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Between Adewole and his critics 


The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole

Many Nigerians perceive political office holders with deep-seated cynicism. This negative judgmental attitude may not be unconnected with a multiple of socio-economic challenges in the country, which has understandably turned many Nigerians into irredeemable paranoiac. Millions, who are badly affected by unemployment, under-employment, crime and terrorism among other social vices have become so frustrated and sarcastic with almost all the systems, including governance and its operators. Perhaps, the best place to evaluate Nigerians’ frustrations is on social media, where everybody is connected and nobody is in control!

From various social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn among others, Nigerians, openly and discreetly express their minds without restraints. They blame and insult political leaders to no end. They probably believe that anyone in a public office is responsible for their needless woes. A case in study is the evaluation of Ministers’ performance in the first tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari administration and the cabinet nomination for the second term in office. No Minister escaped Nigerians’ condemnation! Going through many tweets, one is confronted with avalanche of negative assessment such as “this Minister is a failure, the other one is a disaster, and this one did not achieve anything.” In fact, I can’t remember any of the Ministers who was generally commended for good performances!

However, condemnation without investigation, according to Albert Einstein, is the highest form of ignorance. Again, conventional wisdom informs us that he who listens to only one side of a story and draws conclusions is culpable of murder. This is probably what compelled me to investigate the alleged “non-performance” of one of the Ministers, the immediate past Health Minister, Prof. Isaac Folorunso Adewole, whom I have always seen as an achiever extraordinaire, at least, going by his smashing successes as the 11th Vice Chancellor of University of Ibadan. Did Prof. Adewole actually fail to deliver in a field he is well familiar or he simply couldn’t turn water to wine because he was and still not Jesus Christ?    


Investigations showed that before he was appointed in 2015 as Health Minister, health sector was suffering from chronic underfunding and delivery was at its lowest ebb with limited access by Nigerians. The primary and secondary healthcare systems were moribund. Medical tourism was the order of the day and health workers were leaving as they were not engaged and where engaged, but the remunerations were at best, inferior to what obtained at the federal level.

Much sadder was the recurrence of the world poliovirus and malnutrition among children under five. More poignantly, the total budgetary percentage of health care to national budget was just slightly above four percent, in addition to the fact that the number of Nigerians covered by the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) was significantly low. These and many other challenges were the burden inherited by Prof. Adewole. Being a medical doctor himself who is not a stranger to some of these problems, he didn’t waste a single minute before beginning to lead the way to recovery immediately he was appointed.

He took a critical look at the National Health Policy. National Health Policy 2016 came after the first National Policy (1988) and the Second Policy, which was launched in 2004.The NSHDPII took into consideration lessons learnt from the NSDHPI. There was widespread consultation by the team that midwifed the preparation of the document to ensure countrywide ownership. Both documents provided the underpinnings for Nigeria to achieve Universal Health Coverage and provide an opportunity to shape the direction of the health sector

A Rapid Result Initiative was quickly launched in 2016 to bring hope to Nigerians yearning for dividends of democracy. About 10,000 Nigerians benefited from free surgery across the country. These include Nigeriand with goitre, fibroids, hernias. hydroceles as well as cleft lip and palate among others. In 2018,over 9,000 Nigerians benefited from free cataract under the President Muhhamadu Buhari (PMB) Restores Vision. Initiative.

Prof. Adewole with his team soon rolled out the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF), with the formal launch in Osun, Niger and Abia States. With this laudable initiative, an estimated 100 million Nigerians would have access to basic health care at the Primary Health Centre (PHC) closer to their homes, as one PHC in each political ward across the country will deliver the BHCPF. Nigerians seeking care and medical attention on issues such as malaria treatment, ante-natal care delivery including Caesarean sections, under five childhood illnesses, immunisation and screening and referral of hypertensive and diabetic cases will all be offered at the PHC level and paid for by the federal government. The idea was replicated in every state of the federation. At last count, over 30 states have registered for the programme. The Programme has benefitted from N27.0 billion released by the government with support of $20milion and $2.0million from World Bank and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 

More importantly, the fight against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has shifted from passive to active one from case-finding in key affected populations, including people living with HIV/AIDS, children, urban slum dwellers, prisoners, migrants, internally displaced persons and facility-based health care workers, to target those most at risk for TB. There has been an increase in GeneXpert sites from seven health facilities in 2011 to 390 facilities as at the end of 2017 in order to detect accurately and respond to TB cases. 

The former Minister equally expanded screening for TB, with two Million people screened and 204,000 treated in 2017 and 2018. His Ministry conducted with funding support from the US Government and Global Fund, the National HIV and AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey so as to address the lingering challenge facing HIV and AIDS data in Nigeria. The results of the survey indicated that the prevalence of HIV/AIDS has dropped from 3% in 2014 to 1.4%. He also led the initiative that expanded HIV/AIDS treatment to additional 78,000 Nigerians since 2017. 


To ensure effective and efficient coordination of immunization activities, the then Minister, with the Executive Director of National Primary Health Care Development Agency and his team through the Inter Agency Coordinating Committee approved the establishment of, Emergency Routine Immunisation Coordination Centres at the National, States, and Local Government Area levels known as NERICC, SERICC and LERICC respectively to coordinate routine immunization activities and quickly improve immunization coverage at these levels in the low performing states. There has been remarkable improvement in immunization coverage over the last 18months. 
Saanu is Media Assistant to Vice Chancellor, University of Ibadan.

Prof. Adewole’s leadership upgraded tertiary health institutions to enable them to treat cancer cases. The National Hospital in Abuja now has two high-end Linear Accelerator (LINAC) with capacity to treat up to 200 patients per day. The ultra-modern NSIA-LUTH Cancer Centre was commissioned by President Muhammadu Buhari in February 2019. Upgrading activities are still on-going at UCH, Ibadan, ABUTH Zaria, UNTH Enugu, UBTH Benin City, UMTH Maiduguri as well as UDUTH Sokoto on account of the initiative of the former Minister.

The provision of free surgical and laboratory services to all fistula patients in all Federal Teaching Hospitals and Federal Medical Centres (FMCs) in the country came under Professor Adewole’s watch while the capacity of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to keep Nigeria safe from public health hazards received significant attention.

It is, therefore, not true to say Prof. Adewole performed poorly while in office. We know what a man can do by what he has done. Those who know him will forever testify to the fact that he always uses every ounce of energy in his body to positively affect the world around him. With his winsome smiles, he remains a workaholic leader whose source of extraordinary strength remains a mystery.


Interestingly, the World Health Organization (WHO) speaking through its representative in Nigeria, Dr. Clement Peters expressed similar sentiments in a tribute, describing Prof. Adewole as an “emotionally intelligent leader who is detailed, hardworking, trust worthy, dependable, result-oriented and a good negotiator” Paradoxically, this is the same man some twitter journalists painted in colours that bear no semblance with this highly intelligent leader! Well, it is a matter of perception.

In his own tribute, the Country Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), Dr. Erasmus Morah couldn’t have been wrong when paying tribute to the former Minister, saying, “Prof. Adewole was always a visionary, data-driven leader. Perhaps as his biggest contributions to the HIV response is the time, energy and first-rate leadership he provided, which was instrumental to the success of the Nigeria’s AIDS indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS). Considered the single largest HIV survey of its kind globally, NIIA allowed Nigeria for the first time in 20 years of the response to smartly invest government and significant donor HIV resources, based on populations and locations at greater risk” Dr. Morah asserted that Prof. Adewole would be remembered for his people-centredness, because he cared for the health of the nation and people living with HIV including key and vulnerable populations in conflict with the law.

Without doubt, Prof. Adewole has contributed his quota to national development by serving his fatherland patriotically. History will certainly be kind to him. We are delighted to welcome the teacher of teachers back to his turf and wish him well as he settles down to begin another journey in the academic terrain.
Saanu is Media Assistant to Vice Chancellor, University of Ibadan.


In this article:
Isaac Folorunso Adewole
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