By Kingsley Fanwo
Dr. Mike Omotosho, a Harvard-trained program manager, in this interview, in Lokoja, spoke on issues bordering on healthcare management, Rotary International, where he is the Governor of District 9125 covering 23 states and the FCT, and his political adventure in Kwara State.
Who is Dr. Mike Omotosho?
Permit me to answer in the words of my wife. She was asked the same question and her reply was apt.
She said, ‘My husband is, more importantly a Rotarian and also, by heart, an an unrepentant believer in services to God and humanity. He believes that the richness of life is not in the number of years or your possessions but in the quality of service to others. Having seen him living that belief over the years, I can confidently sum up his personality in that respect’.
I take those words as products of God’s grace.
In addition, I am a Harvard trained program manager with almost 30 years of professional excellence. Our track record with leading global institutions and several non-for-profit organizations attest to that. Majoring in pharmaceutical supply chain management, my career largely stems from my passion for service to others because it has a far reaching effect on millions of people.
With your integrity and resourceful mind, many people still think you are not cut out for Nigerian politics. Why did you venture into politics?
I used to have reservations when people refer to me as a politician, which is largely due to the rot in the system, don’t blame me. However, I see the other side of the tunnel now and sincerely think we can make the difference and set our nation on the path of progress. People say several respected men went into the game and got corrupted; they keep trying to convince me to stay away to avoid the associated dirt and other hazards. But there are some others who have vowed to join politics because I took the bold step. Governance is too serious to be left to political jobbers if we are serious about getting our trajectory right.
Without sounding immodest, I know what I expend annually to reach out to people at the lower runs of the ladder in our communities. I am confronted daily with the result of poor leadership. I am indirectly paying for the disservice some fellows are doing to this great nation. I don’t just send our foundation staff and volunteers to comb the interiors with our many interventions programs, I go to unexpected places. I see deplorable situations that get you angry every day. People, who shouldn’t have business with poverty, are confined to that irritable sting of neglect and shameful abandonment. Even money meant for relief camps is embezzled!
Many in Kwara State still believe you ran issue-based campaign for the governorship election. Can you throw more light on development issues in the state?
I wish I am the regular politician. Well, some belong to the school of thought that if you call yourself the big tree, we shall use the axe to cut you down. But that is not the Nigeria of our dream. In a nutshell, there is so much desire for my state. Of course, Kwara is part of this nation that has been so deprived. During the campaign, we focused strictly on what we wanted to do differently to change the fortune of the state; we avoided the usual personality attack and mudslinging. But, they descended on us when they saw the impact we were making and the tremendous voluntary followership we were enjoying. You know it was different from the pervading pervasive ‘chop chop’ followership. We however stuck to our resolve to be who we are; change agents.
We were the only one with a clearly deposed affidavit of what we wanted to do in the people‘s court. Our manifesto was out for everyone in which the plans of action were clearly stated. I say with all sense of responsibility that our approach to job creation was well tailored with time-frame. By now, the first phase of our 250,000 job creation would have commenced and would have run simultaneously across the state. The commerce driven part of it would have started by October. I can release some of these well thought out plans if we have the assurance that they will be implemented with the spirit and ethos required; because the bottom line is to see the people happy. Can you imagine how much I spent to bring eight engineers from France, Finland and Germany for a way out in Kwara State? We ended up with a full implementation plan of seven to nine years. The first phase, which was for the state capital would be delivered in 38 months. Then money would gradually be generated to cover other parts of the state in phases. As far back as February 10, 2015, over two months before the elections, we already perfected our plans with the developers for our RENT YOUR HOME policy focusing on civil servants and regular income earners. The first 100 units were meant to be delivered on September 8, 2015.
You are quite familiar with healthcare management in Nigeria. How do you think we can reduce the incidents of mothers losing their lives while being delivered of babies?
The indices in Africa and Nigeria in particular are worrisome. For example, for every 1,000 new births in Nigeria, about 100 die within the first seven days mainly from complications during pregnancy. Death of children less than one year is not better either. Aside ailments like pneumonia, malaria, diarrhea and some minor ailments, another major cause of high death rate is poor maternal health care. With good access to healthcare facilities, the contribution of HIV related cases to the scourge can be adequately dealt with.
Let us work from the causes to the solution. What are the variables responsible for the rate of child mortality. The first is poverty. Don’t forget that over 70% of our population live under one dollar a day. You know poverty is also responsible for non-treated infections, malaria and other minor ailments.
Straight to solutions. Government must pay adequate attention to rural development though you can argue on the economic benefits and the rest indices. Advocacy and enlightenment should be increased, investment in healthcare infrastructures, good referral system with improved road network certainly, adequate training in government owned institutions and provision of adequate incentives for private investment along with PPP while exploring the diaspora windows.
Now to maternal mortality. Every minute in a day, a woman dies from pregnancy related complications.
It is saddening to note that 99% of maternal deaths occur in the developing countries, Nigeria inclusive. And sadly, we are responsible for a significant chunk of the number. At a time Nigeria hit a 14% mark contribution to global maternal morbidity, now it hovers at about 11% meaning 11 deaths out of 100 maternal cases. With over 5% fertility rate and having the world’s third largest annual birth rate, our nation needs to adequately face this scourge with a view to reducing maternal mortality. In addition to the solutions we need to focus our epidemiology on the intrapartum period. This is key and some players must be brought together to form stakeholders’ that will drive the national policy direction.
There is a close relationship between poverty and poor healthcare in Africa. What do you think Nigeria can do to reduce poverty among her citizens?
The litany of contemptible corruption cases in our nation is one major cause of poverty in the land. Perhaps, selfish leadership and leaders who came into office unprepared also contribute greatly. Let me not dwell much on causes bur rather focus on empirical solutions.
We must kill corruption. That is non-negotiable. We must painstakingly build institutions. We must address the inequality gap in the polity. We must engineer masses-oriented policies. We must invest in university education tailored towards our present needs as a nation. I don’t know what the endless list of university would do when all you do there is business administration in a nation without sustainable middle class businesses. I am directing my advocacy towards technical education. We must reengineer our agricultural sector. We must focus on homegrown job creation strategies.
Many young minds in your state, Kwara, are still disappointed that you lost the poll. In straight terms, will they see their hero on the political turf again?
God is the determinant of our journey here but I must add that God who gave us those resounding ideas to change the fortune of our people for good knows what He has for us. Again, I maintain that if I have the assurance that our programs shall be implemented with the right mind of service, we can share them; as long as it is for the good of the people. For the younger generation that supported us through thick and thin, their labour can never be in vain. What are your expectations from the Buhari administration?
The easiest job to do is to criticise blindly and that is a great disservice to our nation. Basically, I expect Mr President to ensure fulfillment of his promises. That is a sure way to give decent people a chance in the electioneering process. People have lost faith; they count everyone to be the same, but if he can successfully show that voting right pays than selling votes, he would have done a great favour to the future of our democracy. However I am excited that this administration’s anti corruption crusade is in line with Rotary’s guiding principles on ethics; take for instances the Four-Way Test of the things we think say or do which can be applied profitably in relation to the things we do at home, business, national and international life, it can be applied to plans and policies in business and advertising, to proposed legislation in government even in relations between teachers and students.
The Four-Way Test is a non-partisan and non-sectarian ethical guide that we Rotarians are encouraged to use for personal and professional relationships. The test has been translated into more than 100 languages.
Of the things we think, say or do: Is it the TRUTH? Is it FAIR to all concerned? Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS? Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
As Governor of Rotary International District 9125 covering 23 states and the FCT, the Four-Way Test is usually my Key message during visits to clubs and stakeholders.