In this week’s Episode we serve you a masterpiece from the mullah of contemporary commentary. Our Guest writer – Dr. Chris Opone – is a fellow of the Institute of Obstetrics & Gynaecology. A writer and critique “without border”.
President Jonathan’s Re-Election: Imperatives For The Health Sector
President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s journey to the apex of Nigerian politics is an oft told story, that of a peasant boy from the sleepy and agrarian enclave of Otuoke, now in Bayelsa State. He was that boy that never had sandals on his feet as he walked kilometers to catch a glimpse of western education in a neighboring village.
Despite numerous odds, he somehow managed to find his way to the University of Port Harcourt, and eventually bagging a doctorate in Zoology and Marine Biology. If his climb on the education ladder was heroic, his rise in the political domain was more meteoric. From a Deputy Governor to a Governor; from a Vice President to a de facto President, and then a substantive President, Jonathan cuts that proverbial child that has kept date with fate and destiny.
That Nigerians voted overwhelmingly for President Jonathan in 2011 is no news, and his calm and humble mien portrayed him a man ready to confront Nigeria’s numerous problems. Listening to his inaugural speech, where he reeled out his ‘dreams’ for Nigeria, ushered in a new era of optimism (or at least so). He talked on the usual conundrums of issues that have bedeviled Nigeria for years, making an otherwise prosperous nation as anemic as it is jaundiced.
These well documented problems range from poor infrastructure to paucity of electricity; from a health system in near collapse to an aviation sector that is haunted by ghost of incessant tragic accidents; from federal highways that mimic mine littered fields in its ability to evoke carnage to a land where corruption of public officials has been cloned to beat existing superlatives in qualifying its monstrosity. It was on this acrid note President Jonathan ascended the throne of Nigerian Presidency.
In the twilight of his tenure, and seeking re-election for another four year term, an expected evaluation and re-evaluation of his achievements in office is supposed to occupy the front burners of national discuss. Whether such critical review of President Jonathan’s account of stewardship is being done is highly debatable. The ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), have been equally guilty in embarking on non issue based campaign. Where the ruling party woefully failed in outlining its achievements in the past four years to merit being entrusted with another term, the opposition has been indulging in sheer frivolity and abandoning the cardinal discuss that matters. However, that the contenders for the highest office are playing to the gallery in their electioneering campaign does not numb us from evading their stochastic amnesia, and being brave enough to ask those valid questions that merit asking with regards to how well or otherwise they safeguarded our mandate.
President Jonathan, despite the myriad of problems he ‘inherited’ in office, has the misfortune of having to confront a hydra headed insurgency that threatened to annihilate an already volatile polity. From the failure of the federal government to rescue the over two hundred abducted Chibok girls to its inability to stem the wave of attacks in the North Eastern part of the country, the President has incurred the ire of a bewildered populace, one that feels betrayed and abandoned to a sure sordid fate in the hands of a bloodthirsty insurgency.
If the Boko Haram insurgency was a leech in Mr President’s pampiniform, the dreaded Ebola virus disease (EVD) that made its way to Nigeria through a Liberian diplomat, late Patrick Sawyer threatened to be a venomous snake bite that occurred in the absence of a potent antidote. Thankfully to sheer providence, Nigeria ‘conquered’ the dreaded EVD to earn international accolade. To further compound Jonathan’s woes, oil prices attained free fall late last year to further hurt a monolithic economy that is under the grips of international oil prices.
It would be preposterous for a certain individual to wholly assess the achievements of President Jonathan in the past four years, and this discuss focussing on the health sector would suffice a microcosm in a sea so uncharted it would be tantamount to suicide wading into.
The health sector had to confront with incessant industrial actions by different pressure groups in the sector to further cripple an already lethargic system. Between the NMA and the amorphous amalgam called JOHESU, downing of tools was taken to dizzying heights to the peril of the common Nigerian that could ill afford the exorbitant bills charged at private medical facilities and laboratories.
The colossal, yet avoidable loss of many lives was the real tragedy of the incessant bickering amongst different professionals in the health sector. Some of the issues that gripped the sector are far from resolved even in the face of the pseudo peace that seems to exist, albeit temporarily amongst the gladiators of the health sector. The issues of contention between the medical doctors and allied health personnel, as well as the mundane attempts at stemming them is a well documented one. From the failings of the Yayale Ahmed committee to the arm twisting tactics of the federal government that led to the sacking of over sixteen thousand resident doctors, the health sector reels with unrivaled acrimony.
The problems in the health sector closely mirror our state of underdevelopment as a people. The obvious take is the absence of global best practice in the Nigerian health system, and it was a welcome development when President Jonathan finally signed the National Health Bill that defines the National Health System (NHS).
While the technicalities of the document is still studied by various interest groups, one indisputable fact is that finally Nigeria has a legal framework to pivot its hitherto hardly regulated health sector. The establishment of the National Health System, apart from clearly outlining the role of the three tiers of government with respect to healthcare, more importantly establishes the standard of care to be expected and the means of funding such level of care. Again, the rights of the patient and those of the healthcare provider are well documented. President Jonathan was most altruistic in signing the National Health Bill into law, despite the oppositions that met the bill.
If President Jonathan gets re-elected, are there further imperatives for the health sector? This would surely polarize opinion depending on what side of the divide one belongs. If the dreaded EVD visits our shores again, are we sufficiently equipped to win the battle again? If the litany of woes in the health sector resurrect in Mr Presidents second term in office, would he handle these issues different? These are surely the questions that would be bugging our minds as we contemplate handing President Jonathan yet another mandate.
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Next week: An in depth look at the National Health Policy.
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