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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Thoughts on President Buhari's Medical Advice to Nigerians

Thoughts on President Buhari's Medical Advice to Nigerians

By Pius Adesanmi

From what I've seen thus far, President Buhari's return is being framed as a short convalescent respite in Abuja before he returns for "further checks" in London. Until I hear differently, I have to take it that this is the true state of things.

Whatever the case may be, I say welcome to him and I wish him God's speed in the journey to recovery and full health. I also pray for strength for his immediate family as they continue to take care of him. I was in their shoes for 22 years, from 1985 to 2007.

I know the toll it takes on one to have to take care of one's loved ones when they are ill. The Yoruba have a proverb that those taking care of the sick are the sick. For the 22 years that my mom, sisters, and I had to take care of my father, we were sick too. The President's immediate family needs our prayers and support.

That said, there is also a familiar narrative of human callousness and lack of respect for the dignity of the indisposed. No matter how weak and frail the human bodily frame of President Yar'Adua was, some people somewhere needed the political symbolism of his appearance in Abuja for their own selfish purposes. No matter how weak and frail the human bodily frame of Danbaba Suntai was, some desperate people needed the political capital of his return to Jalingo.

The same primitive sentiments by the same forces who lack fundamental human decency and are genetically incapable of thinking Nigeria beyond their pernicious narrow and personal interests are now at work. However, unlike President Yar'Adua and Governor Suntai who were parachuted in barely conscious, President Buhari has agency and is a player in this unfolding scenario. He is responsible for his own decisions.

The trip and prolonged stay were already so badly handled. What is the purpose of a convalescent cameo return at such unbelievable costs to the tax payer? The proper, dignifying thing to do in the circumstances is to allow a full return to health in London before returning or to return to Abuja only when the President's health has reached a stage where treatment could continue at home.

For me, continuing the management of his health in Abuja - we pay an awful lot annually for that State House Medical Centre - would not reduce the damage done by the fact that he went on a health safari at all or the way the whole thing was managed - deceiving Nigerians initially, dishing out information parsimoniously as if it were a privilege, bullying and blackmailing Nigerians for asking questions - but it will at least not compound the situation with an expensive cameo convalescent return to Abuja.

Premium Times has given an in-depth account of President Buhari's statements to his cabinet and some governors in the State House upon his return. Premium Times reports that the President weighed in on education and health. I agree with the President on education, albeit with my own amplification. On health, I sincerely hope that Premium Times has either mis-reported the President or quoted him out of context. However, until there is clarification from the Presidency, I will go with Premium Times's account.

According to Premium Times, the President stated that we must take the education of our children seriously. Says Premium Times:

"Mr. Buhari said the world was fast changing, and more efforts must be made to equip the younger generation with relevant skills to compete in the global economy."

I agree in toto with the President here. However, in addition to educating our children to be active participants in the global knowledge economy, we have a more urgent task to overhaul the delivery of the humanities and the social sciences in Nigeria. We need an urgent reinvestment in critical thought. We need to make two semesters of philosophy compulsory in every Nigerian tertiary institution.

That way, we will start to produce citizens who are not only capable of feeling insulted in their civic essence by the way that this whole Presidential health saga has been handled but who will be interpellated to ask tough and hard questions and understand such as their right and duty to Nigeria.

If we listen to President Buhari and educate our children properly, the hordes feeling privileged that the President has deigned to bless them with a convalescent return and disturbing the peace all over social media will understand that after the human sentiment of euphoria and relief (I was quite relieved seeing the President), they have an even bigger duty of asking tough questions as his employers. And they have a duty to themselves to completely ignore any bullying by Citizen Abobaku.

Beyond education, Premium Times reports that President Buhari has other advice for Nigerians. He has health advice for them. According to Premium Times:

"President Buhari noted that the government would continue to discourage Nigerians from self-medication, urging those with discomforts to ensure they get proper diagnosis and doctor’s prescription for drugs. He lauded the quality of treatment he got during his medical vacation."

I don't know what to say to this if Premium Times reported the President's statement correctly. All I will say is that people in power and government and Citizen Abobaku who bullies his fellow citizens to support them unquestionably at all times should try from time to time to show that they have human feeling and that they are capable of empathizing with the downtrodden in Nigeria.

President Buhari is not the only person that is sick. Psychologically and emotionally, our citizens are also ill because they have been so badly beaten and battered. We should be mindful of this and be compassionate, not add to their emotional and psychological stress.

A Nigerian has probably not been paid his salary in the last 8 months. He cannot feed. He cannot pay his rent. He cannot pay his children's school fees. He cannot afford the ramshackle health facilities we have in Nigeria. The doctors are on strike anyway because they are not paid.

In all of this, he has borne your own medical trip to London because you traveled at public expense. Then you return from London to advise him to "get proper diagnosis and doctor's prescription for drugs". And you also praised the quality of the medical treatment you got abroad?

Is this a joke? Is this blindness to irony? Is this callousness? Is this lack of empathy? How exactly is a Nigerian supposed to feel about this very strange medical advice from the President? Where exactly is a Nigerian supposed to get this diagnosis and prescription drugs from? London?

A citizen who reads that he or she is being advised to get medical care in crumbled and ramshackle clinics and hospitals by a President just returning from a publicly-funded medical safari in London is also sick because such a citizen has just been emotionally and psychologically violated.

So when we are bullying Nigerians to empathize with the President, let us also remember that the victims of our bullying are human and deserve empathy, much more empathy than the President.

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