Nigerians from all walks of life have continued to express mixed feelings over the current trip to London for medical check-up by President Muhammadu Buhari, especially with the growing insecurity in the country and the nationwide strike embarked upon by members of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD).
DAILY POST reports that President Buhari left the shores of the country on Tuesday, October 30, for the United Kingdom for what his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina called ‘routine medical check-up’.
Since the statement by Adesina on Monday evening announcing Buhari’s trip to London, tongues have been wagging, especially by those who felt the President’s trip is coming at a time he is needed on ground to oversee the myriad of challenges facing the country, especially in the area of security.
Other Nigerians are, however, of a different view, arguing that it is well within the right of the President to travel for his medical needs.
The controversies the President’s trip brought up was further compounded by the strike embarked on Thursday morning by residents doctors in the country, for which NARD had notified government well before Adesina announced Buhari’s trip.
For many Nigerians that spoke to DAILY POST in a random voice pop, the trip coming at a time a nationwide strike by doctors was impending was an insensitive move by the nation’s leader, especially considering the fact that the doctors have genuine demands that require proper and prompt attention.
Leading the charge in condemning Buhari’s latest medical tourism is the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which said the President’s trip abroad for medical check-up is a clear testimony of his failure in the very critical healthcare sector.
“It is indeed worrisome that under President Buhari, even the hitherto highly rated State House Clinic, has become so moribund that it cannot provide a simple medical checkup service for Mr. President,” the PDP said in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan.
The party also insisted that the frequent trips of the Presidential were a drain on the nation’s treasury.
“The PDP is disturbed that while Mr. President jets out for medical treatment in well-equipped hospitals abroad, our hospitals and medical personnel are in a very sorry situation while millions of our compatriots suffer,” it said.
Also, the publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, in his own reaction, called on Nigerians in the United Kingdom to occupy the London hospital where Buhari plans to have his check-up.
Describing Buhari’s trip as a waste of resources, the journalist-turned activist urged the president to have his check-up in the ‘world class’ hospital he had built in his years in government.
He tweeted: “Nigerians in the UK must #occupy the hospital where sickly @mbuhari is wasting Nigeria’s resources and the Nigeria embassy as well as Abuja House in London, let Buhari return home and do a medical check in the “world-class” hospital he built since coming to power. #Buharimustgo!”
Joining the fray, Enyinnaya Abaribe, the minority leader of the senate, faulted Mr President’s trip, describing it as morally wrong.
“He said he would never go for a medical checkup during his campaign. We were assured that health facilities would be upgraded.
“What we have is APC saying one thing and doing another.
“For medical check-up, you have to go all the way to the UK. People have been coming here to do medical checkups for people. This means that we have some local hospitals that have upgraded”, Abaribe said.
A doctor in one of the Federal Government owned health facilities in Lagos, who preferred to be referred to simply as Dr. Joe, believes the President’s trip is provocative, not just to doctors and other health workers but to every Nigerian with conscience.
According to him, the action of President Buhari has only re-echoed the level of disdain top government officials have for the average Nigerian, and their go-to-hell attitude.
“This is simply provocative to say the least. How can the President travel out of the country for medical check-up when doctors in the country are warming up for a nationwide action? What more can a go-to-hell attitude than that? The President has just shown that he cannot be bothered with whatever we are going through or agitating for. He is just too aloof from the feelings of the general public and carries an I don’t care mindset.
“Though some Nigerians view our strike action as one too many, what other option do we have? This government understands no other language than strike in any attempt to demand for one’s right. The issues that led to the strike had been on the front burner for a while but the government and its functionaries chose to look away and treat them as non-issues. So we had to speak the very language they understand so we can get their attention.
“It is baffling that no demand by workers is ever treated with seriousness until you issue a strike notice. And also sadly, when such happens, they, rather than resolving them, only seek for ways to stop it or break the ranks of the workers. That has been their ploy but unfortunately, it has always failed. For me, we have to stand steadfast in the current action so that President Buhari and his government will stop seeing us as just numbers that do not matter. If he can afford to travel abroad for an ordinary medical check-up, there are so many other Nigerians who do not have that opportunity. So the only option they have must be well attended to”, Dr. Joe said.
For Adeagbo Ojo, a teacher in Caleb International School, Lagos, who said he does not have any problem with where the President chose to be attended to medically, the timing of his trip was wrong and insensitive. According to him, the country is battling with the worst kind of insecurity in its history, aside from the strike by doctors, requiring the President to be on his seat to oversee efforts at returning normalcy back into the country.
“The only problem I have with Buhari’s trip is the timing. It is coming at a time when the nation is buffeted with myriad of insecurity challenges that has rendered most parts of the country unsafe, with people constantly watching their backs, especially those who have need to move from one location to the other.
“I would have expected that as the Commander-in-Chief, he would have stayed back in the country and taken effective charge of the war against insurgency, banditry and the sundry criminal activities bringing the nation to its knees. I would have expected him to stay back and monitor actively the execution of his numerous matching orders to the security agencies, including those dished out at his meeting with security chiefs on Tuesday morning. I would also have expected him to take charge of efforts at persuading the striking doctors not to embark on it and attempt to resolve their grievances. But in his wisdom and that of his advisers, he chose not to.
“Honestly, the President’s trip could have been the main reason the striking doctors chose not to shelve their industrial action because it is provocative. How can the government be appealing to them not to go on strike and the head of that same government chose to travel abroad for a mere check-up, if what we are told is true? I do not blame the doctors, though it is unfortunate that it is the common man on the streets like me that will bear the brunt of the government’s failure to do the needful”, Ojo said.
However, President Buhari, on the other hand has been defended by some other Nigerians who feel he has not done anything wrong in choosing to go and see his doctors.
Leading the charge is his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, who said his trip does not qualify for medical tourism as many termed it.
Shehu said: “I think there is a misconception of the President’s trip seen in the context of medical tourism. President Buhari is not a medical tourist.
“If someone has kept retainership with medical experts, you are talking about 30 years and plus to examine you and they give you a pass? would you be changing your doctors every other year because there is a chance that the distance will be shortened? No. I think that the President is wise and quite correct in his decision that he retains some set of doctors who have insured good health for himself.”
Also, Mr. Haruna Tanimola, a banker with a microfinance bank in Ikeja, Lagos sees the criticism trailing President Buhari’s trip to London as mere idle talks by incurable haters of the present administration. According President Buhari has done the needful before travelling by giving clear orders and directives to the security agencies as it concerns insecurity. He also noted that Buhari has the ministers of labour and employment and that of health handling the agitations by resident doctors.
“I really don’t know what Nigerians shouting all over the place over Buhari’s trip hope to gain from it. If the president stays back because of insecurity, will he be the one that will carry guns and face the insurgents and bandits in the forests? Will he put on an Army uniform and command the troops into Sambisa forest? His job is clearly stated for him, commander-in-chief, not front the fronts, but from wherever he may be at any given time. His job is to provide direction and give appropriate orders deemed necessary.
“Also, if the President were to be in the country, will he be the one sitting on the negotiation table with resident doctors to persuade them not to go on strike or negotiate their demands? No, he has appropriate ministers who have been saddled with such responsibilities. Like I said earlier, his job is to provide clear direction and instructions. I believe Nigerians should get things right, get informed adequately and not just criticize for the sake of criticism”, Tanimola said.
Speaking along the line, a bureau de change operator at Airport Hotel, Ikeja, Ibrahim Abu, asked if there is an ideal time or appropriate time to go for medical check-up.
He also wondered if those criticising the President over the timing of his trip would have shelved their scheduled ‘routine’ medical check-up for any trivial reason such as falling numbers in the books of their places of work.
Abu said: “We need the President to be strong and healthy to be able to perform and that’s what he is doing, checking himself up. What is wrong in that? The same people who are complaining today will be the first to say he should step aside because of ill-health if he failed to take care of himself. Nigerians are difficult to please, so it is not surprising. For me, Buhari has done no wrong. I wish him well always.”