By Donu Kogbara
A FRIEND of mine has a medical condition that wouldn’t be regarded as unusual, complicated or incurable in a normal country.
But here – a country that is known as “the giant of Africa” – my friend’s condition causes many doctors to stroke their chins and furrow their brows in puzzlement or to shake their heads in despair.
The puzzled chin-stroking and brow-furrowing are brought on by the fact that most of the Lagos and Abuja doctors my friend has encountered so far do not possess the diagnostic expertise to confidently identify his ailment.
The despairing head-shaking is brought on by the fact that the handful of Lagos/Abuja doctors who DO know exactly what’s wrong with my friend lack the specialist skills and/or facilities to cure him.
Long story short, my friend has been told that he can only get better if he goes abroad for eye-wateringly expensive treatment.
But he has been too fragile to work for 18 months; and most members of his social circle and family have been impoverished by the lousy economy, so raising the $90,000 required to fund an overseas expedition is proving difficult.
Meanwhile, my friend is in terrible pain and can’t walk unaided. And his is not a rare nightmare.
Millions of Nigerians have battled with agonising health challenges that have been unnecessarily prolonged. Millions of Nigerians have died avoidable deaths.
And my friend is actually luckier than most sick Nigerians because he occupies a fairly privileged personal and professional space in which raising £90,000 is not an insanely impossible dream.
As a matter of fact, his business contacts, pals and relatives have already donated £27,000. And he may eventually be able to acquire the balance before it’s too late.
But how many people who desperately need medical solutions that are not available in this neck of the woods can raise £1000, never mind £27,000 or £90,000?
Even cheap local care is out of the reach of the average citizen; and the questions I want to ask are:
Why, in the 21st-century, is a nation of Nigeria’s importance still struggling to provide quality medical support to its inhabitants?
Why are so many of our doctors not competent enough to come up with accurate explanations when their patients fall ill?
Why do doctors who are essentially adequate not have access to state-of-the-art hospitals that will enable them to do their jobs properly?
There is clearly something amiss on the medical schooling front…as in too many dimwits are being allowed to get into medical school.
Or maybe I’m being unfair!
Perhaps the “dimwits” are smart but badly trained? Perhaps their trainers’ hands are tied by the shortage or complete absence of certain training tools?
What are the national and subnational authorities going to do about this shameful state of affairs?
Did President Buhari not promise to stay away from medical tourism when he was campaigning for our votes in 2014 and 2015?
Has he not repeatedly broken that promise?
Why can’t Government officials be banned from travelling to distant lands to heal their bodies, so they’ll have no fancy foreign options and be forced to focus on improving the medical scene on their home turf?
Will the billions of petrodollars and tax nairas they collect not be spent more wisely and ethically if beefing up the health sector here is the only way they can save their lives?
Why Oh why do we permit our supposedly democratic leaders to get away with the hypocrisy, selfishness and inefficiency they inflict on us with alarming regularity?
ACCORDING to Special Adviser to the President on Media/Publicity, Femi Adesina, most Nigerians are not unhappy about the re-arrest of Omoyele Sowore, the publisher of the Sahara Reporters website and convener of the #RevolutionNow protest movement.
Following widespread criticisms of the government’s vendetta against Sowore and the Department of State Services, DSS, operatives’ invasion of a courtroom, Adesina said, on a television programme on Monday, that “When 100,000 [people] are making noise in the media, both social and traditional, you think the whole country is in an uproar [but] there are millions and millions and millions of people who are not bothered.”
Adesina is right.
Sowore’s predicament is not being passionately discussed by farmers and fishermen; but it’s definitely of great interest to the elitist chattering class – a sophisticated, liberal politically aware, mostly urban demographic that reads newspapers, criticises crudely overbearing governments and argues over points of law.
But Adesina, a former journalist and editor and newspaper CEO, used to be a fully paid-up member of the chattering class himself; and I find it sad that he is now almost defiantly identifying with people who aren’t bothered about Sowore because they have probably never heard of him…people who were too poor to get a decent education…people who are too busy worrying about basic survival to worry about some grammar-speaking fellow who is languishing in custody because he annoyed the President and his enforcers.
Adesina has also refused to share the chattering class’s view that the DSS’ action amounted to an illegal desecration of the court. “We have had a concocted story, with concocted video or with incomplete video and then, the DSS has come out to give its own perspective and that then gives us a fairly balanced picture.”
While the intellectually engaged are wondering why the government is trying to kill a fly with a sledgehammer, someone who used to be one of us is coming up with feeble excuses for misbehaviour and sounding as if jackbootism doesn’t matter!
Na wa for you, Oga Femi!