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How coronavirus called to confront Aso Villa’s corruption

By Leo Sobechi (Assistant Politics Editor)
27 March 2020   |   4:22 am
One week after Nigerians celebrated the country’s 57th independence anniversary, the wife of President Muhammadu Buhari, Aisha, saddened the citizens by her strident voice of sorrow, shame and pain.


One week after Nigerians celebrated the country’s 57th independence anniversary, the wife of President Muhammadu Buhari, Aisha, saddened the citizens by her strident voice of sorrow, shame and pain. As it turned out, the first lady’s unhappiness did not stem from her husband’s more than 150 days’ sojourn outside the country on medical tourism. Lady Aisha’s source of foreboding was that the gigantic medical facility known as Aso Villa Clinic meant to handle the healthcare needs of residents and guests of the country’s seat of power did not have what it takes to be called a clinic.

Perhaps, irked by the profusion of verbal abuses against the first family, especially against the backdrop of the president’s electioneering promise not to seek medical attention outside the shores of the country if elected, the wife of the president tongue-lashed the Chief Medical Director of Aso Villa Clinic, Dr. Hussain Munir.

Short of calling for the CMD’s head on a platter, Aisha blamed the poor state of the clinic on the doctor, expressing dismay that the facility could not take care of the president, vice president and their families, not to talk of members of staff of the Presidential Villa, when it could not boast of something as common as a syringe.

Drawing a contrast between her husband and regular citizens, Aisha said if President Buhari should be forced to take his health challenges outside the shores of the country, what could happen to the common man is better imagined than experienced. Buhari’s wife made the disclosures while delivering her opening remarks during a two-day meeting on ‘Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn Child, Adolescent Health and Nutrition (RMNCAH+N),’ which held at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa on October 9, 2017.

Although Aisha agreed that the idea of the president seeking medical treatment in a foreign land opened the country to some form of instability and security fears, she recalled an occasion when she was sick and was advised to seek medical attention abroad due to the deplorable state of the N11 billion Aso Villa Clinic.

With recent development in the Presidential Villa, where the Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari, has tested positive to the highly contagious coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19, the First Lady’s indignation echoes as a prescient warning. What if necessary amends were made after the president’s wife blew the whistle on the poor state of healthcare delivery at the seat of power, or even roused the authorities to responsible review of the country’s preparedness for handling of medical emergencies?

The fact that the Buhari administration came into office on the huge promise of changing the governance narratives in the country as well as fighting the scourge of official corruption made Aisha’s complaints far-reaching. She went ahead to demand that the huge budgetary allocation to the clinic should be accounted for.

If the wife of the president was told that the x-ray machine in Aso Villa Clinic was not functional in 2017, that simple test kits for viral infections would not be handy in 2020, three years after, shows the acute insanity that defines the system.

Despite the absence of such life-saving equipment and medicines in the clinic, the Presidential Villa has been posting humongus amounts in the annual budgets for feeding in the past three-year budget cycles.

The president’s wife did not go as far as that, but she broached the aspect of budgetary provision and implementation, when she stated: “Few weeks ago, I was sick as well. They advised me to take the first flight out to London; I refused to go. I said I must be treated in Nigeria because there is a budget for an assigned clinic to take care of us. If the budget is N100 million, we need to know how the budget is spent.

“Along the line, I insisted they call Aso Clinic to find out if the x-ray machine is working. They said it was not working. They didn’t know I was the one that was supposed to be in that hospital at that very time.

“I had to go to a hospital that was established by foreigners 100 per cent. What does that mean? So, I think it is high time we did the right thing. If something like this can happen to me, there is no need for me to ask the governors’ wives what is happening in their states. This is Abuja and this is the highest seat of government, and this is the Presidential Villa.

“One of the speakers has already said we have very good policies in Nigeria. In fact, we have the best policies in Africa. Yes, of course, we have, but the implementation has been the problem. So, we need to change our mindset and do the right thing.”

Unconfirmed reports have it that on the wake of the Chief of Staff’s positive strain with the coronavirus, the president’s wife returned to the clinic, not with verbal rebukes, but to sack the Permanent Secretary to Aso Villa Clinic, Jalal Aribi.

It was alleged that Aisha ordered Aribi’s sacking on the grounds of the poor equipment of the clinic and “not paying doctors’ salaries, but instead keeps the money in his fixed deposit account.”

Going by the presidency organogram, Aribi reports and takes instructions from the Chief of Staff, Kyari. That could explain why the first lady directed the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation (OHCSF), Dr. Folasade Yemi-Esan, to fire the permanent secretary.

Against the background of the foregoing, it could be that the coronavirus pandemic, which has recorded close to 10 victims at the presidency, could be said to have come to assist Aisha confront not only the Aso Villa corruption, but also for Nigerians to take another look at the nation’s attitude to health sector, as indeed other vital sectors, the ratio of budgetary allocations and state of medical and other facilities in the country.