Thought Leadership

Get well soon Mr President, but don't forget us!

Dear Mr President,

Its been a week now since you had to leave suddenly for Wiesbaden, Germany for what your able Special Adviser Olusegun Adeniyi described as a medical review of an indisposition believed to be due to an allergic reaction.

We honestly wish you all the very best”

Yes…we know a little about the health care system in Germany…and you will no doubt get excellent care.
However, the great thing is that you will get no better care than any other German citizen will get. You might have a bigger room…and a few more visits by the “Chefartz”…but that’s about it. Every German citizen will get the same quality of medical care you got! Amazing isn’t it?

Sir, we hope your experience in Germany will spur you into prioritising our health sector. It is in desperate distress. We do not have a substantive health minister. The legacy of the last 8 years is a cancelled contract to build primary care centres and a flawed contact to supply multi-million dollar equipment to our hospitals with no electricity to run them. The Chairperson of the Senate committee on health, no less a person that the daughter of our ex-president is on the run from EFCC while the Health Bill has been sitting with the National Assembly for 3 years.

Sir, if nothing else you will have heard about the measles outbreaks in your home state Katsina, and the Cerebrospinal Meningitis outbreak in the neighbouring Zaria. You will have heard that over the past few months there were a series of strikes by Doctors all over the country which have only been suspended…we are worried.

Sir, in the 8 years before you came into office, the term “Health Sector Reforms” was bandied around…and our development partners poured their “Aid” at us. Unlike in the banking, telecommunications or insurance sectors, Nigerians cannot identify any impact of these “reforms” in our lives. The famous declaration of our hospitals as “mere consulting clinics” now seems like praise rather than criticism…as they have become a lot worse.

Sir, while panels are reviewing the state of our power sector, our oil sector and our national security…the health sector never gets the attention it deserves. We seem to have accepted the status quo. Your able SA media might have mentioned how much the health and health sector is discussed in the German media. Watching the election campaigns unfold in the USA, one cannot help but notice how important the “health care plans” of the candidates are. Our health sector has benefited from little strategic thinking in the past years and our health goals are still enumerated in such simplistic terms as “how many clinics we intend to build”!!!

Sir, while we all remain Faithful in the Almighty, the nature of the earth we live in demands that we will need emergency health care sometimes. Sometimes even the short 6-hour flight to Germany might be too long to wait. When you do need emergency medical care. Sir…you will be surprised at what you will find…even in our finest. Like all Faithful Nigerians, I agree that God’s time is best and if it His will…it will come to pass. But I insist that The Almighty does not have anything against Nigerians…so why would he allow us to keep dieing of diseases no one else is dieing from.

Sir, allow me to conclude by again wishing you well. When you return….with your experience in Germany fresh in your memory, the sparkling wards, the courteous staff, the competent doctors. We implore you to pay a few unscheduled visits to our hospitals. What you will see will negate the need for any further letters to you Sir.

Get well soon Mr President! Alles Gute!

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

By Chikwe Ihekweazu

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.

22 replies on “Get well soon Mr President, but don't forget us!”

nicely written, although you are much nicer than i am or could ever be…i do think you should go ahead and type this out and send by post to yardy so he can read it upon his return to naija…you should email it as well…

…it’s a shame…an absolute shame the way our leaders spit in our faces…

This really needs to be sent to the dailies. Howevedr, I’m sad to say that a lot of write-ups have been written like this when other heads of state travelled out of the country for medical care, OBJ included. I think our leaders have developed tough skin to these kind of write ups. sad!

I so wish our president would really read this. What will it take for the government to realise health is so important not something that should be pushed to the end of the “To do list for sorting out Nigeria”

Happy to have found this blog, health should be made priority,and Nigerias must be aware that the situation can be so much better and it is our right that it be better. How can we hope to compete and some day be on par with developed countries if we cannot secure health for ourselves.

OHHHHHH!!!!!!!I just realised you gave my Public Health class a lecture on Monday.

awesome write up. but im of the school that thinks even if our healthcare system is on the same level as that of the US or germany. these thieves would still go on their spending spree AKA medical checkups. the ones who should put him in check wont because knock on paper, God forbid its their turn they wont want to be in the same hospital as kasali the driver and mama sikira. but i might be wrong.

nice write up, pls can you send it to any of the national dailies? I wonder if they understand the meaning of reform, good governance, when the simple right to life is overlooked every second.

Waoh! Amazing, brilliant, beautiful, succinct, well balanced, mature letter.

Permission to forward this to sum pple in Nigeria Embassy UK?, circulate to Nigerian’s in diaspora orgs? You shld….

Gnaija: am glad u gave this link on ur blog.

Thanks for all the comments on this post. We are all affected. Thanks for facilitating the publication in The Guardian last Sunday.

We all have a choice…Keep up the pressure…or wait till you find yourself with a medical emergency in Nigeria…there are things even money cannot buy…

Who ever you are, pls keep up the good work.I take it that u believe in God. He’ll keep u strong and up, and doing!

I know one thing for sure. The reason our health care system is so bad is because we barely have trained health system managers. Doctors are different from HMs. It’s like the relationship between car maker and mechanic. We only have (non-vocational)doctors, not HMs. I call them non-vocational cos that’s what i see when i hear about doctors striking. Can’t there be documentaries to show their causes and stir the people, rather than allow more deaths? It’s like in a war; static pics don’t say it all. Documentaries do more!

@Chikwe: I like that Nigerians abroad are contributing but truthfully, do u think a native’s foreign (and sometimes wrong) perspective would be effective enough. I know we all can do better. Let’s stop the undue praises and get the work done!

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