Wednesday, March 25, 2020 3:55 pm
By Ademola Adegbamigbe
What is happening in the world and Nigeria is akin to a refugee situation. In such environment, status becomes irrelevant and wealth is rendered useless. In other words, it is a leveler of sorts. Coronavirus is currently on tour of the world, making whistle stop visits to some countries, touching base, tornado style, in others. As Nigeria has banned all international flights, the sick among the rich cannot fly out like before when they would make quick dashes in their jets to better hospitals abroad. Even if they wish to scamper out to UK, US or Germany for better treatment, they are not welcome out there-they are now, so to speak or write, persona non grata!
Now Atiku Abubakar’s son; Abba Kyari, Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari; Governors Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State, Yahaya Bello of Kogi and a host of other high heeled individuals with much to spare, are stuck here with us, ordinary Nigerians, the flotsam and jetsam in the scheme of things. Now, we shall stay here and salvage it together! Does that statement sound familiar?
This has put in bold relief the neglect to which the health sector in Nigeria has, over the years, been subjected. On 9 October 2017, Aisha, wife of President Muhammadu Buhari, threw what looked like a bomb at the stakeholders meeting on Reproductive, Maternal, New Born, Child, Adolescent Health and Nutrition (RMNCAH and N) in Abuja. She was angry about the country’s health care delivery system in general and Aso Rock Clinic in particular.
Her speech reeked of frustration mixed with patriotic anger: “I would like to be realistic to say a few words concerning health delivery system in Nigeria. It is very poor, sorry to say that. I am happy that the MD of Aso Clinic is here. Dr Manir, I am happy that you are here. As you are aware for the past six months, Nigeria was not stable because of my husband’s ill health. We thank God that he has fully recovered now. If somebody like Mr. President can spend several months outside Nigeria, you wonder what will happen to a common man on the street in Nigeria.”
That is why Deen Adesina wrote on social media that between 2016 and 2018, the present administration budgeted a total of N5.2 billion for Aso Villa Clinic.
2016 = N3.87b
2017 = N331.7m
2018 = N1.03b
“So, why fly Abba Kyari to Lagos?,” He asked.
Aisha continued: “Few weeks ago I was sick as well; they advised me to take a first flight to London; I refused to go. I said I must be treated in Nigeria because there is a budget for an assigned clinic to take care of us. If the budget was N100 million, we need to know the way the budget is spent. And along the line I insisted; they called Aso clinic to find out if their X-ray machine was working, they said it was not working; they didn’t know that I was the person that was to be at that hospital at that very time. I had to go to a hospital that was established by foreigners in and out 100 per cent. What does that mean? I think it is high time for us to do the right thing.’’
Aisha’s the “right thing” was a re-echo of the coup statement that brought her husband in as Head of State on 1 January 1984 when he kicked, four square, the backside of the late President Shehu Shagari out of power. The late General Sani Abacha read the speech: “Fellow countrymen and women, I, Brigadier Sani Abacha, of the Nigerian army address you this morning on behalf of the Nigerian armed forces. You are all living witnesses to the great economic predicament and uncertainty, which an inept and corrupt leadership has imposed on our beloved nation for the past four years. I am referring to the harsh, intolerable conditions under which we are now living… Health services are in shambles as our hospitals are reduced to mere consulting clinics without drugs, water and equipment…”
Nigerians have been making comments about the development. One of them is Richard Akinnola: “If our politicians and political leaders at various levels over the years, do not learn serious lessons from this coronavirus issue as it affects our healthcare facilities, then, they can never learn. Since the coup broadcasts of December 31, 1983 and January 1, 1984 when Abacha/Buhari told us that our hospitals were mere consulting clinics, till now, the situation has not improved. Reason the political elite, at the slightest cough, rush to Dubai, London, Germany, US and India for better medical attention, leaving the hapless Nigerians to their fate.
Now, coronavirus is a leveler. Nobody can fly out for medical attention. The whole world is on lock down. A great lesson for all of us.
In a short piece, “Our Chicken Have Come Home to Roost,” Joel Nwokeoma, lamented the situation, that for 20 years running, our health sector funding has declined. “In many other cases, budgets are padded and looted by lawmakers and public officials with impunity. Some states just looked away in funding health and education sectors preferring instead in erecting white elephants. Our political elite lived in a binge unmindful of the Day of Reckoning. They all feared nothing.”
Now, he rammed it in on the politicians: “Now, coronavirus has brought fear upon the high and low places. The health sector they refused to fund is what they are now looking unto to save and salvage them. In particular, the Gwagwalada Hospital in the FCT they derided with no funding preferring to vire money meant for its expansion to building a 10-lane airport road is where they are now sequestered. In many towns and villages, there are no clinics and hospitals. Not that there’s no money for them. Some high-heeled felons cornered the funds to build massive mansions for themselves and lead luxury lives. And send their kids overseas to study and lead life in full crush.”
In Imo State, Nwokoema lamented further, successive governments said they were building 27 General Hospitals in each LGA. Today, they are mainly abode for rodents; that’s where they exist. “Now, no escaping the apocalypse. Coronavirus has exposed our self-deceit. It has exposed our folly. It’s exposed our collective idiocy. They can run but they can’t fly. Like Peter Tosh’s Downpressor Man, where will they run to now that the air and land borders have been closed? We are in it together. But God will not fail to reward the wicked in perilous times like this.”
Notwithstanding the above, Nigerians of different political persuasions are sympathetic to the leaders affected by Coronavirus. Chief Femi Fani kayode fits the description: “I just confirmed that my old friend and brother Mallam Abba Kyari, Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, has tested positive to Covid 19. This is sad news. Abba was my colleague at Cambridge University in the mid-1980’s and he was a partner in my father’s law firm, Fani-Kayode and Sowemimo, for many years.
We may not agree politically and I may oppose his principal and Government vehemently but I sincerely and honestly wish him well and I pray for a quick recovery for him just as I do for all the other Nigerians that have tested positive to the coronavirus, including my friend and brother Governor Bala Mohammed and Vice President Abubakar Atiku’s son. May God deliver our nation and our people from this evil scourge.”