The likable wife of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria took ill not long ago and was told to jump on the next available flight to London to be treated medically. While playing to the gallery at a recent meeting in Abuja, she told the whole world that she refused to be flown abroad. She probably refused to be flown abroad simply because what was wrong with her was not life threatening! If it was, she possibly would have requested whoever was in charge of the medicare of the first family to fly her out pronto.
What if the Britons never developed their health care sector and allowed it to get to the same comatose state ours is presently in, where would they have taken Mr. President to when he took ill? It is a big shame that a 57 year old nation is still toying with the healthcare of her citizens. There are too many Nigerians who die needlessly daily. The only fault of theirs was to be born in a nation that does not care a hoot about their health.
When the regrettable news about the Aso Rock clinic came out, I was not moved one bit. I was not surprised that the ‘celebrated’ clinic does not have a common syringe! You know why? It is because the same ineffective, corrupt and feeble system drives everything in our dear country. If there is no order on our dusty streets, do not also expect to find it in the most privileged place in our polity. This is why our politicians are fond of traveling outside the country, even to treat headache!
I am writing this way because I have been to so many hospitals in Nigeria and I have a first-hand experience of what the masses are going through daily in a nation called “the giant of Africa.” The last time I was inside a hospital, I said to those who were with me on that if they could afford to travel beyond the shores of Nigeria for medical treatment that they should please do so.
A few years back, one of my friends took his wife to one of our hospitals. He dropped her off and quickly dashed to the office to go take care of an urgent task that he was not allowed to delegate. A few minutes after he got to his office, he called to know if his wife had been attended to. But she informed him of still being at the reception, waiting to be attended to. An hour later, the story remained the same. Some hours even after that, the sitation was unchanged. My friend ultimately left his office and met his wife the same way he left her in the morning! Finding her in excruciating pain, he was forced to make some noise, only after she was attended to and wheeled into an operating theatre. If one made an effort to travel round our greatly valued country, it could be found that the story is virtually the same from place to place.
Each time this and other raging national issues are raised, the first thing our professional politicians say is something in this manner: “You know that we are still young as a nation. With time, we would get it right. You know America, German, England…have been around for so long a time…” Each time I am told something like this, I always get very upset. Do we need 800 years as a nation before we can be able to install an excellence-driven health care system for our people? Are we re-inventing the wheel? Can’t we just copy what the Germans have perfected and implement it here? Instead of shamelessly traveling to countries where their health care systems are working, can’t we reproduce here what is making these countries work?
In 1970, Oman’s health care system was not performing well, just as ours is not performing well right now. The child mortality rate was very high. But major government investments proved to be successful in improving system performance. Oman’s success in recent times shows that tremendous strides can be accomplished in a relatively short period of time. How did Oman move from where they were to where they are today in a context of excellence-driven health care system? Instead of wasting scarce money to send people to both Jerusalem and Saudi Arabia, let us send some of our intelligent men and women to Oman to understudy them and reproduce this in Nigeria. It can be done, if we are serious as a people.
Ademola Adeoye is a public affairs analyst.