Nigeria: The grim reality

We have the worst quality of life in the world – by a wide margin.
If you have any idea of how people really live in Ghana, Cameroon, Libya, Botswana, and other parts of the Third World, you’d be rioting in the streets calling for a better life. In fact, the average South African, Zimbabwean or Libyan taxi driver has a much better standard of living than the typical Nigerian graduate white-collar worker. I know this because I am a Nigerian, and I want to escape from this huge prison you call home. Already, we are silently protesting against cynical politics, spiraling corruption, economic stagnation and breathtaking levels of crime. We are disunited than ever although we have more immediate survival issues than unity.

If you take a poll, a large percentage would “go along” with a nondemocratic government if it “can solve our problems.” Resentment, anger! For those who have lived in or traveled to other parts of the world, in wealthy countries and in poor ones, there is only one country they would never consider living in: Nigeria. The mere thought of it fills me with dread. Sometimes I wonder about the point of this country’s existence.

Consider this: you are the only people in the world without a useable health insurance system. Everyone in other parts of the world has it. If they get sick, they can devote all their energies to getting well. If you get sick, you have to battle two things at once: your illness and the fear of financial ruin. Add a third and major one of course – fake drugs. Millions of Nigerians go bankrupt every year due to medical bills which they bring upon themselves because they have to travel abroad in search of care. We think of dying more than of getting well. Tens of thousands die each year because they have no health insurance cover or they have a meaningless one. The National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) is a neither nor. If you fall sick, the NHIS is almost certain to tell you that your insurance does not cover your ailment.

Each flight coming from India to Nigeria carries some three or more caskets of those who went there to seek medical care. We witnessed that earlier in the year when we were in the airport to witness the return of the remains of a professional colleague from India. Some people say we send corpses to India and expect resurrection, that our health system ruins people even before they embark on medical tourism.

And don’t believe for a second that ruse about Nigeria having some of the world’s best medical schools. It may be true. But it means nothing when their products can’t practice because they have no tools. Go to King George IV Hospital in India or to Harvard Medical School in Boston and you see Nigerians and Nigerian trained doctors pulling the strings in the most intricate departments or even heading those departments. A Nigerian doctor is among the twenty five young professionals selected to lead Harvard in the next thirty years.

We need to have the best health care system in the world because apart from our leading dangerous lifestyles, everything is almost designed to make us sick.

Our poultry and other livestock are bred with growth hormones and antibiotics. There is no regulation because the poorly trained regulators are more concerned with making a few bucks in the confusion.

It’s not just the food that’s killing you; it’s the drugs, some of which are manufactured in begrimed backyards under supervision by NAFDAC that died with Dora Akunyili.

With food guaranteed to make you sick and a health system designed to make sure you stay that way, what you really need is an escape to somewhere, anywhere but Nigeria. But you are also poorly paid. How is a worker going to expect a fair wage when labour leaders are talking from two sides of the mouth? Bring back Michael Imodu! Sorry, our labour leaders can now be compared to diapers, needing constant change!

Our roads are a nightmare, so bad that in some states, Federal roads have collapsed and states are struggling to provide stop gaps. The vehicles are taking a beating and contributing to mishaps.

Perhaps, you don’t deserve a vacation since your country awards more public holidays than any other nation. If you think I’m making this up, check the average annual vacation days in any diary and see how we spend half the year on public holidays. Can we learn from multinationals like Shoprite? See, they are open 12 hours including Saturdays and Sundays. For Nigerians, Fridays are work-free days for mosque or burial. The other days are for school runs, hospital visits, or mechanic workshop even for those who don’t have cars.

On security we’ll be thankful if they abolish police that cannot provide security; the police whose knee constantly jerks in deference to criminals but can ask you for ID card, driver’s license, proof of citizenship, birth certificate and even blood sample.
• Anekwe wrote from Lagos.

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