By Josef Omorotionmwan
IN the traditional African setting, the practice was that as a man grew older, he began to farm nearer home, principally to avoid the rigour of a long walk to the farm. At that time, conventional wisdom also dictated that when a man became terminally ill, he was brought home because there was greater honour in dying at home than being brought home dead.
It is now a status-symbol to be rushed to a foreign hospital at the least prompting. In most cases, they die there.
This is certainly a serious indictment, not only on our health-care system but also on our entire leadership. There is perhaps no better way to surrender our sovereignty to the host nations than our leaders migrating to foreign hospitals like refugees.
The moral message to the citizenry is quite clear: Since we cannot provide for you, you are hereby sentenced to death in Nigeria; while we must flee abroad to seek help for ourselves. What an unconditional surrender!
What we see here is an aspect of our planlessness. Otherwise, the tax-Naira we put in the export trade for executive ailments could conveniently develop our health-care system back home for the benefit of all Nigerians.
Our leaders are oblivious of the fact that it is not every ailment that should be rushed abroad. There are some indigenous illnesses that respond only to indigenous treatments.
The way this writer almost led his daughter, Adesuwa, to the slaughter remains very instructive. She was born in Benin City about three months after our inauguration into the Constituent Assembly of the President Ibrahim Babangida years. In the euphoria of the arrival of the first female child in the midst of five soldiers at that time, I invited mother and child to Abuja – just a few days after the first set of inoculations against the deadly childhood diseases.
Shortly after their arrival in Abuja, the baby became totally restless and she cried all night. We soon observed a swelling on her neck just below the right ear. We rushed her to the Constituent Assembly Clinic where the Doctors gave the swelling all the medical jargons in this world – foreign body, external growth and many other Latin names that were incomprehensible to non-doctors.
She was booked for surgery at 10 a.m. the following day. This was the point at which the Holy Spirit intervened. On the eve of the proposed surgery, my wife called her friend in Benin City, whose child was inoculated on the same day with Adesuwa. She told my wife that her baby and many other babies who got the immunization were having the type of swelling that Adesuwa had. Alas, they were reacting to the inoculation! The woman informed my wife that there was a medication that the doctor was applying to get rid of the swelling.
We secured a police escort and we hit the road to Benin City as early as 4 a.m. Before the hospital and its doctors woke up, we were already waiting at the door. That was how in the next two days, the foreign body, the external growth, the swelling and the rest had disappeared; and Adesuwa was totally healed.
Only God knows how much disfigurement and total permanent destruction would have resulted from the Abuja operation that never was. This is the type of trouble that rich people go abroad to purchase for themselves. And we don’t blame them. Nemesis and retributive justice have a way of catching up!
What has happened to our sense of history? Barely seven years ago, the most ebullient and dynamic National Publicity Secretary of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, gave a fantastic prescription on how to handle executive ailments. That submission was so sound that not even the greatest iconoclast could fault it. That was when the Late President Umaru Yar’Adua took ill and was flown abroad.
Hear the Lai Mohammed of that era: “We call on the Federal Government to give Nigerians a daily up-date on the health of the President… to stem the growing rumours surrounding his state of health… The current situation whereby Ministers and aides of the President give out uncoordinated information on his health is doing more harm than good.
Therefore, a daily briefing by the Minister of Information based on authentic details, provided by the President’s doctors, should start forthwith”. Mohammed warned further, “The health of the President as a public figure can no longer be of interest only to his family and friends. Nigerians have a right to know… The Federal Executive Council, FEC, the only body constitutionally empowered to start the process of determining whether or not the President can continue in office on the basis of his health, should rise above mundane considerations and put the nation’s interest first”.
There is now a complete role reversal. It is an open secret that President Muhammadu Buhari is ill and his state of health remains top secret. The opposition of yesterday is the government of today. And today, Lai Mohammed is the Hon. Minister of Information. What is now happening that the Hon Minister is defaulting on his own prescription? Hon Minister, when did Nigerians lose the right to know? When did our President cease to be a public figure? Is NEC now living up to expectation?
The likes of Mohammed must be engaged in some self-wrestling from within. Members of even the best-run organisations cannot always escape moments of profound crisis when they must break faith either with the group or with themselves. At such cross-roads rather than eat their vomit, they should quit to keep your names intact. That is called resignation in protest. After all, it is not the fight that makes the martyr – it is the principle behind the fight!
Our predictions: very soon, our President shall return home, in sound body, to face the job for which he was elected. And someday, we shall possess the iron determination to develop our health-care system instead of squandering the tax-payers money on the exportation of executive ailments.