By Agatha Emeadi
Dr. Benjamin Oluwatosin Olowojebutu is a surgeon and Chief Medical Director of Twinex Medical Centre, Omo-oba Estate, Ori-Okuta, Ikorodu area of Lagos State. He has performed over 6,500 free surgeries in 17 states in the country. The passionate pursuit of his charity programme for the less privileged once made him donate blood for a patient and then stood up to perform the surgery as well. Olowojebutu who also doubles as the Chairman of Lagos State Chapter of University of Lagos Alumni Association spoke to Sunday Sun on his passion for the surgical theatre, hard-work and politics.
You have been engaged in performing free surgeries. How did this medical charity start?
I had an accident in 2016 on my way home from work. I was just about five minutes to my house, when a drunk on high speed hit me and broke my right leg in three places. In that devastating chaotic situation, I was rushed to a big hospital in Lagos, and the health staff abandoned me on the floor for four hours; even as a medical doctor, nobody attended to me. The excuse was there was no bed space. I bled profusely and was about to die. In that quagmire of pain, God released a divine instruction that I must turn my pain into passion. That was what woke me up from that accident. I got better and was healed. It became the best opportunity that set the vision of performing free surgeries all over Nigeria, bearing in mind that we are taking validated compassionate healthcare by love to rural areas, where people have low access to healthcare services. We have gone to 17 states in Nigeria and have done over 6,500 free surgeries for indigents that cannot afford such. Our focus is on fibroid, hernia, lipomas, (swellings on the body and skin that are painless), breast lumps. From our base in Lagos, we move as a team, with our equipment and travel to villages within the country and perform the surgeries. Sometimes, I operate for four days at a stretch. During Governor Sanwo-Olu’s First 100 Days in office, we did 164 surgeries in 2019 as our support towards the 100 days. We wanted to do 100 surgeries in 100 days, but the crowd in General Hospital Ijede in Ikorodu was enormous. I met the governor in an alumni meeting in Banana Island. In the process of interaction, he asked what we would do for him during his 100 days in office. I told him, I do not have money, but have a passion for the poor who cannot afford most surgeries. I will do 100 surgeries for him in the first 100 days in office. That particular outreach affected over 2,500 patients with various challenges as recorded in the videos and photographs taken. All these were with the support of press conferences with the Ministry of Health. The First Lady, Dr (Mrs) Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu was there to flag it off.
Before the auto accident, did you at any point in time render charity service as a young doctor?
I have been a conscientious surgeon. I love to give the little way I can. But that accident was the divine message in my life that took my work to the next level. When I was a young doctor during my national youth service in Kogi State, a lady was booked for surgery. I had to donate blood for the lady and stood up to perform the surgery successfully. For me, the job is about impact, love, changing narratives and touching lives everywhere but my accident turned my life into a life of purpose and significance. When one affects life, it is called success, but when one affects people, it is called significance. The accident changed life for me into significance and purpose. It is also about having significance of life with many people praying for me. The accident gave my life a new meaning and interpretation. We are focused on spreading love on the healthcare scene and changing narratives because if I am loved, even as a medical, I would not have been left on the floor for four hours. It is a story for me that I share with young people that nothing can stop a determined mind from achieving success. When God is in one’s business, success becomes a lifestyle. God has made me to become a huge success in my passionate career. I wake up every day with thanksgiving. That is why I get involved in leadership, service, charity, volunteering etc. I remember that on April 4, 2020, I was in my bathroom and God asked me to feed 500 families during COVID-19.
How did you go about it?
I did not have money, but the Great Provider made a way. When God gives a vision, he also does the provision. To the glory of God, we fed 500 families, from Ikorodu, Egan, Idimu, Aguda, Lawanson and Mosholashi. We shared packages of foodstuffs that contained rice, beans, spaghetti, noodles, eggs, bread, oil, tomato puree, bottled water and condiments. We went to the stadium and visited the physically challenged. God has been faithful and that is what I live for. That is my joy.
As the Chairman of University of Lagos Alumni Association (Lagos State Chapter), what new things are you bringing to the table?
To the glory of God, I won the election last year. One of my reasons is to improve the brand of the school that made me who I am today. I am passionate about collectively improving and building the brand (UNILAG). The Vice Chancellor told me clearly that the alumni owns the school, and that means there is a lot expected of us to offer. We have to raise the school to the standard of Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and Yale etc. We need to build a strong alumni body that looks into infrastructural development, building capacity, mentorship, access to grants, exchange of ideas and researches that can solve economic problems because the school is the first of its kind, and the nation’s pride. I am glad to serve and add value to the school.
You talk about God like a Pentecostal. Did you get born again before or after the accident?
I was born into a Christian family, Christ Apostolic Church. My mother was a teacher and a deaconess while my late father who was my greatest mentor was a marketer and an elder in CAC before he passed on in 2016. We pray a lot even till date. My father had a life philosophy that espoused spreading love across and I cannot forget what he taught me that love is the greatest currency one can spend while money is the perception which literarily means that if one buys a car from the showroom, it cannot be sold the same amount again, the value would rather depreciate; but it is only love, when spread that one gets equal measure or even more. He said, “God gave us only Jesus, but today he has all of us.”
Relate your spirituality in the surgeries you perform.
When I am operating, everywhere is connected with speakers and surrounded with worship. We are not just doing the physical thing; we commune for God to take all the glory. That is why one can do as much as 20 surgeries in a day without getting tired or make any mistake, because when you get into the theatre, there is a spirit of God taking one’s hand and whatever one is doing. It’s not by one’s strength.
Has there been a failed surgery?
Never, Jesus is a doer of miracles.
What was growing up like in your family?
My parents were faithful servants of God who did not have children immediately they got married. They prayed a lot while believing God for children before God answered them with my emergence. I am the first child of my parents named Benjamin Oluwatosin, which means God is worthy to be worshipped, God sent me to them and they returned me to God. My growing up was very good. As a young boy, I read a lot. My father gave us a lot of books to read and my mother said, if I could solve 16 questions in Mathematics every day, I would become a Mathematics guru. It was a laid down rule for us to read every blessed day including Saturday and Sunday from 12:00am-4:00am, while my mother kept vigil praying with us as we read every day. Then at 4:00am, all of us would retire to bed to wake up at 6:00am to prepare for school. My mother is one in a million mothers, she started praying into our future as young children and I do not joke with her. I finished reading all my SS3 books while in SS1, going for competition with SS3 students and reading advanced books. I knew I was going to be successful in life with all that. As young boys, my parents, especially my mother, taught us that hard work pays. It is the level of hard work that shows the level of influence. When one works hard, he will have influence and vice versa. I am grateful to my parents who laid that foundation for us in the family. While in medical school, I read a lot apart from medical books. I knew I was going to be successful because the power of knowledge gives money. Knowledge, power and money bring influence.
Did you plan to be a medical doctor from the on-set?
Yes, my mother told me that when I was four years, I used to sing a popular nursery lullaby … “I am a Doctor, doctor, doctor… I am a doctor in my country, and some of you know me well, if you look me up and down, you will know that it is true.” She said, when I was corrected for another profession, I was insistent on being a doctor. For me, it is an assignment. What I am doing today makes it fulfilling that I am in the space God wants me to be. I am in that assignment that God put in my hand; that is why I joyfully do my work. I am extremely passionate about what I do. I wake up each morning looking for the next life to touch – remove a tumor, 16kg fibroid, etc. I am filled with joy when a woman says, ‘Dr. Ben, thank you, I have a baby now.’ There was a woman that had fibroid for nine years, who took herbal medicines made in Cotonou with cow’s faeces for the nine years. I asked her, do you have faith, she said yes. We prayed and we got the fibroid removed. After three months, she became pregnant and God gave her a set of twins. She called and said, Dr. Ben, every day the twins pray for you. Those are my happy moments that give me joy, the reason I was born into this world is fulfilled. I have been to villages all over Nigeria, people that I have not met or seen in life, when they are touched, they reach out through the social media to remind me of where they were touched and pray for me. What could be better than that? Some named their children after me and it is all glory to God.
Why did you choose Ikorodu area as the functional centre when the bigger cities would have paid more?
First thing is that God leads. A lot of people cannot afford these surgeries and it is very expensive. Today’s normal surgery is about half a million on the Island. For me, it is not about the money, but about the people who cannot afford it, we do very dis-countable surgeries, and free outside Lagos, with friends who support. About 80% of what we make goes into free surgeries outside Lagos. It is my assignment which must be carried out.
It might be difficult not to believe that an accomplished professional like you does not look the other way?
I am a busy person, with a fantastic wife and children.
Have there been fantastic and excellent cases you handled?
Several but two stand out. When we were at Oron in Cross Rivers State, a lady came with massive fibroid case. When she was opened up, I was so perplexed even as a doctor. I called on God, prayed and spoke in tongues and God showed me what to do. I was directed to start from the under and it was done. The fibroid weighed 16kg. I corrected a wrongly sutured private part of a lady and she became happy ever after.