THE TASK BEFORE GENERAL MUHAMMAU BUHARI'S PRESIDENCY
At the risk of sounding deeply frustrated, I was compelled by some circumstances beyond my immediate control to stay out of the fray that characterized the closing week of the March 28th 2015 Presidential election. Due to certain personal exigencies I had cause to run around for a Visa to travel to South East Asian country of Malaysia to attend to some personal issues that could not easily and seamlessly be confronted and sufficiently tackled in the Nigerian health care system.
Few hours after the historic announcement of the official results of the Presidential election which saw the emergence of the opposition Presidential candidate of the All Progressive Congress General Muhammadu Buhari as the winner defeating the incumbent President and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party Dr Good luck Jonathan, I and my sibling jetted out to Malaysia and so we have continued to observe and monitor reactions of diverse segments of the Nigerian and global community to the legendary behavior of the eventual loser of that Nigerian election and the incumbent President who for the love of country acknowledged defeat and conceded victory to his arch rival. This is salutary ad indeed the first ever concession by an incumbent President of Nigeria.
First, it is so disappointing that some persons in the media lime light such as the traditional ruler of the state of Lagos Oba Akiolu and the erstwhile Chief of Army Staff ad the man who took part in virtually all of the surreptitious military plots that toppled ad truncated civil and democratic institutions up until the late 1970's General Theophilus Danjuma have displayed total lack of public decorum by uttering hate speeches directed against the members of the Igbo Ethnic group in the aftermath of the general election simply because the majority of this tribal people known as the most resilient republicans voted massively for the outgoing President who was the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party.
General Danjuma in his unbridled triumphalism that the Northern born Presidential candidate defeated the Bayelsa Southern Nigerian born Presidential flag bearer of the outgoing ruling national party stated that the late leader of the defunct Biafran Army [General Emeka Ojukwu of blessed memory] that fought unsuccessfully to achieve secession in the late 1960's in protest over widespread genocidal killings of Igbos in Northern Nigeria, would have in Danjuma's own warped thinking, saved Nigeria of one year of civil war if he had conceded victory on time just like what the current President did when he reportedly lost the March 28th 2015 Presidential election to the Katsina born General Muhammadu Buhari.
On his own part, the Monarch of Lagos threatened to throw Igbos living in Lagos inside the Lagos lagoon should they decide to vote for the Governorship candidate of the PDP Mr Jimi Agbaje against his [Monarch's] choice candidate of the APC Mr Ambode. This outrageously hateful threat has received widespread condemnation and I do expect that the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands will take special notice of this hate speech and indict the Oba of Lagos for attempt to incite genocide in Lagos state during the April 11th 2015 Governorship election against the Igbo Ethnic community resident in Lagos.
Away from these hate speeches of these so called high profile Nigerian elites, one major item of interest that profoundly inspires this piece is the need to provide a clue to the incoming Federal administration on a uniquely disturbing issue that it has to immediately go to work and fix before more devastating harm is done to the Nigerian people. Aside national security which must as a necessity be confronted as a top priority of the next government of Nigeria from May 29th 2015 is the collapse of the Nigerian public and private health system and schemes in Nigeria since the last half a century.
Yours faithfully was forced by the lack of professional commitment on the part of the health carers in Nigeria to seek for solace in foreign land. Lot more Nigerians with means or with people who can assist them financially are traveling in droves to all continents of the World to search for quality health care because the services that they can receive back home in Nigeria can at best be summed up as less -than- impressive and indeed life threatening. Most health institutions especially in the public health system in Nigeria are totally lacking in the basic facilities and the motivated workforce and health professionals to tackle the variegated health challenges confronting millions of Nigerians and due to these series of unprofessional conducts of these health care workers most unfortunate Nigerians who can not afford to travel oversees have died waiting for the quality health care services that are not available in Nigeria. As I punch these keyboards in my hospital bed in Malaysia, I can state without fear of contradiction that Nigeria has to work vigorously to fix our collapsed health system. The incoming government must select some of the most committed Nigerian health care administrators and professionals from wherever they can be recruited from around the globe to move down to all nooks and crannies in Nigeria to begin a year long state of health emergency in which there has to be total overhaul of the workings of the health systems in both the regional, sub regional and national levels. The issue of frequent industrial actions by health workers must become anathema even as the entitlements of health workers must be regularly serviced. Enough of these cacophonies of industrial crises in the Nigerian health system. We must humanize our health care services in Nigeria to save thousands of Nigerians from avoidable deaths. This can and must be done now.
The Federal Government must in addition to carrying out surgical and forensic audits of the accounts of the Nigerian defense and police sectors to determine why national security has been endangered for so long, also embark on a period of forensic audits of the budgets of the Nigerian health care system to know where the 'rain' began to beat us, to retrieve all looted health money and to begin a period of rebuilding, rehabilitation and total overhaul of the health care facilities and the hiring of better motivated and well trained health care professionals to man the newly revolutionized Nigerian healthcare system.
The task of cleaning up the Augean stable and the dirty 'cobwebs' in the public health system of Nigeria is a task that must be done if the well being and welfare of the Nigerian people which is the primary duty of government in accordance with the Nigerian constitution is to be observed to the full and not in criminal breach as is the case currently. As a very serious sector, the Nigerian health system must be completely clean up of all traces of corruption and incompetence and the Nigerian ministry of health and the ministry of Labour in active partnership with the ministry of public environment must make sure that public and private hospital maintains the best global practices in maintaining healthy environment to stop their patients from been reinfected even whilst they are on admissions at the health facilities. Right now as I write the dirtiest places in Nigeria are the public health facilities and the so called General Hospitals. This show of shame must stop and violators must be punished to stop the spread of diseases in Nigeria. Hospitals should be refuge for health care delivery and not centers of spreading diseases to the members of the public. We expect the incoming President to instill national discipline so all health care providers are made to carry out their duties to their patients in the most professional manner. The internal mechanism for enforcing discipline of health care workers must be revived so medical doctors take their jobs seriously and stop the ongoing mass murder by neglect of thousands of patients.
The standard and quality of the public and private health institutions must comply with global best practices and the poor citizens must be provided with efficient health insurance to pay their hospital bills with minimal discomfort. Hospitals in Malaysia are well equipped, very clean and regularly maintained and the facilities are state of the art even as the high quality of services offered by the health providers are second to none. Nigeria has to enforce a code of maintenance culture so owners of health care facilities are made to maintain best global practices. How else can the incoming government stop the frequent outflow of Nigerians to foreign countries for purposes of health tourism if the Federal and state governments will not enforce a strict regime of maintenance culture and also provide the enforcement regime to compel health workers to respect their professional code of conduct and for the annoying frequent industrial actions to be bought to an end in the health system? Few weeks into the Presidential campaign one of the hottest item of public discuss was the trip embarked upon by the eventual winner of the Presidential race General Muhammadu Buhari who was reportedly flown to the United Kingdom for health check ups. Almost all public office holders in Nigeria and their family members travel often abroad for health care. This is outrageous. So it is imperative that the next government at the center in Nigeria must prioritize the public and private health care services to save Nigeria's fast depleting hard global currencies and/or foreign exchange. The President must lead by example by not jetting abroad for health check up and this can only be done if the Nigerian government would hit the ground running by declaring national state of emergency in the Nigerian health system and fix back the collapsed public and private health care. Elected state governors and their officials must build better public health facilities ad patronize these local health institutions whenever the need arises. State houses of Assembly must make law to stop public officials from foreign health tourism at the cost of public fund. Civil society ad community based organizations must build capacity of their members to serve as checks and balances to monitor strict enforcement of these sets of health care regimes in Nigeria. Charity they say begins at home. Enabling environment must be set up in Nigeria to attract foreign direct investors into the Nigerian health system. Let us make hay while the sun shines and we must not let Nigeria be left behind by the rest of the global human community.
Written by Emmanuel Onwubiko, Head of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria.