Nigeria: Striving to be a better place
There is no better time for the world to appreciate the maxim ‘Health is wealth’ than now. From the opium of society (religion) to social life, to economy, all systems of human life and living have been substantially disrupted in just a few weeks because of the spread of a virus named Corona (COVID 19). Coronavirus has proven to be no ‘respecter’ of status, subduing presidents, prime ministers and poor citizens; ravaging ‘wealthy’ nations and poor societies. Nigeria is not in isolation in this pandemic. Unfortunately, it is also ill-prepared and obviously incapacitated to manage a major spread of the coronavirus. The reality of poor and substandard basic health care facilities compounded by the inadequate supply of Doctors and other medical staff are evidence of this.
Nigeria has just about 5 hospital beds and ‘less than one doctor’ for every 100,000 people. This, when compared to South Africa with 35 beds and 24 Doctors per 100,000 people, puts Nigeria in a pitiable, unpleasant and perilous pedestal. As a country, Nigeria is one of the world’s worst in infant and maternal mortality rates. Seeing our pregnant women and innocent newborns die from basic inadequacies and incompetence that have characterised our public health centres, is so unworthy of a 21st century nation.
While many poor Nigerians die daily from preventable diseases in our public hospitals – what Femi Falana SAN once described as ‘mortuaries for the masses’, senior government officials and wealthy private citizens are quick to fly abroad for basic medical services (of course in a pre-COVID 19 era).
Even after spending about 3.8 billion naira to fix the state house medical center that serves less than 1000 people (the President and Vice President’s families and their staff), with billions still annually budgeted for the facility, the Nigerian President would still fly to the UK for weeks for health care services.
Isn’t it absurd that a former first lady whose bank account of 31.5 million dollars was recently frozen, claimed that half of that money was a government pay-out for her medical bills in London in 2013. 11 billion naira for one woman’s medical expense in one year? It is not only an act of foolishness but an utter display of wickedness when government officials only in 2014 spent about 350 billion naira for medical trips abroad, according to a report by the Federal Ministry of Health. It is also disheartening to think that barely two months after President Buhari announced that government would stop paying for medical services for government officials abroad, he was in a London hospital to treat an ear infection on Nigeria’s tax-payers money.
One of the realities of a COVID 19 period is that it is not a ‘poor man’s disease’, it is affecting all classes of people, the rich and senior political elites much more. Also unique, is the fact that there is no ‘abroad’ to run to (a case of ‘we die here’). Had they known, they would have fixed our health care, our educational system and our economy, knowing that in life, ‘what goes around comes around’ and that we will eventually reap what we sow, not always when we sow.
Michael Jackson, in his 1992 hit track ‘Heal the world’, advised that we make the world a better place for ourselves and the entire human race; that we stop existing and start living; that we create a world where Love is strong and only cares for joyful giving.
Post-COVID 19 period will create a new world order, a paradigmatic shift. Yes, the world would need healing, restructuring and restoration. Systems and operations of men will be redefined.
Nigeria and Nigerians cannot afford to waste the underlying lessons in this crisis, the hidden opportunities to not just make demands but to engage more and deliberately influence this country’s leadership, for development, especially human capital. The invincibility of the Nigerian political elites has been exposed by an invisible and an intangible force. We must discontinue the activities and workings of the forces of wickedness, greed and evil.
As citizens, we must also take responsibility for ourselves and the society at large. Nations are built by the people, not necessarily government. It was men and women that built America, not government (same for other great nations). Let us as patriotic individuals and groups engage our spiritual and intellectual forces to evolve innovations; let us identify needs and provide solutions; let us through research, define direction, make projections, strategically position and create solutions for our world (local and global).
While we pray and believe God for total solution to this pandemic, we must not lose the lessons.
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