The speed and secrecy with which Dame Jonathan was shipped out of the country suggests our leader might believe in Nigeria, but won’t put all his eggs in this basket.
A few years ago, a well known professor was invited to Nigeria from the United States at the behest of one the South-West governors. The professor usually shared his thoughts on solving Nigeria’s numerous problems through the print media, and was soon invited ‘home’ to be a part of the solution, albeit at the state level. It was invitation he could not ignore, so he started a series of long trips to Nigeria. On one of such trips, he fell ill, and was treated by his host governor’s personal physician. He was given a few basic drugs, and advised to remain in bed for the rest of the week. After two days of bed rest with no improvement in his condition, he called his physician in America, and gave a detailed explanation of how he felt; twenty four hours later, he was back in America, admitted into a specialist hospital. The verdict was predictable; if he had stayed back in Nigeria, this might have been an obituary instead of an article.
Last week, I wrote about how easily governments press the self-destruct button without realizing it. A few weeks ago, we were told how our President’s commitment to Nigeria is total. We were told how his dress code promotes Nigeria, and asked to be impressed that his children go to school in Nigeria. To drive the point home, a summary of the President’s menu was shared; it included the increasingly popular cassava bread, fish pepper soup, yam and boiled plantain. The point was keenly made that President Jonathan is 100% Nigerian, and his lifestyle showed a keen commitment and belief in the Nigerian story.
The speed and secrecy with which Dame Jonathan was shipped out of the country suggests our leader might believe in Nigeria, but won’t put all his eggs in this basket. The nature of her illness is less relevant; it does not matter if she suffers from exhaustion, food poisoning or a ruptured appendix. The irony is that neither the President nor is wife has shown faith she can be treated in Nigeria. This is a damning self-assessment of the Jonathan administration, and the ones before it. The list of serving government officials that seek solace elsewhere when their bodies show the slightest sign of weakness is endless. To them, the National Hospital in Abuja is a museum that houses medical artifacts.
The Federal Government plans to spend N282 billion on healthcare in 2012. This seems like a tidy sum at first glance, but when you remember that the same government plans to spend over N60 billion on a bogus amnesty program, it is a sign we are yet to understand our priorities. While the aptly named Government Tompolo Ekpumopolo earns over N3 billion to protect pipelines, the National Health Insurance Scheme has a budget of N1.6 billion. It seems surreal that a man who should be locked up in Ita-Oko Prison for an indefinite period is paid more than a National Health Insurance Scheme; we need not wonder why less than 1 in 20 Nigerians have health cover of any kind.
I started this article on a 6 hour journey to Lagos, and the persistent turbulence on the trip made it difficult for me to finish it. Halfway into the flight, a middle aged lady beside me started breathing heavily. Within seconds she lost consciousness, and hell was let loose. The flight attendant closest to us responded swiftly, and provided oxygen within seconds to aid her breathing. We spent the next 15 minutes looking for signs of life till she opened her eyes, and we heaved a collective sigh of relief. This woman had just been saved 36,000 feet above sea level, without a doctor on board.
The eyewitnesses all muttered their gratitude that this happened on an international airline, with most suggesting local hospitals (not just airlines) don’t have oxygen masks. I tried to argue, but remembered a friend’s experience early this year. Just like the lady on the plane, he suffered from a respiratory condition, and needed oxygen to aid his breathing. He was rushed to a hospital close to his house that didn’t have the oxygen needed to save him; some minutes later, he died.
The list of bright minds needlessly lost in Nigeria rises daily; but it matters little to successive governments. For them, adequate healthcare will always be an air ambulance away.
* Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.