"Where is the local health centre?"


Find attached this excellent piece by my friend; Kalu Aja on his dialogue with a new friend visiting our country. A must read! – posted here unedited, undiluted,… ENJOY!

In the papers today “the lost tribe of Taraba” was the editorial. The story says that a Christian missionary group, the Mission Light House Wukari, “discovered” a community of mountain dwelling people of Jibu. It is said that their condition is worse than the Koma people, they were completely naked, and drank water from a well that their animal drank from. They were “primitive” no less. hmmmm

Last year I had this expat friend whose son, Tom decided to come to Nigeria for a week, he came to explore and had an open mind. So I was detailed, (since we were of the same age) to take him around town. I went to pick up Tom at the house in Lekki. Nice enough chap, he quickly asked me, “where is the local health centre”? I need to get anti malaria shot Tom, I replied “we have none in Lekki, there are private clinics though”, No local clinics? “Well how do the guys who can’t afford private health care survive”? Tom asked, Well I replied “they pray, visit their herbalist or drink Agbo. Wow no health care!

I took him to Silverbird,( I wanted to show off with our mall). On the road were lots of potholes so Tom asked “why so many potholes? “Don’t the guys in this borough pay their taxes”?, suppressing a snigger I replied “Tom, first of; Nigerians don’t pay taxes, second if they even paid the tax, why should the LGA chairman fix a road? He needs to buy his L3 Landover first, then accumulate his re-election war chest, then after that maybe fill a few potholes” wow potholes!

Just as we were about to turn into Silverbird, an Okada rider slammed into our car, the “passenger” was thrown up into the air, “quick” Tom cried, “call 911, tall them to send an ambulance”. Where do I start? “Tom, first there is no 911 call centre, even if there was, I have no credit” , “ok” tom said, “where are the phone booths, there is usually a free emergency number”, sorry no public phone booths. Wow, no phone booths, no 911 emergency!

In the mall Tom said, “Kalu I need to get some D Banji tunes, where is the Apple media store”? Tom, we have no ITunes for Nigeria? Wow no ITunes! So we left Silverbird and I took him to go bowling (yes we have one) suddenly the lights went off, Tom dove under the desk, “Kalu quick, it’s an earthquake, the powers gone”. Dear me, “Tom see in Nigeria, power does tend to go out from time to time”, wow no constant power! Leaving the bowling alley we saw some mai ruwa (Hausa water sales men) pushing 25 liter jerry cans on a cart in Ikoyi. What’s that? Tom asked “well Tom, that water”, “for what?” he asked, Well the resident in Ikoyi buy it, but hang on Kalu Ikoyi is a high brow area yeah, you mean they don’t have running water in their homes? Yep. Wow no running water!

Tom peeped out and saw a sign saying “don’t urinate or defecate here, by Order” “Kalu he asked, is this like candid camera? would people actually “go” on a bridge? Where are the public toilets? Cant they just pull up at a gas station and go?” Well tom, actually there are public toilets for now”, wow no public toilets!

We then got stuck in traffic jam; “Kalu” Tom asked why are those buses on our lane? Tom I sad they are doing “one way” “so where are the traffic cops”? He asked, well they are over there collecting N20 form the okada guys”, “collecting bribes!” tom exclaimed? “Aren’t they scared the CCTV will catch them doing that”? Well there is no CCTV. Wow no Traffic Cops, no CCTV! The traffic jam was too bad, so Tom has a brainwave, “Kalu, park the car, then let’s get on the subway”, emm, “Tom there is no subway”, wow no subway!
I took Tom home, it was pretty late, so the OPC boys (security men) stopped us, Tom nearly has a hearth attack,” kalu they have machetes, hide”, “Tom theses are our security men”, “your security men?” Tom screamed “where are the police”? Well half are in Abuja with the politicians the other half are in Ekiti, I replied. Wow no police men doing beats.

I left tom feeling good about myself, we are developing now, I mean Lagos was wearing a new look, roads have been fixed, street and traffic light working, even BRT, we try jare, Eko o ni baje.Tom left the next day, last month I got a letter from him, reads as below

Dear Kalu,

I cannot thank you enough for being a tour guide to a helpless foreigner like myself. You know I told you I was a student, well I was studying anthropology, and I could not get material to write my thesis till I got to Nigeria.

My classmates went to Egypt to see the pyramids, other went to Rome to see the Coliseum, other to China to see the Great Wall, but providence brought me to Lagos, you see I “discovered” something new and it’s all because of you.
I discover a new type of humans, they have quite a lot of resources, but they can survive without, health care in their local governments, bad roads, no power, and no public transportation, no running water in their homes, no public toilets, no 911 emergency responder, no traffic police, no CCTV, they “go” on the streets without a care, hire private armies for security, worse of all, they have no ITunes. When I told my professor such a people existed he doubted at first but I showed him pictures. He was floored he, said it is impossible for people to live so “primitive”. My school has given me a junior fellowship, next month I am back in Nigeria to further study these unique people, I even hear there are better cities to study than Lagos, like Ekiti, Aba and Jigawa. I am so excited.

If I do this right, I could be in for a job with the Discovery Channel, wish me luck. I remain in your debt.

Your friend Tom

It’s our problem, we can fix it


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 (www.epiafric.com), 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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