By Odimegwu Onwumere
Mallam Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari in a bid to launder his paymaster’s image and perhaps save his job, said on September 19, 2016 that Mr. President spent about £50,000 as operating cost for his ear treatment in London as against £6m Prof. Farooq Kperogi at Bayero University Kano had quoted a national paper in a commentary as the cost of Buhari’s trip to London for the ear treatment.
“The disclosure on Prof. Farooq Kperogi’s wall that President Muhammadu Buhari’s ear treatment in the United Kingdom cost a whopping £6m must have shocked many of the respected scholar’s followers.
“I’m prepared to share documents with Farooq, one of the brightest ever produced from the Bayero University Kano that the whole treatment, including a follow-up visit by a specialist to Nigeria didn’t cost £50,000,” said the embattled Shehu.
Checks At The Presidency Had Claimed The Trip Cost £6m, Not £50, 000
Checks revealed that after Shehu made the claim, Kperogi put the records straight in a public presentation on September 24, stating as follows:
#1. “Checks at the presidency claimed that, the cost of the trip which includes aviation fuel, accommodation, allowances for aides and medical treatment amounts to about £6 million.” (Vanguard).
#2. What government needs to do is go beyond issuing a glib denial; it should bring authentic, verifiable documentary evidence that shows exactly how much was spent during the 14-day trip to London when Buhari’s ear was treated. How many aircraft in the presidential fleet were taken to London? How much did it cost to fuel them?
#3. What was the landing cost for keeping them in London for 14 days? How many aides and government officials went to London with the president? How much did their per diem (what we call “estacodes” in Nigeria) cost the national treasury? What was the cost of accommodating and feeding the coterie of aides and government officials that followed the president to London? We already know, through Mallam Garba, that the president’s medical bill was about 50,000 pounds.
#4. From my own informal observation, when you calculate the cost of the trip-fueling of the aircraft in the presidential fleet, per diem for aides and other government officials, etc. for two weeks – there is no way on earth that it wouldn’t add up to a few million pounds. No way. Now, note that Vanguard claimed to have made “checks of £6m” at the presidency, and nobody from the presidency denied it – for more than three months after the fact!
#5. But, most importantly, some people assume that just because the presidency has denied the allegation, it must be false. That’s unbelievably shallow and credulous. First, Mallam Garba Shehu’s statement (of £50, 000) merely told us the medical bill Buhari incurred for his ear treatment. It said nothing about the cost of the entire trip. Never mind that on June 8, 2016, Femi Adesina actually said “The President did not go to London for treatment.” Now we are told he spent “less than £50,000” for as his medical bill for ear treatment.
First Lies Told By Buhari About His Ear Infection
Mr. President’s aides started defending him with lies when early this year, Nigerians clamoured that he had ear impairment known in the medical term as “Meniere’s Disease’’.
Within the period instead of the mystified Buhari would accept his ear infection reality, he rather confined himself to the State House and canceled three official occasions in which he was represented by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.
Osibanjo represented Buhari in Papua New Guinea where the 8th Summit of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States held. Also, at the 48th Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) which held in Dakar, Senegal, Buhari was represented by Osibanjo. Buhari also canceled his trip to Lagos State to launch some projects accomplished by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of the state.
Later, on June 5, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, told Nigerians that the president would on that day, proceed on a 10-day leave, which he would spend in London.
“During the holiday, he will see an E.N.T. specialist for a persistent ear infection,” he said, explaining: “The president was examined by his Personal Physician and an E.N.T. Specialist in Abuja and was treated. Both Nigerian doctors recommended further evaluation purely as a precaution.”
Needless Medical Trip Abroad
When the All Progressives Congress (APC) produced Buhari as president in the 2015 presidential election, the party accused the then Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of squandering the country’s resources in overseas treatment of its stakeholders. But the APC sent shame to the winds and sent Buhari on abroad medical trip, something the APC had used against the PDP.
Instantaneously that Buhari confirmed his ear problem as a reality and was set to travel overseas, Dr. Osahon Enabulele, Vice President, Commonwealth Medical Association (CMA) and former President, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), told the media that the trip was a shame on the nation (despite the presence of over 250 ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialists in the country and a National Ear Centre in Kaduna State), given that Enabulele had undergone surgical operation for his ear infection in Nigeria, this year, and it was successful.
“I am very constrained to state that this foreign medical trip flies in the face of the federal government’s earlier declaration of her resolve to halt the embarrassing phenomenon of outward medical tourism, which by the end of the year 2013, has led to a humongous capital flight of about $1 billion, particularly from expenses incurred by political and public office holders and their accompanying aides, whose foreign medical trips, most of which are unnecessary, were financed with tax payers’ resources,” Enabulele contended in an open letter to the president.
The medical expert gave an instance why Buhari should have treated himself in Nigeria, saying, “If the former Governor of Kogi State, Idris Wada, could patronize Nigerian-trained medical experts and medical facilities here in Nigeria when he unfortunately suffered a fractured femur following a road traffic accident in 2013, I see no reason why in 2016, Mr. President could not have stayed back in Nigeria to attend to his ear infection.”
Nigerian doctors had recommended extra assessment of Mr. President’s ailment simply as a precaution, but did not recommend foreign trip. “Just for an ear infection Nigeria’s president travels all the way to London to get expert treatment and a second opinion. Shame on Nigeria! And this ear infection explains all the loud cries and groans of the common people suffering from their day to day challenges,” said a public affairs commentator.
Conclusion: Buhari Would’ve Stayed Back In Nigeria; Claim He Spent £50,000 as False
According to media reports, “The medical expert claimed that most public and political office holders who seek foreign medical care are treated by Nigerian-trained doctors, particularly in the United Kingdom, which has over 3000 Nigerian-trained medical doctors, and the United States of America, with over 5000.
“Most of these foreign-based doctors, Mr. Enabulele added, relocated abroad because of the government’s repeated failure to address the various factors that make the local environment difficult to work in.” Adding, Dr. Enabulele said that if he was in the Buhari aides’ shoes, he would have advised Mr. President to stay back in Nigeria and explore any of the following options.
- Urgently invite a consortium of Nigerian trained ENT specialists in Nigeria to Abuja to re-evaluate and treat Mr. President; or,
- if it is determined that the medical expertise is not available in Nigeria (and I doubt this), any identified Nigerian trained ENT specialist practicing anywhere in the world should be invited to Abuja, Nigeria, for the sole purpose of re-evaluating and treating Mr. President; or,
- if it is a case where the health facilities/equipment are unavailable (and this is a possibility) then Mr. President should have used his current medical situation, though unfortunate, to commence the Federal Government’s plan to re-equip Nigerian hospitals with modern state-of-the art health facilities, by ordering for the needed medical equipment to enable the locally available Nigerian trained ENT specialists to attend to him, and thereafter use same facilities to attend to other Nigerians with similar conditions.
Finally, Prof. Kperogi added, “Can anybody in good conscience defend the action of a president who allocated N4 billion to Aso Rock Clinic (which is more than the budget of all Nigerian teaching hospitals combined) but goes abroad to treat an ear infection less than a month after he banned government officials from traveling abroad for medical treatment? Let’s not allow our emotions to get the better of our judgment! Only unreflective Buhari apologists assume the falsity of the Vanguard report (of £6m), without any shred of contrary evidence other than a facile, reactive denial.”
Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet, Writer and Consultant based in Rivers State. Tel: +2348032552855. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org