In Nigeria, you are ‘On Your Own’

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After a busy workday on Monday 8 April 2019, I went online to read news that made headline during the day, lo and behold, I came across a Guardian headline, which states, “Nigerians solicit support for ailing Christian Chukwu as NFF weighs in”.

The Guardian story disclosed that Chukwu, a former Nigerian football captain, was going through one of his worst moments since he quit active football in 1981.

It stated that the 1980 African Nations Cup winning captain was bedridden by an undisclosed ailment, which limited his ability to move by himself and needs help, up to the tune of $50,000 for medical treatment aboard. The proposed sum was to cater for Chukwu’s treatment, round trip flight from Nigeria to the U.S. and general spending after-surgery.

According to the report, some of his associates were able to raise funds little by little for the former Super Eagles’ coach through the ‘GoFund Me’ platform.

Benson Ejindu, patron of Ex-Enugu Rangers Players Association, said it would be unfortunate if Nigeria lost its former captain because it could not provide $50,000 for his treatment.

He lamented that former players like Kenneth Ilodigwe, Christian Madu, Kelechi Emeteole and others, would have lived longer if they had received help for medical treatment on time.

During his active football days, Chukwu captained the senior national team of Nigeria as they won their first-ever Africa Cup of Nations in 1980, receiving the brand new Unity Cup from then President Shehu Shagari. He also captained the Enugu Rangers FC team that won the Africa Cup Winners’ Cup in 1977.

Nicknamed ‘Chairman’ for the authority he exuded as he marshalled the defense and launched onslaughts on the opposition defense for club and country, Chukwu also served as assistant coach of the first team to win FIFA World Cup trophy for Nigeria – the Golden Eaglets that triumphed at the FIFA U16 World Cup in China in 1985.

He was also assistant coach of the team widely known as the Golden Generation, which is the 1994 class of Super Eagles that qualified Nigeria for her first FIFA World Cup finals, won the Africa Cup of Nations title and reached the Round of 16 at the FIFA World Cup in America.

Between 2002 and 2005, Chukwu was head coach of the Super Eagles, leading the team to win bronze medal at the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia.

Though, Femi Otedola, a Nigerian billionaire businessman and chairman of Forte Oil Plc, later offered a lifeline to the ailing former Super Eagles’ coach by agreeing to pick his medical bills abroad, Chukwu’s health condition left some many unanswered questions in my mind.

It caused me to recall that many Nigerian celebrities, who suffered serious illnesses in the past, had at one time or the other solicited for help on social media platforms to enable them go for medical treatment as their savings could no longer carry them. Many of them died at their prime for not being able to get timely help from the public at that crucial time of their lives.

It has become disturbing that a veteran and one of Nigeria’s most influential footballers in history could only survive just by the mercy of the public as the system makes no plan to cater for its own citizen especially those faced with very difficult medical conditions.

If somebody like Christian Chukwu, who invested most of his productive years working for the good of this country in the world of football, would be left without hope of getting quality medical attention due to lack of money, one would not stop imagining of what would become of other poor Nigerians, who had or may find themselves in difficult health conditions.

Today, many sick Nigerians go on social media and on the streets to solicit for help for their medical treatment.

For instance, everyday on social media, a couple of Nigerian celebrities, mostly the Nollywood actors and actresses, seek financial aid to pay for their medical treatment. While actors like Ngozi Nwosu received public help and was able to pull through, some others were not able to raise enough fund for treatment.

In 2011, Segun Arinze appealed to Nigerians to help Enebeli Elebuwa, a popular actor, who was down with stroke. Enebeli later received help from the Delta State Government, who flew him to India for treatment.

Also in April 2011, Ashley Nwosu, another popular Nollywood actor, died from severe liver complications at the age of 58. Report has it that his Nollywood friends deserted him when he was critically ill such that his wife, Grace Nwosu alleged that many members of Association of Movie Practitioners even owed him before he died.

“When we (the family) sought for the help of his colleagues, we received nothing,” Grace Nwosu claimed.

Prince James Uche, was another veteran Nollywood actor, who battled hypertension, kidney and heart related ailment in 2007. It was reported that Uche, a former Vice President of the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN), needed N11 million to undergo kidney transplant abroad.

Uche’s medical condition lasted till even 2012 as the Filmmakers Welfare Organisation of Nigeria inaugurated a “Save a Soul” intervention campaign, which yielded little or no result to save the life of the actor.

Following the financial support offered by Nigerians, Prince Uche returned to the hospital for treatment. He, however, passed away on March 8, 2017.

Aside Prince Uche, in January 2016, Olumide Bakare, a veteran actor was admitted to the University College Hospital (UCH) in Ibadan, Oyo State after a cardiac arrest.

It was on record that Bakare had cried out for help for Nigerians to assist him with money to enable him get treated. Sadly in April 2017, the actor passed away after a prolonged ailment.

In October 2016, Martins Njubuigbo popularly known as Elder Maya, died after a prolonged battle with Liver disease.

Before his demise, Njubuigbo, who was in need of at least N1 million for his bills, solicited for public support. It was reported that Joshua Iginla, a popular cleric based in Abuja aided the ailing actor with N1 million.

Also in 2016, Obi Madubogwo, another veteran actor, announced that he was in need of public support for his health. It was said that Madubogwo after surviving coma caused by a toxic battle with a diabetic wound, needed financial support for a surgery, tests and medications to avoid amputation of his leg.

Unfortunately, the actor died on Monday, August 28, 2017.

BDSUNDAY findings have shown that Nigeria is presently a country where survival is left for only the strongest as the government on its part has repeatedly failed to provide its citizens with the basic amenities of life including good healthcare facilities.

Here, in addition to the bad economic situation that have rendered many Nigerians poor, many are left to provide their own water through digging of boreholes, generate individual power, and pay through their noses to get good education, good health care and others.

It is no news that the Nigerian health care system is poorly developed largely due to lack of adequate and functional equipment. Despite Nigerian’s strategic position in Africa, the country is greatly underserved in health care.

Health facilities such as health centers, personnel, and medical equipments are inadequate especially in rural areas. While various reforms have been put forward by the Nigerian government to address the wide ranging issues in the health care system, they are yet to be implemented at the state and local government area levels.

 “We lack basic infrastructure especially power,” said Oluseyi Afolabi, an engineer, who added that “Our health care system is also horrible”.

According to her, “If private health care provider buys any equipment and without constant power, they get damaged in no time while we do not even have the needed equipment in most government owned hospitals. For me, we lack the basic infrastructure to even call ourselves a developing nation.”

Basically, Nigeria’s health infrastructure, and resources are not enough to ensure that its primary health care system performs well and meet people’s health needs.

This was despite the launch of National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) in 2005, which covers only less than 10 percent of the Nigerian population leaving the most vulnerable populations at the mercy of health care services that are not affordable.

By implication, the most vulnerable populations in Nigeria are not provided with social and financial risk protection. Poor people, which constitutes about 70 percent of the Nigerian population lack access to basic health services, which social and financial risk protection should provide, because they cannot afford it.

This was one of the reasons many Nigerians presently rely on Health Management Organisation (HMO) that provides their services through health insurance.

Though, these HMOs to a large extent are presently doing a great deal to help Nigerians get access to medical treatment, yet their presence have not been able to bridge enough gap as majority of their plans covers very little such as child bearing, minor surgery and other smaller medical treatment. This is why many working class Nigerians do not get to rely on HMOs to solve complex medical cases.

To reduce risk to life, policy makers need to devise health care reforms to address the lack of social and financial protection for the poor and vulnerable populations. This will include the expansion of the NHIS and mandating states to provide health insurance coverage to all residents. Making health insurance optional for states over the years has affected the ability of the NHIS to increase the level of coverage for the people.

Nigeria needs government funded social and financial risk protection scheme through a general tax financing system for the poor and vulnerable, and invest in basic infrastructure for health care in rural areas for quality health care service delivery.

Some low- and middle-income countries have been able to provide social and financial risk protection schemes for poor and vulnerable populations as a matter of the human right to health. Therefore, there is a need to provide social health protection schemes targeted at these groups in Nigeria. This will help reduce the number of Nigerians on social media soliciting for resources to fund their medical treatment.

 

AMAKA ANAGOR-EWUZIE

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