At the twilight days of last year, the auto convoy of Governor of Kogi State, Captain Idris Wada, was involved in a very ghastly road accident, which cost the life of his aide-de-camp and inflicted very serious injuries on him, including a fracture of his hip bone.
The accident took place between Ajaokuta and Lokoja as he was reportedly returning from an official assignment. Contrary to the ‘natural’ expectation of Nigerians from what had become the fashion, Governor Wada did not order for an air ambulance to instantly fly him to a hospital in Germany, which has recently become the medicare haven of Nigerian leaders – big and small – since the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua spent his last days in a Wiesbaden Hospital.
He rather ordered for a helicopter that took him to a hospital at the Garki II section of the Abuja Federal Capital City. There, he was stabilised, operated upon and had his fracture fixed. Two days later, he was taken back to Lokoja, his state capital, where he was spotted and photographed in his office. A few days later, he was spotted again at the Abuja hospital, when he returned for a post surgical assessment.
While he was undergoing treatment at the hospital, his chief media aide, Mr. Jacob Edi, and the medical chief of the facility, Dr. Ogedengbe, informed the world that Wada had expressly declared that he did not want to be taken abroad for medical attention but had rather opted to be treated in Nigeria, on account of the great confidence that he reposes in our own doctors and in their capacity to perform as well as the best anywhere in the world.
Today, Wada is said to be convalescing well and that his fracture is healing properly, even for the person of his age, thanks to the expertise of the doctors, who had handled his case and his psychological disposition. I am commenting on this incident that would have looked ordinary and simple, for many weighty reasons, especially because we should not regard it as being that simple and ordinary, if only for the object lessons and precedent it carries along.
The lessons for me are heavier than most things that have happened in Nigeria since the return of the so-called democracy or specifically speaking, since the end of the military era of governance. I quickly recall that in 2007, during the electioneering campaign, the two major presidential candidates, Umaru Yar’Adua of the PDP and Atiku Abubakar of the ACN, were almost simultaneously ferried abroad to be treated for ailments that could be adequately managed at our local dispensaries.
While the UMYA camp announced that their principal had been taken to Germany to be treated for flu, the Atiku camp announced that the then vice president, who was campaigning to become president, had sustained a sprain on his knee while exercising at his gym. When because of those simple ailments, the two men, who would be president had gone abroad for treatment; the lesson was loud and clear: they did not have any confidence in the medicare system of the country they wanted to lead and did not intend to do anything to change the situation.
It was, no surprise, therefore, that President Yar’Adua stayed more in foreign hospitals than he stayed in the State House. Even before then, the Obasanjo administration that had reigned for the eight previous years had treated the health delivery system in the country with such disdain that the example of the Abacha era, which had seen to the construction of the National Hospital in Abuja was put in quick reverse mode. Since the UMYA era, it has become both a state policy as well as a status symbol for Nigerian leaders of every hue to scoff Nigerian medical facilities as they troop to offshore hospitals at the least opportunity, at public expense.
Not to be outdone, the ordinary people who can afford it have also followed their example in droves and today, offshore medical facilities, especially in India, have become the first medical port of call for most Nigerians, while our own hospitals remain scorned, scoffed and abandoned in utter dejection. It does not matter that most of the doctors, who attend to Nigerian patients in those foreign hospitals, are Nigerians as well as doctors, who are less experienced and qualified as Nigerian doctors. It is not difficult to see why Nigerian leaders and policy makers have left our health delivery system as well as our educational system in such a mess.
It is simply because neither they nor members of their families patronise our hospitals and schools. It also hardly matters that just a little percentage of the funds that are expended on this huge avoidable financial haemorrhage can adequately fix our medical and educational institutions. But what it boils down to is that most of our leaders are not only foolish; they are unpatriotic and irresponsible. It is even more saddening that other nations are feeding fat on this official stupidity.
These days, it is easier than ABC to obtain Indian visas because the Indian government welcomes and feeds fat on this idiocy, which drives Nigerians to flock to India to seek medical attention for even simple ailments. You simply need to make a telephone call to the Indian High Commission for someone to come rushing to any location to arrange for you to be freighted off, like buffoons, to India for treatment.
Every other country, even Ghana, now benefits from the stupidity of Nigerian leaders, which compels them to leave our institutions in comatose situation while in search of those abroad. Recently, I stumbled on an online advert of Egyptian hospital, looking for Nigerian chefs that would be preparing meals for their bustling Nigerian patients. While in Cape Town, during my last trip there, I went to a restaurant run by a Nigerian couple that is making a great fortune. The restaurant is part of a facility that caters for Nigerians, who have come to attend hospitals in Cape Town.
I was happy that it was run by Nigerians – by a Bayelsa-born doctor that is married to an enterprising Nnewi lady. But other thousands of foreigners make a kill daily off other Nigerians on medical tourism. Yet, we lack the resources to run the simplest things we need at home. But last week, Governor Idris Wada showed that not every Nigerian leader has an inferiority complex, is foolish or unpatriotic.
There is nothing special about the Cedar Crest Hospital at Garki II Abuja where Wada asked to be taken beyond the fact that it is run by very dedicated and well trained Nigerian doctors. Such brilliant team of consultants – Ogedengbe, Biodun Ogungbo and Mahmoud Felafay – are also found elsewhere in all parts of Nigeria but are denied support and patronage by both the government and the elite of the society. Yet, on the notice board there, you will see that the facility enjoys the clientele of the best corporate bodies and multinationals in the country.
And like those corporate citizens, Governor Wada, must have known and become convinced that Nigerians are the best in anything they put their minds in and that is why, in his belief in Nigeria, he also believed in the products of our system. I am certain that the information available to the Kogi State governor about the capacity of Nigerian medical practitioners is not exclusive to him but is also available to most of us, but it is his faith and patriotism that have made the difference.
Most Nigerians, who are in a position to know, are aware that the Garki II facility exists but would rather go abroad, for the status symbol it confers on them and for the resources it rakes in for them. But for Wada, knowledge is power and he exhibited it adequately.
He must have learnt that the young men at Cedar Crest Hospital can match any doctor in the world in the management of complex orthopaedic cases and can also hold their own in trauma management, neuro- and corrective surgery, he went there and got results at a little fraction of what it would have cost if he had gone abroad. I have a personal public testimony to make about what Governor Wada must have experienced.
On last December 23, my cousin’s wife and their seven-year-old son were travelling to our town in Anambra State from Abuja. Between Lokoja and Ajaokuta (near the place where Wada’s car crashed a few days later), they collided with a trailer, which mauled their car. The woman was killed instantly while her son and the driver sustained serious injuries. After different runs through the Federal Medical Centre, Lokoja, and University Teaching Hospital, Ilorin, the young and dying Stephan ended up at the Cedar Crest Hospital at Abuja on the New Year Day.
I was opportuned to be at the facility last week when that my seven-year-old nephew was taken almost dead to the same hospital around the time that Wada returned for his post surgery assessment. My nephew had sustained multiple fractures on his two thighs and on his right arm, in addition to deep cuts on the head and face; he came out of the theatre on January 2 after multiple surgeries and within 36 hours, the young battered boy was speaking, eating and communicating.
By the time you would be reading this piece, the only problem we would have would be how to explain to him the whereabouts of his mother, who, we had told him, was on a journey. I am sure that not many of those hospitals where our big and mighty flock to abroad can perform such a feat. My extended family might not have access to public till nor have we stolen public funds but we can still pool resources to afford the best medicare for Stephan abroad, but like Wada, we also have faith in Nigeria and its institutions.
Governor Wada is obviously aware and knows about one Dr. Wada, who is a well- known and very successful medical practitioner in Abuja, a reputed consultant in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, who has made his mark in fertility techniques and management. In our own case, we also know a Professor Clement Ezechukwu, the current provost of the Nnamdi Azikiwe Teaching Hospital College of Medicine, Nnewi, who has left his mark in Paediatrics and left remarkable imprints on research and management of children’s diseases, to the extent that his services are sought around the world.
There are other Nigerian doctors like them, vegetating in Nigeria but staying put because of the love of their country instead of emigrating to ‘better climes’ where they would work with better facilities and less for better conditions of service. Nigeria is really a very unfortunate country and the citizens even more so. A nation and a people so gifted have been dragged to the pit by those who they have elected to lead them to the Promised Land. For, what will it take to equip our hospitals with only a fraction of what is spent in the search for medicare abroad?
What will it take to put a smile on the face of our educational system with only a meagre percentage of what we squander in the search of education abroad? Are there no people of conscience amongst those we have elected, who are capable of asking reasoned questions? What is it in our genes that deadens the conscience and blunts the vision of every elected person in Nigeria? What is it in our system that immediately obliterates the humanity of our people once they come to a position of public reckoning?
Too many questions; so few answers! But before we find answers that do not seem to exist, I wish to call on Nigerians to applaud and extol the example of Governor Idris Wada of Kogi State in this rare dramatisation of patriotism and belief in Nigeria – feats that are becoming extinct in the people we call our leaders today in the country. Some people might wish to play down this gesture and might even wish to impute motives to it. But let us not forget that people are a result of their environment and upbringing.
If, therefore, Wada, knowing that his other colleagues, like Governor Danaba Suntai of Taraba, would have headed abroad, but had opted, instead, to stay here and if need be, die amongst his own people, then, he deserves our salute, our applause and our prayers for a quick recovery. Thanks, Governor Idris Wada, for making us realise that even from the Sodom and Gomorrah that has become the Nigerian leadership at different levels, we can still find, at least, one Lot and his household. On behalf of long suffering Nigerians, I wish you a quick recovery… and a happy New Year.