Ekweremadu Ordeal; Lessons To Learn
The recent ordeal of the former deputy speaker of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu and his family is most unfortunate. This experience is unfortunate because it speaks to the sad reality that we are in this nation. Ekweremadu deserves pity because everybody, given the same circumstance, would go to any length to seek help for their loved one. It is the same desire to seek help for a child in need that has driven Ekweremadu and the wife to the predicament they now find themselves in.
A United Kingdom court, having found Senator Ike Ekweremadu, his wife, Beatrice and doctor, Obinna Obeta guilty, on Friday sentenced them to various jail terms. Ekweremadu, his wife, Beatrice, 56, and the doctor-middleman, Obeta, 51, were jailed, 10 years and 8 months, six years, and 10 years, respectively.
They were convicted for facilitating the travel of a young man to Britain with a view to his exploitation. The victim, a street trader from Lagos, was brought to the UK last year to provide a kidney in an £80,000 private transplant at the Royal Free Hospital in London.
The senator and his wife have been convicted not for seeking help for their daughter, Sonia; who has a kidney-related disease, but for the manner and circumstances around the planned procedure. While it is lawful to donate a kidney, it is criminal if there is a reward of money or other material advantage.
My hearts goes to out to the poor Sonia who has been on dialysis, but perhaps, if Ekweremadu, who was a Deputy Senate President for 12 years and the elite class he represents have taken it upon themselves to bring to this country those things they travel every now and then to seek for abroad to Nigeria, the story would have been different.
Some years ago, I encountered a very senior government appointee and I sought to find out from him why it has become impossible for the ruling class to copy and paste in this country those excellent facilities they travel abroad for.
By May 29, it would have been exactly eight years that President Muhammadu Buhari has been president of this country. Yet, in all of that eight years Buhari travelled abroad on several occasions to seek medical attention. So, by the time he leaves and retires to Daura or Niger, he would have left the health sector by far worse than he met it.
Sometime in October 2017, the First Lady, Aisha, criticised the management of Aso Rock Clinic. She said she took ill and was advised to travel abroad but refused, choosing instead to visit the Aso Clinic.
She said, “I called the Aso Clinic to find out if they have an X-Ray machine, they said it’s not working. In the end I had to go to a hospital owned and operated by foreigners 100 percent
“There is a budget for the Hospital and if you go there now, you will see a number of constructions going on but they don’t have a single syringe there. What is the purpose of the buildings if there is no equipment there to work with?”
“You can imagine what happens across the states to governors wives if this will happen to me in Abuja,” she lamented.
Herein lies the tragedy that is Nigeria. If in eight years President Buhari did not prioritise visiting the Aso clinic for which billions are budgeted on annual basis, how then is he expected to visit or improve the condition of tertiary health institutions across the country?
Primary healthcare which has been used by several countries to address and improve healthcare delivery is in a shambles in Nigeria. Healthcare centres are in decrepit conditions.
Because the elite can afford to travel abroad to treat flu, the least of their headaches is the state of hospitals in the country. They do this forgetting that they will not always be in power and that when out of office even if they have the means to seek healthcare abroad, the circumstances sometimes may warrant them being rushed to local hospitals for emergency healthcare.
And for so long as the political class and public office holders seek treatments abroad for so long will the country be plagued by underdevelopment and retardation in the health sector.
It’s in this same vein that the ruling class have continued to inundate the nation with photographs of their children’s graduations from ivy league universities abroad while the nation’s tertiary institutions are perpetually on strike and the sector emasculated.
It is the right of anybody who can afford it to send their children to whatever school of their choice and in whatever country that catches their fancy. It’s within their right to seek medical attention wherever they desire, but while they do that they should at least provide average institutions for the children of those who cannot afford such luxury.
Today, Nigerians go to seek healthcare in India, South Africa, and Saudi Arabia etc. Lots of Nigerians today die as a result of poor or wrong diagnosis. To visit any public health institution in the country today is to prepare for the worst. Yet, those whose responsibilities it is to put them in the right conditions are daily travelling abroad to treat malaria.
The death of Gani Fawehinmi, one of Nigeria’s foremost human rights activists came as a shock to many in 2009. Gani was loved by the masses but despised by the ruling class. He was the conscience of the nation and was ever ready to confront the establishment on issues of human right abuses. He was loved by the hoi polloi and remains one of the very few genuine human rights crusaders who did not sell out to romance with the powers that be at night while pretending to be defenders of human rights in the day.
Gani died of misdiagnosis. He was diagnosed with pneumonia in Nigeria but when he travelled out of the country, it was discovered that he actually had cancer.
The fate of the Ekweremadus is very unfortunate, but we must learn the bitter truth. It is only in Nigeria that people break the laws, circumvent procedures and get away with such impunity.
It’s heartwarming to see Nigerians both high and low and plead clemency for the Senator, but the truth must be told, he breached the law and must pay the price.
As for the so-called victim, I have a hunch that he is telling a lie. He was part of the arrangement but obviously had a different plan up his sleeves. His claim that if he returns to Nigeria his life will be in danger is balderdash. He has simply achieved his aim and I wish him well. After all, it is only in circumstances such as this that the rich know that the poor exist.
This is hoping that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, or whoever becomes the president would take a cue from this on the need to better the lot of the institutions and citizens of this country. The humongous resources spent abroad sometimes on mundane trips could be used to develop our institutions.