Prof. Isaac Folorunso Adewole, the Minister of Health, has assured Nigerians and the international community that there is no cause for concern over President Muhammadu Buhari’s health.
He also said that the president could not be treated in Nigeria because of the long existing bond between him and his foreign doctors, saying health was a complex issue.
The minister’s remarks on the president’s health came just as a presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, said Tuesday that Buhari would win another election overwhelmingly because “he had paid his dues”.
Buhari is currently in the United Kingdom seeking medical treatment for an undisclosed ailment.
His current trip is the third in the past year solely for medical reasons.
“One thing we must realise is that health is a complex issue. There’s what we call patient-doctor relationship; there is also a bond between the patient and the doctor and these are things we can’t play with,” the minister said in an exclusive interview with newsmen in Abuja.
Adewole, who is a professor of surgery, added: “I used to have patients in Ibadan and they still call me, and say ‘we will like to see you’. Then I have to say no to them because I’m no longer available and ask, ‘why can’t you see somebody else?’ But many of them are reluctant to do so.
That’s the complex thing about health.
“We should give him (Buhari) that choice. What we really wish is for Mr. President to be well and hearty.
“However, this is also a complex country, so I am not too happy about some of the insinuations, because we should pray for our leaders. We should continue to pray for him,” he canvassed.
Still addressing the concern among many Nigerians and the international community over the president’s continuing absence because of his health, the minister said: “There is no cause for alarm,” describing Buhari as an unusual man.
According to Adewole, “He (Buhari) came back and told us that he was ill and that he was treated. When we have that type of leader, I think we can go to sleep.”
Assessing the administration’s performance in the health sector, the minister scored the government very high.
He said the first thing is that the president assured Nigerians two years ago that health care would be accessible and available to Nigerians, adding that the country was on the path to achieving that.
The minister stated: “The first thing we have done is to approve the policy, that’s the third Health Policy in the history of Nigeria. So this government can take credit for putting a policy in place, that’s number one.
“We also launched a programme called the ‘Save One Million Lives Initiative’, where we took money from the World Bank and gave it to the states as seed grants to develop programmes that will impact on the lives of women and children because we want many of our indicators – maternal and child health indicators – to change. We don’t want our women to die as if they are chickens, that’s number two.
“We also initiated a programme called the ‘Rapid Response Results Initiative’, distinctively factored for the poor. We started with 10,000 surgeries for the poor and I am happy to say that all over the country, we are offering care to poor Nigerians.”
He also revealed that the federal government had developed a lot of policy documents – working on fistula, developed a policy to further the new born care programme, developed a policy for clorocydine, and working with pharmaceutical groups.
The drive on pharmaceutical groups, according to the minister, was targeted at ensuring that Nigerians patronise Made-in-Nigeria goods.
“Last year, I challenged local manufacturers to produce Made-in-Nigeria mosquito nets and they are out, which is also something that we should credit this administration with. So we are moving on day by day to make sure we fulfill our promises.
“We have started primary health care revitalisation, as part of the RRRI. Very soon, we are moving on to really injecting life into our tertiary centres. We have identified three reasons why people go out of the country and die: cancer, renal and cardiac diseases,” he said.
In the 2017 budget proposal, the minister explained that his ministry proposed a project called strategic investment in tertiary centres in seven centres, adding that when the work is completed, the seven centres would be fully equipped to handle cancer, renal and cardiac diseases in Nigeria.