Thought Leadership

Pls Mr President…Give us the Minister of Health we deserve

by chikwe ihekweazu

Today is the 29th of May.

In Nigeria it is called “Democracy Day” and celebrated by 140 million Nigerians staying at home.

While June 12 is still fondly remembered and celebrated by most Nigerians as the day we conducted our most successful election to date…we are all forced to celebrate the 29th of May, the day the military finally handed over the reigns of governance in Nigeria to Olusegun Obasanjo. Today is exactly one year he handed over to Umaru Yar’Adua, our incumbent President.

We should all be celebrating…

…but sadly there is nothing much to celebrate. Our country is in perpetual darkness, our roads are worse than ever and security of lives and property has never been worse…all in an era of crude-at-$130-per-barrel

…there is nothing to celebrate… more so in the health sector…therefore this short blog will carry a special appeal.

Dear Mr President give us a Minister of Health that we deserve!

You know from your own experiences how important health is….often not valued by many until it is lost.

Sir, please give us a leader with vision, integrity, competence, drive and purpose….with clear developmental objectives for the health sector.

We inherited a health care system from the British after our independence and have adapted this piece-meal over the years. The British National Health Service (NHS), on which ours was modelled, has undergone great change over the years. Profound thinking and strategising by policy makers precede each change to the system. Elections are won and lost on health issues and Margaret Thatcher’s failed market reforms in the NHS were one of the most significant factors that brought down her Government. While we are not attempting to compare these two countries, this government owes it to the people to have clear-cut health related goals on where it wants to take us to in terms of health care.

Jeffrey Sachs, world renowned economist and Special Adviser to the General Secretary of the United Nations in his report commissioned by the World Health Organization a few years ago made the landmark link between macro economics and health, when he and his colleagues showed that paying attention to population health was not merely of altruistic value but also in the interest of national and global economic development. The bottom line of the Commission’s report is that it makes economic sense to invest in health.

The Federal Ministry of Health will need to provide strategic, progressive leadership.

– A leadership that is willing to discard failed and tired structures, systems and indeed individuals. A leadership that is willing and able to maximize and harness all the resources that come the country’s way through this ministry; one that can manage and direct these in a planned and structured way with the best interest of all Nigerians as its ultimate goal. A leadership that is willing to set targets for itself, is ready to communicate these targets to the general public and willing to be held to account on its own targets.

Sir, please give us a Minister of Health. One with vision, integrity, competence, drive and purpose…

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.

3 replies on “Pls Mr President…Give us the Minister of Health we deserve”

Thank you for speaking the truth as always. Hopefully someone will read your plea and provide the solution to Nigeria’s health industry.

Although Nigeria recognizes this day as Democracy Day, I recognize it as Nigerian Proclamation Day! So, Happy Nigerian Proclamation Day to you. Let us continue to apply ourselves, as you have, to the greatness of the nation.

God bless.

BTW, just passed your address on to another medical practitioner that I think will enjoy reading this very useful blog.

In 2000 he suffered from an unnamed kidney condition, from which he says he has recovered.

He was also flown to Germany for medical treatment in the middle of his election campaign.

The President of Nigeria coughed constantly through a press conference that showed the whole world his deteriorating health and he confirmed that it was due to an allergic reaction to a malaria drug after he was flown to Germany for emergency medical treatment.

His own words “They prepared the operating theatre, all the surgeons were ready,” he said.

“But they ran tests on me and said an operation wasn’t necessary.”

“I am just a human being, I could die tomorrow, but I could also live until 90,” he told the conference.

Flawed thinking in spades! How about the health care for the rest of your country! 140M people v 1 person! What legacy would you leave? These are the questions of leadership.

Shouldn’t President Yar’Adua be the health care champion in Nigeria?

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