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OPINION: Why Nigeria’s Healthcare system would remain the same after coronavirus

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Pascal Oparada

I wish the headline would have read the opposite, but no, like the Nigerian rap artist, Folarin Falana, popularly called Falz said, This is Nigeria.

It is a phrase that has come to define our collective patrimony as a nation. Nigeria is impenetrable to change. We don’t like it at all.

During the Ebola epidemic of 2014, we hoped that it was the time the Nigerian healthcare system would take a curve for the better, but no, after combating the epidemic, went back to our old ways, or things got worse.

Apologists have said that it is because the Ebola happened very close to the election period, politicians were busy and deep in politicking and electioneering campaigns that they paid no mind to revamp our health care system.

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But we know that Nigerian politicians never initiated any impactful and meaningful change on their citizens. Every serious policy change has always been driven by the private sector who had to scrape through to initiate fundamental changes.

You would think that Coronavirus would give Nigerian politicians the opportunity to take that much-needed curve to correct the anomaly in the health sector but that is a tall dream.

So many people have called the COVID-19 pandemic a ‘big man’s’ virus because so far, it is those who ordinary should be immune to the disease that are the ones infected and infecting others.

Some frightening statics say about 29 House of Representatives members have the virus. The Chief of Staff to the president is infected. At least a governor is confirmed positive. A speaker of a state house of assembly is positive. The list is getting longer.

You would think that it would give the Nigerian government the impetus to drive the much-needed change. But no, this is Nigeria.

After the pandemic, don’t be surprised to hear our politicians mouth change and all sorts of slogans in the healthcare system, but that is where it would end.

A case in point is the response of both the federal and state government to the pandemic.

After the index case of the Italian on February 28, well-meaning Nigerians called on the federal government to lockdown and close our airspace, but we chose to grandstand over reason.

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We had to literally beg our president to address us, to provide us with some sort of direction in time like this. And when he finally did, we didn’t feel any better.

Presidents and leaders of other lesser endowed countries are at the forefront, providing daily, if not hourly, update and direction to their citizens. This is Nigeria.

No clear policy direction from him or others at the helm of affairs.

Now, 95 per cent of coronavirus cases in Nigeria are imported. We have over 50 cases. Every day, we wait with bated breath for any new case from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

The much-touted big economies are recalibrating their health care system. America voted $2 trillion as a stimulus package for COVID-19, much of which would go into their health care reform.

Analysts have predicted that what would drive America’s politics, as they go into the election next year, would be health care. It has always be been, but the tempo would increase when the pandemic is over.

A New York Times’ article details how doctors in America are buckling under the weight of a system they thought was perfect, but failing them in the time of need.

One doctor said it is like turning on a faucet and expecting water but only to be disappointed. He said doctors are writing their wills as they confront the pandemic on a daily basis.

The reality in Nigeria is that we would still play politics, apportion blames and do buck-passing when all these are over.

There won’t be any difference. Doctors would still go on strike. There won’t be new hospitals built, no new infectious disease treatment centres equipped. We would still be here, if not worse when all of these are over.

This is Nigeria.

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