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Who is sick in Nigeria?

By Prof Oyewale Tomori

In Nigeria, you are sick, when…….well, let us start with the definition of health. It is clear to the World Health Organization, WHO, who is sick and who is healthy. The Constitution of the World Health Organisation adopted by member states and which came into effect since 1948, health was defined as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

*The mad woman’s wares’
*The mad woman’s wares’

Remember, Nigeria was not really a country at that time, so you can forgive us for not subscribing to the WHO definition as to who a healthy person is, and by extrapolation, who a sick person is. I think what that definition is saying is that you may have no disease or infirmity and still be sick or not healthy. You may be physically well and still be sick. You may have no Ebola, and indeed you country may be declared free of Ebola, WHO says until you are in a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, you are sick.

So what does WHO mean by saying that health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being? What are those daily and “taken-for-granted”signs and symptoms of lack of health or sickness that we exhibit in our homes, in the offices, on the road, in our communities, among the high and the low?

What do we display on our television programmes, in the hallowed halls of our commercially oriented business-cum-worship centres, called churches, where we go into spontaneous orgy of contrived adulation of celestial bodies? Is WHO saying some of those actions point to an absence of a state of well being? What are those things we do, that obviously point to a non-state of emotional well being, as we do some of the things we do, that lead us to express such pregnant exclamations as “Naaaaaaaaija”!

In my thinking, WHO is saying that you are not healthy, or bluntly put, WHO says you are sick or not well, when you” drive your car like a madman against the run of traffic, entering a one way road and from the wrong end, blasting your horn and flashing your headlights at 12 noon, to drive away those who are doing the right thing, ” buy a jet, to travel to the village you left twenty years ago, because there is still, as there was only, a footpath, which you took to the city when you abandoned your people get treated for malaria, only for you to return to your home surrounded by a gutter where malaria pathogen infested mosquitoes are waiting to give you malaria again and again and forever;

“get hypertension because you stash your nation’s resources in a foreign bank under a secret code you have hidden from your wife and children, “you accept N500 for your vote from the same person who four years earlier promised to transform your life, but instead transforms his own by destroying yours. “build a 12 roomed mansion, with a car attached to each room, and then lock up the rooms and the cars, while you live in a rented apartment and ride “okada” to your office

“build a one story building containing three stalls with no toilet and you call it Global Intergalactic Mega Plaza “consider excellence and mediocrity as identical twins “you “spray” your annual salary and add the money you borrowed to plaster the forehead of your concubine, while your family is starving, and your child is driven from school for failure to pay his/ her fees;”make a carpet, out of pieces of your national currency which has fallen off the head tie of a dancer, littering the dusty dance floor and you step on it with gleeful abandon;

“are knocked out in the first round of the FIFA World Cup and you pat yourself on the back and say at least we are better than Sao Tome and Principe! “you live under an assumption that you are well, because you are not dead;

“evidence says you are suffering from Ebola or diagnosed as having cancer and you say God forbid! I reject it!, because nobody in my family has ever had Ebola or cancer, forgetting that when your father died before the amalgamation of Nigeria, there was no disease like Ebola.

So, who is sick in Nigeria – from the man living in a hut in the village to the one residing in a “rock” in the city?



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