By Emmanuel Ugwu,
Since President Muhammadu Buhari departed Nigeria on a ‘medical vacation’ one month ago, politicians, monarchs and religious leaders have been entreating Nigerians to pray for his quick recovery and safe return.
The Buhari administration has also been using the solicitation of prayers for President Buhari as a tactic to evade citizens’ demand for enlightening information on his state of health. Officialdom tells Nigerians that the Nigerian people need not know the particulars of the president’s illness. All they need to know is that he could use ‘a lot of prayers’.
Nigerians who believe in the efficacy of prayers would be wise to ignore the government’s prayer solicitation campaign. The people should not be solicitous of a sick Buhari who is not inclined to requite the love of Nigerians. He does not deserve the empathy of Nigerians when he has evinced no concern about the health of the populace.
During his fourth campaign for president, Buhari promised to cause a significant reduction in medical tourism by improving the quality of the healthcare infrastructure of Nigeria. He has shown no commitment towards fulfilling that promise. Instead, he has become a proud promoter of medical migration.
Last year June, Buhari took a 10 day vacation and spent ‘only 20 million naira’ to treat an ear infection in London. Right now, he is in the same city, racking up medical bills, charging it to the account of Nigerian taxpayers …and asking them to pray for his recovery from a nameless illness!
No Nigerian ought to spend the minutest part of their time praying for Buhari’s mending. The Nigerian people should be discussing how to heal Nigeria of the plague that is ‘leaders’ like Buhari.
Ours is a hyper-religious country. The ever-increasing mushrooming of mosques, churches and shrines on our landscape is proof positive of that. Christianity and Islam, which majority of the theistic population of Nigerians profess, enjoin followers of both Abrahamic faiths to pray for their secular leaders.
But Nigerians must refuse to be guilted into praying for their sick ‘leaders’. Nigerians are free of the ‘’pray for your leaders’’ command in the holy books because those who manage Nigeria fall short of any serious definition of the word, ‘leader’.
The rulers of Nigeria are the reason Nigeria is suffering third rate power infrastructure, dilapidated public schools and decrepit health institutions. They are the curse behind Nigeria’s degenerative underdevelopment. They are the very sickness of the body politic.
Nigeria is sick of selfish ‘leaders’ that care about only their own health. Nigeria is sick of ‘leaders’ who can’t fix Nigerian hospitals because they are permanently charmed by the exoticism of foreign hospitals. Nigeria is sick of ‘leaders’ who would rather fly abroad every time they fall sick than develop Nigerian hospitals so they can be treated on home soil.
Nigeria ‘leaders’ parasitize the medical civilization of advanced countries but are too selfish, senseless and slothful to apply themselves to the task of domesticating the excellence they witness in whiteman’s land.
The hospitals Nigerian ‘leaders’ highball out of our country to taste are the tangible achievements of foreign leaders. Nigerian leaders are not ashamed they lack the motivation to duplicate such legacies in their homeland.
When Buhari was walking to board the presidential plane to London, a journalist asked the president why he was going on this second medical journey abroad. He retorted: ‘What’s wrong with going on vacation? Didn’t I go last year at the same time?’
Obviously, Buhari thought it was a foolish question. He missed the import of the enquiry. The hard-nosed reporter collapsed a lamentation into a query.
The newsman actually told Buhari this: This is 2017: 103 years after the founding of Nigeria and 57 years after her independence. Yet, the president of Nigeria strips naked before the medical technology of Britain, Nigeria’s former colonial master, because Nigerian hospitals are good for nothing!
Something is wrong with Buhari going on medical vacation abroad. Last time he returned from vacation, he did not start to overhaul Nigerian hospitals with a vengeance. He only readied himself… for the next offshore vacation!
The foreign trips of Nigerian ‘leaders’ never benefits the Nigerian people. The so-called leaders do not permit themselves to be permeated and inspired by the philosophy of development that is at the heart of governance in the developed world. They are poor hostages of self-defeatism. They are racists who believe they are incapable of building world-class facilities in their native country.
Buhari’s wife, Aisha, returned from Saudi Arabia the other day. On her arrival at the airport in Abuja, she thanked ‘all Nigerians for their goodwill and support for my husband’ and implored them not ‘to relent in prayers’. A few days ago, Buhari himself tweeted a message of appreciation to ‘Christians and Muslims alike, for their prayers and kind wishes for my health’.
Nigerians must not be deceived. Our very religious president is no believer in faith healing. In spite of his dissembling, he won’t trade one checkup session in a London hospital for the intercession of 175 million Nigerian prayer warriors. He is a believer in cutting-edge medicine.
If he believed in faith healing, he would have stayed back in the Villa and surrendered to our ‘prayer treatment’. He would not have traveled halfway around the world to enter the refuge of the healthcare system of the United Kingdom. He wouldn’t have been ‘receiving’ our ‘’prayers and kind wishes’’ from a distance!
There is a hospital in Asokoro area of Abuja called the State House Medical Centre. That facility is meant to serve the families of the President, the Vice President and other senior government officials. Buhari abandoned that hospital and fled to London to take care of himself. It’s from the comfort of that faraway hideaway that Buhari has been soliciting prayers from wretched Nigerians who have nowhere to go when they fall sick.
Last year, Buhari voted for more money for capital projects in the State House clinic than he proposed to spend on 16 teaching hospitals owned by the federal government. In spite of this lopsided distribution, he would not subject himself to this best funded federal government owned health facility in Nigeria. He won’t participate in the healthcare system he presides over.
A budget of 3.87 billion naira was approved for the State House Clinic in 2016. Yet, The PUNCH would later report that the State House Clinic lacked basic equipment and even ‘ordinary malaria drugs’. The presidential hospital was a hollow edifice. An empty, boasting name.
Now, that’s the picture of the state of the most important hospital in Nigeria. The condition of less known public hospitals is more appalling by a long way. And it is those substandard hospitals that majority of Nigerians are condemned to relate with.
Buhari’s elastic stay in London has forced the analogizing of his condition to that of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. Buhari’s protracted vacation is solidifying doubts about his fitness for office. Given that each vacation day abroad is eroding his support base, it would have served him well to return quickly to Nigeria to juggle recuperation and work.
But he cannot. He so dreads the unknown that may befall him if he rushed home ahead of a clean bill of health that he is now trying to make the best optics out of his medical hibernation.
He makes out time for photo ops. He holds court every day. He receives visitors on homage. He even talked foreign policy on the telephone with President Trump though there was an acting president in Abuja!
London has become the new Mecca because of his ‘indefinite medical vacation’. Nigerian officials are traveling on ‘solidarity vacations’, at public expense. They are going to show their loyalty to the president.
This farce is not worthy of Nigeria. Nigerians must begin to demand that Nigerian public office holders be prohibited from seeking medical treatment abroad during their incumbency. The so-called leaders of Nigerians should not have the liberty to excuse themselves from the rot they helped perpetuate.
If it was unlawful for Nigerian ‘leaders’ to check into foreign hospitals, on our dime, they would be constrained to pursue the upgrading of Nigerian health facilities as a matter of self interest. They would know that they have to raise our hospitals to international standards or they would be liable to be trapped by the consequences of their own neglect.
The ban will stop the elitist escapism. It will end the detachment of Nigerian ‘leaders’ from Nigerian health institutions. It will compel them to address our broken healthcare system because they are partakers in our common vulnerability.
Right now, it is the lot of Nigerian ‘leaders’ to enjoy world-class health facilities abroad and it is the destiny of Nigerian taxpayers to pay for the elopement of the jet-set ‘leaders’!
Every day, countless Nigerians die of diseases can that be easily cured or managed. They die because Nigerian hospitals are too poorly equipped and they can’t afford overseas medical treatment. They die because their panacea is holy water, roots and herbs.
President Buhari mocks humanity when he tells Nigerians who are sicker and infinitely poorer than him to forget about their precarious condition and concentrate on praying for his own healing!