Buhari at 76: Legacy hospital the President owes Nigeria



Akeem Lasisi


As President Mohammadu Buhari clocks 76 today, even the worst sadist ought to celebrate with him. Naturally, birthdays are a thing of joy as life itself is a bonus. Every day, every hour minute or second  is a bonus, going by the very many dangers that humans face all over t world.

The case of President Buhari is even peculiar. Here is a man that many had started talking about in the past tense when he was critically sick last year. Those who love him were scared the worst had happened, while his enemies were already thinking about an alternative. But, somehow, the President survived. The recovery has been so dramatic that some fellows had to come up with the theory that the worst had really happened, claiming that the President only had to be cloned by forces who want his tenure completed in whatever way. Interestingly, the Jubril/Jubrin cloning tale is still alive, to the extent that Buhari had to address it and declare that he remain his natural, God-created self.

But, to be fair to the President, this should not be a time to be mouthing such theatrics. It is day that Allah has given the Katsina General to be happy and celebrated like a hero that he is. In other words, it is a day he should sit back and be presented with beautiful gifts.

Yes, he should and definitely will receive a lot of such today. But it is a moment that one should tell him that he is also owing Nigeria a major gift. It is a day to let him realise that, in the past one year, there is a gift he ought to have offered his countrymen and, indeed, humanity.

It is not a gift of economic recovery, which has actually proved daunting. Not that of constant electricity supply nor the desired extermination of insurgents and other folks straining peace and sanity in the country. It is one that ought to have flowed directly from the President’s spirit and experience at the London hospital where he was treated and brought back to life.

There appears to be an opportunity President Buhari is missing to this effect. If I were him, I would ask myself: Why is it impossible for Nigeria to have a hospital of the status of the one that treated me? Is it for lack of space to build it? Is it that the country cannot afford it? Is it that we do not have doctors and other medical experts that can man it? Of course, every right-thinking person knows that these  questions are irrelevant if there is the understanding of symbolism of the proposed medical institution and the will to do so.

It is a pity that none of the kitchen cabinet guys – and the angel in the other room –  seems to tell Buhari this kind of things even if he is not inspired to think so. A smart minister of health could also have told the President that such a legacy hospital would be a great way to be grateful to nature for the healing miracle.

While the ultimate is to radically improve on the health sector generally,  a really big, well-equipped, specially structured and staffed hospital in each zone of the country will not be too much for the Buhari government to build . We need this badly to solve the crisis being faced in the health sector. Someone should prove smart by stemming medical tourism, which, together with educational tourism, is robbing us of billions. Come to think of it, a hospital project as is being suggested is not as complicated as in revamping refineries vis a vis the oil industry or the power sector where a Fashola has to compete with  fluctuating demons of gas, water and badly-dancing DISCOs.

Unfortunately, time is hardly on anybody’s side, not to talk of a President facing an election in the next two months. After all, in politics – and in life – anything can happen. So, the time for Buhari to commence such a major intervention in the health sector is now. Former President Goodluck Jonathan missed this kind of symbolic opportunity. With so much love he professed for the former President Umaru Yar’Adua, who died of pericarditis while in office, one would have thought that he would build a top-rated hospital – or more – in the honour of the former boss.  But this is not a land where people easily get inspired to genuinely make landmark achievements and write their names in gold. Even when they feel like doing so, they forget the spellings of their names at the moment. We are too obsessed with plastic feats here.

For Buhari, that birthday gift to the nation is not too late. The question of lack of funds should not arise in this instance. When a government is determined to spend money on a particular thing, it gets it. As Olusegun Obasanjo rallied support to build his Presidential Library,  even in a controversial manner,  Buhari can also mobilise support towards building the hospital(s) of international standard. This is the gift he owes us, the gift he owes humanity. Call it a Presidential Hospital if you like.

Meanwhile, happy birthday again, Mr. Presido!

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