I have tried as much as possible to be patient with the present President Muhammadu Buhari administration. The administration has equally urged Nigerians to be patient and give it time. And so like many Nigerians, I have held on, hopeful that the dividends of democracy would soon be ours.
To give this administration an opportunity to walk its talk as a government of change and for it to live up to its pre-election promises that it would do better than its predecessor.
Some of us were not totally convinced that there would be much difference, with the new administration, we only gave the benefit of the doubt because of the person of the president. One year on, nothing has happened to dispel this skepticism. It is becoming difficult not to speak out.
A few days ago the President travelled out of the country. A statement from the presidency said he would be gone for 10 days and in the course of his vacation, he would see doctors in the United Kingdom (UK) who would look into his persistent ear infection. According to the presidency, his personal physician and ENT specialists had checked the president and recommended further treatment in the UK. “Both Nigerian doctors recommended further evaluation purely as a precaution,” was how the presidency explained the justification for the medical consultation.
I do not have any problem with the president falling sick. He is human and any human can fall sick anytime coupled with the fact that he is not a young man. My major problem is in the fact that all our experts in the country could not cure the president of his ailment. Is this not an indictment on the state and practice of medicine in the country?
Early last month, Minister of Health Professor Isaac Adewole was in Akwa Ibom on an inspection tour of the Ibom specialist hospital built by former Governor Godswill Akpabio. He was full of praises at what he met on ground and said the federal government would partner with the state/hospital with the aim of ensuring that Nigerians do not go abroad for medical treatments again.
That was about a month ago. I wonder why the president did not avail himself of the facilities offered by the hospital or was the minister just saying his own thing, without actually believing it, the way most of our political office holders are wont to do? So why is it that the president did not use the hospital and send a strong signal to all Nigerians that the hospital is truly the way it has been described? Could the president’s non-use of the hospital be due to the fact that he does not have confidence in the personnel there? Or his ailment more serious than we have been made to believe and thus needs the secretiveness of an overseas doctors/medical facilities? If the president had gone to the Ibom Specialist hospital, wouldn’t there have been many advantages to the hospital. For one, it would have sent a strong signal to all Nigerians on the state of facilities and competence of medical personnel in the hospital. Not only that, we would have also been able to conserve our scarce foreign reserve. I recall that former Lagos state governor and current minister, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola had tried something similar a few years ago when he commissioned the medical facilities at the Lagos State University Teaching hospital (LASUTH). That year, he did not go abroad for his annual medicals, as we were made to believe, but went to LASUTH.
That act helped to bolster the confidence of Lagosians in the hospital. The state government also got a lot of mileage as it brought to the fore the effort made to bring the hospital to a level where it could compete with some private hospitals around. Now back to the president’s medical tourism, as expected, the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA)protested the trip because it portrayed its members as lacking the required expertise to tackle the president’s health challenge. “ We have very competent ENT surgeons in the country. But beyond issuing statements like the above, the NMA needs to go beyond that, for its own sake. It should strive to find out whether the president’s ailment is beyond its competence and Nigerians should be appraised of its findings. This is especially necessary because it is this same administration that banned medical trips outside the country except on cases that could not be handled in the country. The Minister of health had spoken in April, this year at the 56th Annual General Conference and Delegates meeting of the NMA in Sokoto where he had gone to represent the president to declare the conference opened, saying no funds would be provided for any government official to travel abroad for medical treatment except for cases that could not be treated in the country.
“While this administration will not deny anyone of his or her fundamental human rights, we will certainly not encourage expending Nigerian hard earned resources on any government official seeking medical care abroad, when such can be handled in Nigeria”. Has the president forgotten that statement made on his behalf by his minster so soon or is it that the ailment is beyond what could be treated in the country?
Come to think of it, about N3.87 billion was budgeted for the State House Medical Centre, Aso Rock and over N200billion for teaching hospitals across the country this year. I recall that this generated a lot of controversies especially the allocation to the state house clinic which was said to be above the total allocations to all government hospitals. Malam Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the president had to explain that the increased spending on the Aso clinic and other hospitals was in line with the president’s plan to improve medical facilities at home as well as discourage medical tourism by Nigerians which impact negatively on the foreign reserve..
All the above go to show that all the administrations in this country, previous and present, have always paid lip service to the ideal. They say one thing, they do something else. The present administration is not different from the one before it. Inspite of the slogan of change. nothing has really changed. The government says one thing and does something else. And it is high time we start holding the government to their promises. The Buhari administration had said it would discourage medical tourism and it would not make funds available to any political office holder for medical treatment abroad. It has not lived up to its words unless we are being told that the president is spending his own personal money. Last time I checked, he was still a political office holder who got into office through the ballot box.