I have always argued that Nigeria’s challenges are more systemic than individual. In other words, unless we make a conscious effort to reform the way in which we do things, no one, no matter how righteous or thorough would succeed in the long overdue task of saving Nigeria. If we had strong systems and institutions, any leader weak or strong, brilliant or clueless would find it difficult to hurt Nigeria in any terrible way.
To buttress my point, I argue that even a mad man would succeed as Prime Minister in a place like the United Kingdom. If a mad man were elected into office, one of two things would happen. It is either the system beats sanity and conformity into him or the system pushes him out as quickly as he is voted into power. That is a workable system that no one can fiddle with.
I opine that the absence of such is where the Nigeria’s major problem lies.
As a result of the lack of a functional system in any area of our national life, every Nigerian makes the best of exploiting the situation. It starts with those that we have given the mandate to govern over us. The executive plays on the weakness of the legislature, the later exploits the needs of the former while they both manipulate the judiciary at will. And all the arms collude to subject the mass of the people to endless torture.
As sad as that is however, one would have taken that “they on us” situation as a sign of our evolving democracy with hopes that it would soon change, but it doesn’t end there. The average Nigerian savours the opportunity to use whatever position he finds himself to exploit and oppress the other person sometimes leading to fatal consequences. This “we on us” is the one that I am never able to come to terms with.
It is in the light of this that I consider the unfortunate death of Mrs. Gladys Nwosu and seven other members of her family about three weeks ago. The Nwosus who were from Umueze, Egbelu Nguru, in the Ngor Okpala Local Government Area of Imo State were said to have woken up to their daily chores on the morning May 30. According to the account in The Sun, the children suddenly started to complain of stomach ache. The deceased lady rushed her children to her church believing that they were under some spiritual spell. When the situation did not abate, they were reportedly rushed to the Ngor Okpala General Hospital, where the children were confirmed dead. Hours later, the deceased widow was said to have also began to complain of pains in her stomach. She was rushed to the same hospital where she eventually passed on. The Sun named the deceased children as Chinelo Nwosu, a 23-year-old final year student of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka; Amaka Nwosu, a primary school pupil and Ijeoma Nwosu, who just finished secondary education. But it was to get worse as within the next 24 hours, four more people had joined this sad installmental death leaving the whole community in perplexed grief.
From the account that I heard on the network news of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, there were allegations of delayed response from medical personnel at the Ngor Okpala General Hospital and the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri where some of the deceased people were rushed from treatment. Some of those interviewed alleged that personnel at the General Hospital insisted on the payment of some money before taking any step. They further alleged that the same attitude was exhibited at the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri where some of the deceased people were eventually transferred to. While appealing to the authorities to investigate the cause of the death of these people, members of the community expressed their conviction that some of the deceased could have been saved if help came at the right time.
While one has no way of ascertaining the veracity of these allegations, everyone used to public healthcare delivery in Nigeria will agree that these are not farfetched stories. It is a common thing to encounter the over blown ego of one medical personnel or the other in our public health facilities. Sometimes you wonder if some of them are still familiar with the Hippocratic Oath.
I recall how terrified I was when two cousins of mine recounted their experience when their house help recently went into some seizure. For about five hours, they got no one to provide any useful medical intervention to this young girl who was barely conscious. At the Gbagada General Hospital, they were asked to proceed to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) from where they were eventually referred to the Federal Medical Centre, Yaba.
I stood transfixed when they told me that the doctor on duty at the FMC looked at the reference note from LASUTH and walked away. He reportedly told them that he could not stress himself, how electricity would go off at midnight and other things that had no bearing to the issue at hand. He was however gracious enough to later suggest that “maybe you should go to LUTH, because I cannot stress myself” That was after about half an hour wasted ranting and raving at the hapless people. It was at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH where the girl was to be on admission for the next five days that they eventually got help, more than five hours after the onset of the girl’s ailment.
This is the story of a system that does not work. A system where no one cares about anyone simply because they are never held to account for their misconducts.
Over the years, Nigerians have lived with the inadequacies of our health sector. We have lived with inadequate funding, inconsistent policy thrusts, quackery at different levels, in-human treatment of patients by professionals, endless industrial actions as well as unceasing suspicions between various professionals in the sector but we cannot go on that way.
Years after its initiation, the National Health Bill, which is expected to give Nigeria a frame work for improved health care delivery has remained in the works. This is largely due to the inability of professional unions in the sector to agree on mutually beneficial provisions. Each profession considers its individual advantage at the risk of the common good even as Nigerians continue to die needlessly like it recently happened in Imo State.
Governor Rochas who is said to have set up a committee to investigate this incident should kindly get to the root of this matter. He must ensure that every act of negligence is sufficiently dealt with. By doing this, the governor would be doing honour to the deceased and saving God knows how many citizens from death in future. It is also important to strengthen the capacity of our health facilities so that the incidences of referrals are reduced. Then professional bodies, especially the Nigeria Medical Association and the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives must remind their members on the importance of treating their patients like human beings. They must also partner with health authorities at all levels to organize hospital visit which could tackle the poor attitude of health workers. Above all, this system must make people accountable, the failure to hold people responsible is why we have impunity running our lives and sending our compatriots to untimely graves, we just need to stop every avoidable loss of life.
Adedokun, a Lagos based PR consultant, wrote in via [email protected] You can follow him on twitter @niranadedokun