#2023: Tinubu’s London trip is the timely reminder about healthcare being top priority

Bola Tinubu

All Progressives Congress chieftain, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has travelled out of Nigeria weeks after declaring his intention to contest the 2023 presidential election, ThisDay reports.

This is coming less than four months after Tinubu returned to Nigeria from a three-month medical trip to the UK. He was said to have undergone knee surgery and “rigorous post-surgery physiotherapy”.

Despite this, Lagos Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has insisted that Tinubu is the most qualified Nigerian to be president in 2023.

Also, APC stalwart, James Odumbaku, otherwise known as Baba Eto, said the forthcoming general election presented another opportunity for Nigerians to make the right choice to keep the country on the path of development.

He said, “Tinubu is a tested leader to lead Nigeria out of the woods. We will work with passion to ensure he emerges as our party’s candidate and also win the presidential election.”

Sanwo-Olu said, “Let us tell the naysayers and those, who are still in doubt that we are ready to work for the realisation of this ambition, because Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is the number one salable candidate for president. We will preach this gospel with diligence, dedication and high sense of commitment. Asiwaju is an unfolding success story our nation deserves at this time.”

Read also: Are we really going to miss Sanwo-Olu?

The question

According to Wikipedia, Bola Tinubu was born March 29, 1952, so is 69 this year. Younger than current president, Muhammadu Buhari, who is 79. Also younger than Africa’s oldest president, Cameroon’s Paul Biya, who is 88.

Tinubu is younger than another presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, who is 75. This means that apart from Atiku, Tinubu is the country’s oldest presidential candidate. And, reports indicate that his medical tours have become frequent.

Old age does not deter anyone from taking up top leadership positions like leading a whole country of over 200 million people, but his medical tours raise questions about his health capabilities.

We already know President Buhari as a frequent medical tourist. This means that we may be looking at another medical tourist – which ultimately brings to the fore the epileptic health system in Nigeria.

The concern

In 2017, Muhammadu Buhari infamously went to the UK for medical treatment for four months – he has been going on tours like that. Benin President Patrice Talon flew to France in May of the same year for almost a month to treat an undisclosed illness in Paris, France. Ali Bongo, president of Gabon, suffered a stroke and was rushed to hospital in Saudi Arabia on October 24, 2018.

There is a pattern, and it is that healthcare is still a significant problem, yet African presidents have shown little or no urgency in tackling this matter. Like other nations, Nigerian leaders show no political will to tackle this problem.

With a life expectancy of 55 years, Nigeria is one of four countries with the lowest life expectancies globally, after the Central African Republic, Lesotho, and Chad, based on the latest data from the United Nations. 

The strike by resident doctors and other healthcare professionals due to unmet expectations on their ideal remunerations, health care delivery standards, continued battle with the COVID-19 virus and its continually changing variants, most recently the Omicron strain, brain drain issues and a host of other dynamics affected the performance of the health sector in 2021. Though, there were gains.

For better healthcare performance in 2022, Public health physician and Executive Secretary, Enugu State Agency for Control of AIDS (ENSACA), Dr Chinedu Arthur Idoko, recommended that federal and state government increase, in an objective, practical sense, their funding of health care.

In 2021, the sector performed pretty well as the country was able to contain the various health emergencies ranging from COVID-19 pandemic, cholera, measles, Lassa Fever and new polio variant. But, the country’s health sector has many vital areas demanding urgent and tasking measures.

The poor state of the health sector and the government’s commitment to improving it might have been one of the reasons for the 29.37% increase in the proposed allocation to the ministry of health. President Buhari hinted at this by noting in his budget speech that critical health projects will be carried out in 2022. ₦711.28 billion (4.3% of the entire budget) is earmarked for the health ministry.

The 2022 proposed health budget still falls below the 15% benchmark of health sector budget allocation which was reached by the leaders of the African Union (AU) in April 2001 at Abuja where the heads of state and government of the AU made a commitment to allocate 15% of their annual budget to improve the health sector. 

2022 definitely will be very critical for health sector because the attention of federal government will be divided due to heightened political activities ahead next year’s General Election. That’s why presidential candidates must exhibit a high level of political will to address the rot in the health sector.

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