Umaru Yar’Adua: Dead or Alive What Does It Matter?

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

Nigerians were jolted by the news that the PDP Presidential Candidate Governor Umaru Yar’Adua was flown to Germany for medical treatment and recuperation. His history of ill-health is public record. This time around he had “severe dose of catarrh” which was exacerbated by “strenuous campaign across the country.” Catarrh? My goodness, some five thousand people in any given Nigerian city suffer from catarrh on any given day, yet, they don’t go to Germany for treatment. Other sources reported that he had only gone for “routine medical checkup.” Whatever the real reasons are, it was a disgrace and a sad commentary on the state of the Nigerian nation.

I am sure his friends, family, and political friends are happy that he is “alright, very fine, and very much alive.” But to the vast majority of Nigerians, whether he is dead or alive really makes no difference. He is a member of the oligarchy, a member of the ruling class, and a member of the rich and the privilege whose foray into, and whose chokehold on our public and private lives, has never benefited the people and the country.

Every Nigerian official would as soon run to Germany, France, the UK, Canada, the US and other western destinations for headache, toothache, flu, liposuctions, breast augmentation and other medical and cosmetic needs than seek treatment in the country knowing the facilities are sub par. Now, here are a series of questions to ponder:

  1. How much is his flight abroad — airfare for himself and accompanying staff, food and lodging, medical treatment and associated cost — costing the Nigerian state?
  1. Are there no qualified medical doctors in Nigeria to handle his medical condition? After all catarrh is not an esoteric medical condition.
  1. Whatever happened to all the teaching hospitals in Nigeria? Whatever happened to all the government and private hospitals and clinics in Nigeria?
  1. Isn’t there a clinic right there on the premises of Aso Rock?

If he were not who he is, would he have been flown to Germany for a mere inconvenience caused by catarrh? And how many Nigerians, on a daily basis, does he think die from catarrh, malaria, headache and stomach ache, and from hunger and malnourishment and waterborne diseases? How many Nigerians, on a monthly basis, does he think die from illnesses western societies don’t even reckon with anymore? The filth and the mountain of trash in Lagos State alone kill about ten people everyday. The ecological disaster in the oil producing states kills another ten or so people every single week. And Mr. Yar’Adua goes to Germany for what?

The ruling class has never thought it wise to provide quality healthcare to the vast majority of Nigerians. Does he or any one know how many Nigerians have access to affordable health and dental care? Thousands and thousands of women die unnecessarily during childbirth. Thousands and thousands of children dies from preventable infant diseases. Thousands and thousands of Nigerian die from daily stress from navigating the Nigerian system. But when he and others like him get a wisp of illness, they immediately board planes for western hospitals.

No one knows how much Nigeria and Nigerians have spent on overseas medical treatment in the last two decade. It most likely will run into a billion dollar. It is so profitable that even South Africa has gotten into the act — making millions and millions from Nigerians who besiege their country for medical care, since 1999. Why not use the money to build first-class medical facilities.

I hope Mr. Umaru Yar’Adua doesn’t die from his current condition. I hope he doesn’t die before his time. It is my hope that he and others will learn from this shameful saga. What a disgrace! What a disgrace!! Oh what a disgrace to think and to know that he had to run to Germany to get treatment for Catarrh. It’s so sad! But is this merely a case of catarrh; or is there something the government and the PDP are not confessing to? But really, I will not put this past President Olusegun Obasanjo. It is not beneath him to toy with our collective intelligence. Look at his palms; tell me if they are clean.

But beyond the issue of elites escape to the West for treatment, are the issue of browning amenities and the lack of adequate public goods and services. Take the collapse of our tertiary and secondary schools for instance. Or for that matter, consider the condition of our institutions of higher learning (starting in 1985 or thereabout). Instead of well-staffed and well equipped universities, we have run-down buildings and poorly staffed schools. Instead of government allocating money for these schools, officials steal the money and use it for their children’s tuition and living expenses overseas. In the intervening time, the poor are left to suffer; they are forced to attend decaying universities.

Beyond crumbling medical facilities and putrefying schools are the issues of bad roads, bad security system, bad power supply, bad governance, bad leadership, and the worst of everything. The country is falling apart and the elites don’t care. They don’t care because they and their wives and children can always go to the West for the best the West can offer. The day the West put a stop to these nonsense will be the turning point in how Nigerian and African governments treats and relate to their people.

I am not even going to waste my time preferring solutions to our health and educations crisis. The government knows what to do. The ruling class knows what to do. Sadly and unfortunately, they have been too busy feasting off of the people fat. What had the federal government done in the areas of health and education and other services? What has any state government done in the areas of health and education and other amenities?

If President Obasanjo or most other Nigerian politicians were to drop dead in a British, American or German hospital, would most Nigerians grief? I doubt it. I seriously doubt it because these politicians — the Obasanjos, the Babangidas, the Atikus, the Dikkos, the Odilis and their ilk does not care about the common man. That being the case why should the common man care about them? Why? Today it is Umaru Yar’Adua. Tomorrow it could be OBJ or IBB or anybody else. And then we begin the circus again. Dead or alive, it really wouldn’t matter. Life goes on. Sufferhead will continue.

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David Ilemu March 13, 2007 - 6:31 pm

And MEND is going after poor workers? A case of misplaced priorities I must say!!! Kidnap one of these theives and you'll see how quickly things would change!!! Catarrh? LOL!!!

prince kennedy Iyoha March 13, 2007 - 5:41 pm

Mr Sabella Ogbobode Abidde.

The irony of it all is that most of the leaders you just mentioned had a very humble background. Taking that of Mr President for example, I often had him say that his parents were so poor that they could not pay his school fee, which prompted him to join the military. The above mentioned classes of politicians are the only sets of Nigerians that had really benefited from the state. During their adolescence, and youth days, we had a buoyant economy and leaders that really cared for its own. They had the best education Nigeria ever provided its people, and the best healthcare. One will be forced to ask what went rough along the line, that the people that received the best part of Nigeria are the very sect of people dragging her to the mould. In my humble assessment, I have come to a conclusion, that the civil war may be responsible for most of the in responsibilities practiced by our leaders today. Before the action that brought about the civil conflict in Nigeria, her leaders such as Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, and his cabinet, never had more than their salaries in their personal accounts, not to talk of a foreign account. Though leaders like Nmamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and a host of others were seen to have medical treatments abroad, they only went where we dont have facilities to provide the needed treatments. I am not a doctor, but can fill a slap on my face for actions taken by our leaders, our politicians has never thought of how a Nigerian practising doctor will fill in the face of what we had of Mallam shahu Musa Yaa dua illness. It is unpatriotic for any leader to present a professional body like the medical association of Nigeria to the world, as incapable to treat a catarrh. What ever is the reason of flying abroad for medical attention, it is a demonstration to the international community, that our doctors are incapable to handle them. I am proud of the doctors we have in Nigeria, and many Nigerian doctors are contributing in one way or another to helping build a formidable heath service systems for countries like the Gambia, and many more across Africa.


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