By Donu Kogbara
LAST week, I complained about President Muhammadu Buhari’s expensive penchant for foreign hospitals, pointing out that one of the reasons I’d voted for him in 2015 was my belief that he was a Man Of The People (rather than a typical pampered, entitled, elitist oligarch) who would seek medical treatment at home if he ever got sick.
I also expressed disappointment that Buhari has not doggedly focused on improving indigenous healthcare facilities.
On the very same day that I wrote this article, May l0, 2018, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, aged 92, assumed office as the seventh Prime Minister of Malaysia.
Mohamad, who trained as a medical doctor, is not a newcomer to the high stakes leadership game. When he was a relatively youthful 56, in 1981, he became Malaysia’s fourth Prime Minister and managed to hold onto power for 22 long years.
So is enough not enough?!
Mohamad’s motivation for returning to the political fray is obvious.
He clearly possesses a classic Type A (dominant, competitive) personality. The languid gentleness of life in the background bores him. Being a mere onlooker doesn’t come naturally to him. He missed the cut-and-thrust of life in the fast lane; and he rather egotistically regards himself as a Messiah, Guru and National Necessity.
According to him: “For me, to say I want to go to sleep and retire and prepare for my afterlife…I think that is very selfish.”
Some might say that the real selfishness lies in flatly refusing to leave governance to one’s more energetic juniors. But I totally understand why an individual who was born with super-dynamic instincts – and is physically and mentally stronger than most of his contemporaries – prefers excitement and clout to retirement and powerlessness.
What is less easy to understand is why so many of his compatriots think that he deserves a second bite at the big cherry at such an advanced age.
Winston, a Malaysian friend of mine, is not one of Mohamad’s fans and describes this nonagenarian’s political resurrection as “a comedy”.
But another friend has just sent me a short commentary that explains a lot:
In 1989, Mahathir Mohamad, as Prime Minister of Malaysia, suffered a heart attack. His doctor at the Kuala Lumpur General Hospital recommended surgery in the US. The bed-ridden politician objected.
“I had to have faith in our Malaysia doctors,” he would write about the dilemma. “I knew that if I didn’t make an example of myself, no one else would have confidence in our medical service. Previously, all our VIPs had gone abroad.”
Reflecting further on his refusal to leave Malaysia for dependable treatment, even with his country revolving on Third World medical infrastructure then, he shared:
“As a doctor myself, I knew the risks. I knew there was a possibility that I might not survive the operation as it was not, at that time, a common procedure… But I told myself that if I was going to die, then that was it -. I would leave it to Allah and the skill of the surgeon (local). I rested for four days before the angiogram, which confirmed that I needed the operation. [Foreign] Dr Stertzer again offered the option of having the bypass done in California……When I was left alone with [my wife] Hasmah, I asked her to call Dr. Yahya (the local doctor) and when he entered the room, I told him simply that I wanted him to do it.”
Do you now see why, at age 92 in 2018, Mahathir Mohamad was re-elected as Prime Minister by his people? He had sacrificed his life for them. And after refusing to travel abroad for medical treatment in 1989, he went on to build world-class medical facilities in the then underdeveloped Malaysia.
It’s this remembering of his time in office, compared to the disastrous leadership (by Malaysian yardstick) experienced after him, that made the people embrace the nostalgia to elect the world’s oldest political leader.
World-class medical facilities
Compare this stirring tale of medical patriotism to the Buhari story! And let’s be fair and remember that Buhari is not the only culprit…and that while the vast majority of local hospitals have spectacularly failed to reach acceptable (i.e, international) standards, every single Naija leader since Independence has vamoosed abroad whenever in need of medical check ups or treatment.
And, by the way, it will be immensely interesting to find out whether age really is, “just a number,” as advocates of age-inappropriate marriages, age-inappropriate career ambitions and age-inappropriate behaviour in general constantly assure us.
Within this context at least, will age turn out to be completely irrelevant? In other words, will Dr. Mohamad at 92 turn out to be more clear-headed and more productive than seventysomething President Buhari? Watch this space!
Rochas’s ridiculous supporter
LAST week, I complained about Governor Rochas Okorocha’s dictatorial determination to force Imo State citizens to accept his unexceptional son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, as his successor.
My mother is from Imo State, so I’m taking Okorocha’s monarchical delusions personally. And I have to laugh at an Anonymous response I received from a Vanguard reader who texted me from this number: 0807231332.
“You called Uche Nwosu a mediocre. You must be a visitor to this journalism profession. You are not qualified to be given a column. I don’t think you have a husband.”
Message to all Okorocha/Nwosu acolytes: If you want to abuse me, feel free. This is a democracy, after all; and you are entitled to your opinions. But please try to abuse me in grammatical English!
Mediocre is an adjective not a noun. Also, if questioning my marital status is your best shot at countering my disparaging remarks about your heroes, Lord help them for having such daft defenders!!!