Investigative Analysis: Beyond Airlifting Yusuf


 

It is eight months after Yusuf, the son of President Muhammadu Buhari, survived a power bike accident he had in Abuja which prompted his airlift. In this investigative analysis, Odimegwu Onwumere writes on the imperatives to put Nigeria’s health care into shape

 

He could not be airlifted immediately and hurried to St. Josefs Hospital in Wiesbaden, Germany, for further medical treatment. But he needed to, he needed to be alive, the country already had many internal problems besetting it and did not want his death.

Due to the rigorousness of damage in his brain and one of his limbs that was broken, he remained fundamentally expressionless to treatment at the Cedarcrest Hospital Abuja where he was rushed to. This was the reason for the delayed airlift. He needed to regain consciousness.

There was scarce assurance at this hospital that his life could be saved, a hospital regarded as one of the best in the country.

The presidential aides ran helter-skelter in making sure that his life was saved. His bewildered mother spent supplementary time in the hospital with him. She literally relocated to the hospital to attend to her only son.

She could not afford to lose him; she could not afford to be mocked by their political detractors who always said that their presidency ruled the populace with the horsewhip in a democracy. She could not afford.

His mother, his sister, Mrs. Halima Sheriff; the personal physician to the mother, Dr. Kamal Mohammed and three other aides were expected to accompany him to Germany. But the presidency on December 30, 2017 said that it was not under any anxiety to fly him abroad for emergency treatment. At least, there was hope he could respond to treatment at a private orthopedic surgeon in Abuja, thereafter.

 

How It Started

The presidency had no premonition that Yusuf Buhari, the son of Nigeria’s President, would go out that night, let alone, involving in a drag-racing motorbike accident at Gwarinpa District, in the Bwari Local Government Area.

Nigeria stood dead as newsflash on that Tuesday, December 26, 2017, was, “Buhari’s son in a drag-racing motorbike accident.” The corresponding tension that generated had no measure.

The awestruck President Muhammadu Buhari was seriously angry, asking why security in the presidency allowed his only son for the biking journey. The aides were jumpy that heads would role just as they feared many would be relieved of their jobs. The worst they thought was what their fate would be should Yusuf who was yet to respond to treatment two days after died.

The incident did not go down well with President Buhari. Some officials of the Department of State Security (DSS) were sacked over the careless undertaking that Yusuf was supposed to take responsibility, over the issue that they did not send Yusuf to drag-racing motorbike.

Even if they sent him, it was not supposed to be in the night when he left the presidency for his power bike that cost him fortune to purchase in a country where many had died as a result of hunger, where many were malnourished.

 

Cost Of Power Bike

Yusuf was unconscious when fillers emerged in January 2018 that he acquired two BMW power-bikes to the tendency of $157, 000, each, from Germany. And they were acquired surreptitiously in June, 2017 at the demand of his friend, Bashir Gwandu.

It was at Gwandu’s place situated in Gwarinpa District that the two bikes were kept. So, the security operatives in the presidency could not have known that Yusuf was out for a power bike race. They could not have known.

Even though they knew, they could not also have stopped him from going out since he was an adult who should take charge of where he should go to or not. But then as the president’s son, he lost his liberty on May 29 2015, the day his father was sworn into office to superintend the affairs of Nigeria. Till the incident, Yusuf was assigned with three operatives of the DSS who guarded him. Sadly, on that fateful day, a deal was struck between them and he was allowed to go out that night for the disastrous journey.

 

Prayer For Yusuf

Politicians hijacked the opportunity to pay their solidarity that was always a facial-expression. As Yusuf battled between life and death, they organised prayers for him and wanted all Nigerians to be involved.

It was the Buhari Youth Organisation (BYO) that organised the special prayer session, conducted at the Good Tidings Church in Utako and the Abuja National Mosque, Abuja. It was held around 9am for Christians, while Muslims held theirs by 1pm.

They were the two dominant religious sects in Nigeria that often caused social disturbances than any civil organisations. Before now, hardly did anyone call for prayers that less than forty per cent of Nigerian women had access to healthcare and that this had led to some maternal and mortality deaths.

No one had called for prayers that Nigeria lacked research funds, basic amenities, had too many poor policy implantation, was corrupt and had political instability, insufficient medical experts, lacked modern medical facilities and amongst many woes that had bedeviled the healthcare system in the country. No one.

 

Nigerians Die Due To Hunger

Just like the presidency was edgy to airlift Yusuf to overseas due to the inadequate trust it had for the Nigerian medical system, laughable healthcare in Nigeria had drove hundreds of thousands of citizens to seek for quality medical care abroad, especially those who could afford it, thereby the impoverished citizens were left to their fate, to putrefy in hospitals in the country known for their obsolete equipment.

While they called for prayers for Yusuf, the United Nations (UN) had on May 24, 2017, warned, “Hundreds of thousands of Nigerians could starve to death in the famine-threatened North-East due to lack of aid funds.”

The World Food Programme (WFP) had exclaimed that over 5.2 million people were expected to be seriously affected by malnutrition by August in 2016, from the 4.7 million the WFP said were affected in North-East.

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Funds (UNICEF) had in an estimation of 2016, cried out that the South-East geo-political zone of Nigeria had a number of 34, 889 malnourished children, while 6, 700 deaths were recorded.

The body said the same was pertinent to the South-South zone, with a total of 86, 304 malnourished children, and 16, 700 deaths; while in the South-West, there were 84, 417 cases of malnourished children and 16, 300 deaths.

The source went further to reveal that the North-West zone had 1,594, 462 bags of the ugly omen and 308, 000 deaths. The North-Central had 43,635 toll of malnourished children with 8,400 deaths; and North-East had 695,998 cases and 134, 000 deaths.

Experts at Working to Improve Nutrition in Northern Nigeria (WINNN) had exclaimed, “As a result of malnutrition, 58 per cent of children under five in Katsina, Kebbi, Jigawa, Yobe, and Zamfara States, suffer from stunting, meaning their physical and mental development have been impaired.”

 

Laughable Healthcare

Worried by the extreme shortage and allotment of healthcare professionals in Nigeria, which had seen to different health challenges especially maternal and mortality deaths (where 36% of Nigerian women had access to health care system) due to dearth of feasible primary healthcare centres in the country, experts had assembled in Abuja, the country’s seat of power, on a three-day workshop, which commenced on July 18 2017, to look into the circumstances.

The presidency wanted to airlift Yusuf to overseas due to the derisory healthcare which had generated some significant reports of some of the citizens with minor illnesses that ended up in the morgue, because of lack of life-saving and modern technologies in the Nigerian hospitals.

This was no longer news. Connoisseurs opinion was that hardly could one find such modern equipments as “Heart Defibrillators, Holter monitor, and Bronchoscope, which was used to perform Bronchoscopy” and many others in the hospitals across Nigeria.

Some added that apart from lack of modern equipments, “unrestricted and unethical practices” thrived among doctors that practiced in the country. Those in this line of thought believed that in rational countries of the world, doctors were not allowed to practice after one year of internship after medical school as it obtained in Nigeria; they were allowed to practice after 3 years of residency (after medical school).

They added that in those countries, (people went to medical school after graduating first from the university). But in Nigeria, the case was different. “This results in the roll out of too many half-baked or unqualified doctors that are not well groomed to practice in Nigeria.”

While these minds talked to some newspapers editors, they added, “Government laissez-faire attitude towards healthcare, ignorance, socio-cultural issues, fake drugs, affordability, incessant strikes by healthcare workers for non-payment and so on, are fad in Nigeria.”

They continued, “It can be observed that the staffers at the Federal Ministry of Health seem to have more interest in spending time and energy with public sector shenanigans than in demonstrating medical expertise that they have been trained for. Therefore, attention and concern of the health of Nigerians had been replaced by selfish interests of those who run the Ministry of Health at the Federal level.”

The raging debate however suggested that the healthcare woes in Nigeria were due to decades of unsuitable measures taken by the successive governments to arrest the situation.

 

Shortage And Allotment Of Healthcare Professionals

While the presidency wanted Yusuf airlifted, according to Nigeria Demographic Health Survey 2004, maternal mortality was increasingly high in Nigeria and the country had one of the maternal and child health indices in the world with maternal 800-3000 deaths per 100,000 live births, life time risk of dying from pregnancy related complications of 1:8 compared to 1:10 in developing countries.

A media data, March 16, 2016, lectured that there’s a population of N182 million Nigerians in 36 States of the country. “These populations share just 20 Federal Teaching Hospitals and 23 Federal and State Medical Centres. Some States like Lagos host more than one.”

Adding, the source asked, “43 Federal and State Medical Facilities for a population of 182million? That’s an average of about 4.2m people per hospital. Apparently these facilities are too small to cater for Nigeria’s population.”

 

Universal Health Coverage Failed

In a three-day summit that was tagged Human Resources for Health Summit and was organised by the Federal Ministry of Health in partnership with global health cohorts, the keynote was dubbed “Strengthening Human Resources for Health Towards Revitalization of Functional Primary Healthcare Centres in Nigeria.”

Factors hindering service delivery, to health workforce challenges, to attaining the nationwide objectives, such as that of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to achieving Universal Health Coverage, characterised the discourse.

The Minister of State for Health, Osagie Ehanire spoke at the conference, and harangued the need for the authorities to enliven the comatose healthcare system in the country.

Ehanire said, “All the initiatives to achieve Universal Health Coverage will be appropriate if the right numbers of people with the right skills are in the right place at the right time with the right attitude to provide the right service at the right cost.”

Investigations nonetheless revealed that unfavourable environment had led to many health professionals from Nigeria to migrate to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in search for greener pastures. A representative of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Ibadat Dhillion frowned at this, and said that Nigeria had lost much of her health workforce to OECD countries.

Dhillion said, “Nigeria’s health centres have been in shortage of manpower, whereas a country like Jamaica enjoys medical personnel in her health workforce who are Nigerians in the indices of 25 percent. Nigerian migrant health personnel to OECD are in the ratio of 60 percent.”

 

N1500 On Nigerian’s Healthcare Per Year

In sound climes, just like the Germany where Yusuf was suggested to be hurried to, health benefits were seen as a fundamental human right that must not be deprived the individual. For instance, pundits said that elections in countries like the USA and UK were won or lost “on the debate of Health from NHS to the Affordable Care Act.”

But this was not the same with Nigeria.

Nigeria was a country without National Health Act implemented. This, if implemented, was supposed to help in bettering healthcare delivery in the country. With the huge mineral resources sales that went to its coffers, authorities said that the Federal Government (FG) spent about N1500 (about 4 USD) per Nigerian’s health care a year.

That might sound hilarious. Conversely, Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole literally wept concerning this, at the Maiden Edition of Health Communication Conference organised by Association of Nigeria Health Journalists, ANHEJ in Abuja, July 13 2017.

In Adewole’s words, “Nigeria is still far below the Abuja Declaration, a commitment by the African Union Heads of Governments to ensure that at least 15 per cent of National Budgets are allocated to the health sector.

 

“In 2017, the Health Budget (Nigeria’s) is only around 4 per cent of the National Budget. Though, this represents a slight improvement from around 3.73 per cent in the 2016 budget, the numbers are worrisome. This would mean that only about N1, 500 (One Thousand and Five Hundred Naira only) is being spent on the health of every Nigerian per year.”

 

Lack Of Spirit Of Funding

Adewole was worried that unless the country imbibed the spirit of funding major part of its health programmes, Nigeria might not get out of the health conundrum, at least, soon. Buttressing his views, he gave instances where approximately 70 per cent of the resources to contain HIV came from foreign donors.

 

On June 29, 2017, there were reports of 260 children who tested positive for HIV in Niger State. These children were between the ages of 0-14. Approximately 12% of the children had no entrée to antiretroviral drugs, enthused Mrs. Mary Jalingo, Niger State chairperson of the Society for the Elimination of HIV, at the introductory assembly of the league of Civil Society Organisations for the brawl against the multiplication of HIV/AIDS.

 

According to Mrs. Jalingo, “The number of facilities providing prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV in the state is also low; there is also the need to encourage women to come forward to prevent their babies from being born with HIV.”

 

For the Zonal Coordinator of SEHAC, Dr. Ismailia Garba in his observation, “Many children had died at very tender ages because they were born with the HIV virus… if there was enough sensitisation the infected mothers would have known how to protect their unborn babies from the virus.”

 

Journalists Alliance for the Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (JAPIN) listened with apt attention during a three-day communication evaluation gathering early July 2017, as the National Coordinator, National AIDS and STIs Control Programme (NASCP), Ministry of Health, Dr Sunday Aboje said in Calabar that Nigeria had mapped out stringent measures in making sure that Mother to Child Transmission of HIV was pummeled by 2020.

 

The participants were worried, “No fewer than 1.7million women and 380,00 children under the age of 15, are currently living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, as according to the 2015 data by the National AIDS & STIs Control Program (NASCP) of the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH). They added that only 53,677 HIV positive pregnant women out of about 75,855 that test positive in the same year received anti-retroviral drugs.”

 

Taiwo Olakunle, who represented Dr. Aboje at the public presentation said, “As a result of this, many babies have been exposed to HIV/AIDS through Mother-To-Child Transmission (EMTCT). Currently, Nigeria has the largest number of paediatric HIV cases in the world.”

 

UNICEF HIV specialist, Abiola Davies recently whispered at an event in Abuja, “Nigeria is among countries with slow mother-to-child transmission decline. This is responsible for the country accounting for one third of the new HIV infections among children worldwide.”

 

According to Adeowle, “99 per cent of the commodities were paid for by outsiders, so we must put our money. When we look at family planning, the large part of the money is from outside. Immunisation, the vaccines all come from outside. This country must wake up; we must put our money in health and create a positive way for the health of this nation.”

 

Upon Billions Of Dollars Launched

Just as Adewole said that Nigeria depended on donors to curb her healthcare challenges, research showed that the donors had spent trillions of naira to boost Nigeria’s healthcare system and fight diseases such as malaria, diarrhoea, measles, cholera, hepatitis, polio, and so many others; yet Nigeria was thus far to solve her health unresponsiveness.

 

This issue got some Nigerians cracked. One of them who claimed anonymity, said, “The deplorable state of the Nigerian healthcare system is sad; the healthcare system in Nigeria by every indication is third world standard.

 

“In spite of the large budget and funds from donor countries and organisations, there is nothing to be proud of as most of the resources are flagrantly embezzled by certain group of people, who run the affairs of the Ministry as personal property.”

 

Unaccounted Billion Dollars

On February 16 2017, N40 billion (70 million Euros) to improve healthcare in Nigeria was launched by European Union (EU) of which the Federal Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the Ministry of Budget and National Planning and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), were running round for implementation.

 

“50 million Euros of the grant disbursed through the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), aim to ensure that by 2020, 80 per cent of the wards in Adamawa, Bauchi and Kebbi States will have a functional primary health care centre, providing round-the-clock services to three million children under the age of five, as well as almost a million pregnant women and lactating mothers,” as according to official data.

 

“Also, 20 million Euros disbursed through the World Health Organisation (WHO), will support the strengthening of health care systems towards achieving universal health coverage in Anambra and Sokoto States.”

 

The EU Ambassador to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Michel Arrion, while speaking at the event, said, “The focus is especially on providing services to poor, marginalised, rural women and children, saving the lives of mothers and children and improving their health and nutrition through a sustainable primary healthcare delivery system.”

 

For UNICEF Nigeria Representative, Mohamed Fall, “This will help Nigeria on the road to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals agreed at the United Nations in 2015 by all the world’s nations, including Nigeria.”

 

Buhari Thanking Nigerians

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu confirmed to Nigerians that Yusuf had undergone a successful surgery and was in a stable state. But how Yusuf was healed remained a surprise to Nigerians, because the presidency had incessantly denied airlifting him earlier when this matter was on the cover pages of the newspapers.

 

 

Professor Adewole was happy that the medical team that attended to Yusuf he chaired wasn’t a failure. Aisha disclosed a “thank you” message on her verified Instagram page, aishambuhari, which read “On behalf of my family, I will like to thank well-meaning Nigerians for their prayers in the past week.” Yet, the healthcare system in Nigeria was beyond the drag-racing motorbike and airlifting of Yusuf.

 

  • Odimegwu Onwumere is a multiple awards-winning journalist and publisher of ooreporters.com based in Rivers State. Tel: +2348032552855. Emailapoet_25@yahoo.com

 




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