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‘There Is No Southeast State That Is Better Governed Than Nigeria’

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By Charles Ogbu

N’ezie, “Ịfe ólú melu Igbo dị ofu mana ife Igbo melu ọnwe fa di asaa”.

“They” inflicted one injury on Ndigbo while the latter inflicted seven injuries on themselves.

I spent the last one month transversing the entire Southeast States, checking the condition of PUBLIC SCHOOLS and GENERAL HOSPITALS, and what I saw left me wondering whether to pause and die crying or die laughing. Crying at the dearth of leadership in AlaIgbo or laughing at our conscientious refusal to see that our bigger demons are from the inside.

From my finding backed by video and picture evidence, there is a fundamental tragedy of leadership in our various states; one that will ultimately doom us all even faster than any other outside enemy can. Make conscious effort to look beyond the media theatrics and propaganda churned out by govt officials and their aides and you’d be ashamed of what you will discover – a complete breakdown of governance at the state and local govt level.

NO SOUTHEAST STATE CAN BOAST OF A GENERAL HOSPITAL EQUIPPED WITH A BLOOD BANK, AN OPERATING THEATER AND A STAND-BY DOCTOR IN EACH OF HER L.G.As. None! I mean, let’s say you find yourself involved in an accident and in need of emergency medical attention which requires blood transfusion and/or surgery, there is no state in the Southeast that currently offers this service in each of her local govt where general hospitals are meant to be situated. None!

In one general hospital I visited, there was no toilet. What they used as toilets were just holes dug inside a structure that was meant to serve as the toilet. The foul smell even from afar would leave you in no doubt that using the so called toilet may most likely end in your going home with more infections than you came with. It took me reaching out and sending the embarrassing video to the appropriate authorities for a team to be sent to the hospital which started work on the toilet without further delay. But before my coming, patients who came to the hospitals were sent to that same pathetic excuse for a toilet to go get their urine and faeces samples for culture test. I was sent there too after I posed as a patient.

In some state L.G.As, the roof of some of the hospital rooms were licking water. And patients were left looking for container to collect the water right inside the hospital room. In some, there were no cleaners. Dust and dirt everywhere. Some of the doctors, nurses and other health workers in some of the hospitals had tales of lamentation to tell about the inhuman condition they are made to work under. In one instance, the only ‘Generator’ they were using refused to come alive. Repeated attempt to bring the Gen. back to life by repeatedly pulling the kickstarter rope ended in the rope cutting into two which ended all activities in the lab for that day

In one particular state I visited, almost all the general hospitals in the local govts look quite new and beautiful. Sadly, going inside, I was greeted with a situation that seemed worse than what obtained in the states with dilapidated hospital structures. In this particular state, there is hardly a doctor per general hospital even when there are meant to be more than 2 doctors per hospital. In majority of the southeast state teaching hospitals (not the general hospitals this time), it is the same pathetic story.

You that is reading this, I challenge you to visit that general hospital in your local govt or even your state teaching hospital today. Go to their toilets, stylishly peep into the rooms where patients are kept and talk to the health workers there as to the kind of equipment they have in the hospital. When you are done, then come back let’s hear your findings.

In terms of public primary schools, the situation is a crying shame. The complaints and lamentations from teachers, headmasters/headmistress and the children, some of which I captured on video are heart breaking. More than half of the schools I visited have no source of water, no public toilet, no security, no electricity, and almost all of them are complaining of not having enough teachers. In one of the schools, I took a video of the school kids passing through a very busy major express road – with neither a pedestrian bridge nor a bump to slow down vehicles – just to fetch water they are using in school. In more than half of the schools I visited, the kids use nearby bushes for toilets either because there is no toilet in their school or the existing toilets are more like death traps. My attempts to reason with officials of the Universal Basic Education Board in some states yielded little fruits. Some of the officials believed they are doing their best within the available resources.

Again, I challenge you that is reading me right about now to go beyond the beautiful shiny state capitals and go round your own local govt and visit some public schools there – both primary and secondary….. Interact with the teachers and school kids, visit their toilets. Then make your informed opinion.

As shameful as it is to admit, THERE IS NO SOUTHEAST STATE THAT IS BETTER GOVERNED THAN NIGERIA. None! Not in terms of quality education, decent health care, human capital development, agriculture, respect for the civic spaces, transparency and accountability in govt business etc. Not even in terms of infrastructure because the infrastructural development like good quality roads and flyover in some of our state capitals are also happening in the federal capital. And some of the physical infrastructures you see in AlaIgbo are shrouded in absolute lack of transparency and accountability in their execution.

And the tragedy is, none of the aforementioned indices of good governance has anything to do with the federal govt, the 1999 Constitution, the skewed structure of the country, Buhari or even the Exclusive List . These are all areas under the control of state govts. The bigger tragedy is, year in year out, billions of naira are budgeted for education, health, infrastructure, agriculture etc in each of our states. Federal allocations are given to each of our states …… as bad as Buhari is, he has never withheld any of our state allocation. Obasanjo didn’t. And certainly not Jonathan….. So what is the problem? What exactly are the health ministries in each of the states in AlaIgbo doing with their allocations?? WHERE DO THOSE BILLIONS IN OUR STATE BUDGETS DISAPPEAR TO?? Sadly, a very low level of civic consciousness amongst the southeast masses only means things will keep getting worse.

The only reason the Southeast is churning out positive developmental statistics is due to the ingenuity and NEVER-SAY-DIE spirit of the average Southeasterner who, it would seem, were born with a divine mandate to ‘Go To The World and Succeed No Matter The Odds’. It has nothing to do with their state govt because even those of them living outside their region are doing well despite some state-sponsored attempts to undermine their effort.

We owe it to ourselves to, within further delay, find a way of salvaging our ancestry from the numberless Savages savaging her. A betting man would bet that most of those Savages are actually from within. And as it happens, I am a betting man.

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Opinion

Breaking News From Aso Villa

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By Femi Adesina

Quite a challenging week it has been for Nigeria, and, indeed, the rest of the world. Except perhaps in China only, where the affliction started from, figures of Coronavirus infections continue to mount in other parts of the world. Italy and Spain have been particularly badly hit.

But as the world reels under the impact of a most pernicious pandemic, a suicide bomber wreaking deadly havocs, merchants of fake, hateful news remain fully at work. Aso Villa, the seat of presidential authority, has been their focus for most of the week. They have kept churning out spurious reports after the other about President Muhammadu Buhari, and some other people who work with him. If you choose to believe them, the President by now has even been evacuated, and is receiving medical attention at an undisclosed location somewhere in the wide world.

Breaking news from Aso Villa. That is what you have had day after day. And each time I am contacted to authenticate one story or the other, I tell the enquirers that the Presidential Villa is part of the world, part of humanity, and the people there are not immune from what is happening in the rest of the world.

But the outright fake, hateful news, I have ignored all week. Not a word in response. How do you begin to give wings to concocted stories through responses that will make the falsehood fly faster? No, purveyors of wickedness should not have the satisfaction of drawing us out all the time, and getting some tacit endorsement for their flight of fancy.

A top aide of the President tested positive early in the week. He is receiving adequate care, and he has our best wishes. But for the sinister minds, it was floodgate to all sorts of malediction. All sorts of Breaking News followed:

‘Intensive care machines brought into Aso Rock.’ ‘President Buhari coughing ceaselessly.’ ‘PMB under intensive care.’ ‘Adesina among those who accompanied Abba Kyari to Kogi.’ (I never did). ‘Garba Shehu under self-isolation.’ ‘Buhari may be smuggled out of the country, as condition worsens.’ And by yesterday, a recorded message started circulating on WhatsApp, saying President Buhari had been sneaked out of the country. To where? By who? Their fecund imaginations did not say.

And more Breaking News: ‘Buhari bans journalists from covering Aso Villa.’ (A man supposedly in intensive care was still banning reporters. Lol). ‘Buhari in self-isolation’ (Yet he was in the office on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, even receiving visitors). ‘Aso Villa shut down.’ And the vile beat goes on…

Why do some people conjure nothing but evil? Why do they imagine vain things? In 2017, while President Buhari had his medical challenge, they were on orgy of negative wishes, misinformation, and disinformation. But God pulled a fast one on them. He brought the President back, as right as rain. Haven’t they learned their lessons?

With the good people, however, positive things are happening. Tony Elumelu’s UBA is giving N5 billion to help Nigeria and Africa. Abdusamad Rabiu (BUA) has donated one billion Naira in cash. . Folorunsho Alakija has imported test kits and other materials for Nigerians, worth hundreds of millions of Naira. Aliko Dangote, after an initial donation of N200 million to combat Coronavirus, is leading top bankers and the private sector generally to raise aid. GTBank has donated a 100 beds care center. The Redeemed Christian Church of God has provided ventilators. And many more. These are the people and organizations that should define us as a people, not the conjurers of wickedness and doomsday. God is surely greater than them. And Nigeria too.

~ Adesina is Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity. 

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Opinion

COVID-19: A War Without Arms

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Alas! It’s a global novel virus.

It started as an epidemic outbreak in China,

Now, it has snowballed into a pandemic,
Spreading like Australia wide fire,

Attacking at a speed swifter than light,
Killing its victims like an angry vulture,

It is Corona Virus, nicknamed COVID-19.
It has no regards for boundaries, personalities, and affluence.

COVID-19 has brought down governments without firing any arms.

It brought nations to their knees without minding their military strengths nor have regards for the sophisticated ballistic and chemical weapons in their arsenals.

The foundation of many establishments are shaken and threatened to core.

It has dazed and rendered world powers powerless.

It has brought down respected and exalted institutions.

Global economy is at a standstill and steadily nose-diving,

The world economy is fast crumbling under the fold of the riotous virus.
It has made a global mockery of world best medical think tanks.

Nations have no choice than to lockdown
The streets of popular cities are deserted, now turned ghost cities.

The pandemic exposed the vulnerability of human’s without respect to race, color or language.

It revealed the humanity in human.

The panic pang of watching fellow humans fall helplessly to the gruesome hand of COVID-19 is terrifying.

Sooner or later, the world would have a relief from the fist tight fold of the ravaging pandemic.

And when it finally bids the world a goodbye, after its irreparable havoc on humanity,

When friends and families painfully reminiscence the traumatic experience of losing someone so dear to their hearts,

I hope it would lead us to better appreciate little things which are often regarded as inconsequential but in reality, they are the most consequential.

~ Odunayo Oluwatimilehin, OYEWOLE.

A Postgraduate student, University of Ibadan.

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Opinion

Coronavirus: The Nigerian Dream Cure

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By SKC Ogbonnia

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), which has compelled people to stay within their localities, illuminates the genius of the ageless adage: charity begins at home. It has exposed the malignant ignorance within Nigerian leaders who prefer foreign medical treatment while neglecting the amenities at home. The COVID-19 has profoundly exposed the nature and scope of the Nigerian healthcare crisis. Yet, every cloud has a silver lining!

SKC Ogbonnia

SKC Ogbonnia

The recent coronavirus controversy in Enugu is a perplexing preface. A 70-year old woman was suspected to be carrying the virus. But there is no laboratory capable of administering the COVID-19 test in the entire Eastern Region. Thus, it took several days before the test result could arrive from faraway Irrua in Edo State. Though the result returned negative, the woman had already died while isolated in a squalor at a grungy ESUT Teaching Hospital complex. The irony is that this incident took place in Enugu—of all places, the Igbo flagship metropolis that has no excuse to lag in development, having served as the capital of Eastern Region, capital of Biafra, capital of East Central State, capital of the old Anambra State; and currently the capital of Enugu State. This predicament only goes to ridicule the faculty of the globally renowned Igbo intelligentsia that parades Enugu as its sanctum.

The most mind-boggling yet is the situation in Northern Nigeria. Though the North is the perennial epicenter of the national healthcare crisis, it never dawned on the politicians to establish standard laboratories for testing a disease like Coronavirus in the entire region, besides an outfit at the nation’s capital, Abuja. To test for the virus. those in Sokoto will have to travel over 650 km while those in Maiduguri must commit 845 kilometers before reaching Abuja. One can only wonder the wisdom of the Northern leaders, widely celebrated for strategic vision in gaining power, but who continually fail to maximize such power towards the common good of their people.

In a 2015 essay, “Every Nigerian Blood Is On The Line”, I drew attention to the ignorance of Nigerian leaders, who tend to forget that good leadership is vitally important to both the led and the leader. I enumerated the embarrassing cases of highly placed politicians from the immediate past administration who lost their close relatives because they failed to provide good amenities in the local communities, such as President Goodluck Jonathan, Dame Patience Jonathan, Namadi Sambo, David Mark, and Ike Ekweremadu, among others.

Also remember the strong man of Ibadan politics, Lamidi Adedibu, who died on his way to procure traveling documents towards a foreign medical trip. Equally relative is the case of Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and Alex Ekwueme. These two prominent men suffered stroke in the same Enugu at different times but had to allow a few weeks to stabilize before embarking on foreign treatment. Before they could reach their British destinations, their situations worsened. Neither Ojukwu nor Ekwueme made it back home alive. Needless to mention sitting Head of State Sani Abacha and President Umar Yar’Adua, who died at the Aso Villa, under questionable health conditions.

The crisis conundrum is that the current leaders still do not seem to get it. Nigeria’s top office holders, including President Buhari, embrace foreign medical treatment as a second nature. But that was then—definitively then!

The point, if it is not already apparent, is that coronavirus has emerged as a quintessential equalizer. It has provoked a national consciousness and common sense, by consequence. The pandemic has made it imperative that people, both rich and poor, must seek prevention or treatment in their immediate environment. The elites may be accorded the usual preferential treatment, quite alright, but any attempt to ignore the masses, as in the past, is a poisoned chalice.

The foregoing thesis becomes more compelling, when considered that the threat of the COVID-19 in Nigeria is real. Though there are only 44 confirmed cases as at the time of this essay, the low number simply signifies lack of adequate testing centers. A forewarning is that out of those 44 cases, 35 were in the Western Region, being the cluster where 4 out of the 5 testing laboratories in the country are located. It is also not a coincidence that both the East and the Far-North are yet to record any case. Their common denominator is plainly the absence of testing centers in those zones. Moreover, testing for the COVID-19, for now, remains an elitist agenda. But the truth remains that every Nigerian life is on the line.

A dream cure, therefore, is a revolutionary approach that can sufficiently address the Nigerian short and long-term healthcare needs. Besides any mitigation measures or cure for the COVID-19, Nigeria must, without any delay, equip and modernize to international standards eight existing university teaching hospitals. While six of such hospitals should be spread in the six political zones, the remaining two would be allocated to Abuja and Lagos. This revolutionary plan is well studied, and the goal is twofold: First, it will significantly improve the national healthcare delivery for the ordinary Nigerian people. Second, it will be able to treat the Nigerian leaders and stem the shameless pattern of medical tourism in foreign lands.

Establishing eight world-class hospital—within one year—is not rocket science. The sources for the financial and the human resources are equally well studied. The budget for the hospitals is $8 billion. The most cost-efficient is direct funding through crude oil, its hazy market and politics notwithstanding. A plain source is to plug out $12 billion from the now suspended 2016-2018 External Borrowing of $22.7 billion proposed by President Buhari. While $8 billion goes for the hospitals, the remaining $4 billion will be dedicated to mitigating the coronavirus pandemic. Phase II will target the state capitals and so on…

The dream cure is neither politics nor business as usual. It should be executed by a Healthcare Revolutionary Council (HRC) that can include these notable patriots: Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Omoyele Sowore, Akinwumi Adesina, Adeleke Mamora, Femi Falana, Bartholomew Nnaji, Ngozi Iweala, Oby Ezekwesiri, Ogbonnaya Onu, Kanayo Ubesie, Donald Duke, Pat Utomi, Ben Murray-Bruce, Festus Keyamo, Muhammadu Sanusi II, Nasir el-Rufai, Obadiah Mailafia, Nuhu Ribadu, Aisha Buhari, Shehu Sani, Mathew Kukah, Khadija Bukar Abba Ibrahim, Hameed Ali, Yakubu Dogara, Aisha Al-Hassan, Audu Ogbe, Iorwuese Hagher, Natasha Akpoti, Yakubu Mohammed, and Abubakar Sani Bello.

SKC Ogbonnia writes from Ugbo, Enugu State, Nigeria
Twitter @ SKCOgbonnia

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