(Published in The PUNCH and Tunde Odesola.com on Monday, August 23, 2021)
His name outnumbers the 26 letters of the English alphabet. Arguably, the most creative hands to ever hold a chisel and a paintbrush, but unmistakably the sublime genius embodying the inventive force of the Renaissance Age.
A sculptor, painter, architect, poet and engineer, Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni is the 38-letter name a little wizard was given at birth. But the world picked Michelangelo from the names and stuck it to his forehead.
A year before he died at age 88, Michelangelo, an Italian, who lived between March 6, 1475 and February 18, 1564, wrote in Italian language on a sketch he was working on, “Ancora Imparo,” meaning, “I’m still learning.”
The quote is akin to the pearl of wisdom from compatriot, fellow polymath and older rival, Leonardo da Vinci (April 15, 1452–May 2, 1519), who had earlier said, “Learning never exhausts the mind.”
For Michelangelo, every work of art he embarks on is a challenge, a task accomplishable on the flourish of his brilliance. He defines his raison d’être in these enduring words, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it. I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”
I affirm that Michelangelo’s imperishable legacy stands on four cardinal pillars: learn, discover, act and set free. These, for me, are the hallmarks of great leaders, great epochs.
Depressingly, however, these same pillars are conspicuously absent in the regime of Nigeria’s President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), which comes across as standing on the pillars of ignorance, neglect, inertia and persecution.
Whereas Michelangelo describes learning as a life-long process, President Buhari appears to see life from a short-sighted spectrum, having not learnt any economic and patriotic lessons from his over 40 years of medical tourism to the United Kingdom.
In an unlearned defence of government policy, Information and Culture minister, Lai Mohammed; and Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, severally said it was right for the President to patronise foreign medical services for over 40 years.
This is despite the fact that Made-in-Nigeria doctors, who migrated abroad as a result of the rickety state of Nigeria’s medicare, today hold vital positions in first-class hospitals worldwide, potentially including Buhari’s hospital in the UK.
Last Thursday, Mohammed, in a display of the confusion that has continuously characterised the Buhari regime in the last six years, said those criticising the President for seeking medical care abroad were making ‘inconsequential attempts to de-market him’.
In a jejune defence, Adesina also said, “President Buhari has been with the same doctors and medical team for upward of 40 years. It is advisable that he continues with those who know his medical history and that is why he comes to London to see them. He has used the same medical team for OVER 40 years. Once you can afford it, then stay with the team that has your history.”
With soaraway inflation crippling Nigerians, Adesina should know that Nigeria cannot afford the unending presidential flights to the UK and the sacks of pound sterling in medical fee for gerontocratic ailments treatable in Nigeria.
The hotness of Lai Mohammed’s sophistry and the coldness of Adesina’s remarks will win trophies in Sodom and Gomorrah.
The display of profound arrogance by both Buhari spokespersons runs against the time-tested advice for caution in a Yoruba proverb that says, “When a man is sent on an errand fit for a slave, he should display discretion.”
What would Buhari and his image-makers say about Aisha, the wife of the President, who went to Dubai last year to treat neck pain? Dubai doctors must have been treating Aisha from the womb, right?
In a move to deflect public criticism from her neck-pain trip, Aisha spun the red herring fallacy when she said her flight back to Nigeria encountered a turbulent storm, hoping to mask the wastage of public funds, which her trip symbolises, with public sympathy.
Then she pushed her luck over the precipice and rubbed insult into injury by saying, “I, therefore, call on the healthcare providers to take advantage of the Federal Government’s initiative through the Central Bank of Nigeria guidelines for the operation of N100bn credit support for the healthcare sector as was released (and) recently contained in a circular dated March 25, 2020, to commercial banks.
“This will, no doubt, help in building and expanding the capacity of the Nigerian health sector and ultimately reduce medical trips and tourism outside the country.”
What hypocrisy! Scarcely had Aisha’s flight from Dubai touched down than she started to talk about reducing medical tourism. If she knew that medical tourism was a drain on Nigeria’s economy, why did she embark on it? Nigerians, whose taxes are being used to maintain Buhari and his family’s expensive lifestyle, are grumbling, ‘like husband, like wife’.
In 2017, Aisha had lamented that there was no syringe in Aso Rock Clinic, Abuja, when she fell sick. She revealed that, “In the end I had to go to a hospital (in Nigeria) owned and operated by foreigners 100 per cent.”
Similarly, Aisha’s daughter, Zahra had, also in 2017, said there was no Paracetamol in Aso Rock Clinic despite a budget of N3bn for the provision of drugs to the hospital.
That this insane level of corruption could happen under Buhari’s nose without perpetrators fearing the consequences of their action indicates a rudderless Nigerian ship careening against the rocks of insecurity, unemployment, hopelessness and poverty, heading for doom.
When Buhari, who has completely lost the fear factor, doesn’t care about the corruption perpetrated with the precincts of his residence, how would he care about the slaying of farmers by Fulani herdsmen in Igboho or the killings by unknown gunmen in Owerri? How would he care about the kidnapping of schoolchildren in the North or the bloodletting in the Middle Belt? Or care about the worse-than-pigsty hostels in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka?
If Buhari had done something about the anomaly in Aso Rock Clinic since 2017, Aisha wouldn’t have embarked on a neck-pain trip to Dubai in 2020.
When you minus 40 years from Buhari’s 78 years, you have 38 years. For someone who joined the military in 1962 at the age of 19, this means that Buhari had received medical treatment in Nigeria for 19 years, that is, up till 1981 when he was a colonel who had been Military Secretary at the Army Headquarters, a member of the Supreme Military Council, and had been GOC of the 4th Infantry Division, 2nd Mechanised Division, and the 3rd Armoured Division.
I ask, why did Buhari stop receiving treatment in the good, old Nigeria where doctors had his medical records for 19 years?
And if Buhari says he’s been receiving medical treatment abroad in the last 40 years, that suggests that he was receiving medical treatment in the UK between 1983 and 1985 when he headed a military junta that toppled the democratically elected government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari on December 31, 1983 over allegations that the civilian government was ostentatious and corrupt.
This act of hypocrisy runs contrary to the War Against Indiscipline mantra upon which Buhari and his deputy, Brigadier General Tunde Idiagbaon, rode to power.
In Buhari’s lip-service War Against Indiscipline, public officers were forbidden to own foreign accounts, own houses abroad, send their children to foreign schools, send their underage children on pilgrimage, among other prohibitions.
But when Nigeria’s bloodiest military head of state, General Ibrahim Babangida, torpedoed the Buhari-Idiagbon fascism on August 27, 1985, Idiagbon had gone on holy pilgrimage to Mecca with his underaged son, Adekunle, showcasing another classical hypocrisy of Buhari’s leadership.
Nothing demarkets Nigeria more than Buhari’s over 40 years of medical tourism.
Then British Prime Minister, David Cameron, in May 2016, during a conversation with Queen Elizabeth II, described Nigeria and Afghanistan as ‘fantastically corrupt’.
Cameron is right.
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