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How Kyari’s death mirrors state of facility at Aso Villa clinic

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Ordinarily, contracting the dreaded Coronavirus or even a lesser disease, for that matter, would have warranted flying abroad the late Mallam Abba Kyari, the former Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari for medical treatment. But the virus itself put paid to that, as most countries have shut their borders to curb the spread of the pandemic. So, the late Kyari was forced to stay and be treated in Nigeria.

Ideally, in such circumstances, Mallam Kyari should have been taken to the Aso Villa Clinic, otherwise known as the State House Medical Centre, for first class medical care. Specifically established to take care of the President, Vice President, their families, as well as members of staff of the Presidential Villa in Abuja, the Clinic was meant to be a prototype of what obtains in the Western world, where only the best in the medical field is offered.

The idea was to make the Clinic as highly functional as possible, which would have in part deterred top government officials and rich Nigerians from embarking on medical tourism overseas. Also, it would have helped to generate the much-need foreign revenue, through attracting wealthy clients, especially from the West African sub-region, who ordinarily travel to Europe and the United States for medical attention.

But after testing positive for COVID-19, Kyari was flown from Abuja to a private highbrow health facility in Lagos, due to the poor state of the Aso Villa Clinic, which had once more underscored the abysmal condition of not just the State House Medical Centre, but the entire country’s health system for decades.

With a penchant for everything foreign, which verges on obsession, top government officials and wealthy Nigerians have always opted for medical treatment abroad, even for the mildest of ailments. This might be somewhat ‘justified’ in this case though, as the state of disrepair in the country’s health sector is simply appalling.

Calls from concerned quarters that the total neglect and near collapse of the country’s healthcare system was bound to have dire consequences sooner or later seemed to fall on deaf ears, as successive administrations failed to address the issue and do the needful.

And though billions of naira is budgeted yearly, ostensibly to tackle the challenges in the country’s health sector, nothing tangible has so far been achieved. The Nigerian health facilities, including the teaching hospitals, have been variously described as mere consulting centres, where the average Nigerian has no hope of assessing quality health care.

Expectedly, the Aso Villa Clinic has not been spared from this rot. Indeed, this was made public in 2017, when the First Lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, chastised the Chief Medical Director of Aso Villa Clinic, Dr. Husain Munir, for the pitiable state of the health facility. She had said then that there was no single syringe or other basic items in the health facility, despite the billions of naira budgeted yearly for its management and maintenance.

Prior to that time, President Muhammadu Buhari had been stridently criticised for his incessant medical trips to the United Kingdom. Concerned Nigerians had wondered why the President and the First Family were not availing themselves of the world-class treatment supposedly being offered by the Aso Villa Clinic, which reportedly gulped a whopping N11bn at construction and another N3.8bn yearly for its operation.

But during her 2017 pronouncement, Mrs. Buhari had revealed that the x-ray machine in the Clinic was not working, and she had had to go to a private hospital operated by foreigners, when she fell ill. She had wondered what would be the fate of the ordinary Nigerian needing medical attention, if the President had to travel abroad for every minor medical issue.

As usual, the development had been politicised, with concerned officials trading blames and passing the buck. At the end of the day, it was declared that the Aso Clinic only receives about one-third of the budgeted amount for its operations.

Thereafter, the matter had subsided somewhat, when more pressing national issues took the front burner. It was not until the late Mallam Abba Kyari was flown to the Lagos hospital for treatment after testing positive for COVID-19 that it dawned on many that the Aso Clinic had not been upgraded, despite the furore that was generated by Mrs. Buhari’s declaration. Apparently, it had been business as usual.

And now that Kyari has died, it would not be out of place to ask such pertinent questions as: Would the former Chief of Staff still be alive, if he had been flown abroad, where he would have accessed world-class medical treatment? After all, most top government officials and wealthy individuals that contracted the virus in the Europe and United States have survived it. Would he have fared better, if the Aso Villa had been in top shape and functioning at the full capacity originally meant?

As dreadful as COVID-19 appears to be, the disease is teaching everyone many constructive lessons globally, although it depends on how individuals choose to look at it.

More people are now encouraged to eat more wholesome food and balanced diet. Many individuals now consume more fruits, veggies and water to hydrate, all in a bid to stay healthy and strong. It has been reported that those with high immune system have higher chances of overcoming the virus, if they ever get infected. It has even been said that some had contracted the disease and overcome it without their knowledge, due to their strong health status.

Here in Nigeria, the disease is telling us to stop burying our heads in the sand like the ostrich. It is time to put in place measures that will enable us skilfully handle emergency cases as this to the benefit of all citizens.

The challenges in the health sector need to be addressed head-on. COVID-19 has underscored this. Hopefully, the Federal Government’s assurance that the lessons learnt from the fight against the virus would help the country to rebuild its health sectors to have a formidable health system from primary to tertiary levels, would not go the way of such former promises.


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