Within a space of four months, Nigeria has had more medical facilities put in place than at any other comparative period in its history. Bed spaces, ventilators, and other health equipment had been conjured up almost from nothing.
COVID-19 has ensured that Nigeria quickly put certain basic health facilities in place to combat the pandemic that has ravaged and continues to ravage the world. This response has demonstrated that Nigeria has the ability to build medical infrastructure that can compete with the world. So, it is safe to say that the inability or better still refusal to build standard hospitals had less to do with a lack of capacity or funds, but more to do with leaders’ insensitivity and greed.
It is in this regard that the rush to put medical facilities in place, good as it is, to combat COVID-19 must be seen. How come our leaders are suddenly alive to their responsibility, to the need to have medical facilities in place in the country? Is it that it suddenly dawned on these self-serving leaders that the country is seriously lacking in heath infrastructure?
Quite clearly, Nigerian leaders and politicians cannot claim ignorance of the decrepit state of our hospitals, unlike Secretary to the Government of the Federation Boss Mustapha, who is the chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, said recently.
He said: “I can tell you for sure, I never knew that our entire healthcare infrastructure was in the state in which it is until I was appointed to do this work. My prayer is that Nigeria’s situation does not escalate to that extent because the country lacked what is required to handle the situation.”
Although the SGF tried to do damage control later by saying his quote was taken out of context following the outrage of Nigerians, it was clear that the man really didn’t know it was that bad. How could he? When was the last time he or his family members used a Nigerian hospital?
And for that matter, when was the last time President Muhammadu Buhari went to a Nigerian hospital? Indeed, the president spent days on medical tourism in his first term in office while the Aso Rock Clinic was left completely bereft of even the most basic drugs as Aisha Buhari once noted. When the all-powerful chief of staff to the president contracted the coronavirus, the clinic at the Villa couldn’t come to the rescue because it had no facilities. Mr. Abba Kyari had to be ferried to Lagos for treatment where he later died.
In spite of Mustapha’s clarification, Nigerians were not deceived. The truth of the matter is that Nigerian leaders could never be bothered since they had the option of going abroad to treat even common headache. But since they can’t currently run to the United Kingdom or the United States for treatment as those countries are also reeling from the coronavirus devastation, they’ve no option but to quickly put some facilities in place.
So, it is safe to say that these facilities are being put in place for their own treatment in case they contract the virus not necessarily because of the common man; the common man is just an unintended beneficiary in this case. Nigerian leaders are forced to look inwards in the absence of the opportunity to travel abroad for medical tourism. Although this may appear a hard position, it nevertheless is reflective of the true situation. Nigerian leaders have been unfeeling and have shown criminal neglect to the health needs of the common man down the years. And the outbreak of COVID-19 in as much as it had finally prompted some action only confirms the selfishness of our variety of politicians.
However, we want to also note that this pandemic provides the opportunity for some redemption. Nigerian leaders have to seize the moment and momentum to ensure that world-class hospitals are built across the country.
In this regard we want to commend the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for pledging to build medical infrastructure in the six geopolitical zones. Although this is coming late, it is a worthy and encouraging first step.
The corporation’s Group Managing Director, Mele Kyari, said recently: “We and all our partners, comprising the Upstream, Downstream and service providers, decided to come together to respond in three thematic areas. First is the provision of medical consumables such as face masks and testing kits among others. Second, the medical logistics and patients’ support issues such as ventilators and oxygen generating plants. The third leg is provision of temporary isolation centres and the establishment of permanent medical infrastructure that will be of use during this period and after the pandemic is stemmed.”
Finally, we do hope that our greedy and selfish leaders have learnt valuable lessons, even though the hard way, from the COVID-19 pandemic that in the final analysis there is no place like home. We hope that they would put these lessons into good use by providing hospitals and medical facilities that can compete with anywhere in the world.