By Achilleus-Chud Uchegbu
Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, left Nigeria with harsh words. While the Nigerian leadership was still ruminating his unkind words, he returned to the United States of America to the waiting arms of CNN. He was interviewed by David Mckenzie, an international correspondent of CNN. CNN called Gates Nigeria’s “silent partner” because of his spending $1.6 billion on health concerns in Nigeria. CNN puts it this way: “His money is helping to eradicate the scourge of polio in Nigeria. But grinding poverty remains. And for many, an absence of political leadership.”
Responding to CNN’s question, Gates said: “You know, I am saying that the current plan is inadequate… Nigeria has all these young people, and the current quality and quantity of investment in this young generation, the health and education, just isn’t good enough. And you know, so I was very direct.”
Gates sees wasted opportunities. He sees a threatened future. But the world sees much more. The world sees Nigeria as a people who are only good at making more babies, but not planning for their future. The statistics say so. A 2015 World Bank report indicate that only 29 percent of Nigerians have access to sanitation. It means that 71 percent others don’t have access to sanitation. The implication of this is high disease rate. Speedtest Global said internet broadband download speed (megabits per second) for Nigeria is at 9.5mps while Singapore ranks first at 153mps meanwhile the population growth rate for Nigeria is put at 72 percent while Germany is one percent. Many countries are creating wealth using fast internet systems.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) ranks Nigeria at 131 on the 2018 infrastructure quality index. On the index of Government Spending Efficiency, 2018, also by the WEF, Nigeria is ranked 120 of 137 countries indexed while the Public Trust in Politicians, 2018 index ranks Nigeria at 130 with Brazil at 137. On the index of Internet access in Schools 2018, the WEF ranks Nigeria at 120 with Singapore, New Zealand and Sweden ranking top three. The Innovation Index 2018, also by WEF has Nigeria at 112 of 132 countries indexed. Nigeria is also placed 97 on the Railroad Infrastructure Quality of WEF.
The sad healthcare situation in Nigeria hits on the face with the World health Organization (WHO) index of Psychiatrists per 100,000 people. Nigeria is sitting at the bottom of the ladder with 0.1 psychiatrists per 100,000 people while Netherlands sits at the top with 20.1 per 100,000 people. World Bank ranks Nigeria at 145 on the Ease of Doing Business, 2018 index while the 2017 Human Development Index of the United Nations has Nigeria at 152 with an unemployment rate in Africa of 18.8 percent. Meanwhile, we hold 2.6 percent of world’s population. While the monthly minimum wage in Nigeria is N18,000, Albania, one of Europe’s poorest countries has a monthly minimum wage of 159 Euro while Luxembourg tops the list with 1922 Euro.
With a population which has grown by 72 percent in the past 20 years, Nigeria is estimated to have 752million people by 2100 with an average birth per woman put at five and 89 infant deaths per 1000 live births and youth unemployment of 33 percent. A military research platform puts Nigeria’s Military aircraft capability per million people at 0. While that of Israel, with a population of 8.547 million, as at 2016, is put at 55. WEF also ranks Nigeria at 79 on the index of Availability of Scientists and Engineers in which 137 countries were polled. That does not look too bad but the Gold Reserve Index indicates that Nigeria has 21 metric tons of gold in reserve while the United States has 8133 and Brazil, 63. And to cap it, Nigeria which used to sit at the apex of World Happiness Report is now ranked 95 with Norway, Denmark and Iceland occupying the top three spots. Behind this is the WEF report that Nigeria ranks 14, out of 137, on the most bribes and irregular payments index.
These are the indices that Bill Gates saw. These are also the indicators that many investors see of Nigeria and which inform their investment decisions. As Nigerians, we don’t only see these, we live with them and we feel their pains. However, these handicaps present investment opportunities in solution-driven options. But government policy, on the other hand, does not seem to support this. The policy direction of Nigeria’s government helps in national planning. But from the office of Budget and National Planning, there is a glaring disconnect with the government policy drivers. This may be reason it is often difficult for government to build its budget around intangible deliverables that could transform society. For instance, it is difficult to see the physical effect of investment in healthcare as against building railway lines and bridges and roads.
The reality of Nigeria’s situation comes back real when the recent experience of Emevo Biakolo, a Professor of Communication at School of Media and Communication, Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos is taken into context. Prof. Biakolo shared his experiences in an update on his facebook page titled “We Must Fix The Broken Health System”, thus: “Late last week, I returned from New Delhi, India, where I had gone for a surgery. Why did I, like so many of my country men and women, go to India? Here is why. In September 2017, some six months ago, my spouse underwent surgery at a private hospital, the Lagoon Hospital (which my family has used for over 10 years) in Lagos. In accordance with proper medical practice, given the nature of the problem, a post-surgery histology and immunochemistry (lab tests to determine if the organs had cancer) was recommended. I agreed and paid for it. It took THREE MONTHS for the reports of this test to be released by this hospital. This was after repeated inquiries by personal visits, by phone calls and text messages. The surgeon stopped picking my calls. When the report eventually came and we had a meeting on it, I asked why it took this long for the report to come. The explanation was that this hospital, like others, sends samples abroad because there are no adequate labs in Nigeria.”
He also wrote: “In spite of what happened, at this same hospital, I had a biopsy (a procedure to extract samples for lab tests) done on an inflamed prostate. A biopsy is an outpatient procedure of less than an hour. But after the procedure, I was put in an ICU (intensive care unit) room for the required brief recovery period. This turned out to be nightmare. I was in a pool of blood both on the bed and in the unhygienic toilet close by. There was no nurse or attendant to take care of me. In my dazed state, I stumbled out to look for toilet paper to clean myself. To cut a long story short, I eventually left the hospital for home. But worse was to follow because not unsurprisingly, given the ICU experience, infection had occurred, an infection so massive I had to be hospitalized for five days. I returned home on the eve of Christmas.”
“Given the nature of what I was experiencing as a result of my condition, I was advised to do a bone scan. I therefore travelled to Ibadan, early this year, to the University College Hospital, to do this. I duly paid N72k to the Nuclear Medicine unit. But as I write, this scan has still not been done. The reason: there are no reagents. All this was why, contrary to my usual naïve nationalism, I left Nigeria with the help of my workplace, my children and my friends to do a surgery in India.”
He caps his update with this: “Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals (New Delhi) where I had surgery on 12 March has 750 beds for in-patients. It performs on average 80 surgeries daily. The outpatient figures run into 1000+ daily. It is a private hospital system with branches all over India.”
Prof. Biakolo has told his story. There are many more Nigerians who have worse stories to tell about the healthcare system here. These account for reason Bill Gates was unrestrained in his criticism of Nigeria’s economic recovery plans. However, he said nothing we did not know about our country. The only difference was that it was said, this time, by a white man. But the statistics up here shows that the world knows much more about us and that is why they laugh at our ERGP and won’t bother investing too much here despite being a very large market.