Bisola Ojo should be repatriated from the United States to face the consequences of her actions

Designed for professionals within the continent by the American State Department, the essence of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, which started in 2014 under the Barack Obama presidency, is to motivate and empower young men and women between the age of 25 and 35. Through academic coursework, leadership training, and networking, the idea is to help them “hone their skills at a U.S. college or university with support for professional development” after they return to their respective African countries.

However, when the recipient of such a prestigious honour turns out to be of doubtful character, then there is a problem. That is the dilemma for both the Nigerian and the American authorities over Ms Bisola Anthonia Ojo, a physiotherapist who was caught on CCTV abusing a toddler with cerebral palsy left in her care before she travelled for the Mandela Fellowship.

All over the world, professionals who work with children, especially those with special needs, are care givers and there are important qualities expected of them. One, they must have compassion for such children. Two, they must be attentive so they can easily notice when such wards have challenges that require intervention. Three, they must be trustworthy. Ms Ojo, from available reports that have gone viral, evidently lacks all of these qualities. She is in fact a cruel young woman who, by her conduct, should be put far away from children, including those who may not have any special needs.

The footage, which was obtained by Mrs Bukola Ayinde, mother of the abused child, from the authorities of the school that alerted her to the unfortunate incident, showed the physiotherapist beating the toddler, twisting her arm and hitting her with a phone. Following the incident, the Medical Rehabilitation Therapists Board suspended Ms Ojo for three months, with a clause that she must get psychiatric treatment which she agreed to do. However, she later turned up at the board claiming to be going for treatment in the United States and was given permission to travel. The “treatment” turned out to be the Mandela Fellowship which she is currently undergoing.

As the campaign for her withdrawal mounts on the social media, the American embassy has thrown the decision back at the Nigerian authorities that have remained quiet on an issue that only adds to our national emblem of shame. “We are aware of these disturbing allegations,” said an official of the American embassy in Abuja to THISDAY. “The United States believes strongly in the protection of children from abuse and neglect. We would refer you to the Nigerian authorities regarding action taken in response to the reported incident.”

In case the Nigerian authorities can still not get it, Ms Ojo was shortlisted by the American authorities as one of the best young Nigerian professionals and on account of that, she is representing our country in the United States. Whatever may be our failings as a nation, Nigerians are generally compassionate people. To therefore have a professional who would act so cruelly to a little child as representing our people is unacceptable.

Unfortunately, this issue goes to the heart of healthcare delivery in Nigeria. It says so much about the Medical Rehabilitation Therapists Board that would treat a case that borders on both gross professional misconduct and criminality in such a cavalier manner. From nurses to doctors to pharmacists and physiotherapists, many of those who administer care on patients in our country are not only unprofessional but callous. In fact, considering the current appalling situation in most of our hospitals—whether private or public—the country’s National Health System is overdue for a complete overhaul.

Meanwhile, we call on the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole and his Foreign Affairs counterpart, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama to liaise with the United States Mission in Nigeria so as to withdraw Ms Ojo from the Mandela Fellows programme and repatriate her to Nigeria. She must be made to face the consequences of her irresponsible behaviour.

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From nurses to doctors to pharmacists and physiotherapists, many of those who administer care on patients in our country are not only unprofessional but callous