Tuesday, September 1, 2009

There is a Nigerian Spirit

There is a Nigerian spirit... and it is not a bad spirit. Recently, our youngest daughter was on admission at the University College Hospital (UCH) for a surgical procedure. UCH is top on the list of tertiary health facilities and teaching hospitals not only in Nigeria but also in West Africa. But news about UCH can be terrible: nagging nurses; uncaring doctors; consultants more interested in research than in patients, and stinking corruption. A friend of mine told me how his mum on admission at UCH needed oxygen and he paid for 12 cylinders of oxygen but got receipts for only two! Pretty much like what you hear about Nigeria. But not much different from what you hear about the Blagojevitchs, Halliburtons etc. of America!
My experience with UCH showed me something not often heard about Nigeria. My daughter had just been wheeled into the theatre and we were sure the surgical procedure was on when electricity went off! In Nigeria, we would say NEPA (or PHCN, that is, power authorities) took light. My heart skipped a beat. But right in the reception where we were, other medical teams were examining other patients including a six-week old baby. Pronto! All of them--nurses and doctors--brought out their handsets and switched on the flashlights! Each of the fifteen or so handsets had a flashlight. So the examination out there at the reception and, I imagined, my daughter's surgery right in the theatre continued under the light provided by the galaxy of twinkling flashlights. This event and several others I had at UCH (for instance, nurses and doctors raising funds for patients) showed that there is a Nigerian spirit--a great and indefatigable spirit. It is a spirit that achieves something working with nothing! This spirit works with nothing because of irresponsible and irresponsive national and state leadership. And sadly, it is a spirit that often goes unacknowledged in the national and international media.
This is not a campaign for the Nigerian government's rebranding exercise. As a matter of fact, I think the slogan of that exercise should read: Good people; great nation; bad leaders! (Not just 'Good people; great nation'). Rather, this is my attempt to celebrate a spirit we have trampled underfoot for ever so long.