On Friday, December 28, 2012, the Kogi State Governor, Captain Idris Wada, was seriously injured in an auto crash. The accident reportedly occurred at Emi Woro village in Ajaokuta Local Government Area of the state when one of the tyres of the governor's official car unexpectedly burst in motion.
Wada's aide-de-camp (ADC), Idris Muhammed, an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), lost his life in the crash. The governor, who was initially rushed to the Kogi State Specialist Hospital in Lokoja after the accident, later had surgery at Cedar Crest Hospital, Garki Abuja. The surgery, which lasted two hours, was rated as successful by the doctors at the hospital who also allegedly revealed that Wada rejected the option of flying him abroad for further treatment. On the basis of this rather uncommon taste, the governor has been lauded all over the country as a lover of made-in-Nigeria goods. The Nigerian Medical Association was among the first to commend the governor. While thanking God for the life of Governor Wada, we are not similarly enthused by what is being seen by some people as patriotism.
To start with, it is obvious that the governor made the decision because his stable condition at the end of the initial treatment positioned him to be so disposed. According to the Medical Director of the hospital, Dr Felix Ogedengbe, "there was no immediate need to fly him abroad." Wada would probably have had no option if he had a complication similar to what his Taraba State counterpart, Danbaba Suntai, experienced some three months earlier. We agree that some of our leaders take delight in oversea treatment. Indeed, some go there to treat headache while some others go to find out if they might be sick someday in the future which is called 'medical check-up'. However, many people who have no faith in our health delivery system are not necessarily unpatriotic. They are only being realistic and Governor Wada is inadvertently one of them. It is inaccurate to say he did not opt to be flown abroad for treatment because the definition of 'overseas treatment' cannot be narrowed down to one outside a country; it should be inclusive of treatment outside one's domain. To elicit the applause of this columnist, Wada should have insisted on being treated in Kogi State whose medical facilities are in the poor state in which his government inherited them. Instead, the governor, whose accident took place some 12 kilometres from Lokoja, his seat of government, went hundreds of kilometres 'abroad' to Abuja for treatment. In addition, he went to a private rather than a government hospital giving room to the Kogi State Chapter of the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) to wonder "why a man who loved to patronise local hospitals evaded the state-owned specialist hospital in Lokoja." The Nation newspaper put it better in its comment of January 3, 2013, entitled 'Wada goes back to work', that "while the Abuja treatment is commendable, it also brings out the disturbing fact that there is no single hospital in Kogi good enough for gubernatorial care! That is an indictment on his tour of duty as governor. Now that he has survived the accident, therefore, it is time for him to put in place better medical facilities in his state. That way, he would have domesticated, in his own state, his campaign for VIP confidence in our local medical personnel and hospital facilities".
The fact that the governor's driver who was also involved in the same accident was left in hospital in Lokoja suggests that many Kogi citizens who were made to vote for the governor, in our type of free and fair elections, cannot afford the Abuja option. They are sentenced to treatment in the state's poorly equipped hospitals. Anyway we hear the governor is back to base and has allegedly resolved that "2013 would see the visible implementation of his transformation agenda to move Kogi State to where it ought to be". If so, here are a few reminders. First, the Nigerian Navy during its 56th anniversary some six months back chose Karara-Otube in Kogi State as one of the villages to benefit from its medical assistance. According to Navy Commodore Innocent Kofi Yinfaowei, the choice was predicated on the dearth of medical facilities in the village health centre, with a target of no fewer than 2,500 persons suffering from various ailments to benefit from the week-long programme. Second, it took the Australian government to rebuild and restock with drugs a rundown clinic serving the people of Agojeju-Odo community in Omala Local Government Area. Otherwise the people would have continued to travel far to receive treatment for even common ailments.
Third, only last month, Wada himself admitted that maternal death and infant mortality rate in the state was not only alarming but was on the increase. Speaking at the kick-off of Maternal Newborn and Child Health Week in Lokoja, the governor said, "it is difficult to ascertain the exact number of new born babies that died in and around birth, and women who died during childbirth". He then promised to evolve a mechanism to reduce the cost of medical treatment for pregnant women and children under five years across public health institutions in the state.
In a country where pronouncements are hardly backed by action, the time to act for Wada is now. He should listen to the World Bank, the London Tropical School of Medicine and the Bill Gate Institute of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, which have testified to the efficacy of "the ABIYE safe motherhood programme" in neighbouring Ondo State, which Governor Olusegun Mimiko has used "to drastically reduce infant and maternal mortality. He should also redress the findings of a recent study that Kogi East, which has produced the governor of the state since its creation in 1991, has the lion share of 66.3% of health facilities in the state while Kogi West and Central have 19.6% and 14.1% respectively. If Wada provides better health facilities and evolves a more equitable distribution of such facilities in the state so as to engender equity and social justice, we too, will join those who genuinely see him as a patriot.