The continent of Africa, to the eyes of the uninformed in the western world, is a beehive of poverty, diseases, and conflicts. I speak with the mindset of someone who has spent substantial time in the United States talking to groups and individuals to provide education about the deplorable situation of the health care system in Nigeria, my country. I have discussed ways in which people in the United States can contribute in helping Nigerians to develop our infrastructures. I find amazing the huge number of persons in United States who are willing to come to our aid, even in small measures. Many are even willing to relocate to Africa to provide help as well as to experience the amazing beauty of nature in its entirety, and our rich culture and heritage-. the pride of Africa
Many Americans have asked me recurring questions that burden my heart. Those questions include,"What is the problem with African Leaders?" "Why can't African Leaders learn to stop stealing from their people and to work to develop their countries?" and "Why is there no dignity in governance in Africa?" When posed such questions, one can easily imagine the uncomfortable position I have to deal with.
Come to think of it, why is corruption prevalent in Africa and endemic in Nigeria? I agree that even the developed countries have their measure of corruption, at least those found to be corrupt in these countries always pay the price. In Nigeria, institutional corruption has become the norm. Each day we are inundated with news of the fragrant stealing of our collective resources by our leaders. They tend to do this shamelessly and use the same communities that they have impoverished to serve as a shield for them against prosecution. People in these communities are being tricked into believing that those leaders are victims of political victimization and marginalization. These corrupt politicians often times use tribal sentiments to their favor, in causing disaffection and communal crises. They use the same loot so acquired to pollute the judicial system. It has come to a point where fighting corruption in Nigeria has become extremely difficult as almost every past and present public office holder is culpable.
I would not have been bordered with this shameful situation if the health care system in Nigeria, with all the oil money of over five decade, was world class. Or if our educational system competes favorably with that of advanced countries. Or if the par capita income and wage profile in Nigeria was such that encourages our best brains to remain back home and continue to contribute towards national development.
I am bordered because the disease burden in Nigeria is essentially preventable for the most part. It is hard to believe that in 2010, one of the leading cause of deaths in Nigerians is preventable illnesses such as Typhoid fever. Nigerian children still dies from measles, diarrhea, malnutrition and other preventable illnesses. Pregnant women still dies in large numbers during child birth because of lack of access to quality health care services. In 2010, access to clean water is still a major issue in Nigeria. In 2010, one of the major issues in the health care system in Nigeria is still wages disputes. While the elected officials had the temerity to ascribe to themselves millions of dollars in annual wages for doing next to nothing other than mere petty politicking, without any serious interest at pushing for reforms in the polity. Health care workers are still begging for at least an opportunity to get meaningful wage for their labors.
It is shameful to see our late president being held captive in a far away land, just because we do not have a good health care system that would have saved his life as well as reduce the financial burden to the nation. Some one said that the evil that men do, lives with them. My take to this is that by the time the evil men realize their evils, they may have been far gone.
There is a need for intellectuals, professionals of African decent to come together, and say No to bad governance in our nations. We have been here for so long. We need to rise up and speak out. The hope of the African continent dwells on this generation. We cannot afford to disappoint. I have been privileged to meet lots of intelligent and forthright emerging African Leaders in the course of my travels. Among these are also Nigerians who have excelled in their professional endeavors but are unwilling to go back to Africa to contribute in the development of our nations due to these inherent problems.
I have to say this, its is only Africans that can develop Africa. Little by little we can all make that difference.
Dr Osita Okonkwo