Mr President, how are you?
I wish the President could answer me now. I wish he could respond directly to my simple question , a question we daily take for granted. It is a question that shows that we care about the other person. And I do care about Mr President. Not only because he is the president of our nation, but also because he is a fellow human and a father to us all. Unfortunately, in all of the controversy which surrounds the state of his health, we seem to have forgotten our common humanity and shared vulnerability. We seem to have forgotten that only God has the final say. In our diverse cultures we have many names which translate to that meaning.
God indeed is the only One who has the final say. It is therefore amusing to see and hear many among our generally decadent political players scurrying about like the parasitic rodents that they are, calculating and speculating on how the president’s state of health affects the political landscape and ultimately their selfish ambitions. They forget it is somebody’s well-being we are talking about, somebody who for all we know may be battling to stay alive. They forget to ask; what if it was me? And indeed it could be you!
I am surprised that the debate is not about the state of our health as a nation, and the state of our public hospitals. It is not about the perpetual foreign trips for medical treatment by our leaders. It is not about the comatose state of our General Hospitals. Rather, it is about politics. And quite sadly too.
I had a shocking experience late last year. One of my clients had facilitated the donation of an ultra-modern theatre and a ward, by their Chinese partners to the General Hospital in Lagos Island. To begin with, I didn’t even realize that the hospital still existed because I never heard of any major surgery or any landmark life-saving procedure being carried out there. So, I didn’t know what to expect. When we arrived for the official handing over of the new facilities, I was shocked to my bone marrow at what I saw! To say the entire place was decrepit would be a gross understatement. Here was a place that looked like a war torn zone. The equipment were relics of a distant past and the whole place was in ruins. The donors somehow managed to plant these two world class facilities within the ruins. I was heart-broken as I looked at the faces of the Chinese donors for hints at what they thought. Within the hospital, stepping into the new theatre felt like stepping several centuries ahead. It felt like time travel. Yet this was the standard that many countries take for granted. But we prefer to travel to those countries for medical treatment instead of bringing these things here. As the donors departed for the airport I cringed at the thought of what was going on in their minds and how the picture of that derelict hospital would remain in their minds.
Our privileged class, and this includes the political class, take pride in traveling abroad for medical treatment. They say it with pride; I am going to the States for medical check-up. This shouldn’t be so.
What does it take to bring cutting edge medical facilities to Nigeria? We already have some of the best medical doctors in the world. This is a fact. Some of our folks who travel abroad for treatment end up being treated by Nigerian doctors. We tell ourselves; health is wealth. But we pay lip service to building a healthy nation. We need to change our mentality. We need governance that puts the people first. For too long we have had governments populated with selfish rogues who plunder our wealth like locusts. We have had a political class which suffers from colonial mentality. We have had rulers who believe they are superior and the people must serve them. This mentality is primitive. We need leaders who will always put the people first. That way, excellent medical care will not be a privilege but a right.
Medical tourism is indeed one of the platforms for destination branding. Many countries realize this and have built excellent healthcare facilities for the benefit of their people and also for the rest of the world. Such countries earn revenues from medical tourism while our leaders have become perpetual medical tourists to such nations. We must begin to take measures to reverse this unhealthy trend. We must invest in the wellbeing of our people and built 21st Century healthcare facilities in every state of the nation. Given our position in Africa, at least, other African countries should be visiting our country for medical care. We should develop our own medical tourism.
Our leaders always talk of building a great nation but how do you build a great nation without great people? What makes the nation but the people? Why are we not talking of building great people? Can we have a great Nigeria without great Nigerians? Why don’t we focus the essence of government on the welfare of the people? Why don’t we channel our resources to developing our people and giving them the best things in life? For how long shall we make basic healthcare a rare privilege that only the rich can afford? For how long shall we make our own people underprivileged citizens in their own country?
We need a new thinking in government. We need to understand that the man on the street is Nigeria. So when we talk of building a great nation all our effort must be focused on making each and every Nigerian a proud representative of the nation. We need leadership that understands that government must be at the service of the common man. We are sick and tired of government that looks down on us and expects us to serve those in power. Modern civilization demands the opposite and we must do away with this prehistoric mindset. In branding, the customer is king. In governance, the citizen is king. We must reclaim our collective kingship as citizens of this country and reject government that subjects us to servitude!
Muyiwa Kayode is the CEO at USP Brand Management and Author, The Seven Dimensions of Branding.