By Abiodun Sanusi
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari embarked on a trip to London for medical check-up less than 48 hours before the country’s doctors went on strike. It is Buhari’s first medical trip outside the country since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns across the globe which hindered many African politicians and elites from flying to Europe, India, or the United States for medical aid.
The Nigerian President’s medical trip has attracted several condemnations from citizens who feel that Mr. Buhari is a nonchalant ruler who abandoned medical doctors whose salaries have not been paid – leaving millions Nigerians without access to medical treatment from April 1 as doctors commenced a nationwide strike. An issue which has made many Nigerian citizens described President Buhari as “Insensitive and Irresponsible”.
This is a President who in 2019 while campaigning for second-term had lamented that the country was losing over N400 billion Naira to medical tourism annually.
In London several protests have been held against Mr, Buhari, with citizens demanding that the Nigerian President returns to Nigeria for his medical check-up. The protesters have queried Mr. Buhari’s medical trip to the United Kingdom citing a need for his government to build world-standard hospitals and equip existing ill-equipped hospitals in Nigeria to a twenty-first-century standard, and also patronize Nigerian hospitals as the number one citizen of the country just as average Nigerians who can’t afford to travel to London for medical treatments do.
The protesters have likened Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari to the ancient Roman Emperor Nero whom according to legend, in July of the year 64 A.D. abandoned Rome while a great inferno ravaged the powerful empire for six days, destroying over 70 percent of the city and leaving half its population homeless. Thus came the popular expression – “Nero fiddles while Rome burned”. The expression according to historians has a double meaning: Not only did emperor Nero played music while his people (the Romans) suffered, but he was also an ineffectual leader in a time of crisis.
It suffices to say, “Buhari fiddles while Nigeria Burns”. As the Nigerian President traveled to London and has been rumored to have left London for Saudi Arabia to see his personal doctor amidst the protests, while Nigerian medical personnel complain over the non-payment of medical interns for months, demanding an upward review of hazard allowances and Covid-19 care incentives all of which had been denied them by President Muhammadu Buhari’s government, according to a statement issued by the National Association of Resident Doctors on March 29, 2021.
For decades, Nigerians have suffered from the inadequately funded healthcare system, ill-equipped hospitals, and clinics all of which looks more like death traps – with poorly paid healthcare workers who are mostly overworked. A situation that has led to a brain drain in the Nigerian health sector with many Nigerian doctors and nurses frequently moving to Canada or the United Kingdom for favorable employment.
According to data on the U.K. Medical Council website, there are not less than 8,178 medical doctors of Nigerian origin currently working in the United Kingdom – a number which is more than fifty percent increase from 2015. For a country that has just one doctor for every five thousand people, according to the Nigeria Medical Association – such mass exodus has worsened Nigeria’s healthcare system.
Amidst all these, the Nigerian Judicial Workers – another important sector within the country are currently on strike over the lack of financial autonomy for the judiciary – the third-arm of every democratic government which is supposed to be independent in all ramifications. No wonder why President Muhammadu Buhari, disobeys court orders since the Executive and Legislative arms of government have some control over the Nigerian Judiciary.
Another major issue since the absence of the Nigerian President is the orchestrated attacks on security formations, including a Police headquarters in Owerri the capital city of Imo state – attacks resulting in the outpour of thousands of criminals and alleged criminals on the volatile streets of Nigeria, increasing the fears of Nigerians who have been fazed with incessant insecurity under Mr. Buhari’s tenure since 2015. An event that led to the sudden removal of the former Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu from office.
While Buhari consults with doctors in London and Saudi Arabia, millions of Nigerian citizens are left without access to medical aid. Sick patients are dying, accident victims have no hospitals to go to and maternal mortality rate is rising in the country as there are obviously no doctors to attend to pregnant women.
The insecurity in the country worsens, the police and military officers themselves no longer feel safe – many of them are also complaining and some have resigned due to nonpayment of salaries or lack of sophisticated weapons even as they fight Boko Haram terrorists in the northeastern part of the country.
The Nigerian Judiciary is on a pause, leaving thousands of civil and criminal cases in court unheard as the courts are closed. Making an important arm of the government handicapped.
At this moment, one may not be wrong to say Buhari is worse than Emperor Nero, as “Buhari Tours The World While Nigeria Crumbles”.