Buhari’s Medical Trip And Matters Arising | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Buhari’s Medical Trip And Matters Arising

Posted: Jun 8, 2016 at 4:00 am   /   by   /   comments (1)

Ejikeme Omenazu

Lagos- As you are reading this, President Muhammadu Buhari is in United Kingdom. He did not travel out to seek investors. He also did not travel to seek ways to recovers the nation’s loots. Neither did he leave the country to engage other world leaders the nation’s situation as regards oil resources or corruption.

Although President Buhari had embarked on several foreign trips, which had attracted the attention of critics and the opposition alike, this one was on health ground. Since his botched official visit to Lagos State, there had been rumours that President Buhari had been battling with a persistent ailing ear.

Some observers have linked the ear defect, which medical sources refer to as Endolymphatic Hydrops, also known as a Meniere’s disease, to several foreign trips embarked upon by the president. Some say his frequent flights could have adversely affected the eardrums of the aging Nigerian leader, which could make him have impaired hearing of balancing defect. Although the president took 10 days off to attend to his ears and was expected back on Wednesday, June 15, 2016, there had been fresh indications that he might extend the period, due to the seriousness of the situation.

A statement on Buhari’s trip was made by Femi Adesina, his Special Adviser on Media, who said on Sunday June 5, 2016: “During the holiday, he will see an ENT Specialist for a persistent ear infection. The President was examined by his Personal Physician and an ENT Specialist in Abuja, and was treated. He has always been okay. Nothing is wrong with him.

“The president can always devolve duties to his deputy who is the vice president. That’s what the president has done. But in terms of his health, the president is fine.” Other Independent sources confirmed that President Buhari’s health trip was informed by the advice of his personal physician and an Abuja-based ENT specialist, who recommended further evaluation of his condition.

However, this particular trip has become a subject of severe criticism, especially as the citizens have been suffering the consequences of a badly neglected health sector, moreso as the president’s health tourism would be making a deep cut into the already lean purse of government. Speaking on the issue,  Labour activist and politician, Comrade Ayodele Akele, who is  the National Secretary, National Conscience Party (NCP), described Buhari’s action as wasteful.

Speaking with Independent, Akele faulted Buhari for the 10-day health trip to United Kingdom, saying that the president disobeyed his own rules, as he had earlier stated that he would discourage medical tourism. Akele wondered how many Nigerians could afford foreign medical treatment, even as he wanted to know why Buhari could not be treated art Aso Rock Clinic when huge amount had been budgeted for Aso Rock. He lamented: “So many things are wrong with the nation. What is the fate of Nigerians who cannot afford to travel? What is the state of the Nigerian health sector? His treatment is important to him when so many Nigerians arte begging for attention. But, the health services are in comatose and unaffordable, especially when things are so difficult economically.”

He wondered when Nigerians would begin to enjoy the Buhari government for their basic necessities of life, even as maintained that the people had not been demanding a lot from this government, but affordable housing, light, affordable health facilities, stressing that many were being killed along the roads because the roads are bad. He  urged Buhari to sit down at home and develop the nation’s medical facilities for the benefit of all Nigerians, and not for him and members of his family to be travelling abroad at the expense of the people. According to him, “I feel concerned about the president health.

But many Nigerians are also dying and the president is doing nothing about them. I feel worried, very very worried.” Dr. Osahon Enabulele, Vice President, Commonwealth Medical Association, expressed disappointment at the news of Buhari’s medical trip to London for an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) infection, describing it as “a tragic blot on Nigeria’s collective professional and national image.” Enabulele, former President, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), condemned frequent medical trips by government officials, saying Nigeria had suffered a great loss to medical tourism in recent past.  He stressed: “I am very constrained to state that this foreign medical trip flies in the face of the Federal Government’s earlier declaration of her resolve to halt the embarrassing phenomenon of outward medical tourism, which as at the end of the year 2013, had led to a humongous capital flight of about $1billion, particularly from expenses incurred by political and public office holders and their accompanying aides, whose foreign medical trips most of which are unnecessary, were financed with tax payers’ resources.”

Enabulele advised Buhari to live by example by curbing medical tourism and saving Nigerians the great loss incurred through such trips, stating that Buhari had lost a golden opportunity to assert his change mantra through a clear demonstration of leadership by example, by staying back to receive medical treatment in Nigeria. He added that receiving treatment in Nigeria would inspire confidence in the health sector which he noted, currently boasts of medical experts that favourably compare with medical experts anywhere in the world, if not better. Enabulele added: “Mr. President should make a clear public pronouncement on his resolve to show leadership by example with respect to the utilisation of the medical expertise and facilities that abound in Nigeria by him and other members of the Federal Executive Council, particularly in concrete expression of Section 46 of the National Health Act, which seeks to address the abuse of tax payers’ resources through frivolous foreign medical travels embarked upon by political and public office holders”. He said: “It is on record that most public and political office holders who seek foreign medical care abroad are handled by Nigerian trained doctors in foreign lands, particularly in the United Kingdom which has over 3,000 Nigerian trained medical doctors, United States of America with over 5,000 Nigerian trained medical doctors, among other foreign countries, most of whom left the shores of Nigeria on account of government’s perennial failure to address the various push and pull factors which have consistently driven this yearly brain drain phenomenon in Nigeria.

Enabulele recommended that the presidency should consider other options like inviting a consortium of Nigerian trained ENT specialists in Nigeria to Abuja to re-evaluate and treat him. If it is determined that the medical expertise is not available in Nigeria, any identified Nigerian trained ENT specialist practising anywhere in the world should be invited to Abuja for re-evaluating and treating him. In its reaction to the issue, the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) said the country has very competent ENT specialists who can treat Buhari’s ear infection. According to Dr. Tanko Sununu, the NMA General Secretary, there are competent ENT surgeons who can take care of the president’s recurring ear trouble. Sununu, however, said the medical body could not take a definitive position regarding the president’s decision to travel until it received details of the president’s health. He said the association was in touch with the president’s personal physician, but it was yet to get required details by press time. But he stressed: “In Nigeria, we have very competent ENT surgeons in the country. We have a lot of competent ENT surgeons throughout the federation.” Dr Adesegun Adeyinka of the Department of Ear Nose and Throat (ENT), Lagos University State Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), linked the persistent ear problem to his age, saying that a younger person suffering from balance problem would get over the type of problem Buhari has with his ears faster than an older person.

Comments (1)

  • Jun 8, 2016 at 4:11 pm Maigari

    Aren’t-there a Media hype trying to make a mountain out of molehill? That PMB is sick shouldn’t be such a nedia hype, he admitted to being sick and took leave  from office. The treatment wasn’t the only reason he left moreover he notified the Senate.Meniere’s disease or not at least publicly no one has ever reported seeing PMB reeling from imbalance, so why all the speculation?  Those who feel he should have stayed to be treated in Nigeria have made their point but a vacation need not be entirely a public issue. The Presidential media team may have to workout ta better strategy than stone walling whenever speculations about the number one citizens health is the topic.

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