If there was one good news that broke with the new year, it was that of the stabilization of the President’s son from his near fatal accident. The preceding week must have been an anxious one for the President’s family. As a human being who believes that the death of one diminishes all, I feel for the President. As a parent who has raised a son through university with all that it entails, and I am not speaking of finance now, I empathise with him.
And finally, as a person who but for the grace of God, could have been a victim of one of my many escapades during my youthful years, I identify with his son. Those who have made snide remarks about Yusuf Buhari; those who said it was unfeeling of him to be riding a power bike when the rest of the country was struggling for fuel; those who questioned his choice of power bike as his passion and indulgence should look into the mirror.
Yorubas say ‘agba bu’ra pe ewe o se e ri’ meaning elders should swear that they never indulged in the things of youth. This is because the years of youth are years of experimentation; the years of triumphs and regrets, the years when you feel indestructible. The memories of those years —the escapades, the stunts, the near misses, the brinkmanship—are memories that light up your face as you settle into middle age.
To all those who missed the news of Yusuf Buhari’s accident either because they were physically or emotionally out of the country or because they have switched off all things Aso Rock, let me do a quick recap. On December 27, the President’s only son had a serious accident while racing his close friend on a power bike. He was said to have sustained a serious head injury and a broken limb. He was eventually taken, unconscious, to one Cedarrest Hospital in Abuja.
The welcome news, for me at least given my past crusades, was that he was not immediately ‘flown abroad for treatment.’ He probably couldn’t have been anyway given the nature of the injury. And this buttresses my point that no matter how rich you are, no matter your international connections, irrespective of the battery of foreign doctors at your disposal, a time such as this could happen when you would need to be stabilised locally. So investing in healthcare facilities is an enlightened self-interest because it will not only conserve foreign exchange for the country, it will save lives while projecting our national pride.
Last week, the President’s wife, Aisha, was effusive with her thanks to the medical team that stabilised her son. She mentioned the core members by name. My head swelled with pride on realising that not a single foreigner was on the list. There were four professors of medicine including the Minister of Health. They were mainly neuro-surgeons and orthopaedic surgeons. I did not see a gynaecologist neither did I see a nutritionist. I saw professionals who were relevant to the job at hand.
They were probably the best hands available at the time they were selected which would have been within hours of the accident; not days, weeks or months as we tend to do when it comes to matters of State. I also did not see any attempt at quota, or religious balancing or ethnic balancing. I want to believe that nobody checked their party affiliations before they were selected. I also did not hear anybody waiting for the cause of the accident before rushing the patient to the emergency ward.
Makes one wonder why we don’t do the right thing by the country when we know what to do when things go wrong with us. Like the President’s son, the country was bleeding with a loss of more than a few limbs when she was rushed comatose into the care of APC in 2015. The most critical injury was to the economy.
Rather than assemble a crack economic team, we spent valuable time apportioning blames. Obama of the US inherited a very poor economy from Bush. But he came in with a team of liberals and conservatives good enough to identify the problems and proffer solutions which fixed the economy.
Our Government fiddled and while it did, the economy got worse. Many believe we would not have entered into recession had we acted promptly with seasoned technocrats. Instead, when we eventually woke up, it was to find jobs for the political boys and girls, uncles and cousins. It probably took just a couple of hours to pick the team that attended to Yusuf. It took over six months to pick the team which was to address some of the ailments afflicting Nigeria.
Let me reiterate what we all know. That we can get to grips with the problems of this country in one administration or a term of four years if we had a leader who is intelligent enough—because the deep always call to the deep—and courageous enough to put competence and merit above all considerations. For example, as rotten as our judiciary is, I believe we have people in the country who can cleanse the place in one term.
But that team will certainly not be led by the current Attorney General. Ditto for the civil service where a mere director was caught with 28 choice cars and where its ghost workers seem to earn more wages than the live ones. Ditto for the oil sector which remains opaque and incompetent. It should not be about religion or tribe or even CV.
It should be about selecting proven competence wherever it is found. For example, I don’t look at tribe or religion when I have a tooth ache. I look at ability. Nigeria has many ailments that are worse than toothache. Some of them are cancerous eating up the nation’s intestines. They need urgent attention.
Speaking of first eleven, Nigeria qualified for the World Cup because she used her best young talents irrespective of religion or tribe. We should take that into governance. Arsenal, the defending champions this week crashed out of the British FA Cup against a lowly rated team because they didn’t field their first eleven. In football and in life, you court defeat when you fail to field your top team in any competition. Aso Rock did the right thing for Yusuf Buhari. The Presidency should do the right thing for Nigeria.