Monday, October 15, 2007

Medical Treatments Abroad: As Metaphor; For Nigeria's National Condition?

By Paul Adujie
Monday, 12 March 2007
Medical Treatments Abroad: As Metaphor; For Nigeria's National Condition?

By Paul I. Adujie

New York, United States

Aghast and nauseated! Is probably the best way to describe my feelings about the continued spate of air ambulances flying into and out of Nigeria! It strikes me as symptom of the much larger and endemic general debilities and maladies in which Nigeria is in, and out of which Nigeria must get out of, with a speed faster than these air ambulances!

It is a publicly known fact that infrastructures in Nigeria, including hospitals and healthcare delivery institutions were abandoned, neglected and allowed to decay, for decades! More than twenty years in fact! But must Nigeria not endure the spate of air ambulances, that now regularly fly in, and out of Nigeria, as if, evacuating war-injured soldiers from a war zone?

Nigeria’s public infrastructures have been in a fetid state of decadence for so long. I have argued in the past, that is disingenuous to expect an overnight fixes. I have variously argued that there is no magic wand to right all that have been wrought and are wrong with Nigeria's public infrastructures and general decadence. I have insisted that, only mischief-makers or persons with the intellect of a toddler, would blame the current governments for Nigeria's current challenges!

But, now, I must add that I am personally dismayed, that there is no hospital in Nigeria, I repeat, there is no ONE hospital in Nigeria that can treat all these high profile Nigerian citizens, jetting out of Nigeria, in air ambulances for medical care abroad? I am completely baffled! Where are the teaching hospitals? where are the centers for medical excellence? There should be, at the very least, ONE hospital in Nigeria with equipment and medical personnel to treat all ailments under the sun! I consider, a monumental embarrasment, that our presidential candidates have to seek medical care abroad! I further consider it, a national security risk!

The decadence that I speak of, is by no means peculiar to the healthcare sub-sector! The generality of Nigeria’s public institutions have decayed and have remained in a most pungent state of decay for far too long! Nigerian roads are impossibly impassable. Educational institutions and all manners of institutions for learning in Nigeria, became bankrupt and as well as a hostile environment to, and for, any learning.

These rushes to medical facilities abroad, is symptomatic of the continued abandonment, decay and neglect of Nigerian public institutions nationwide and at all levels. I suggest there ought to be a law forbidding public officials from embarking or junketing to medical treatments abroad! Such law may actually have the effect of nudging these same public officials to reform, rebuild, rehabilitate, equip, staff and improve existing medical facilities in Nigeria. While new ones are added as well.

The mad rush to medical treatment abroad has become ridiculous and absurd! Especially, when you consider that the fact that Nigerian trained medical doctors are now found, in great numbers in America, Europe, Asia, the Caribbean, Saudi Arabia and everywhere in between in the world! It simply means therefore, that Nigeria needs healthcare reforms! We know that Nigerian medical personnel are as good as any, in the world. Why then did the former Governor DSP Alamieseigha of Bayelsa junket to his vainglorious tommy-tuck, and liposuction abroad? Hospitals in his domain were starved of funds, equipment and staff!

Governor Alamie went to Europe for cosmetic elective surgery, to fancy-up himself! Upon which Alamieseigha was subsequently arrested in London, for money laundering . Arrested in London, where he was “resting” and “recuperating” from wasteful elective surgeries at Nigerian tax payers’ expense! A great majority of Nigerian public officials are plainly, shameless!

How is it, that many Nigerians have nothing to eat, no good road to travel on, many Nigerians are unemployed and many more Nigerians do not enjoy steady electricity supply and greater numbers of Nigerians do not have clean water to drink and yet, it is somehow okay, to airlift public officials for medical treatment overseas? Nigerian public officials should “benefit” from the conditions in the hospitals under their own “management”

Nigerians public officials should “benefit” from the road conditions that exists under their domain. And Nigerian public officials should be compelled by law to “benefit” and be the direct recipients of the abject poverty, hardships, desperations and hopelessness net they have directly created . Nigerian public officials should be compelled by law, to experience the conditions for which they are responsible or even if such conditions are inherited, our public officials should “benefit” from such horrendous conditions, if they neglected or refused to ameliorate these conditions.

Nigerian public officials should “benefit” from the abject conditions that they have created, or even if such conditions were inherited, as pre-existing conditions before they assumed public office, they should still be compelled to “benefit” if any of their actions or omissions exacerbated such conditions.

I hereby recommend that such proposed laws, that compel public officials, elected or appointed, to compulsorily “benefit” from the abject conditions in Nigeria, and to foreswear, not to take any escape route with air ambulances etc, become part of the issues on the current political campaigns! The fear of this potential “benefit” may actually galvanize public officials in Nigeria to become responsive and fix public infrastructures, or they will “benefit”!

Many Nigerians have been astonished and amazed and offended by these rushes abroad for medical treatments by public office holders, whose duties include, ensuring that Nigeria’s public infrastructures and social amenities are staffed, equipped and functioning at optimum levels. Here are some comments or reactions to the recent air ambulance phenomenon.

A Nigerian who with an assumed pseudonym of “IgoTalk” commented on the internet thus:Newsflash: Atiku Flies to UK for Surgery

This is the authoritative list of places to seek medical attention for Public office holders:

1. Torn Ligament (a.k.a. Tierry Henry injury) - United Kingdom
2. Cattarh and common colds - Germany
3. Running stomach (a.k.a diarrhoea) - Belguim
4. Headache - Spain
5. Back ache - Italy
6. Gonorhea (God forbid!!) - South Africa
7. Muscle pull - Ghana
8. Eye pain - Japan (for laser treatment)
9. Tummy tuck - Germany
10. Breast Enlargement - USA
11. Facial surgery (a.k.a Plastic Surgery) - Greece/Spain/Italy

For the common man who has spent 8 years waiting for the dividends of democracy
1. LUTH (with the slight possibility of getting HIV infected blood)
3. Any others which still have functioning panadol dispensing units

Another Nigerian who goes with the pseudonym of “MistaMan” had the following to say: “A few days ago,it was Yaradua flying to germany in a presidential jet to treat severe catargh,now it is Atiku's turn to fly to the UK in a presidential jet too to treat torn ligament. All these at the expense of Nigerians (me and you).Majority of us cannot even afford to go to the public hospitals (the cheapest) in Nigeria when we are faced with life threatening diseases, not catarrh and torn ligament.”

“They just die. What a pity.”

“Yet these people continue to add salt to injury by telling us they want to continue ruling us. Why cant they just leave us in one peace. Why do they continue to push us to the wall and say in our faces "do your worst".I have been told several times, never tell a man "do your worst".

“Truly and Really, God works in a mysterious way because that is the only explanation why he made us (me and you) Nigerians (siddon and look, hoping for things to change),knowing fully well that any form of resistance on our part to this insult will be catastrophic. This is not to say that God has forsaken us but like I said, he works in a mysterious way, he will lead us out of this mess and I know that he is on our case as I write this.”

And yet, another Nigeria “Purple” had these words as reminder of how these medical treatments abroad all began, with, “Let's not forget that if you have radiculopathy, France is THE place to get treatment.” “Try it anywhere else and you may die” We all, of course remember Ibrahim B. Babangida, who suffered from a “ridiculous leg” and he jetted to France for surgery, where he stayed for a month! He stayed outside Nigeria for so long, even though he was a sitting president of our great republic!

The understandable cynicism and sarcasm continue to pour unto Nigeria related websites and a contributor, “Blondie” added the comments that follows: “If na me be Buhari I go feign one ailment, maybe constipation, then go Katsina General Hospital, take any purgative wey dem go prescibe because I know say dem no go get endoscopy unit there. Walahi the tide will turn so much in his favour. Na wao for Naija sef. Small time dem go begin fly go abroad for malaria wey oyinbo doctor no sabi treat. Second base jare!”

A Nigerian, Eche Chidume postulated what I advocate as well, as he stated the following,

“Here we go again. Travelling to Britain to repair a torn ligament? Until a law is put in place precluding government officials-ex and serving- from travelling out of the country on "medical missions" this unfortunate and embarrassing trend will not end” And in agreement, a Nigerian with a pseudonym ‘Kvin33’ said, “Eche: This is a very good suggestion. A heavy tax and use the collections as a trust fund for hospitals in Naija. We need to get this into law. It must be made more financially painful for serving politicians to travel abroad for medical treatment than for them to fix local hospitals. I will contact key lobby groups to see whether this is feasible for the next NASS session.”

‘Truthsayer33‘, another pseudo named Nigerian made a prescient statement, excerpted here for relevance: …“and he will regret not building a decent hospital in his hometown.”

Truthsayer’s statement above, encapsulates, demonstrates and highlights what is in my mind, and it leads to questions about the conscienceless-ness of, some Nigerian public officials.

Why neglect to discharge your public duties? Knowing that such neglects begets dire consequences for all Nigerian citizens, including such public officials?

Why steal, pillage and plunder Nigeria’s public wealth and resources at the expense of Nigerians’ common good? Why pillage and plunder despite glaring after-effects of that?

Why must you stash looted public money overseas, when there is no functioning hospital in your hometown, yes! your hometown!

Why would a senator steal Nigeria’s money to buy several Sports Utility Vehicles (SUV)s at more than $50,000.00 per one, when the same senator has done nothing, in words, actions or pronouncements to improve the conditions of the roads in his constituency, let alone, all of Nigeria? What is the use of the Mercedes jeep or the Cadillac Escalade, if the Nigerian road in disrepair, or in ruinous condition due to erosion, would soon ruin these expense vehicles?

Why would a VP purchase a two million dollar mansion in Maryland, USA, when there is no hospital that can treat a dislocation or torn ligament? Why would you allow your brazen and egregious pillaging, to expose countless Nigerian to avoidable and needless deaths?

Any reasonably logical person would have thought, that Nigerian public officials, even if, some of them lack a care in the world for the average citizen, or for Nigeria and the common good and public good of people in Nigeria, such public officials would muster the common sense, and be informed by their own enlightened self-interest, and as a consequence, engage in self-preservation, by ensuring that there are good roads, and yes! Good hospitals for themselves in Nigeria! But there is no logic or reasonableness in all these! There public money to fly abroad for medical treatments, exclusively reserved for public officials! How sad? Very sad indeed!

Nigeria must urgently engage in rehabilitations, reconstructions, renovations and reforms of all public infrastructures, roads, bridges, hospitals, schools and other social and economic amenities. A massive public works project must begin in Nigeria, nationwide. It will have multiple advantages and effects. I quite understand fiscal discipline and responsibility or the ever present fear of spurring on, inflation, if caution is not applied and adhered to, scrupulously. Nigeria must engage in national rebirth and renewal, through public works.

Massive public works projects will definitely create employment in great numbers, while Nigeria’s public infrastructures simultaneously receive a huge and a desirably necessary face-lift! The time to act, is NOW!

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