Akintunde Oyebode: How each of us can change the world (YNaija FrontPage)

The way social media has become a tool for saving lives is reflective of our failing health care system.

I avoid reading books written by former presidents, and view most of them as attempts to rewrite history and whitewash tattered reputations. It is a cruel way to view any form of literature, but the first book I read, written by a former president, was Olusegun Obasanjo’s My Command. For those who have not been fortunate to read any of his ‘books’, they can refer to Wole Soyinka’s summary of the author. He said, “Obasanjo has earned a reputation as an assiduous chronicler of the immediate past, but one most prone, alas, to the extreme latitudes of create license.”

Despite the torture of General Obasanjo’s creativity, I overcame this bias thanks to the sound advice of a wizened old teacher. When I discussed my theories on presidential literature with him, he responded by giving me the 12 Books of Meditations, written by Marcus Aurelius during his reign as Roman Emperor. It is an intense work of self judgment, and a reminder that nobility should be attained while we are on earth, because, like everything else, we will soon be buried in oblivion. If you read it, and eventually like it, you are in good company. It is Bill Clinton’s favourite book.

Bill Clinton is one of my favourite leaders, so I felt compelled to read his autobiography, My Life. After a few months, I completed the 1,000 page book, vowing to avoid books written by Mr. Clinton. But he isn’t called The Comeback Kid for nothing, so I shelled out a few dollars to buy his second book, Giving: How Each of Us can Change the World. A lot of the stories and names in this book are known by most, but the truly inspiring stories are those of ordinary people that did extraordinary things to change the world.

There is the story of Oseaola McCarty, a woman that washed clothes for a living.  After almost 80 years of being a washerwoman, she gave $150,000 (60% of her life savings) to the University of Southern Mississippi to provide scholarships for deserving students in need of financial assistance. Four years after this donation, this amazing woman died of Cancer. Another man that inspired me is the co-founder of Partners in Health (PIH), Dr. Paul Farmer. Through the PIH, poor patients living with tuberculosis and AIDs are able to obtain free drugs to treat their diseases and live better lives. The initiative started in 1987 in Haiti, but has now grown to Europe (Russia), South America (Peru), and Africa (Rwanda), where Dr. Farmer now resides.

Last week I woke up to a broadcast from my sister that her friend had been diagnosed with a Malignant Sarcoma, a type of Cancer I am not competent to explain. Within hours, an impromptu fundraiser had begun on blogs, especially the effective micro-blog, Twitter.  Usually, when I see calls for donation, the words of Ronald Reagan ring loud: “Trust, but verify.” But this was close to home, and for once I could put a story to the suffering of this patient, and my favourite three words were meaningless. The way social media has become a tool for saving lives is reflective of our failing health care system. It is a reminder that we live in a country where health insurance is a mirage, and hospitals are confused with mortuaries.

As someone remarked on twitter, the more we save our own, the more we shame our government. It is clear this impromptu crowd funding initiative is still scratching the surface; and the hash tags #SaveOke, #SaveJude and #SaveFunmi will morph into something bigger. It could become a parallel tax system to crowd fund the provision of drugs, training of doctors, and even construction of hospitals. As my friend says, the best way to get governments to work is to make them redundant.

We might be ordinary people, but, together, we can do extraordinary things.

Note: If you want to donate to save Funmi Lawal, you can do so by making a donation to her account. GTB Account Number: 0002855164. Name: Funmilayo Lawal.


* Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

Comments (2)

  1. Really thoughtful and inspiring piece as always. My thursdays are incomplete without reading your column. I believe Nigeria needs a few people like you to be consistent and stay true to themselves, and we might just create that place we've always dreamt about.

    1. Thanks Nonso, will keep those words.

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