The Sun News

National Hospital, Abuja: When ignorance is disease

The Nigerian elite and the wealthy class do not patronise Nigerian hospitals. Truth. The reasons are multifarious and easily justified. They see Nigerian hospitals, as at worst, mortuaries and “departure lounges” of patients; and at best, mere “consulting rooms”. Either way, Nigerian hospitals, especially government owned hospitals, are treated with disdain and contempt. What with their untidiness, odorous environments, lack of basic medical equipment and treatment facilities, e.g., syringe, injections, bandages, patients’ sleeping beds, etc.

I am also guilty of this unfortunate mindset and antediluvian stereotype, which is predicated, as I have just discovered about the National Hospital and Teaching Hospitals, on sheer ignorance and lack of awareness on the part of the elite of our society.

I thank God for good health. The last time I was admitted in hospital was for appendectomy (popularly called appendicitis), in April, 1992. This was just five months after I married. I hate hospitals and hospital environments. But, like other uninformed Nigerians, I go abroad for annual medical checks-up, especially to the UK, USA and South Africa whenever I have the opportunity to visit those countries. I simply believed, ignorantly, as most Nigerians do, that Nigerian hospitals did not have good diagnostic centres. My psyche was accentuated by the terminal lung cancer that ravaged my late mentor and soul mate, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, for years, without Nigerian hospitals detecting it, until he discovered it belatedly in the U.K. He died of it on 5th of September, 2009, at 71. This was the only battle Abdul-Ganiyu Oyesola Fawehinmi, SAN, the Baba Adini of Ondo State and Senior Advocate of the Masses (SAM), ever lost. Death, thou art ashamed. Death, where is thy sting? Why did you stealthily pluck away our numero uno human rights activist and social justice crusader? Why?

All these “Government Hospitals” misgivings were, however, blown into smithereens when my son, lawyer Oshomha, was taken to the National Hospital, Abuja, over a toothache. My immediate reaction (self-preservation is the first law of nature), was to quarrel with my wife, Lady Josephine, a lawyer, a humble, very calm, good-natured woman of “inestimable value” (permit me, the late sage, Pa Obafemi Awolowo, for borrowing your patented famous words). I queried her, as to why she did not patronise a “private hospital”, rather than “these government hospitals”. She carefully detailed her stunning findings about the high flight modern facilities she observed at the National Hospital and how she believed it was a waste of scarce foreign exchange resources for any Nigerian to go abroad, looking for, in Sakwato, what was actually in our sokoto trousers. I was intrigued, nay fascinated.

So, it was curiosity, more than a desire to carry out my annual medicals, that made me to take a trip to the National Hospital, Abuja. There, I was welcomed by the amiable, easy going, ever smiling and hardworking Chief Medical Director, Dr. J.A.F. Momoh. Dr Momoh, by the way, as he later narrated with nostalgic reminiscences, is an alumni of St. Peter’s College, Agenebode (my alma mater). He told a stunned me how, in 1974, I had made the best result in the WASC examination with many A1s, the very year he was admitted into the college. He chronicled how I, the youngest and smallest in the 1974 class, had resisted pressures during the transitional year, to have our final WASC examination postponed to the usual November, rather than the then newly introduced June, of each year. He said I had wondered why the hell we would be “wasting much needed” time, staying back in school, when we should “get out and seek admission to higher institutions.”

Dr. Momoh was right. I had forgotten. But, he believed that if I, a villager, brought up in the most humble beginnings, without any wooden spoon (let alone a golden one), in my mouth, could make the best result, then he could, also. That was how, he recounted,  he also went out and smashed records, making the best result, the only grade one, in 1978, four years after my 1974 uncommon feat.

Dr. Momoh was kind enough to conduct me round the entire hospital. First, I did my teeth, urinary and cardiovascular medicals, where I met some of the best medical hands I have ever come across. After diagnostics, you have to pay. True. Like anywhere in the world. It was time to test the accounting system. I was determined, in these two days of exploration, to see it all by myself. No hearsay. I followed my wife to the billing Section. There, I met with the Chief Accountants of the National Hospital, Rita Isagba, Murtala Garba and Shehu Aliyu, who head the computerised billing units and other integrated accounts. The billing and payment processes were modern, swift and seamless. The hospital’s doctors, nurses, para-medical staff, and those on internship and residency were simply awesome. The personalised care (just pay a little fraction more, if you don’t want to join the longer, well organised queue), professional touch and local warmth were incredibly better than what I had ever been accorded in any foreign hospital, where smiles are wry and fleeting.

I was amazed to see a full blown IVF centre, Nuclear Medicine Department, which I was told was for radio-iodine therapy for thyroid disease, bone scan to detect cancer spread and V/Q scan for pulmonary embolism, amongst others. I found, to my pretty surprise, a Radiology Department equipped with state of the art machines, such as MRI (which I do abroad every year, to ensure a healthy me); CT scan, Mammography machines, Fluoroscopy and many ultra-sound machines. I was shown PCR machines for DNA analysis, that give rapid results, using different biochemical parameters. I was accorded the rare privilege of being shown equipment that take care of non-invasive cardiological investigations, such as computer-driven ECG (I did one); stress ECG, Holter ECG monitoring, Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring; and Echocardiography (I also did one over 24 hours, with belts and tubes tied on me like an Astronaut about to launch into space). Ha! hospitals!

Dr. J.A.F. Momoh informed me (and I verily believe him, as we say in court), that the hospital carries out vascular surgeries, cardiothoracic surgeries for different congenital heart diseases; insertion of pacemakers, etc.

Nigerians, follow me please, as I discovered, to my utter shock, during hours of personal tour through the hospital, as directed by Dr. Momoh, that the National Hospital carries out dental and plastic surgery. I met physically with Dr. Charles Ononiwo, a plastic surgeon, who showed me pictures of dental and maxillofacial surgeries that he had carried out over the years, and which turned near hideous monster-looking patients into handsome and beautiful Nigerians. Ha, science and technology!!! I saw different Departments and sections.

With upbeat emergency services to take care of trauma and non-trauma cases, I just couldn’t see why any Nigerian should travel abroad for medical services. I met, at the hospital, former Minister of Health (1995-1997), at the time the National Hospital was born, Dr. Ihechukwu Madubuike. The literary icon told me he had always patronised the National Hospital, and has never seen any reason to go abroad on any medical voyage. I agree with him totally. I believe, very earnestly, that the reason for foreign medical tours has always been driven mainly by fear, ignorance, lack of adequate publicity by the government and lack of leadership by example by highly placed government functionaries, who run abroad, even for mere finger whitlow, ear and tooth aches. When gold rusts, what will iron do? One quick observation, though. I noticed some few ceilings that were stained, and some others that cracked, threatening to fall off. I was told that Julius Berger, the German Construction giant, had maintained the hospital for ten years after building it, but not any longer. Really? Bring them back, oh Federal Government, if this will ensure the first class structures and well groomed environment of sheer flora and aesthetics that I beheld.   

Nigerians, now you know that the wellness you are looking for in Germany, USA, UK, South Africa, India, Malaysia, China, Singapore, Qatar, Dubai and Saudi Arabia, is right here with us at the National Hospital, Abuja. Welcome on board with me, as I have since anchored here.

Saraki’s acquittal by the CCT:  The judiciary as the last hope  of the common man

The CCT headed by Mr. Danladi Umar (not Justice Umar, as always erroneously reported), was bold, courageous and right, in spite of visible executive interference and manipulation, to have discharged and acquitted Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, on all the 18 counts of false declaration of assets levelled against him. EFCC, where is thy much trumpeted media trial of cases, dramatic hype and conviction of suspects on the pages of newspapers and social media, leading the country to now? Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), where has your bare knuckles, warped and puerile “legal advice” to the vindictive Executive to denigrate and humiliate otherwise innocent critical voices, opponents and opposition of government led you to now? You have actually done more harm and damage to the so- called anti-corruption “war” than all the vampires and barbaric, primitive accumulators of our national wealth and common patrimony joined together. Through your un-researched and myopic stance, the government has serially lost cases. Rather than put your “Fuji House of Commotion” in order, you always, whenever you lose cases, shamelessly declare that “corruption is fighting back” and that the courts are against the anti-corruption fight, as if the courts owe the Executive a sacred duty and obligation to help it trample on citizens’ rights and win badly prepared and lousily prosecuted cases, at all cost. I had predicted some months ago, on television and my two back page weekly columns in The Sun and New Telegraph newspapers, after a calm reading of daily media reports of the case, that Saraki would win, be discharged and acquitted. This Nostradamic prediction was anchored simply on the premises that no scintilla of evidence was being led by any of the four prosecution witnesses to prove the legal ingredients of the alleged false declaration of assets by Saraki. Rather, what we saw from the EFCC stable as usual, was the usual Baba Sala’s Alawada Kerikeri’s Odeon histrionics and sensational media hype, about Saraki, receiving humongous pension from Kwara State government, whilst simultaneously receiving salary from NASS; of Saraki taking loans to buy many properties; of Saraki owning many assets, etc. How did these prove specific allegations of false declaration of assets? No attempt was made by the EFCC to prove the essential ingredients of “false declaration”. I was laughing. I am still laughing.

Corruption, a very corrosive and ravaging cancer that has virtually destroyed the weak fabric of our society, cannot be defeated outside observance of the rule of law. It cannot be won by trampling on citizens’ rights and cherished liberties. The fight is not mutually exclusive of due observance of our collective and individual rights and liberties. Those still buying into the crude and bestial way it has so far been fought should take time out to read chapter 4 of the Nigerian Constitution. They should go and read the immortal words of Mark Niemoller in 1946: “First, they came for the communists, and I did not speak out because, I was not a communist. Then, they came for the socialists and I did not speak out, because, I was not a socialist. Then, they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out, because, I was not a trade unionist. Then, they came for the Jews and I did not speak out, because, I was not a Jew. Then, they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

EFCC wants to probe Danladi Umar?  Did I hear well?

I just read that the EFCC intends to re-open the bribery allegation case against Mr. Danladi Umar, Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT). The reason, as is all too clear to every discerning Nigerian, even to the most rabidly pro-EFCC partisans, is because Umar resisted all executive pressures and overt manipulations to convict Senate President, Bukola Saraki, at all cost. Having lost the 18-count charge in a most disgraceful manner on a no-case-submission made by Saraki’s legal team (as also happened in Justice Ademola’s case), the EFCC has suddenly realised that Umar has a corruption case against him. When was this “discovery” made?

The anti-graft agency forgets that records are sacred. Such records clearly show that the same EFCC had, on two previous occasions, in 2015 and 2016, given Umar a clean bill of health and exonerated him of any corruption or bribery charges. First, the EFCC, in a letter written by its former Chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde (no condition is permanent), in response to the former SGF (Anyim Pius Anyim)’s letter reference no SGF.19./S.24/11/11/451, dated February 23, 2015, stated that there was no prima facie evidence to even charge Umar to court over the N1.8m bribery allegation. It rather charged Umar’s Personal Assistant, one Ali Gambo Abdullahi, to court in charge No. CR/137/2015, which is still pending at the FCT High Court, Abuja. Secondly, the Secretary to the EFCC, Mr. Emmanuel Adegboyega Aremo, in yet another letter to the SGF, dated April 20, 2016, again completely exonerated Danladi Umar of any corrupt practices. So, what has suddenly changed that the EFCC now wants to go after him? We all know. Umar discharged and acquitted much traduced Saraki, whom the EFCC expected him to convict at all cost. God, thank you for always being the defender of the beleaguered, the voice of the voiceless and the protector of the ensnared.

Thought for the week

“Your pride for your country should not come after your country becomes great; your country becomes great because of your pride in it.”Idowu Koyenikan

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