Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Yar'Adua - Catching his breath in Germany

He is only human

The developments now indicate that Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar'Adua is quite alive and able to chat by phone to a BBC correspondent.

Even so, it would appear that both the Times of Nigeria and ThisDay Online have been purveyors of falsehoods most despicable, the latter indicating that he had collapsed with something approaching multiple organ failure and that was then exacerbated by the non-scoop of the former announcing his death.

The Alhaji apparently began suffering from breathlessness and probably exhaustion most definitely due to the gruelling campaign trail, this is understandable.

The lament goes out that there could not be found in the length and breath of Great Nigeria a physician, a doctor or even a diviner who could treat this presumably benign condition that he had to be flown to Germany in what would have been a depressurised cabin at high altitude to get treatment.

This does not begin to illustrate the farce that this episode has become as I have time and again agonised over the fact that with all the resources and brains we have in that great country, nobody of any means would deign to visit a local doctor if they had opportunity to see a foreign one in Europe or America.

Usually, it is Europe which is closer that gets the most patronage.

Doctors in the know not

Except in cases where this foreign general practitioner has become a family doctor from afar, many expect the doctors or consultants versed in Western medicine, Caucasian ailments and highly sanitised conditions to divine or guess without empirical evidence from observation, the medical problems of wealthy Africans without the benefit of a professional record of medical history apart from a quick-fire question and answer round about whether you feel this or have experienced that.

Such is the folly of this debacle turning into a joke, where the comfort of being poked by strangers for a great price gives us the satisfaction that all is well. Considering anyone suffering from a strange fever would probably be quarantined as a significant health risk before someone cottons on the fact that it is everyday Malaria.

Many a time, some Malarial patients have had to abscond hospitals through bathroom windows to get treatment from traditional decoctions and herbs than be turned into an experimental chimera through the ignorance of arriving at the right prognosis sometimes late or even never.

Wherefore the health of the nation?

In the end, it is Nigerians that have been done a disservice; we launch people out of teaching hospitals, many of whom have never had the privilege of serious practical medicine because of the lack of proper training conditions and infrastructure.

They then become doctors whose appreciation of pain and distress is so deadened, it is a suicide wish to visit hospital - having professors of medicine run the Ministries of Health has simply been a political exercise than one of having technocrats really address this travesty.

Sub-standard and at times fake drugs get administered in teaching hospitals; it makes hell feel like a better place to visit and all the Health Minister could say was that the file had only been sent to his predecessor and not to him - at which point, even I was breathless with apoplectic rage.

But this is the reality of things in Nigeria; until the rich can trust our medical infrastructure enough, no matter the cost and then this trust along with market forces and demand begins to make this service affordable, no government in Nigeria should have the temerity to suggest that they have done anything in the service of their people.

Without the assurance of the health of a nation all other achievements are as dust and these sudden journeys to cure breathlessness in the West would just be signposts of the fact that Nigeria is probably just another large Bantustan - a Fourth-World country in stagnation and drawing backward.

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