Let me say upfront that just because I asked for his sack, Dr. Azeez Adeduntan will, sadly, remain as Commissioner of Health until Governor Ajimobi’s administration ends. Very few Governors have the intestinal fortitude to do what is right if the point is made to them by others, especially public affairs commentators. But the longer he stays, the more negative publicity he would attract to a government that is working hard to finish on a better note.
Yesterday, May 21st, I parked my vehicle at my cousin’s house about a kilometer to the State Hospital, Adeoyo, which is located off Ring Road in Ibadan, and rode the Okada to the hospital. Before leaving the house, I dressed down a bit; removed my glasses, ring and wristwatch. I changed into bathroom slippers and left my car keys at the house. But I wore a hidden camera. I wore a hidden camera because the last time I wrote about some of the healthcare delivery system of Oyo State (http://saharareporters.com/2018/04/11/neither-azeez-adeduntan-nor-bayo-shittu-should-govern-oyo-state%E2%80%A6ever), Adeduntan, got overly defensive and threatened to sue me for defamation and libel, even though all I did was point out the speciousness in the answers he gave callers on an April 7th Splash FM radio talk show, and his general uncouthness while addressing citizens of the State who had legitimate concerns about his Ministry.
After paying off the Okada, I clutched the left side of my chest and contorted my face in false pain as I made my way to the Reception. No, I wasn’t having a heart attack. I wasn’t having any chest pain. In fact, I wasn’t sick at all. (Pere ni Olongo nji!) I was as strong as a horse! But I was feigning a heart attack. I wanted to feign a potentially serious illness in order see how the State hospital would receive me. A heart attack is about as serious an illness as you can get. And I wanted to appear there as an ordinary person.
It was 8 o’clock in the morning. The first thing I noticed was the unpaved parking area and the general untidy grounds within the perimeter of the hospital. If it rained, you would no doubt track mud into the buildings. Then there was the uncut and un-manicured weeds that were high enough to hide a goat. I was sure critters like rodents and snakes lived there. And the rancid stench of urine and feces that permeated the air as I walked closer to the building was strong enough to choke a person.
I made my way to the Reception desk and told the attendant that I needed to see a doctor, still clutching my chest and almost bent double. Nobody showed any sign that they cared about my “condition”. It was as if I was dealing with inanimate objects. I was asked if I had a Registration Card for the hospital. I didn’t. So, I had to pay N150 for the card. I was also charged N50 for an exercise book. I wasn’t issued the Registration Card. It was in the exercise book that the doctor would later write his notes. Of Course, I registered with a fictitious name.
There were about 50 people already in the Reception area waiting to see an Ophthalmologist or Optometrist – whatever you call the eye doctor. (I later found out that everybody in Oyo State who wanted to see an eye doctor and wanted to do so at the Oyo State-owned Adeoyo hospital would have to do so only on Mondays and Wednesdays. In other words, if you came to Adeoyo from Kishi, Lanlate, Ogbomosho or Igbeti on Thursday because you were about to go blind, tough luck to you! You would have to wait till Monday. And tough luck to you again if Monday was a public holiday.
Those, like me, who came in for other ailments trickled in in twos and threes. But there was no doctor around. There was no doctor around for those with eye ailments and there was no doctor around for those with chest pains. If my “condition” got worse, there was no physician around. And there was no ambulance in the entire premises to rush me to another hospital. This was my fourth visit to that hospital during which I did not see any ambulance even, though Commissioner Adeduntan told Splash FM, Ibadan listeners that the hospital had a 24/7 ambulance service.
I sat there in the Reception area, along with four total strangers who had also complained of chest pains, and watched how the attendants attended to the sick who had come there to seek their help. The depth of condescension was sickening. Once they sized you up as a poor person, aged or infirm, they treated you almost like phlegm. You could tell that these people had never heard of the Hippocratic Oath.
Through the window, I saw an old woman stooping to urinate right next to the perimeter fence. It reminded me of a time in 2012 when I took my mother to the same hospital. I had dropped her off with her aide and gone into town for about an hour only to see my mother as I drove back in doing exactly the same thing this old woman was doing. When she (my mother) was done, I asked why she didn’t ask to use the toilet in the building. She told me the attendants had told her to go outside and ease herself. Angry, I stormed in and asked to use the toilet. They promptly gave me the key. I was dressed like an important person that day. But dressed like I was yesterday, I decided to ask to use the toilet. The attendants told me to go outside. When I asked why I couldn’t use the toilet in the building, they told me the person who had the key was not around. So I asked what they would do if they had to use the toilet. They just looked at me and continued on with chatting about Ramadan.
At 11 o’clock, two doctors finally showed up – a male and a female. I was seen by the male doctor. He asked me what was wrong. I explained that I had suddenly developed severe clenched-fist type of chest pains. He scribbled in my exercise book as I spoke. I also complained of fatigue, nausea, shortness of breath, discomfort on my neck, and occasional dizziness – all signs and symptoms of a heart attack. This doctor was not moved! I had googled the “signs and symptoms of heart attack” before going there. He did not touch any part of my body. He did not check my pulse and neither did he check my temperature. He did not ask me to open my mouth and neither did he look in my ears – all standard procedures when you are seeing a doctor. Nobody checked my weight. Within five minutes, he was done with me. He gave me a slip to go for X-Ray at a private facility on Ring Road.
As I was leaving to go for the X-Ray at about 1 pm, two eye doctors arrived – also male and female. I rode the Okada to the X-Ray lab where I met another queue of people referred there from the same Adeoyo. I paid for the X-Ray and rode another Okada back to the hospital at about 3.30 pm, only to be told that the doctors had closed for the day at 2 pm. All four doctors had closed for the day at 2 pm! Of course, the doctors were not able to see even half the patients who had waited all morning, some of whom were referred by the same hospital to come yesterday after not having been seen on their previous visit. For those with eye problems, they wouldn’t be seeing any eye doctors until Wednesday. And that’s if they are lucky!
These are some of the common “negligible” issues you find in most government hospitals in Nigeria but which contribute to the needless deaths that we have all over the country. Suppose I truly had a severe chest pain, shouldn’t a doctor know that I was a high risk for heart disease, probably about to have a heart attack or in the middle of a heart attack or just suffered one? And then to try to highlight some of these issues and have a returnee medical practitioner from the US threaten a lawsuit because his ego was bruised or his chances of becoming governor dimmed is just depressing.
I have been writing about Nigeria’s healthcare delivery system long before this base sycophant returned to live in Nigeria and well before he became Commissioner of Health. I have written a lot about infant mortality, death of women at childbirth, non-functional emergency response system, waste and corruption in the medical system etc.; and for him to think he can bully someone like me into self-censorship is the height ignorance. Below are just three examples of other pieces I have written on various aspects our healthcare system:
April 2008 – Our Misdiagnosed Healthcare System: https://www.inigerian.com/our-misdiagnosed-healthcare-system/
October 2017 – Aso Rock Clinic: A Microcosm of Nigeria’s Healthcare System: http://saharareporters.com/2017/10/12/aso-rock-clinic-microcosm-nigeria%E2%80%99s-healthcare-system-abiodun-ladepo
January 2018 – Medical Emergency (Non) Response in Nigeria: http://saharareporters.com/2018/01/18/medical-emergency-nonresponse-nigeria-abiodun-ladepo.
In these pieces, I criticized the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Minister of Health, Governors and even medical practitioners in general. No one has threatened me with a lawsuit.
National Security is another of my favorite topics and an area in which I have expertise. And in that area, I have criticized, in some of the most virulent language, three of four Presidents while they were in office (Goodluck Jonathan bore the most brunt), senior military officers from the rank of General all the way down and Governors. On corruption, I have criticized all kinds of rulers in some of the most unsparing and punishing manners. I think Ayodele Fayose and Bukola Saraki bore the most brunt there. And none of these obviously powerful individuals threatened me with a lawsuit, in part because they were smart enough to know that they were public officers. They knew that though they might be powerful, they held those positions at the pleasure of the people. Nothing, other than participating in politics (or the military, as the case may be) made them better than any of us who were not in their positions.
So, who is this bumbling Adeduntan that thinks because he is a Commissioner, he can go on the air talking down to people…taxpayers who pay his salary and who elected his boss; a mere Commissioner who, I am told, Governor Ajimobi threw the bone of the Ministry of Health so that he could use the time and experience to hone his political skills and build a base for bigger positions? In his eagerness to earn Ajimobi’s boutonniere for his gubernatorial candidacy (God forbid this type of person ever governs Oyo State), this entity took toadyism to a shameful low when he olieaginously praised Ajimobi’s contributions to improving the health sector and berated ordinary citizens who thought differently. In the US, any doctor (be it from a private or a public hospital) who insults or talks down to patients in public like Adeduntan did on Splash FM will get back to his office and find he has been sacked, and his license suspended. How do you call yourself a US-based medical doctor and you turn yourself into a groveling lickspittle…one which the governor doesn’t even need or want!
I have criticized Ajimobi himself probably more than any other Governor and he has never threatened to sue me. I am sure he knows I have applauded his achievements in my writing more than once. He is mature enough to know that no one is infallible; not the least a politician who cannot please everybody. I am sure he also knows it is never personal. It is always about the issues. Oyo State belongs to all of us and we have the right to protect our stakes in it.
But this Commissioner is just one of the mistakes of Governor Ajimobi. Just because someone lives abroad doesn’t mean they are better than home-grown experts. Stop going after the “shinny” objects living overseas. Some of them have been so out-of-touch that they will bring opprobrium to your administration. I have lived in the US now for 30 years, so I know. And just because someone scored distinction in school doesn’t make him a great administrator. Reuben Abati was a great writer but he was a horrible Special Adviser on Media and Publicity. It is this same two-bit doctor from a small Georgia town of less than 100,000 people that wants to come to a State of six million and start acting like he is some kind of a god?
I have heard about corruption in the Oyo State Ministry of Health. I have received documents from and spoken to those who are supposed to know exactly what is going on there. I am not going to write and allege what I can’t prove. So, I have encouraged those who brought documents to me to go to the police or write petitions to the EFCC. But once a formal charge is levelled against a public officer in that Ministry, you can bet your last naira that I will be the first to expose the unctuousness that has characterized its leadership. The battle to rid Oyo State’s healthcare system of callous “deplorables” who have no understanding of the Hippocratic Oath has just begun.
By Abiodun Ladepo
Ibadan, Oyo State