Re: How Jigawa People Suffer For Lack Of Healthcare:
The drama entitled above, scripted in the name of ‘investigation’ by my friend and colleague Ibanga Isine of the respected e-newspaper, Premium Times, suffered from one tragi-comedy. The piece was a desperate effort at fault-finding. I am sure Premium Times did not ask Ibanga Isine to go about indicting by all means, the former Governor of Jigawa State, Dr. Sule Lamido. Fortunately, readers of Premium Times are not fools, and there are people of integrity – the majority – who will never lend a hand of support to what even the blind could clearly see as a pull-Sule-Lamido-down-by-all-means project.
Mr. Isine started by narrating the story of a dog attacking some boys in a Jigawa hospital because as governor, Sule Lamido, failed to do the perimeter fencing of the facility. Interesting! But is the writer aware that in most rural areas in the North, even houses are not fenced, and that this has been so for the last several hundred years, and the inhabitants have been living peacefully like that? If we go by Ibanga’s postulation, most, if not all of these rural inhabitants ought to have died of dog attacks since what it takes to do that is having a facility not fenced.
Even in America, many public buildings are not fenced. So also majority of residential buildings. But nobody has ever traced his misfortune to that fact.
If Mr. Isine had meant to write a balanced story, he will have considered the whopping cost of fencing all the 187 primary healthcare hospitals provided by Dr. Sule Lamido all over Jigawa state, and see that opportunity cost will provide that there are other priorities facing the government of a state he himself admitted is one of the poorest in Nigeria. Though he cynically tried to give the impression that N400 billion was collected by Lamido for primary healthcare, the fact is the amount represents everything the government received in eight years of governance. It was with those funds that Jigawa workers and pensioners were paid salary for eight years without fail. It was also the same money that was used to totally transform Jigawa and provide it with life-changing facilities and modern infrastructure.
Mr. Isine specifically mentioned primary healthcare centres in Gwaram, Zobiya and Kazura, all in three different local governments of Jigawa State, of suffering one neglect or the other. Even if to forestall being accused of doing a hatchet job, Mr. Isine ought to have found out that the Gwaram hospital he mentioned was in a state of disrepair because it was taken over by the now-defunct SURE-P, as an intervention project, but was abandoned when the contractor was obviously not paid by the federal government, and after he unilaterally removed the roofing sheets and some other vital parts of the building. It was when the state government got wind of this that they sent a team to stop the contractor from carting away the roofing sheets and other materials he had removed. SURE-P, like Premium Times, had its operational headquarters in Abuja. It will therefore have been too easy for Mr. Isine to find out the truth, if that’s what he wanted. Obviously, discerning the truth was never within the scope of the work Mr. Isine did.
A dispassionate investigation will also have revealed to Mr. Isine that in coming up with its noble Gunduma Health System to address primary healthcare within the limit of available resources, the Sule Lamido administration adopted the World Health Organisation’s reaching-every-ward strategy to improve access to healthcare, and succeeded overall in providing, as mentioned earlier, a total of 187 basic health centres in the state. Within the radius of 15 kilometres where Zobiya is located, there are 15 primary health centres serving the communities they are located.
The story also alleged that the primary health centre in Kazura, Birniwa Local Government was left with no medical personnel. Well, this allegation may have made meaning if it was made when Sule Lamido was still the governor. Now, over six months after he handed over power to the incumbent, it is possible – if truly there are no medical personnel – they were sacked by the present government. But the fact is that the then Commissioner for Health, Dr. Abubakar Tafida, requested and saw to it that two sons of the locality were trained in the state’s School of Health Technology and recruited to serve their own people. This is aside from nurses and midwives that were saddled with different responsibilities, for example catering for children under-5 years of age. Until Lamido became the governor, Mr. Isine would never have found it possible to access Kazura. But the road Lamido built from Malam Madori to Birniwa has not just provided access to Kazura, but also a host of other communities, with the lives of the locals transformed through trade, transportation of agricultural produce and commerce facilitation.
Talking about medical personnel, it beats the imagination that Mr. Isine failed to mention that at inception in 2007, the government of Sule Lamido inherited only 21 doctors, 6 pharmacists and less than 200 nurses/midwives, in what was clearly a dilapidated health sector. By last May when Lamido handed over power, however, there were 160 doctors, 685 nurses/midwives, 34 pharmacists, in a healthcare system having 6,136 staff strength.
Also, owing to the free maternal and child health programme, most healthcare indicators were positive when Sule held sway as governor, and records don’t lie. The Haihuwa Lafiya programme introduced in 2008 ensured that there was 5.5 million hospital attendance in 2014, against 1.2 million in 2008; 3.3 million children seen, against 0.5 million in 2008; 35 percent pregnant women delivering in Jigawa hospitals, against only 7 percent in 2007. By May this year, the rate of women attending ante-natal rose to the all-time high of 89 percent.
Lamido also developed and nurtured an elaborate sustainable drug revolving system, providing high quality, affordable medications and consumables in all the hospitals in the state.
For 19 years, the only School of Nursing in the state was operating in a local government council secretariat, but thanks to the sagacity of Lamido, who realised that these institutions are critical to the expansion and development of the health sector, a brand new state of the art college, one of the best in the country, was built in Birnin Kudu. Equally so was the expansion and renovation of the School of Health Technology.
Until Lamido became the governor, Jigawa state had the highest maternal and infant mortality rate in the country, and hospitals and other health institutions were simply imaginary structures. The Gunduma Healthcare System he initiated was a bottom-up approach from primary healthcare to the secondary and the tertiary.
Obviously, what Mr. Isine saw were manifestations of the neglect the health sector has started witnessing since the advent of the incumbent administration in the state, especially with the recent sacking of health workers that hail from other parts of the country, and the fact that hospitals’ upkeep has been slashed by almost half, and the hitherto free maternal and child health has now been reduced to a trickle, in the guise that resources are not adequate. But Sule Lamido not just met an empty treasury when he took over power, he repaid the debt bequeathed to him in tens of billions of naira, and succeeded in transforming Jigawa to the appreciation of the people and other visitors from Nigeria and abroad.
Mr. Isine ought to have used the credible platform he represents to complain about the fact that beneficiaries of the Gunduma Health System created by Lamido are now largely being abandoned to cater for themselves, with all the attendant consequences.
The former governor granted Mr. Isine opportunity to ask him any question under the sun, in a three and a half hour interview in his Kano office. Sadly, however, the editor only chose to reflect a very inconsequential part of that in his so-called investigative report, further confirming that he was clearly all out to discredit and indict Lamido.
To the best of my knowledge, and I know him since I was a child, Lamido has never claimed perfection. As the most experienced governor at that time, Sule knows that governance is like a military barrack:’soldier comes; soldier goes, barrack remains. All he did was within the limit of available resources and human capacity, but with the best intention to truly serve the people of Jjgawa state. What this means is that though he remains the best, Lamido didn’t achieve everything he wanted for the good of the people. It’s up to the present governor to build on his legacies, do his best, if he can, and hand over to another person at the end of his tenure.
If Lamido were an opportunist, he would have taken advantage of the fact that the biggest witness of his transformation of Jigawa State is no less a personality than President Muhammadu Buhari. When last year he and other APC bigwigs went to Jigawa to court Lamido to decamp to the APC, Buhari and Senator Bola Tinubu in their respective speeches publicly acknowledged the unprecedented achievements of Lamido, extolled his virtues to high heavens and called him the father of modern Jigawa State.
Being the principled politician that he is however, Lamido bluntly told them he was staying put in the party he helped founded, the PDP, and correct whatever mistakes it was committing. And he still refused to jump ship, as some PDP elements did, even when it was clear that the PDP was going to lose power at the centre and in some states it was controlling. Many have traced Lamido’s current travails to that refusal to cooperate with the APC bigwigs to decamp to their party, and the fact that he is perceived as a potent threat in 2019.
The question may be asked: what is my interest in all this; why should I write a rejoinder that critically said the truth about my colleague and friend? The answer is that I want to serve the cause of justice and save the journalism profession from disrepute. While not staking any claim to puritanism, I have, since the unfortunate publication by Mr. Isine, been wondering: what could Sule Lamido now be thinking about Nigerian journalists? I was there throughout the period Mr. Isine spent with Dr. Lamido on the interview.
But suffice it to say, the piece by Mr. Isine is bereft of good conscience. In a country where most leaders end up achieving virtually nothing but grand-scale looting in eight years of governance (as it happened to Jigawa between 1999 – 2007), having a Sule Lamido achieving what he did; enlisting the rural state in the league of Nigeria’s most promising states, is a feat that should be applauded by all people with a sense of justice and fairness. Lamido is surely not perfect. He himself will tell you he made mistakes, mostly of the head, not of the heart. But he is far from deserving the kind of garbage poured on him by Mr. Isine.
Healthcare, like education, is a bottomless pit which can consume the entire resources of a state or the whole Nigerian federation. But even if that is done, major gaps will still be left. Yet, even the achievements touched by this piece do not include other solid ones in secondary and tertiary healthcare,which are too numerous to mention, here.
One becomes even more curious when Ibanga recklessly made the allegation about Sule ‘pocketing’ billions of Jigawa resources, ignoring the fact that within the same North-west, a governor (now former) received almost a trillion in statutory allocation and internal revenue, in addition to about three hundred billion in local government funds that he illegally withheld and appropriated to himself, yet, neither the EFCC nor the ICPC found it fit to harass the man because he is now an APC member. There are even allegations that all the white elephant projects executed by this governor do not approximate to more than half of the trillion he collected.
In his case, however, Lamido made a particularly intensive effort in the critical theatre of education to change Jigawa state and record a giant stride in securing the future of its children. The disheartening cow sheds that he inherited, which passed for classrooms were immediately destroyed and mint-new ones provided. In his first term, he constructed 1,061 classrooms across the state, and purchased 62,981 classroom furniture. Out of the 779 dilapidated schools he inherited in 2007, Lamido renovated and restored 648 to full standard, and equipped most of their laboratories to WAEC standard. He also established 21 new junior secondary schools, as well as 216 nomadic schools across the state. Sule also initiated and implemented a scholarship scheme for the best 100 students in the sciences every year to overseas universities. He capped all this with the establishment of a completely modern state university, which has since set sail.
Mindful that Jigawa is an agrarian society, and worried that farming was being done in an old-fashioned way, Lamido introduced high-yielding seeds, subsidised tractor prices and hiring, provided loan facilities for work bull and appliances, farm extension services, crop fumigation and aerial spray against pest, opening up of Fadama irrigation and government’s purchase of excess harvest as incentive for farmers to grow more produce, led to dramatic improvements in the sector and empowerment of the farming communities.
His innovative economic empowerment policy led to, among other things, the construction, reactivation and equipping of skills acquisition centres in Hadejja, Birnin Kudu, Gumel, Kazaure and Dutse. Thousands of youths were trained in various trades and services, ranging from shoe-making, cellphone repairs, chalk-making, paint-making, photography, tailoring, horse decoration, plumbing, mechanics, etc.
Apart from constructing about three thousand kilometres of roads, Lamido also embarked on the transformation of all the local government headquarters into modern cities, with asphalted township roads and drainages, complete with street lights.
Sule Lamido’s construction of an international airport to mainstream the state represent the high point of his infrastructure game changer.
In conclusion, the truth is that Lamido’s golden era in Jigawa State will remain the yardstick for measuring whoever God grants the mantle of leadership in a very, very long time to come. With an old-school discipline and the panache of a 21st century diplomat, Lamido has succeeded in proving that when human resolve is wedded to genuine vision, critical transformation of the human condition occurs. The conceptual clarity of his governance approach and ideological framework were very clear game-changers. So inspite of everything, whenever the history of responsible and accountable governance in Nigeria comes to be written, Sule Lamido’s name will surely be written in gold.
Mr. Gaya, a journalist and former Managing Editor at the New Telegraph Newspaper, wrote from Lome Crescent, Wuse Zone 7, Abuja. He can be reached on email@example.com