Employment opportunities should be thrown at them because they are never too much. Europe and America for example with a lot of medical personnel are recruiting doctors and nurses from all over the world every day.
More standard hospitals should be built across the nation to assist the over-stretched and ailing Teaching Hospitals, Federal Medical Centres and General Hospitals. As a country we are blessed with wealth. We are among the highest producers of petroleum products in the world. We have got the best of brains in all sphere of human endeavours. What does it take the Nigerian government to build a world class hospital in every state of her federating units? The only reason why this is not possible is because of the greedy attitude of our leaders. Over the years our leaders have not been able to harness the natural and human resources of this great country to a profitable end for all. What we find are leaders who siphon our wealth into their pockets and those of their allies. Buhari has gone to London with Nigeria’s money, thousands of poor Nigerians die every day from common ailments because of deplorable state of our health centres and lack of funds to access good medical care. The president should not go for medical checkup abroad. He can take a vacation but not a medical checkup trip abroad. It is absurd! Let the Buhari led government save our dying health sector and not snub it.