Professor Grange, History and the Federal Ministry of Health


We forget easily as people. These days, reflecting on the most recent change of guard at the Federal Ministry of Health, it is an opportune time to reflect on if, and what we can learn from history. To do this, I remember a particular saying by the German philosopher, George Wilhelm Hegel that I have always tried to convince myself is not accurate;

What experience and history teach is this — that people and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles.

Can this be true in the choice of leadership for our Ministry of Health?

When our president came to power in 2007 and appointed his Ministers – one Minister stood out as different from the pack of either typical politicians or quiet “yes men” (and women), chosen by their state governors for every reason other than being competent for the job at hand. For once we had a Minister of Health in Professor Adenike Grange who we were not only convinced was competent but who had also built a career around her integrity. Professor Adenike Grange had served as the President of the International Paediatric Association, and led the Department of Paediatrics of the College of Medicine at the University of Lagos Teaching Hospital in Nigeria, served as a Director at GAVI, formerly the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation,and had worked as a coordinator of Women’s Health Organisation, Nigeria. etc etc. We as others were excited. 

Why does all this matter? Well it does matter – because a few months into the Yar’Adua Government we were told that this woman had lost her seat in government for corruption! Corruption? – It just did not add up! But… the press was all over it and we were left wondering if it could be true. Could she really have given it all up for a few dollars more? How and why in a country of sudden billionaire ex-governors, of lists of people still in public service who had collaborated with Haliburton and Siemens to rip the country of millions etc etc – Why has this lady been picked out as an example for the so called anti-corruption campaign of our government? She was tried in the public space – she lost her job and her reputation was on a knife’s edge. She retreated quietly, fought her case in court and re-built her career and her image.

A few weeks ago, I saw hidden in The Lancet, arguably medicines’s preminent journal – these few lines;

News from Nigeria. Adenike Grange, the country’s former Minister of Health and a paediatrician who was trained in the UK, has been cleared of criminal charges laid against her in 2008. She had been accused of complicity in the loss of money from her ministerial budget. These charges have now been dismissed in a unanimous verdict from Nigeria’s Court of Appeal. Prof Grange was a past Lancet -University College London annual lecturer. We are delighted and wish her well. 

We wondered – why had this received so little press in Nigeria ?.

Maybe this article in The Guardian on the present crisis in the Punch will throw some light on how articles are published (or not) in sections of our press.

But this is not universal. In the last few weeks – a few journalists have sought out Professor Grange to find out what she is doing these days. Read here an interesting piece in the Vanguard on how this author of over fifty scientific papers mainly on diarrhoeal and nutritional conditions in children, who rose through the ranks and became a Professor of Paediatrics, the Dean of Clinical Sciences as well as the Director of the Institute of Child Health in the College of Medicine at the University of Lagos in Nigeria and became the first black woman to be president of the International Paediatrics Association (IPA), a position she held until her appointment as Minister of Health in 2007 has being spending her time.

When things fell apart with government, she took up a new challenge to establish and manage an all Children’s hospital, the Otunba Tunwase National Paediatric Centre, Ijebu Remo where she is currently the Provost and Chief Executive.

Find details in the Vanguard.

…and she is still speaking about the issues she is passionate about and competent in – diseases in Childhood as reported by 234Next here.

We have previously written on her new job here.

Even if everyone else forgets – At Nigeria Health Watch we will not forget the hope Professor Grange brought to the Nigerian heath scene, her unfulfilled dreams and continuous work for Nigerian children.

We must learn from history – as yet again the Ministry of Health is in search of new leadership. This search has never been so crucial….

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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