By Adeola Aderounmu
Nigeria in many ways continues to tag herself to the world as a sort of #jungle, #uncivilised, and a massively #underdeveloped geographical region. The shame of Nigeria escalates daily and the legions of Nigerian politicians finishing their journeys on earth in foreign hospitals remain embarrassing.
Under colonisation (which Nigerians love to bash), and shortly after independence, Nigeria had some of the best public facilities in the world. The economy was good, there was dignity in labour and merit was the main reason for getting public positions.
Institutions like the Nigerian Airways were top rated and efficient. Nigeria also had world class medical facilities evenly spread in the Western, Eastern and Northern regions of the country.
However, in the 70s, after enduring some of the most senseless coups ever and a civil war, Nigeria’s fall from glory to grass was ensured. The fall remains unabated even to this day. Many of the invigorations today with respect to public utilities and service delivery in some states in Nigeria are rather too cosmetic. They are classical fire brigade approaches.
They do not follow the trend of continuity, gradual development or advancement as expected in a normal society. By the standards of the 60s Nigeria is supposed to be one of the best places to live in the world today. But on the contrary, she is ranked among some of the worst places on earth mostly along side war torn countries and countries devastated by terrorism and total absence of governance.
The fact that the infrastructure fell flat in the first place revealed the absence of maintenance culture and a lack of leadership. Nigerians have had largely very bad rulers at all levels of governance.
The abolition of federalism, the glorification of corruption, impunity, extreme greed, loss of patriotism, the elevation of tribalism and the promotion of nepotism played very significant roles in destroying the values, cultures and sense of belonging in Nigeria. The foolishness of Nigeria’s greedy politicians and their military counterparts under different dispensations and the unneeded resiliency trait in Nigerians have totally destroyed the essence of life and the value of it. All these anomalies combined and eroded completely the spirits of nationalism and patriotism.
When people or family members of the people who have contributed to the dilemma of Nigerians die, they are praised and eulogised by fellow criminals in government. The rest of the people are cautious or terrified to speak the truth even of the dead. Death is the inevitable end of all living things and speaking the truth or reality of the lives of the people who are dead does not amount to speaking “evil about the dead”.
The politicians who chose to die abroad are desperate to hold on to lives. Staying alive is a normal attribute for biological creatures. The tendency is to survive and procreate. This is why suicide is regarded as an outcome of mental ailment but this essay is not about the psychology or sociology of death, so I’ll move on.
My point is not to recount all the looters of Nigeria who have died abroad. But Riliwanu Lukman is the latest of the Nigerian politicians who went abroad to die. He was the Nigerian Federal Minister of Petroleum Resources and the Secretary General of OPEC for many years. In all of those years it probably did not occur to him to persuade or collaborate with the Federal Ministry of Health in Nigeria to build a world class hospital from a very small percentage of the huge revenue the Petroleum Ministry was swimming in.
He did not bring up or follow up on any public argument on the need to improve the health services that could benefit all Nigerians. Someone can argue that it was not his job to do that. Would that be because he was too busy or because he had a choice of living and dying abroad? Would that not amount to selfishness? Did he not think of doing a check up or visiting the doctors here in Nigeria when he is on duty as a member of the executive all of those years?
Umaru Dikko, another very corrupt man who was alleged to have looted over 300 million pounds when the Naira was still hefty ended it in London recently. The monies that disappeared under Mr. Shagari alone added to this 300 million pounds would build the best hospitals in the world in all the states of the federation in the 1980s when Umaru Dikko and the rest of the criminals in NPN were stealing and waiting for Nigerians to eat from the dustbin to flag-off or signify that they were hungry.
Dora Akunyuli died in India, also recently. She was treated in Nigeria, USA and finally rested in India. It will be difficult to absolve any living or dead Nigerian politician in the complacency that rigmarole daily under their noses.
The packaging and off-loading of Musa Yar’ Adua to Nigeria from German to take his last breathe was an adequate trigger that should have sparked off a public debate about the state of health provision to all categories of Nigeria. No one in Yar Adua’s cabinet started any debate. No one was wise enough to raise the red flag on functional public health care delivery system for Nigerian politicians and all categories of Nigerians in Nigeria.
One would hope that before the end of 2014 that the present administration will purge the shame and build world class hospitals that have the same facilities and professionalism like the ones they run to in Germany, Saudi Arabia, India, USA and London in Abuja and several states in Nigeria. The administration of Jonathan should look beyond the facilities at Aso Rock specialist hospital: not by flying Mrs. Jonathan to Germany for abdominal discomforts.
The National Assembly can probably write their names in gold despite all the monies they have stolen under the rulership of David Mark. They don’t have to think of buying the tallest building in Nigeria like their junior ex-colleague and crook Dimeji Bankole. They should not toe the line of pension scammers like Akpabio and Tinubu.
They can suggest “a law” or pass a healthy bill that the various state governments in Nigeria should work together with the Federal Ministry of Health to copy, construct and equip at least one hospital in their states like the one that Mrs. Jonathan was visiting for treatment and operations.
They can even suggest the type of hospitals that Yar’ Adua visited in Saudia Arabia or Germany before he ended it in Abuja. Nigeria does not have to borrow the money needed; the criminal politicians only have to stop stealing or looting. Then Mrs Jonathan can fly to Bayelsa State for her next appointment. She can even choose River State in time of peace.
It is sad that even former first lady Maryam Babangida finished her race in the USA. After all Ibrahim Babangida stole so much that he is reported to be richer than many small countries in Africa. The 12 billion dollars stolen from the oil money will be indelible. Why was it impossible to pump the stolen or hidden funds into provision of first class medical facilities across Nigeria? Babangida was not even ashamed of treating an ordinary toe injury in France. As a boy of 14, I was ready to have my ear operated at General Hospital, Ikeja in 1986 until my file got missing!
What is wrong with the mentalities of Nigerian rulers? The type of selfishness that makes men not to think of health issues and the transiency of life in Nigeria is unbelievable. They probably think they won’t die and therefore looted monies that could last them a 100 times of their expected life time or more. Is it a crime if their children and unborn generations have to work to earn their own livelihoods?
Let me be the first person to burst their bubbles if they haven’t seen or heard about it in the movies: nobody is going to leave this world alive and nobody is going to take anything beyond this life after transition to glory or disgrace. So what is the essence of the senseless looting and selfish accumulation of unnecessary commonwealth?
One of the tropical gangsters of the Nigerian military who did not understand this logic was Abdulkareem Adisa. He took his exit in London in 2005. He was a former governor, and then a Minister of Transport. Nigeria has paraded different shades of transport ministers and she still has some of the worst roads in the world. These roads are still claiming lives, an average of 400 per day some 7 years ago. Adisa’s transition went from a road accident in Nigeria to lying lifeless in London.
There are too many sad, embarrassing stories of prominent Nigerians dropping dead in foreign hospitals. How do Nigeria wants to appear in the foreign media? Civilised? That is a long thing. A people whose rulers die abroad will be easily classify as uncivilised and barbaric actually.
Chief Odimegwu Ojukwu kicked the dust in London in 2011. As a former war lord and later a presidential candidate, I missed his campaigns and debates. I don’t know what his manifestos said about health for all. Stella Obasanjo ended it in Spain in 2005 due mainly to the negligence of the doctor after going under the knife for liposuction.
Nigerian doctors are among the best in the world. The government of Nigeria should try to retain them at home or bring them from overseas so they can be useful for simple liposuction procedures. Even Olusegun Obasanjo did not build any world class hospital in memory of the sad and embarrassing tragedy that struck him and the country.
Nigerian doctors are superb when the conditions are right. They need the hospitals where they can work and they need the technology, equipment and enabling environment to practise. I can’t forget that operations are sometimes done in LUTH using candle light! Nigeria is so warm yet no sensible Minister of Power had adopted the solar panel as an alternative clean source of Nigeria. Nigeria does not need any partnership with USA or China. Sunlight is free! Where is the intelligence of the black race taking Nigeria as a study case? Even cold countries are trapping solar power during the short summer season.
I cannot over emphasise the pain of writing these few lines, this essay. They are neither new nor news. It is just too sad that it is going to happen again. One politician who could have started a public campaign of building the best hospitals across all the state of the federation in Nigeria is soon going to fly to London to die!
Even some of Nigeria’s wealthiest people are usually “rushed” abroad for treatments. Some like Dantata did not make it back from Germany. Arisekola did not make it back from London. There are also no records to show that these wealthy people championed or advocated the establishment of public health delivery of international standard for the masses. The exit of these people is therefore not a loss to Nigeria contrary to some nonsense and propaganda of praising the dead. Everybody dies in the end, poor or rich.
Germany and London are sometimes far places to look at. Is anyone counting how many delegates to the Jonathan stage-managed conference that have died during the proceedings? Someone even said they have been brought to Abuja for rituals! It is a sad commentary on the state of health in Nigeria.
It has been more than 50 years since Nigeria got her independence. Then she became more dependent. What will be the cost of building some of the best hospitals in the world across Nigeria? For a group of politicians who love money and are not ready to die because they foolishly don’t understand that life is transient, what would it cost them to organise as they always do on matters on corruption?
For as long as the laws in Nigeria let them enjoy their lives as criminal politicians, they need to organise in another way just to ensure that they build the best hospitals in different states in Nigeria where they can always go to prolong their last days, for death is inevitable. There is no escape route or country for anyone!
In how many ways do writers, critics and public commentators have to put these postulations forward before they understand? Money does not buy eternal life! It is stupidity, if not madness to steal all the monies in the Nigerian treasuries and hide them away abroad, only to go abroad to die in a probably government-funded hospital.
I remember my cousin pointing his finger, showing me the London hospital where Atiku Abubakar went to threat ordinary fracture in 2007. Are we sure Nigerian politicians don’t fly abroad to get pills against headaches? Have they imagined what ordinary Nigerians go through everyday?
Do they know how Nigerians take care of their own sick family members? If they go abroad for treatment of headaches, dislocations and stomach problems, where should Nigerians with kidney and heart problems go to? Have they thought about this seriously? How many of our brethren are we going to contribute to their bank accounts so that can be flown abroad?
Nigerian politicians and their families need to get that fact about life in their heads. All of us cannot have sympathy for the dead, not especially those who looted the Nigerian treasury and diminished the meaning of our lives. They stole our future, our dreams.
Many Nigerians have also lost their parents, family members, friends and neighbours due to preventable illnesses and sometimes callously resulting from the incessant strike actions of medical personnel. The last dilemma is that anyone can be bombed away at any time in the absence of security for the masses.
More than 90 million Nigerians are living in penury, uncertain of the next meal. What should they do about their health conditions when those whom they entrusted public services into their hands are looting the treasuries and flying abroad for treatment, sometimes to die?
In the end the statement that a people get the rulers they deserved always come as a relevant conclusion. How Nigerians allowed the selfish rulers (both military and civilian) to destroy the foundations of the country is unimaginable. Almost all areas of public systems are in shambles. Name it, education, health, housing, security….
My knowledge of Western Nigerian, the memories of my primary school days, my experiences of how public services work around the world continue to assure me that unless the system of government in Nigeria is reverted back to the functional regional system which was punctuated in the 1960s, Nigeria may be going no where.
Regionalism is not the magic dose. Nigeria under the present situation has no magic dose any longer. The destructions are deep and hard to heal. The institutions (and I continue to emphasise that) must work again. The people must become patriotic and there must be dignity in labour and rewards for merit and real excellencies, not ceremonial and idiotic excellencies that pervades the landscape today.
Nigerian politics is rugged, violent, abnormal and dominated by rogues and thugs. Sadly too, it is too cheap when the politicians are neither prosecutable, nor punishable. If this nonsense continues (as in not removing the useless immunity clause), and the highly corrupt, extremely inefficient unitary system of government which is critically disconnected from reality and is in discordant tune with the populace persist, then the people have to stand up one day and take their own destinies in their hands. No guts, no glory!