Saving patient Patience

Posted: September 5, 2012 in Uncategorized


By Jaafar Jaafar

Some time in 2008, at the third floor of Universitat Kliniqum, Maiz, Germany, there lay President Umaru Yar’Adua, whose health condition appeared clinically intractable. Already, the condition of the president’s health had become the trending news back in Nigeria. Although there was a statement from the presidency about his departure for medical treatment, that did not douse the apparent frenzy in the media.

The president, who was hurriedly flown to Germany on the day ‘he’ signed 2008 budget to receive treatment after allergic reaction to anti malarial pills, had been battling with myriad of complications.

Responding to treatment after series of surgeries, cycles of dialysis, rounds of Pericardiocentesis and doses of anti inflammatory and allergy drugs, I reliably gathered that the president was advised by his German doctor to relieve himself of most of official duties in order to manage his health. In another word, the doctor wanted the president to resign and manage his health.

Expectedly, the president refused. He bolted into action immediately after discharge. He soon had a relapse. The rest is now history.

I really saw it coming, long before broke the news of the First Lady, Permanent Secretary in-situ, Leader of African First Ladies Dame Patience Jonathan, Grand Commander of the Order of Grammar (GCOG), was hospitalized in Germany. The nature of her over-bloated role tells one that she might one day crash. The First Lady was everything, everywhere and anywhere.

The busy-body perm sec was caught in a web of what sociologists call “role conflict” and “role strain”. Role conflict, according to sociologists, occurs when one is having many conflicting roles. But when none of the roles can be effectively discharged due to stress, then it becomes “role strain”.

Since the First Lady’s exact mission in Germany is shrouded in secrecy, the exact ailment afflicting her would be as hard to ascertain as it is difficult to see a functional Xray machine in many of our hospitals. It is equally an uphill a task as early detection of cancer of the pancreas in our hospitals. On the issue of First Lady’s voice loss, I beg to disagree as her voice seemed perpetually muffled ever since her debut in the public limelight.

If however the version of food poisoning is anything to go by, there’s a possibility that the First Lady ate the contaminant from unhygienic cassava flour. While explaining the dangers of cassava bread in one of my articles, I quoted Wikipedia in order to explain why cassava bread shouldn’t be forced on Nigerians. “Cassava contains anti-nutrition factors and toxins…,” I quoted Wikipedia in the article, “Improper preparation of cassava can leave enough residual cyanide to cause acute cyanide intoxication and goiters, and may even cause ataxia or partial paralysis.”

My doctor friend also told me that in chronic situation, it may even cause a disease called Tropical Ataxic Neuropathy.

But our mission to save patient Patience is like a mission in a 1998 Hollywood epic war film, Saving Private Ryan, in which US soldiers tried to rescue a paratrooper Private James Ryan from the Germans. After learning that Private Ryans’ three brothers were killed in the war, the US government attempted to locate and bring the only surviving sibling to his mother. But the problem is that they don’t know whether he is dead or alive in the enemy line.

This is the dilemma of Nigerians. We don’t know where she is before we even begin the “rescue” mission. What I am clamorimg for is the discharge of the First Lady from the German hospital in order to save Nigerians from another moment of sadness. We want her back home and recuperate either at National Hospital, Abuja; Asibitin Kuroda, Kano (an infectious disease hospital) or; General Hospital, Ajegunle. We have infectious disease specialists at Asibitin Kuroda who deal with tropical diseases more often than their German counterparts.

This is not the first time we have members of the First Family on medical tourism abroad. They go on medical trips the way Okada riders patronize tea joint every morning for energy boosting concoction. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s wife, Stella Obasanjo died in Spain in October 2005 after post-surgical complications. The First Lady is our ‘property’, and so she should return to our shores.

Nigerians were not initially told that Stella Obasanjo was to stopover in Spain before proceeding to Vatican City to represent Obasanjo at the 40th anniversary of Cardinal Francis Arinze’s ordination. We only heard the sad news of her death. I don’t know what will cost the presidency to tell Nigerians the truth about the health condition of a member of the nation’s first family. As if it is a capital offense to fall sick, our leaders always play hide and seek whenever they fall sick. Leaving us without a hint makes us to speculate. How do you expect Nigerians to be sincere in their affairs when government can not lead by example?

Our leaders pay little attention to healthcare as most of our hospitals can not match prison clinics in advanced countries. If our leaders would be seeking medical attention in Nigeria, perhaps the expenditure on healthcare will be increased. If what is spent by our leaders on foreign medical trips would be committed toward improving health centers across the country, much would be achieved.

According to the founder of Orisun Health Partners, Victor Olapojoye, the rot in the health sector is pervasive. “From Primary Health[care] Centers (PHCs) controlled by the Local Governments to the General, State, Specialist, and State University Teaching Hospitals owned and operated by state governments, to the Federal Medical Centers, National Hospitals, and Federal University Teaching Hospitals that are heavily subsidized by the Federal Government, the story is the same – corruption, negligence, and crumbling infrastructure. Can you imagine wards at a teaching hospital without toilets? That is exactly where public healthcare is at this point,” he said.

The health expert also stated that “When the Health Reform agenda of the OBJ administration took shape, the FG decided to adopt an employer-based private insurance model to pool healthcare cost risk. Almost 10 years, after the program started, it only covers less than 7% of Nigerians.”

My fear in this health scheme is that it has no provision to cover Nigeria’s army of beggars, horde of market women, pack of motor park touts, battalion of unemployed youths or swarm of ‘casual’ factory workers.

Unlike the Americans in the award-wining film, our mission to save patient Patience is peaceful. Nigerians should join me in occupying the pages of our newspapers, the airwaves and cyber space in order to save patient Patience from the Germans.


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