How Healthy is the World’s Most Populous Black Nation?

The poignant speech recently made by Bill Gates, the Co-Chair of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, opened the floodgates of discussions about pertinent issues bordering on the need for the government to truly invest in Nigerians. Health was the foremost issue that he dwelt on, reeling out statistics that could bring tears to the eyes of any right-thinking person. Gates’ great concern for the health and human capital development of the world’s most populous black nation comes to mind as the world marks World Health Day. This year’s celebration is more significant because it coincides with the World Health Organization’s seventieth anniversary. This is a momentous opportunity to for every nation to take a critical look at the challenges in their health sector and address them with the seriousness it deserves. Universal health coverage is the theme for this year.

According to Bill Gates, “in upper middle-income countries, the average life expectancy is 75 years. In lower middle-income countries, it’s 68. In low-income countries, it’s 62. In Nigeria, it is lower still: just 53 years. Nigeria is one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth, with the fourth worst maternal mortality rate in the world, ahead of only Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, and Chad. One in three Nigerian children is chronically malnourished.”
One becomes more apprehensive when one considers this statistics, our rising population figures and the wide-ranging definition of human health given by World Health Organization (WHO): “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” A reflection on these pops up a question: how healthy is the world’s most populous black nation? In getting an honest answer to this question, it’s perhaps wise to first listen to a foreigner who has invested about $1.6 billion in our dear country before paying attention to the government official or political office holder whose goal is probably to make the government look good.
This piece is not to criticize the government but to encourage those in the corridors of power to do more, to make them see reasons why the health sector deserves to be a priority on its agenda. Health, they say, is wealth. Healthy people will be highly productive and that means a healthy economy. This is in tandem with Mr. Gates’ line of thought – “The most important choice you can make is to maximize your greatest resource, the Nigerian people. Nigeria will thrive when every Nigerian is able to thrive. If you invest in their health, education, and opportunities—the “human capital” we are talking about today—then they will lay the foundation for sustained prosperity…What do I mean by investing in your people? I mean prioritizing health and education…” Doctors will stop going on strike and there would be no need to travel overseas for medical treatments when the health sector is adequately funded. How many Nigerians can even afford to travel abroad for medical care?
It was in the news lately that pregnant women in Ondo protested because ante natal fees were increased. In an oil-rich country like Nigeria, I do not see why pregnant women, infants and the elderly cannot receive free medical treatments. What really do we refer to as dividends of democracy? Who are the people enjoying these dividends? The elected or the electorate? When the people at the grassroots cannot access free healthcare, in what way are they enjoying dividends? One is bound to ask these questions. The day I saw a report that showed that Nigerian senators are the highest paid in the world, I shuddered in unbelief. Are the so-called dividends flowing down to the masses or flowing into the pockets of the elites? How many state governments have a standard health scheme for their employees and their families?
Few months from now, we will roll out drums, wear white and green stuffs and have a huge cake baked to celebrate our 59th independence anniversary. After about six decades of being a free nation, we are still struggling with something as basic as primary healthcare. Speaking of this, Mr. Gates recalled that “in 1978, Dr. Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, who later became the Nigerian minister of health, helped establish primary health care as the global standard. We now know that a strong primary care system takes care of 90 percent of people’s health needs. Tragically, 40 years after Dr. Ransome-Kuti helped other countries set a course for the future, the Nigerian primary health care system is broken. The evidence for this can be found in the epidemic of chronic malnutrition, or stunting. As the name suggests, chronic malnutrition is not a disease children catch. It is a condition that develops over time because they are deprived of a diverse diet and the services a strong primary health care system provides.”
Highlighting six features of a functioning primary health system, he mentioned “adequate funding, good facilities located in the right places, skilled and dedicated health workers, ample stocks of essential equipment and medicines, patients who know about the system and want to use it, and a mechanism for collecting the data needed to improve quality.”
Our population should be an asset to us but it is more of a liability because we have not been able to harness it to our advantage. Natural resources do not come near human resources when placed on the scale of significance. This was echoed by Bill Gate when he advised that Nigerian leaders shift focus from physical capital to human capital. Basics such as food, shelter, health and education ought to be given a greater attention. Once these top priority needs are taken care of, productivity will increase and poverty will start thinning out.
The government, NGOs, the media, religious bodies, the private sector, communities, families and indeed all of us must play our part to build a healthier Nigeria. Aside from engaging in charitable projects, becoming a philanthropist, we can sensitize people on how to lead healthy lifestyles. If a husband and a wife can pool resources together to invest in people across the world, then everyone of us can make a difference in our own little ways.

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Creativity: Fighting the Dearth of ‘Achebes’

Nigeria is endowed with literary giants, some still living while some have passed on. Professor Wole Soyinka became the first black African to receive the Nobel Laureate Prize in Literature in 1986. But in 1958, late Professor Chinua Achebe had presented his first book “Things Fall Apart”, which has now been described as the most widely read book in modern African literature. Though departed from the land of the mortals, he is arguably one of the lustrous icons of creativity and innovation in the world.

On Saturday, April 21, 2018, the World Creativity and Innovation Day (WCID) will be officially celebrated for the first time globally. Continue reading

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I remember the day I met the present Secretary to the Lagos State Government, Mr. Tunji Bello. He went through my curriculum vitae and said it was impressive. I felt flattered and uplifted. It was clear that he wanted to encourage me. This brings me to the matter of giving out compliments.

Compliments are powerful; they improve self esteem and inspire confidence in the person commended. With your words, you can uplift people around you. I am not asking you to engage in flattery neither am I asking you to be stingy with compliments. Continue reading

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Mr. Udeme Ufot MFR, MD/CEO of SO&U Group, one of the leading marketing communications and advertising agency in Nigeria, turned 60 yesterday. Six decades of impact. He’s made a positive impact on me. As a 300 Level student in the Department of Mass Communication at the University of Lagos, I was searching for an advertising agency to do my internship. This was in May 2004.

I remember the wonderful feeling I had when I first walked into the premises, the reception area of SO & U Saatchi & Saatchi, Continue reading

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The end of the 1st quarter is here!

Have you become better in the last 12 weeks?

What have you achieved in 90 days?

Are you chasing your dreams? Continue reading

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How can we attract helpers of destiny? How can we attract resources from the environment?

I was on my way to work this morning and a thought crossed my mind that triggered some good meditation about the matter of getting people that can help meet our needs and actualize our dreams.

Right from Genesis, God saw the need to create a helper for Adam. Adam was made in the likeness of God and it appeared as though he was perfectly fine, needing nothing. There was a vacuum in him that needed to be filled.

Do you need helpers to locate you and help you? Continue reading

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Second Term: Time for Second Thoughts by Idowu Omisore

The crux of democracy is the will of the people, not the whims of some sycophants. Since the return of democracy in 1999, we have had a couple of general elections which were fraught with histrionics right from the campaign stage. Incumbents generally seek to be re-elected but it is up to the electorate to determine if they deserve another term. With with what is playing out in the polity and the imminence of 2019 elections, nobody needs to be told to think twice before endorsing or voting any incumbent governor, legislator or even president.

Once election is approaching, second-term crooners appear. We see individuals, groups, clubs, different characters telling anyone who cares to listen, reasons why they think an incumbent should be re-elected. There is nothing wrong with this. Incumbents readily attract sycophants who can’t even tolerate a constructive criticism of the incumbent. Pay too much attention to these second-term crooners and your sense of critique will be lulled to sleep; this is not the time for us to sleep. The HolyWrit says that: “but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way.” As we prepare for 2019 elections, we must become vigilant and critically-minded so we do not get hoodwinked into putting unfit candidates in positions of leadership.

It is now almost like a tradition, a second nature, for us to re-elect incumbents. It is rather disgusting when people serving currently in government are the ones applauding themselves and endorsing the incumbent for another term. Encomiums from the electorate – the masses – carry more credibility than the noise made by sycophants and beneficiaries. I don’t expect anyone benefiting directly and indirectly from the current administration to speak negatively about it but it is important we think beyond our immediate self. Self praise is no praise at all, especially when the achievements of the incumbent are almost invisible to the bulk of the electorate.

Everyone is at liberty to express their opinion – to praise or criticize the government. In the end, election results largely reflect public opinion. Given their ability to shape public opinion at the grassroots, opinion leaders in our society have a highly sensitive role to play: doing a honest examination of the incumbent and other aspirants, their strengths, weaknesses and potential.

The media is a great opinion moulder. In 1972, Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw in Public Opinion Quarterly pointed to the agenda setting function of the mass media. They suggested that the media tells people the important issues to think about. According to the scholars, in choosing and displaying news, editors, newsroom staff, and broadcasters play an important part in shaping political reality. Readers learn not only about a given issue, but also how much importance to attach to that issue from the amount of information in a news story and its position. In reflecting what candidates are saying during a campaign, the mass media may well determine the important issues—that is, the media may set the “agenda“of the campaign.

If the media truly understands the enormous influence they have, they will begin to focus on real issues, provide factual and critical analyses that the reading public needs to adjudge the right candidate they should endorse and vote for.

Naturally, incumbents have an advantage over the other aspirants. They have a lot of resources at their disposal, so many people at their beck and call, and some achievements to showcase since they are still in power. They are contesting from a position of power. Unlike the new contestant who probably has the character, competence and compassion to make a difference. When compared to the other aspirants, the incumbent is often seen as the tested and trusted candidate. It is for these reasons that the incumbent sometimes gets easily re-elected.

Having second thoughts about something requires critical thinking. We should ask critical questions and seek satisfactory answers before concluding that the incumbent is worth another term in office. In terms of character and competence, how did the incumbent fare? Another fair measure with which to judge is the extent to which the incumbent delivered on his/her campaign promises. Think twice before you endorse/vote an incumbent for a second term. It’s been said that elected government officials strive to perform during their first term so that the voting public can re-elect them. And that once they are re-elected, they begin to show their true colours.

In a case where the incumbent has performed well and can be trusted to continue on that note, it would be commonsensical to support a second term for such an incumbent. For example, Lagos State, the commercial nerve-centre of Nigeria, has been under the leadership of progressives since 1999, that almost two decades. In between, incumbents have been re-elected. A lot of voices and banners are already screaming for the re-election of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. This is somewhat explicable. Somehow, the Ambode administration has been able to instigate visible development across the five divisions of the State, particularly in the area of road infrastructure. I know he has not officially declared his interest yet. When he does eventually, I won’t be surprised if he is re-elected. I would rather be surprised if he is not, because APC seems to be the only party in Lagos State for now. Even though Ambode has made visible efforts to sustain the tempo of progressive governance, the electorate has started to question his zeal to rake in more revenue. This is what democracy is all about. The electorate must be free to ask questions and hold the elected accountable.

Nigerians are getting more politically aware and active everyday. Social media platforms have allowed citizens express their reservations and expectations. The APC’s victory over PDP during the 2015 presidential election is perhaps a classic instance of when we started to think critically as a country. What never happened before in our nationhood history happened: an incumbent president was defeated. The electorate, for the most part, desired a positive change and they voted out the then incumbent president. Critical thinking won over sycophancy. Olusegun Adeniyi’s book Against the Run of Play better captures the intricate details and factors that occasioned APC’s historic victory.

In many states of the federation, there is a dearth of better options. By this I mean that the electorate does not have enough candidates to choose from. This situation, of course, works for the incumbent. More patriotic Nigerians need to step out, especially young people. New alternatives are needed so that people can have the freedom of choice to select the candidate they are confident would perform. This attitude of nothing concerns me will take us nowhere. Mr. Fela Durotoye’s declaration to contest for the office for the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a powerful statement that should inspire young Nigerians home and abroad to join the political process.

2019 elections are almost here! Let’s critically assess the candidates put forward by the different political parties, especially the incumbents seeking re-election. Incumbents who have clearly proved their mettle deserve another opportunity but the ball is in the court of the electorate. A new Nigeria will emerge when we put on our thinking caps, shun sentiments and place the right people in power.


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Ending the Exodus of Youth Potential

In my estimation, out of every ten young Nigerians, eight of them are thinking of how to exit the country. I don’t know if there is a record of the number of young people leaving the country on a daily basis. The desperation to “escape” to a land where they think their dreams will be fulfilled is what has emboldened many to embark on risky adventures. Not too long ago, the whole world was shocked at what was going on in Libya slave camps where young people were auctioned like commodities.

I have interacted with so many young people and the feeling is almost mutual. They feel their potential cannot be maximized in Nigeria. Continue reading

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If the promise in the Word of God says that we, who have believed the gospel, would become “lenders to nations”, have you ever thought of how this would happen?

For me, I have been thinking lately about this wonderful promise.  My concern is not about the credibility of the Source of the promise but about the responsibility of the one to whom the promise is made.

Does it mean that as a believer, you would wake up one morning and find yourself stupendously rich enough to lend out to nations?

In my thinking, the promise is huge, so is the responsibility necessary for its fulfillment. Continue reading

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Lagos Cabinet Reshuffle: Revving Up Youth Development

As a youth enthusiast, when I read of the cabinet reshuffle that happened recently in Lagos State, I naturally became interested in the new person to head the Ministry of Youths and Social Development. Congratulations to Mr. Agboola Dabiri! For him to have been appointed by our result-oriented Governor, it means he is up to the task. Definitely, Mr. Agboola Dabiri’s sterling performance as the Special Adviser to the Governor on Central Business District (CBD) must have contributed to his appointment, apart from his relevant experience as Chairman, Lagos State Sports Council. The Ministry of Youth and Social Development is fortunate to have visionary and progressive Commissioners who are sticklers for results.

Youth development is the critical nexus of any nation’s future. Like I wrote in one of my articles, when young people succeed, the nation succeeds.

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