Majority of Nigerian Political Elites hardly know they are self-destructive. They are mostly shameless! And worst still, they make all of us, Nigerians (nay, Africans), look inferior to the Caucasians. Even if they don't know why they occupy their seats, they should at least stop the embrassment of Nigerians.
While the full detail is still unfolding, the one thing that is certain so far, is that Ekweremadu’s daughter – Sonia is in a London hospital on kidney dialysis, waiting for a kidney transplant. This is according to the Medical Visa Application Letter to the British High Commision, purportedly written by Ike Ekweremadu (Deputy Senate President for twelve years) and now viral on social media.
As a father of two daughters, I sympathize with Sonia. I can only pray to God to sustain her till she is able to get a legitimate and appropriate kidney donor.
This intervention is not about the potential criminality of the alleged human or organ trafficking. Rather, the intervention is focused on the failure of leadership in Nigeria, in particular, to provide good health care for Nigerians.
Let us take a look at the political profile of Ekweremadu. In 1997, Ekweremadu (still a Senator) was elected Chairman of Aninri Local Government Council. Between 1999 and 2001, he served as the Chief of Staff to the governor of Enugu State. From 2001 to 2002, he served as the Secretary to the State Governor. Since 2003 till date, he has been serving as the Senator representing Enugu West. Between 2007 and 2019, he served as the Senate Deputy President for the 6th, 7th and 8th Senates under Senators David Mark and Bukola Saraki. Ekweremadu has been a public servant for 25 years! Yet, his child had to go to the United Kingdom to get kidney dialysis, and transplant.
One wonders if he ever paid attention to the healthcare delivery system in Nigeria in the past 25 years!
Dutch Physician - Willem Kolff is considered the father of dialysis. He constructed the first dialyzer (artificial kidney) in 1943. The first truly successful, long term, kidney transplant, was performed by Joseph Murray, J. Hartwell Harrison, John P. Merril and Others at Brigham Hospital, Boston, USA, December 23, 1954. Earlier, a temporarily successful transplantation was done in Paris, on a 16-year-old boy with his mother as a donor. Several initial trials were unsuccessful between 1861 and 1937. That is the nature of scientific research.
Meanwhile, Ekweremadu was born May 12, 1962, 19 years after the first successful kidney transplant in the USA. I doubt if he knows all these facts about the sickness his daughter suffers. Today, about 20,000 kidney transplants are done in the United States yearly, while 90,000 patients are on the waiting list for appropriate donors. This is despite many Americans volunteering as organ donors.
When a situation like this arises, the appropriate questions, among others, to ask are: What has Ekweremadu done to promote good healthcare delivery in Aninri Local Government Council, Enugu State, Southeast Geopolitical Zone, and Nigeria at large? Are there NO hospitals or teaching hospitals in Nigeria where a kidney dialysis or transplant can be done for his daughter? What would Ekweremadu have told one of his constituents, a farmer in Aninri, whose daughter also needs a kidney treatment? What has Ekweremadu contributed to the Enugu State University and University of Nigeria Teaching Hospitals? Will Ekweremadu reflect on his current situation and then act in favor of good public healthcare delivery in Nigeria, in his remaining public service? Maybe someone is asking: "But Ekweremadu was never a commissioner or a minister of health. He only served as a Chairman, a Chief of Staff to the State Governor, a Secretary to the State Government, a Senator, and a Deputy Senate President". My response would be: "Well, a Local Government Supervisory Chancellor for Health, a State Commissioner for Health, and a Federal Minister of Health have at one time or the other worked for, or with, Ekweremadu, in one form or the other, especially in budgetary allocation or in appointing those officers!' What did he do? How did he do it?
It is not only Ekweremadu who should reflect on this. I recently wrote about a Lagos capitalist politician, who is now the presidential flag bearer of a major political party for the 2023 election. He spent weeks in an Imperial Hospital in London, treating an unknown ailment which many have called parkinson disease, symptomized by body shaking and difficulty in coordination. His Katsina socialist brother, currently occupying Aso Rock, paid him a visit. It was a reciprocity of some sort, the Lagos capitalist had earlier visited the Katsina socialist in the adjacent Colonial Hospital London, also for an unknown and protracted ailment. The other time, the picture of Adamawa capitalist politician, another 2023 presidential flag bearer of a side-of-the-same-coin of a political party, taking Covid-19 vaccine in faraway Dubai, went viral on the social media. It was later discovered that the man now spends most of his time in Dubai for easy access to medical treatment. The socialist was a military head of state completing 8 years as a civilian. The Lagos capitalist was a governor for 8 years and has been the author and finisher of Lagos treasury and kingdom since 1999. The Adamawa capitalist was a Vice President for 8 years. Yet, these ones and their likes could not have one hospital anywhere in Nigeria befitting them. They are incredible failures, collectively!
Everyone gets sick. But the shamelessness of the Nigerian political elites (kings in their own rights), at accessing healthcare in other kingdoms, is unbelievable. Interestingly, both Lagos and Adamawa capitalists are the top contenders to replace their socialist brother from Katsina. And the shamelessness of overseas medical tourism will continue, while ordinary Nigerians also continue to suffer poor medical care.
Only God knows how many daughters of poor men and women have died of kidney failure in Nigeria, without even getting any hope of a donor.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States (from 1933 to his death in 1945), was born in 1882 and he began to have paralysis in 1921 at 39 years old. This persisted till 1933 when he became the president. His efforts at fighting this sickness led to many medical discoveries including polio vaccines that are now globally used. He built some specialist hospitals in the process. Recently, US Senator Kevin Cramer, from the State of North Dakota (with a population of less than 1 million people) where I lived, released a statement of his injury on his facebook page. He said while working in his yard, he sustained a serious injury to his right hand, which required immediate surgery, and that he remained in North Dakota close to medical care to avoid high risk of infection and possible finger amputation, while he kept in touch with his colleagues in Washington DC. In western democracies, the medical conditions of their leaders are public knowledge. They treat themselves locally. Indeed, when they sustain injury or get sick on an overseas assignment, they return home immediately for medical care. For instance, former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (now Special Presidential Envoy for Climate) once left a UN meeting in Vienna Austria to attend his emergency medical care on American soil. That is the pride of a king. Ekweremadu could not have been treating himself in Nigeria, and still take his sick daughter overseas.
When will Nigerian leaders learn to be at least sincere with their medical conditions to Nigerians? When will they, and their family members, seek medical attention on Nigerian soil? If they cannot attend University Teaching Hospitals or National Hospital in Abuja, which they budget millions and billions of Naira for, annually, they should at least contribute money from their stupendous wealth (some stolen, some earned) to build six Elite Hospitals (one in each geopolitical zone) and employ world class medical Doctors. If they cannot employ those currently being trained by the striking Nigerian lecturers, they can at least employ some of the Nigerian Doctors who have got additional training, and are working in most of those imperial and colonial hospitals in the UK, USA, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Dubai and all around the world where they run to access healthcare. Still, if they like, they can import Caucasian or Indian Doctors to the proposed elite hospitals. If they do, healthcare will be less expensive and easily accessible for them. They will save time and foreign exchange. Most importantly, they will save our collective image as a people. Maybe one day, ordinary Nigerians at home will be able to access healthcare in those Elite Hospitals.
Again, my prayer is for Ekweremadu's daughter to recover fully. As for Ekweremadu, and his political colleagues, please stop the peculiar mess. Even if you cannot serve us, please serve yourselves and stop embarrassing us. The current situation with Ekweremadu’s family is a lesson for the Nigerian political class. But will they learn?