Finally – Nigeria has a Minister of Health


Nothing is ever straight forward in our country.

Ten months ago, we lost our Minister of Health to what many believe is her naivety about playing “the game” in Nigeria more than any overt corruption. Prof. Nike Grange’s appointment in July 2007 brought hope to Nigerians. For the first time in a long while we thought we had a credible, obviously competent Nigerian to look after the health of Nigerians. That quickly became history.

Then came the nominations. The change of ministers was announced in May, the list of new ministers appeared “rapidly” after in November and contained the names of two prominent players in the Nigerian health sector…Professor Babatunde Osotimehin, Director General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS and Professor Dora Akunyili Director General of the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control.

In my own naivety, I expected a vigorous debate on what each of them had achieved in their various national assignments and how that would help them in pulling the Nigerian health sector out of the abyss…rather we witnessed an infantile debate on whether a medical doctor (as Osotimehin) or a pharmacist (as Akunyili) would be best placed to do the job!

All said, Professor Babatunde Osotimehin was announced as the new Minister of Health for the Federal Republic.

Born in February 1949 in Ogun State, Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin, a professor of clinical pathology is the present Director General of the National Agency for the Control of Aids (NACA) and project head of the World Bank’s $90.3 million HIV /AIDs project in Nigeria. Find his complete resume here.

“Prof” has his work cut out for him.

Things have never been this bad for the health sector. As usual we will give him our support as he takes up this challenge.

But times have changed. Nigerians will no longer be taken on wild goose chases about…

who awarded which local government what contract to build primary health care centres” …or

…which health committee colluded with which company to equip teaching hospitals with MRI scanners“….

We expect health to be measure in health terms….and not by buildings or by machines.

We want health measured by “Number of LIVES SAVED, number of children immunised, number of women “not” dying during childbirth, etc etc”


The world around us is changing….and we are becoming wiser! We will be expecting the new Minister to make public his vision for the health sector soon. We have a health bill that has still not been passed. We are immunisation rates so low that children are dying from diseases no one else is dying of….our population has totally lost faith in our public hospitals….as children die from consuming “teething mixtures” prescribed by colleagues, registered by NAFDAC.

Yet we all look forward to celebrating Professor Osotimehin as a HERO! As the man that brought back our health sector from the brink!

President Yar’Adua
while welcoming the new ministers said they were entering “a new dispensation – one which scrupulously demands pro-action, establishes definitive performance benchmarks, and insists on effective service delivery, strict adherence to due process, and unwavering focus on the policy objectives of this administration….

We will do nothing more at NHW but to keep reminding Prof of these words in the context of our health sector.

We wish you well Prof…we wish you well!

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has…Margaret Mead

Chikwe Ihekweazu is an epidemiologist and consultant public health physician. He is the Editor of Nigeria Health Watch, and the Managing Partner of EpiAfric (, which provides expertise in public health research and advisory services, health communication and professional development. He previously held leadership roles at the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the UK's Health Protection Agency. Chikwe has undertaken several short term consultancies for the World Health Organisation, mainly in response to major outbreaks. He is a TED Fellow and co-curator of TEDxEuston.

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