Uduaghan, a Doctor with Honour, by Ken Ugbechie

Uduaghan 600It is not always that a prophet is honoured by his people. In rare cases when such honour comes, it is usually celebrated with buntings and banners. It was the case for Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, the Governor of Delta State, when on Thursday September 19, 2013, he joined the pantheon of fellows of the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria. The governor was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the college on the occasion of its 31st convocation ceremony.
The event bore the epigraph of an occasion to garland real and genuine achievers. Aside the convocation of new fellows of the college, a hallmark of medical practice excellence and proficiency earnestly desired by doctors in the country, it witnessed the coronation of other distinguished Nigerians including Professors Leonard Kufeji and Olumuyiwa Afonja.
Uduaghan is a medical doctor by and practice before fate shooed him into the pathway of politics. But he was not honoured on account of being a doctor in politics. He was decorated on account of his unrelenting service to humanity. The President of the College, Professor Victor Wakwe, in justifying the selection of the governor, openly acknowledged the popularity of the decision to honour the Delta State governor among members of the selection committee. By this award, Uduaghan joins the honours rolls which include former President, Olusegun Obasanjo; Governor Babtunde Fashola of Lagos State; Sir Mobolaji Bank-Anthony; Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolopkolo Oba Erediauwa; former military President, General Ibrahim Babangida; and the late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe among other distinguished Nigerians.
The fellowship award to Uduaghan is a testament to his leadership exemplum and his passion to save the lives of humanity especially the poor and the destitute. The college, says Wakwe, has watched over the years the stellar performance of the governor in the provision of healthcare for the people of his state. The rarity of Uduaghan’s contribution to the overall health development of the state is that his efforts covered all stratum of healthcare: primary, secondary and .
Uduaghan believes, like Herbert Spencer, that “the preservation of health is a duty. Few seem conscious that there is such a thing as physical morality”. It is the burden of physical morality that has driven the Delta State governor to a state of near-frenzy in matters of healthcare. He does not just talk health with passion, he implements any initiative that would ultimately save a life. He talks from experience and from . Growing up in his rural Mosogar in the then Ethiope Local Government Area of Delta State, young Uduaghan who demonstrated elements of precocity and brilliance early in life was exposed to life without electricity, potable water and good healthcare. Just like most young boys, he had his childhood fantasies chief of which was to help humanity live life and live it well. That was his dream as a young lad in a rustic riverine .
, they say, belongs to dreamers. Uduaghan’s dream to add value to humanity spluttered to life when fate propped him to study medicine at the University of Benin. For someone who had always nurtured the passion to save the dying and the downtrodden, the choice of medicine was apt and he made a meal of it graduating in flying colours in 1980 and earning the revered Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MBBS). In 1981, he distinguished himself as the Most Outstanding Corps Member in Kwara State. Such honour does not come by folding of arms; it comes as a badge to commemorate hard work and diligence. Uduaghan was indeed diligent and this would later shape his career in medicine.
The governor, whose area of specialization is anaesthesia, never ceases to tell the compelling story that pushed up the threshold of his passion to save the dying. He recalls an experience which haunted his psyche for a long time. Once in the hospital in his heyday as a practising medical doctor, the sight of a woman about to be delivered of a baby scared him to the point of mortifying his very existence. As the story goes, a pregnant woman was about to be delivered of a baby. Rather than patronise a regular hospital, she opted to patronise a Traditional Birth Attendant (TBA) out of poverty than for lack of confidence in orthodox doctors. In the course of time, while they struggled to deliver the baby, the head pushed out and the woman had to straddle the poor innocent baby in-between her legs, dragging it from place to place. Of course the baby died while Uduaghan had to operate on the mother to rescue her life. That picture of a woman in travail
who lost her child because she could not afford proper antenatal services motivated Uduaghan the doctor to “do something for humanity”. The zeal to do something has compelled him to the best medicare accessible anywhere in Nigeria. From free antenatal and maternal care, free medicare for under-five children, free medicare for the elderly to affordable primary, secondary and healthcare in the state, Uduaghan has shown that saving the life of a human being is worth than erecting marbled castles for ephemeral human indulgences. “I feel fulfilled when I hear people say they had safe delivery in any of the state-run hospitals at no cost to their family. I am happy when pregnant women and the elderly willingly go to hospital rather than resort to self-help because the state is bearing the cost of their medicare”, he once said.
Uduaghan is the 9th Chief Executive to govern Delta State since its creation in 1991. From the jackboot days of the military aristocracy to these times of fledgling democracy, governance in the state has remained as complex as the state itself. Delta mirrors the larger Nigerian union in its complexity, diversity and incongruities. With multiple ethnic nationalities and hundreds of profound dialectical identities, it poses a huge challenge for leadership. Add the fact that it is a multi-city state, with each city good enough to assume the status of its capital. It is in this context that governance in the state becomes a huge challenge. How do ensure equity, fairness and justice among a vociferous, highly enlightened people?
However, among the nine leaders that have presided over the state, Uduaghan stands out as the solitary Trojan to have mastered the craft of balance in the state. He has pandered to all parts of the state in the area of distribution of wealth and development. Applying the concept of Evenly Distributed Development, he has ensured that all the three senatorial zones of the state are factored into his transformation and development programme.
Before the emergence of Uduaghan, Delta State was a fitting motif of a woman scorned; full of fury, red with rage. Cries of marginalisation could be heard among the variegated ethnic groupings. The matter is made worse by the obvious and showy insincerity of past leaderships. But Uduaghan seems to have mastered the art of leadership in a season of distrust. He has demonstrated that leadership is the capacity and will to rally men and women to a common purpose, and having the character which inspires confidence (apologies to Bernard Montgomery, the revered British General of World War Two).
He has restored the confidence of Deltans in the leadership of the state. He has carefully rallied Deltans to believe and to accept that unity is about shared gains and pains. From Asaba, the state capital to Warri, the commercial capital; from the upland of Ubulu-Uku to the hinterland of Koko, the received opinion is that Uduaghan has given every of the state a sense of belonging and something to point at as emblem that it is of the Delta union.
In creating Delta State and others in 1991, the then President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, General Ibrahim Babangida in his Tuesday, August 27, broadcast titled: ‘CONSOLIDATING THE GAINS OF DEVELOPMENT’ said: “This administration has decided to come to terms with the state creation issue and to remove it from the arena of partisanship by applying three mutual reinforcing principles namely: The principle of Social Justice; the principle of Development, and the principle of a Balanced Federation”. The context of the speech should not be lost among Nigerians. Over the years and even up till this day, diverse Nigerians have cried foul of being short-changed in the national equation either in terms of distribution of wealth and in the allocation of portfolios of leadership.
Delta State was not without its fair share of such cries. But Uduaghan has doused the fire. He has fashioned a leadership style that recognises equity and fairness as totems of good leadership. He has concentrated on projects that create jobs rather than engage in the pursuit of self-glorifying jamborees. Uduaghan may have scored high in education, infrastructural development, promotion of micro and small scale enterprises, peace, agriculture, transport and in envisioning a ‘Delta Beyond Oil’, but his greatest achievement and one which should earn him international accolade is his passion to save the dying. Delta State healthcare model remains the best in the country with every no matter how remote and far-flung having access to basic medicare. Among the numerous health projects in the state, the completion of the Delta State University Teaching Hospital, Oghara, a 180-bed ultra-modern hospital complete with state-of-the-art equipment, some
never seen in the country before, stands him out as a true ‘doctor on call’. It is on account of these accomplishments in healthcare delivery that the college decorated Uduaghan with its Fellowship award.
Ugbechie is Editor-in-Chief of Political Economist magazine.

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