Will Buhari Give Atedo Peterside’s Suggestion Some Thought? - Oke Umurhohw

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The average Nigerian is tired and disorientated by the shabby outlook of things under President Muhammadu Buhari. From the increasing rise in inflation to surging numbers of unemployed and from worsening insecurity to failing standards of living among other troubles, things don’t look good for Nigerians.

Last week, it became more pronounced after presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, disclosed that Buhari will be flying over 7000 kilometers to the British capital, London, for a ‘medical check-up’. That was a pointer to the degrading state of the country’s health system and the absence of genuine interest to fix it, if not for other classes of Nigerians but the ruling class that has the president at the top.

But Garba Shehu, a media aide to Buhari argued nothing is wrong in a president running abroad for his medical need, fiercely pushing back at narratives that put Buhari’s medical trip in the context of medical tourism. “President Buhari is not a medical tourist– if somebody has kept retainership with medical experts; we are talking about 30 years plus,” Garba Shehu played down criticisms of the president’s London trip.

What Garba Shehu simply did was to affirm the problem in the country’s health sector and how Buhari did almost nothing to fix it even if it will only serve his health needs. That’s depressing as it mirrors the hopeless situation that millions of Nigerians are forced to bear when it comes to fending for their health needs.

Anyone who loves this country will not be comfortable with this sad reality and possibly prompted the suggestions made by Atedo Petetside on large-scale investment in the country’s health infrastructure. Peterside, who is the founder of Stanbic IBTC and Anap Foundation, took to his Twitter account to lay out what should turn things around in the country’s health sector.

“The $1.5bn earmarked for PH Refinery Rehabilitation by the NNPC could build 12 world-class hospitals costing $125m each– two in each geopolitical zone,” his tweet read. Sounds good, but the question that is begging for an answer is, will Buhari give his suggestion some thoughts?

If Buhari considers the suggestions, it could be a good turning point for the country’s health infrastructure, and give millions of Nigerians who don’t have the resources to retain doctors abroad to get better healthcare access. As far as we can tell, Nigeria has good healthcare practitioners but is limited by degrading health facilities and worse, poor attitudes to their welfare.

Barely 24 hours after Buhari flew to London for medicare, resident doctors in the country embarked on an indefinite strike to protest the failure of the government to meet their demands including non-payment of salaries and allowances, hence, living many Nigerians with no access to healthcare. Nigeria is experiencing a broken health system that fixing it should take precedent over fixing a refinery.

Peterside’s suggestion that “We (Nigeria) could then allow private sector core investors to purchase the refinery and rehabilitate it with their funds” was thorough and provide a greater benefit for the country if given consideration. The refinery, in fact, all the four refineries that Nigeria has, after all, have turned to liabilities that bring no real benefit to the country.

By building 12 world-class hospitals, the $1.5 billion will serve a more beneficial purpose because it will improve access to qualitative and comprehensive healthcare services and even more important, save the country the over N500 billion that goes into medical tourism every year. This is the same smart investment that countries like the United Kingdom made in their healthcare system that continues to entice Buhari and other elites, who will even jet abroad to treat ear infections.

The truth is, Buhari didn’t cause all the problems in the country’s health sector but instead of working towards a solution, he’s actively contributing to making it worse. As against expectations and his assurance at a Chatham House speech before his election to the country’s top political office, Buhari has become a terrible influence on medical tourism in the country.

But he can still make things right by putting Peterside’s suggestion into play, and for once, show to those who trusted him with their mandates that he can at least, do something right. With at least two world-class hospitals in each of the country’s geopolitical zone, and a change of attitudes to the welfare of healthcare personnel, medical tourism will fall sharply and Nigeria will save a lot from it.

By Oke Umurhohwo, a Political Analyst and Strategist. He tweets via @OkeStalyf and can be reached on oke.umu@gmail.com

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