Lauretta Onochie, Personal assistant to President Buhari has worsened the cries of Nigerians by stating that wailers won’t stop Buhari from traveling for medical checkups overseas.
Her comment follows series of protests by Nigerians against the President’s excessive travels abroad for medical needs; the protest became intense after the announcement of his recent trip on the 30th of March, 2021 by his spokesperson, Femi Adesina.
Mrs. Onochie said that, “next year, President Buhari will go for a routine checkup. We have been here since 2016. It’s been the same wailing. So the response will also be same…the fact remains that, if Buhari chooses, he will go for checkups in 2022, 2023… He will continue to go. It’s his choice to go or not to”.
She explained that, “at least once a year, people across the world see their personal Doctors, especially one they have seen for about 40 years. Buhari won’t dump his personal Doctor of about 40 years so that, wailers can be happy. That’s blackmail. Thankfully, he doesn’t pay blackmailers.”
The president has come under fierce criticisms for his taste for health needs abroad. A major critic of his taste for foreign travels is, Dr Osahon Enabulele, first Nigerian to head the Commonwealth Medical Association.
He holds the view that, the President’s foreign travel is a “national shame.” This according to him is due to the fact that, prior to one of his trips, Nigeria had capacity to provide the service he needed. He added that, at the time he (President Buhari) travelled, the country had a National Ear Center, a total of 250 ear, nose and throat specialists.
Dr. added further that, the UK which the President routinely travel to has more than 3,000 Nigerian-trained doctors, whilst there are over 5,000 in the US. Nigeria is one of the countries that produces the best medical doctors but loses majority of them to brain drain due to unfavorable working conditions.
The issue of medical tourism is one which has affected the African continent as a whole for quite a long time now; the frequency with which African politicians travel abroad for treatment is becoming alarming.
Many of these political figures/leaders preside over countries with poor and ill-resourced health facilities coupled with bad working conditions for health workers. Due to this, most of them have lost trust in the very system they have created and rather take pride in seeking health needs abroad at the detriment of the masses.
The question we are asking is: should medical tourism be banned for all African politicians until they drive policies to develop their respective health sectors?