OPINION

Who Do They Think We Are? Dr Biodun Ogungbo,MBBS, FRCS, FRCSEd, MScMBBS, FRCS, FRCSEd, MSc

You know the funny thing about the Corona virus and Covid-19 infection is that it does not respect anyone. It kills the rich and the poor alike. It likes politicians as well as doctors and nurses. Perhaps it likes doctors and nurses more!

The Covid-19 pandemic has killed more healthcare practitioners than politicians in Nigeria and that is shameful. We can do with a reversal, as doctors are infinitely more useful than these people.

Many healthcare workers have died, all over the world, because they rose to the challenge of a fight with the virus. Many went into this battle with promises and prayers (PP). The politicians and our leaders promised personal protective equipment (PPE), health insurance and adequate remuneration which they failed to deliver.

They promised remembrance and recognition plus death benefits to families left behind. Healthcare workers went into battle praying to survive each day and make it back home safely. The number of infected and dead doctors piled up and the government stiffed the relatives.

Government officials ‘ate’ all the money from the Covid relief donations and even stole the bags of rice and Indomie meant for the population. It squandered the goodwill of the nation and cannot now get a coherent message out. People have been left to their own devices, rudderless, as the second wave hits home. The government also continues to practice copy and paste policies of other nations while struggling to convince the population it had trampled upon.

I had decided to wear my facemask, wash my hands off any comments and hide under the bed. Until now! Until the latest articles and writeups about the government’s proposals and plans for vaccinating the country.

My gall really is with the vaccine.

The Nigerian government apparently said it will start vaccinating people in January 2021. It had ordered and was set to receive 100, 000 vaccines in the first phase. However, no one told them that means this month and year! A report also said they would share the vaccine out in thousands to the states of the Federation. A state like Lagos will get 3, 131 and Kano metropolis would receive 3, 557 vaccines.

The promise is that by the end of the year, 40% of the population would have been vaccinated. To cover the population in those two states alone, I suspect they would have to spray the vaccine in churches, mosques and in the market square!

Funny people!

Faisal Shuaib, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), also disclosed that provisions would be made for President Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to receive the vaccine on live television to boost the confidence of the entire citizenry in the safety of the vaccines. After the President, they would start vaccinating frontline staff like in the immigration, police, customs and House of Representatives.

Then, doctors and nurses!

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire also warned that private sector business must not bring vaccines into the country as this was the sole responsibility of government subject to approval by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). As if the said NAFDAC has the wherewithal and capability to evaluate a vaccine it did not contribute a spit to develop. How would NAFDAC assess the veracity of a technology it has no clue about?

It made it all the stranger to hear that Nigeria has released N10 billion for research into and domestic production of vaccines. The Minister said, ‘’While we are working to develop our own vaccines, Nigeria is exploring options for licensed production’’. ‘’Nigeria is exploring the option of local production of vaccines’’.

He is just a joker, isn’t he?

This is a country that cannot provide any quality healthcare for its citizens at the primary care level. Real healthcare takes place in the private sector in Nigeria and not in our dilapidated citadels of education aka, teaching hospitals. Many so-called teaching hospitals cannot brew a cup of tea, let alone manufacture a tablet. In any case why reinvent this wheel? We know its round and a square one will not work. If they will listen to advice, give the N10 billion to Astra Zeneca and join the queue to collect your vaccine.

In fact, do any of our universities manufacture a product worthy of mention? Having been devalued and starved of funds, the government suddenly thinks Corona virus research and development of vaccines is the forte of our scientists? I mean, do not get me wrong, Nigerian scientists are doing great stuff all over the world and can hold their mettle against the best of the rest. But not the ones in Nigeria. We, the scientists in Nigeria are suffering from Kwashiorkor and mental deprivation!

So, let us hearken to the original question.

Who do these people think we are? Do they think we are all daft? That we do not know this is another conduit for siphoning money into private accounts for sharing? That these Corona elephant projects will disappear like a puff of smoke and we would be poorer still and no healthier. Exactly what happened with the first wave and no lessons were learnt.

The beauty and the ugliness about the Corona virus are its indiscriminate killing activity. It would be nice if it can be a little more focussed. I am counting on the Nigerian strain being a bit smarter and to pay closer attention to the people that matter.

We can only hope!

Dr Biodun Biodun Ogungbo is a consultant Neurosurgeon and the CMD Spine Fixed in Abuja, Buchanan Crescent Wuse 2.

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