By Erasmus Ikhide
FOR the umpteenth times since 2015, President Muhammadu has sought medical remedy for his deteriorating health for undisclosed ailments that is paid for with undisclosed amount of tax payers’ money. This is happening at a time Nigerian health workers are on industrial action for nearly fourth week running. Nigeria problems, like Buhari’s blighted health baggage is a debilitating nightmare that keeps Nigeria somnambulising — sleepwalking in an arrested democracy like ours.
At the heat of 2015 presidential election, Mr. Buhari suddenly sauntered out of the country to seek medical attention in the United Kingdom after energy sapping campaign tour across the country. The tweaking electioneering wrecked havoc on his chronic cancerous ears aches and other undisclosed maladies.
It took the storming Governor Ayo Fayose’s ever vigilance monitoring search light to bring to light the liers that Mr. Buhari has gone abroad to grant interview to a London based television station. The following morning, the traditional media fell for the trash and published pictures of Buhari granting interview to a lady in London. I regretted that I stage-manage that media slew that pull wool through the eyes of Nigerians and the media.
The motivation at the time was that the APC under Mr. Buhari’s leadership had promised to prioritize the reduction of the infant mortality rate by 2019 to 3%; reduce maternal mortality by more than 70%; reduce HIV/AIDs infection rate by 50% and other infectious diseases by 75%; and improve life expectancy by additional 10 years on average through our national healthy living program.
In the sake token, Mr. Buhari promised to increase the number of physicians from 19 per 1000 population to 50 per 1000; increase national health expenditure per person per annum to about N50,000 (from N10,000 currently).
Also, at his electioneering, Mr. Buhari vowed to increase the quality of all federal government owned hospitals to world class standard within five years; invest in cutting edge technology such as telemedicine in all major health centers in the country through active investment and partnership programs with the private sector.
Not done yet, the APC in its manifesto promised provision of free ante-natal care for pregnant women, free health care for babies and children up to school going age and for the aged and free treatment for those afflicted with infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS;Boost the local manufacture of pharmaceuticals and make non adulterated drugs readily available.
It’s in fulfilment of these electoral promises in the health sector — I believe — that President Buhari on April 26th, 2016 made further policy pronouncement that no officials of his government will seek medical treatments outside the shores of Nigeria.
President Buhari made this remark at the 56th Annual General Conference and Delegate meeting of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) in Sokoto through the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole when he said it was regrettable that Nigeria loses about $1 billion annually to medical tourism.
“This amount is more than annual budget of some states in Nigeria,” he stated, adding. While the administration will not deny any one of us his or her fundamental human right, I will certainly not encourage expending Nigeria’s hard earned resources on any government official seeking medical care abroad especially when there is evidence of expertise in Nigeria.”
President Buhari stoically reechoed his electoral promise in that forum based on the agitations of different groups of health workers. “The federal government would review all previous agreements and take reasonable decisions that will not impinge on the rights of workers”, he said.
Puzzled by unremitting poverty, escalation food prices, famine, repression, violence and sickness in the midst of health workers’ strike, President Buhari is straddling to signpost the blame on Nigerians whom he said “CHANGE” should begin with or the opposition political party whom he accused of handling a bungled government over to him.
Those who said Nigerian best days is behind us may well be right, as much as those who say the nation’s redemption is beyond President Buhari and his APC ruling party. The only way Nigerians can extricate themselves from the present rut of poverty to prosperity is to move away from vicious circle where the elites aggrandize power without purpose.
Erasmus, A Public Affairs Analyst writes from Lagos
Follow me on Twitter @ikhide_erasmus1