Transparent elections are the key to a better Nigeria
Health must be a priority for any government in the upcoming elections.
As the dust settles, we see the 2019 elections take shape on all three tiers of government. It is an interesting time to live in Nigeria! When a few of us came together to start SHIFT NIGERIA almost a year ago, we believed that we could make a difference in determining the future of our beloved country by encouraging participation. We are a non-partisan organisation with members from all parts of Nigeria in all walks of life at home and in the Diaspora.
This republic will be 20 years old by the time we go to the polls next year. We must celebrate this moment as the longest stretch of democratic rule in Nigeria without any interruption by the military. We must also celebrate how far we have come in the democratic process. The Independent National Electoral Commission has played a key role in making the elections more credible especially with the use of card readers. Obviously, we could improve in making the whole process more transparent from the time the polling unit opens until the votes are collated at the centres. But these things do not happen overnight. What we have seen clearly especially from the recent governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states is that it is becoming more difficult and more expensive to rig elections. We heard rumours that some people were selling their votes for as high as N5,000. This is sad and sickening.
You know what else is sad and sickening? The state of healthcare in Nigeria. Last month, when the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, was asked about the shortage of residency opportunities for graduating medical doctors who wish to specialise, his response was that not every trained medical doctor will practise. He also said some of them should become farmers, tailors etc. Notably, the minister claims his interview was edited. What is not edited is a failure to articulate solutions to these issues. For health care, I will list some of the issues as I see it:
- Brain drain and flight of doctors and nurses out of our country (over 3,000 doctors last year alone emigrated).
- Poor treatment of the ones who stay back (pay them well, give them equipment and supplies so that they don’t have to watch their patients die needlessly).
- Health care infrastructure and state of facilities from primary care clinics to general hospitals and teaching hospitals.
- Access to health insurance and the failure of the NHIS (covers <4% of Nigerians after being in existence for 19 years).
- Engagement of the private sector to build a manufacturing and supply backbone for the health sector. We should not be importing basic medical supplies like syringes or contaminated medications from China.
- Training and education of doctors, nurses need serious investment to meet the shortage of providers. More residency spots need to be created and more medical schools are needed.
- Primary care needs to be the focus of the Federal Government, secondary care should be the state governments’ responsibility and then tertiary care should be a municipal and private sector responsibility. According to the National Health Act of 2014, the reverse is the current framework.
- Engaging the doctors and nurses from the Diaspora should be prioritised and the process should be streamlined. We need to herald an era of renaissance in Nigeria’s health care.
Go on social media and see the stories of medical disasters that cost lives daily. A mother dying during childbirth because of lack of blood; a bright medical doctor dying because there was no oxygen in the ‘teaching hospital’ when she had a severe asthma attack. These things happen daily in Nigeria and I posit that those lives lost due to systemic failure and corruption are worth far more than N5,000. When the President seeks care abroad, he doesn’t feel the need to dedicate more than a paltry 6% of the GDP to health care. Any progressive leader knows that agriculture, health and education are the backbones of any society. Keeping the people educated, well-fed and healthy will multiply into research and discovery, increased productivity, creativity and prosperity of the society.
These are the things that matter to us at SHIFT NIGERIA. Our We Hope campaign is aimed at bringing these issues to your mind and providing you with accurate information (no fake news, no propaganda). We want you to participate and we want you to make smart choices. Based on several polls, we sense a discontent with the Buhari administration amongst our generation. We also understand that Alhaji Atiku’s reputation is not without blemish. We won’t tell you who to vote for. Remember the importance of voting the right leaders at the state and local levels. They matter and impact your life directly. We can determine the fate of our nation in 2019. Vote your conscience, vote wisely, but most importantly, Vote!
Dr. Lanre Jimoh is a US based gastroenterologist. @lanrejimohmdmba
Image Credits: INEC