Thought Leadership Series

Our new Minister of Health

Its not been easy finding out much about the new Minister of Health in Nigeria Prof.Onyebuchi Christian Chukwu ( …a powerful name invoking the Almighty in all three names!). He was born April 22, 1962, hails from Afikpo in Afikpo LGA of Ebonyi State. He graduated from the University of Lagos in 1986 and was Chief Medical Director, Ebonyi State University Teaching Hospital from 2003-2008. Later, he became Deputy Provost of the College of Medicine of the Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki, from where he was appointed the Minister of Health.

He is reported by Vanguard to have stated his vision around these vague parameters;

“ensure that Nigerians begin to enjoy good health indices as well as entrenchment of the tenets of team work and unity amongst staff of the Ministry of Health”

Then one of his first activities was reported as a visit to Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) on a fact-finding mission. Why is this worrying?  We have real challenges in understanding the difference between a “Minister of Health” and an “Administrator of Tertiary Health Care Centres“…and this visit is indicative of this. Why LUTH? Will Professor Chukwu now go on fact finding to all the teaching hospitals in the country? Will he go to the secondary and primary care centres. Will he go to pharmacies and medical laboratories?  When then will he have time to deliver….in a 1 year term? Professor Chukwu has come fresh out of a tertiary care centre, I would argue that if there is one aspect of the entire health sector that he does not need to visit – it would be a teaching hospital!

It is difficult to run a Ministry of Health. It is even more difficult to run it in 1 year cycles. Professor Osotimehin in his first year was implementing a budget and agenda that he inherited, at the beginning of the life cycle of the implementation phase of his first budget – he is removed. Professor Chukwu will now implement this and draw up the next budget – which someone else will deliver.

Not easy!

But because so much is at stake…. because there is an opportunity for a fresh start with a virtually new team of directors at the Federal Ministry of Health. With the opportunity of competent and visionary directors in charge of parastatals in the Ministry such as Dr. Pate at NPHCDA and Professor Idoko at NACA (don’t ask me about NHIS)…maybe Professor Chukwu will build on Professor Osostimehin’s trajectory…if for nothing else for the sake of long suffering Nigerians.

If we were to suggest one single priority….

Get the new Health Bill signed by Mr President.

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.

1 reply on “Our new Minister of Health”

If we were to suggest one single priority…. “Get the new Health Bill signed by Mr President” Again, another bottle neck. Why does the minister need to be in Lagos that appears to be managing its affairs well, a place where things, at least, somethings are getting done. Health care challenges (a stupid UN speak) include vision but what does it take to deliver a project in 3 month life cycles? No doubt LUTH makes good PR but visiting room to room is not program management. Mr Chukwu is either not serious or is surrounded by imbeciles.

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