My late father suffered a stroke in the morning of December 27 1998 in my hometown of Nnewi, where he lived after his retirement as a civil servant, and while I was visiting on home leave with my family from my UN duty post in Tanzania at the time. That was the first disaster.
The second disaster was that medical doctors were on strike, as they are today, and public hospitals were closed. We could not get proper medical attention for him in time. When anyone has a stroke it is imperative to get him or her to a hospital ASAP. We found a private hospital the next day and took daddy there. Shortly after he went into a coma and passed away two days later. It’s a very painful memory.
My dad died because of a dysfunctional health system. I wept bitterly, and hoped that one day I’d have the opportunity to work for strong health systems. This experience influenced my later joining the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva in a senior role, assigned to The Global Fund where we raised and invested $12 billion to help developing countries like Nigeria develop strong prevention and treatment of health pandemics like malaria, HIV/AIDS, and TB.
But in Nigeria to my disappointment, corruption in the public sector and some NGOs reduced the impact of these investments by The Global Fund, where I headed the global partnerships and resource mobilization function that helped make these investments possible.
If I become President of Nigeria someday, all Nigerians will have Universal Health Care and doctors will have no reason to go on strike because hospitals will be well equipped with drugs and other equipment, doctors will be well paid, and as I vowed when I ran for the office in 2019, my government will establish a world-class hospital in each of the six geopolitical zones of our country to reduce medical tourism.
Human capital investments in health and education must be the number one priority of any country’s public policy and governance. We won’t rely on foreign aid donors and international organizations for such basic responsibilities.