Experience is the best teacher and we have no reason not to learn from our past, except we want to play tricks on ourselves. I am writing this piece in respect to the acknowledgement by Aso Rock/Presidency that our president is suffering from acute pericarditis. This has taken the Presidency almost two and half years to admit or to tell Nigerians that their President is ill. Yet this same administration preaches transparency and openness. The health of a leader is not something to be hidden from the people. Every leader or aspiring leaders should understand that, their lives (health, family, finances, etc) will be in public domain. In the United Kingdom, almost every one knows that Gordon Brown (British Prime Minister) has an eye problem. This was an injury he sustained while playing Rugby sports. The dates of all his medical examinations since he became prime minister are reported by the press.
Agreed that the President can be ill just like any other human being, but when the sickness affects his ability to discharge his presidential duties, then something has to be done. The constitution is clear on this. Nigeria is too big, too fragile and too complex not to have an able president. Be that as it may and in view of the fact that our presidents ill health has costs the nation a lot (delays in performing government duties, the costs of which cannot be quantified in monetary terms). I will propose to all the political parties to always do a comprehensive health check in future, before giving any aspirant their ticket/nomination to contest election. Though there is no guarantee against ill health, but an idea of one’s medical history is important. This should be applicable to all elective positions in the country, starting from the ward councilors to the president.
Let President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua,s case be the last for our country. Nigeria witnessed similar episode during the tenure of late General Abacha. Late Abacha was sick and declined to relinquish power to enable him undergo treatment, till he died in office. The national interest should be considered first. The slow down in government activities largely caused by the ill health of our president, should be a big lesson for all political parties to learn in choosing a candidate. However, the leadership of the political parties themselves deserves a health check (mental fitness, etc), because some of their actions (internal party crises, etc) shows that, all might not be well with their health system. It is possible also that they are not normal.
The National Assembly should apply same methods whenever they have to approve ministerial and ambassadorial nominations. All government (local, state, and federal government) advisers should also undergo a health check. Our President might not be the only sick person. It’s possible that some advisers might not be mentally fit to advise him. One wonders the kind of advices that he receives. In an article I wrote to Mr. President titled; My Christmas Present to President Yar’Adua, I challenged his advisers to make public what they have been telling Mr. President in private, with the exception of security issues. The next in line of leaders that need health checks are the present members of the National Assembly. The actions of our lawmakers (inability to pass the freedom of information bill, etc) are reasons why they too deserve health checks.
The private sector (companies, villages, communities, banks, churches etc) should not hesitate to carry out a health check for all their leaders. Banks in particular needs to have their managing directors/directors undergo health checks. Playing with depositors fund is an indication that bank directors deserve health checks. Perhaps a health check would have been able to spot mental fitness or otherwise of the following bankers; Dr Mrs. Cecilia Ibru (former CEO Oceanic Bank Plc. Standing trial for about N160.2Billion mismanage/looted fund), Dr Bartholomew (Former CEO Union Bank Plc), Bassey Ebong, Henry Onyemem, Niyi Albert Opeodu (Ex Directors of Union Bank of Nigeria Plc facing trials for fraud), Erastus Akingbola of Intercontinental Bank Plc(currently being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for money laundering cases) etc. It is the writer’s view that more agony can be saved the nation, if the banks can starts health checking immediately and removal of unfit bankers. Prevention is better than cure.
The next question becomes which hospital/laboratory in Nigeria will carry out these checks. Do we have “hospitals” in Nigeria? The answer is no, otherwise our President would not have gone to King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He used to visit German hospitals, but it appears that he prefers Saudi Arabian hospital this time. I think the choice of Saudi Arabian hospital was a ploy to deceive Nigerians that he goes there on religious grounds. But their lies could no longer hold water, thus the Presidency had to open up.
Yar’Adua is not the first leader that abandoned Nigerian hospitals. Babangida use to go to France for his medical treatments. Just recently, it was all over the news that Maryam Babangida was seriously ill in a cancer specialist hospital in Los Angeles, America. Late Stella Obasanjo (wife of our former President) died in a Spanish hospital. The list is endless. Perhaps the federal government should also sponsor my friends who are in Nigeria to come for a medical check up overseas. After all Mr. President (Umaru Musa Yar’Adua) approved foreign medical treatment (German Hospital) for ex-governor Turaki of Jigawa State and a serving senator, when he was involved in a road accident. Therefore, if Mr. President can approve oversea medical treatment for Turaki and goes overseas for his own medical treatments, he should also sponsor my friends, after all they are Nigerians. What is good for him (Yar’Adua) should also be good for other Nigerians.
The action(s) of people (Musa Yar’Adua, Maryam Babangida, and Late Stella Obasanjo) mentioned above, shows that the federal ministry of health does not exist. These people are, and have been members of the Nigerian first families (Presidents or wives of Presidents). Therefore, if the first families can’t treat themselves in Nigeria, then it is an indictment on the ministry of health (ministry against health). Perhaps, overseas medical trips are a good avenue to launder money. In that case, those Nigerian first families that went in the past and are still going now are guilty of corruption. Nigerians should hold them responsible for siphoning all the money meant for the ministry of health. Can the authorities (Ministry of health, Senate Committee on Health etc) explain what happened to all budgetary allocations to health ministry at least since the last 10 years? Can the federal minister of health (minister against health) tell Nigerians why no hospital in Nigeria can treat our president. Is it not better that he (minister against health) resigns?
May I use this medium to ask God to heal our President so that he can declare a state of emergency at the Ministry of Health. Let us equip at least one hospital that can treat our leaders and hence stop this national embarrassment. Finally, I wish to appeal to Nigerians to participate and join the fight against global warming. Turn off your electrical appliances/lights when not in use. Plant a tree or sponsor one to plant on your behalf. Government and companies should send less paper work and do more email, telephone, and sms. May God bless Nigeria.
Chinedu Vincent Akuta.
An activist and leader of “Support Option A4 Group” Leicester-UK