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Medical fugitives

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By Muyiwa Adetiba

Ex-Governor Ayo Fayose could be excused if all he did was seek medical help from nature. There are many in the medical world who believe in letting nature do its healing work first before syringes and pills take over. The first thing our elders used to do whenever they visited a sick person who was bedridden was to open the windows and draw the blinds to let fresh air and light flood the room. It was their way of letting nature in. A close friend once had a child who had a nasal issue. The elderly doctor the wife consulted advised her to take the child to the beach early in the morning for a month to let the salty air do the healing. If that didn’t happen, then he would prescribe drugs. And in years past, luxurious sea travel used to be specially recommended for the rich who needed to recuperate. Exercises are also a good form of the healing process. And exercises come in different ways—from dancing to walking to aerobics to sports. Fayose obviously prefers dancing—and who would blame him especially if the instructor or dancing partner is a beautiful damsel.

I am trying to find a medical defence for the pictures which went viral on the social media of Mr Ayo Fayose, luxuriating on a cruise. The pictures had him—or someone like him— dancing, sun bathing, posing with a Captain’s cap and so on. Mr Fayose, the immediate past Governor of Ekiti State, had sought permission from court to seek medical help abroad for undisclosed ailments. The court used its discretion and allowed him to travel ostensibly to cure himself of mental and physical ailments. He had been dragged to court by the EFCC for fraud and misappropriation of funds in excess of five billion Naira. The caption accompanying the photographs had talked, tongue in cheek, about ‘intensive care’ ‘doctors’ and ‘convalescing.’ His reply was no less cheeky. He simply told his detractors to eat their jealous hearts out. I am assuming of course that the photographs that went out were his and not photo shopped. I am also assuming that the cheeky retort was his. So ‘in your face were’ the photographs; so unapologetic was his retort that one is embarrassed that a man who left our shores purportedly to avail himself of medical facilities that were not available in the country should be so wanton and unabashed in his display of indecency, impropriety, and disregard for law. Which is why I am hoping, somehow, that both the photographs and the reply to people’s comments were not his.

READ ALSO:Alleged N2.2bn: Court permits Fayose for medical trip

If indeed, the photographs of a man dancing and sun bathing on a ship belong to Fayose, then how does that fact make the judge who granted him medical leave feel? How does it make the lawyer, most likely a senior lawyer, who had argued passionately for his medical reprieve feel? In all probability, they both know the truth which is that there was nothing wrong with Fayose that necessitated his being treated abroad. After all, the man had feigned illness in the past just to score cheap political points. But even at that, they should still be embarrassed by this insensitive, if not contemptuous display of child like fun. Many of his ilk who take this route to freedom hide their movements like medical fugitives which they are. Some even make a show at going to a hospital. None that I know has thrown it back at the court the way Fayose has allegedly done.

Even if he was ill, Fayose—and this is not being personal—should not have been given permission to go abroad for treatment. He was Governor of Ekiti State for eight good years. Time enough to build a world class hospital. It should be tough luck to him if his ailment cannot be treated in this hospital. I reiterate that I am not being personal. It is the way I feel about public officials who are indicted for fraud or embezzlement who want to seek medical treatment abroad. Most of them feign illness. But that is beside the point. Even if they were seriously sick, they should avail themselves of the facilities they built or neglected to build in the country. I think a law should be made, or a convention established, that any public official who is indicted for fraud, embezzlement or misappropriation of public funds in any form should not be allowed to go abroad for medical treatment. If by your actions and inactions, you deprive your country of progress, then you should not benefit from the foresightedness of other countries.

It is the same reason I do not lose any sleep whenever I hear that a senior public official or their relative was kidnapped or attacked. It was the same reason I did not shed a tear when the news of the attack on President Jonathan’s home filtered out. You sow the wind, you reap the whirlwind. He is lucky he had soldiers to defend him. The rest of us are not so lucky. In fact, the hottest part of hell should be reserved for public officials at the State and Federal levels who had opportunities to make Nigeria better but chose instead to entrench poverty and insecurity in the land. Of what use are their billions stacked in foreign accounts to us or even to them? Of what use was Abacha’s loot to him?

President Buhari was reported to have said the other day that medical tourism would henceforth be discouraged. That was rich of him. Here is a man who spent months in a British hospital. He didn’t come back with a loud statement on the urgent need to revamp the health sector so that no future Nigerian leader would have to suffer the indignity of being treated abroad. His wife talked openly about availing herself of foreign medical facilities. His children are products of foreign education. In fact, his family is so western oriented it is embarrassing. If a leader does not believe in his country’s health and educational systems enough to entrust his life or that of his family to them, how can he in good conscience ask his people to believe in them? His life is as important to him as their lives are to them.

Leaders who under-develop their people should stay home, eat amala with them and attend their hospitals. That is, if the law does not catch up with them first and they are not held accountable by the courts for their actions while in public office.

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