By Dr. Nelson Aluya
I never met the gentleman but have only read about him and his great works. His tireless effort for fairness, justice and growth for our great country Nigeria. No doubt this is a great loss not just to his family, people or region but to the entire Nigeria, albeit Africa and the black race. Whatever or whoever moves Nigeria forward also moves the African continent and the black race forward.
It is, indeed, a sad day of reflection; a reflection on the circumstances of his death as well as that of the healthcare systems of Nigeria.
Why did he die so promptly and without the presumed efforts to save him? Why did they had to move him from one supposed great hospital in Abuja to another with the loss of valuable time, to save a precious life and a great decent soul?
Let us ask pertinent questions, so that we can learn great lessons from this untimely death. Why did he have to die? What did he die from, what where the prevailing circumstances the led to his demise?.
I am a physician with vast clinical experiences in over three continents so it is incumbent that I must ask these questions. This is the periscope upon which I will look at this grave tragedy.
We are living in the most interesting times of this generation and in the worst health crisis in a century. The concerns from the little I have read about his symptoms are: Did he die from the dreaded Delta strain of COVID-19? Was he vaccinated? If he was vaccinated but still died from COVID-19 then the physicians and the citizens of Nigeria and those across the globe have questions and need to have answers. Did he die from a pulmonary embolism?, a blood clot disease that starts from the legs in at risk patients and as been reported post Covid-19 vaccine jabs that moves to his lungs? It is a potentially fatal clinical condition if not attended to in a prompt, precise and decisive manner even in the most advanced clinical settings in the most developed countries of the world.
Did he die of a heart attack? Which is still the leading cause of death of individuals of his age group?
These three clinical conditions are what I query as possible causes of death. In every death certificate there is usually a direct cause and relative cause of death. What were his premorbid states that contributed to his death?
Before the plethora of social media inspired causes of death and rumours of what contributed directly or indirectly, factors related to his advocacy works, his friends, enemies and even the possible roles of those in and out of government. The issues related to his heath and the possible effectiveness or lack of the medical care he received must be considered.
Another question to ask, before the castigating of the doctors over their possible complacency is, were the hospitals that were involved in his care properly equipped to handle his case? Were the doctors competent enough to handle his medical contributions? Is it a reflection of the total collapse of Nigeria’s healthcare system? Just too many unanswered questions. One thing for sure is that there is the need to fund and totally overhaul Nigeria’s healthcare system.
I am sure so much rumours and table analysts would come up with explanations and solutions that would most likely drown rational thinking and voices.
Nevertheless, this begs for us all to ask: Who then is next? If any of us are in the same circumstance would we be treated any differently? Would we survive?
Our healthcare system is in such a deplorable state that it is sad and pitiful beyond imagination. Our resident doctors have been on strike for a number of reasons including better salaries and work environment. We all watched with shock and in dismay when recruiters from Saudi Arabia came to recruit some of our brightest but very frustrated brilliant doctors These are doctors trained with Nigeria’s subsidized tuitions, yet allowed to wallow in deplorable work environments like most other institutions in the country, to the extent that other countries have greater value and need for their expertise sought to take them.
It is interesting to wonder that Nigeria was the host for the ‘Abuja Declaration’ in 2001 that brought together, members of African governments to reference health sector goals and policy strategies. .
They committed to allocating 15% of their government budgets to health. Nigeria, where this was declared, has, till this day not had anything up to 5% of its budget allocated to the health sector. Are we then surprised, that millions of Nigerians continue to die in their homes and hospitals despite the brave efforts of Nigerian doctors who are almost working to their bare bones often unrecognized and unrewarded?
With the global shut down, most of us expected that our political leaders will have the common sense to realize the need to revamp the healthcare system across the country. It has become more evident, however, that they have reverted to their old ways and have not learned any lessons despite some prominent members in this administration dying from Covid-19.
I would therefore say that if governments, both local and national, continue to demonstrate that they do not have the will and bandwidth to make changes, then it is time that all Nigerians home and abroad, as well as all stakeholders who care about the welfare of the country and its citizens, must stand up and seek innovative ways to finding solutions to the numerous problems that face the country’s healthcare system.
The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us a few things; that every country is vulnerable, that they will by all means protect and preserve their citizens above every international treaty or coalition. We see across the globe that progressive countries with a national policy and agenda have taken bold steps to save lives and livelihoods by undertaking critical reviews of the failures of their potentially fractured healthcare systems. I and a great number of Nigerians expected the same or some attempts to do so.
Before more lives are lost and great men are allowed to die prematurely, Nigerians must be true to themselves to understand that they cannot take their health for granted as most people of African descent do. That they are must primarily be responsible for their own health. To ask the hard questions about the system that regulate and care about their health, seek rational answers and innovative ways for solutions.
Whatever the cause of his death, one thing is very clear: Nigeria and, indeed, Africa have lost a great voice.
Adieu great soul and may your works not be in vain, and may the labours of those that will come after you also not be in vain.
- Nelson Aluya writes from the United States of America.