OPINION | COVID-19 Exposes How Prof Odekunle’s Powerful Friends See Nigeria, By Ikeddy Isiguzo

*Late Prof. Femi Odekunle
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Tales of the belated, frentic efforts to save Professor Femi Odekunle from the ravages of Covid-19 show how distant his friends in high offices are from the major imperative of public office, service to the public. Sadly, the Professor of Criminology died.
It is a shameless admission of how Nigeria works that Odekunle died at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital – the only teaching hospital in Abuja – because there was no oxygen, yes oxygen. A Federal Government teaching hospital had no oxygen. Few appear to realise the implications of what happened. Odekunle was working for President Muhammadu Buhari at the time of his death.
Presidential media aide Femi Adeshina, who is close enough to know, rated him a Buhari loyalist, a term Adeshina would not use with scant attention. Buhari was also enamoured of Odekunle.
With access to power and a ring of friends that included Ministers and Governors, oxygen was not available to save Odekunle as he ebbed away. It was not a sudden death; it took 11 days of agony for Odekunle and his family.
His friends kicked in too late. Oxygen arrived in surplus too late. The man died. Why was Odekunle not treated at the Aso Rock Clinic in which Nigeria invests billions of Naira annually? Is it possible the presidential clinic also lacked oxygen? Aso Rock Clinic was not considered fit for Odekunle.
Odekunle is not the only one who died recently from Covid-19 or other causes. Otunba Eddie Aderinokun, journalist, arts and Sports promoter, died. Lawyer Ziggy Azike, one of the best human beings to know, died. And more. May the Almighty grant them rest. What stood Odekunle out is that his passing epitomised the poor understanding of those in power that the common good counts. His friends in recounting how they tried to save his life forgot that they were passing a judgment on their management of Nigeria in the past five years.
The obfuscating debates in those years have been about how bad Nigeria was when power happened on them. They never accept that Nigeria has degenerated since then. They are therefore shocked when there are no appropriate hospitals to meet their needs.
Hospitals are more than buildings, decorations, and offices. They need people to manage the equipment if they had been procured. Consumables like oxygen should be taken for granted, if not in all hospitals, definitely in our teaching hospital in the nation’s capital.
Had friends of Odekunle as managers of national resources – the most important of them being power – in the past five years invested in the common good, hospitals of the standing of the one in Abuja, would have oxygen. If they tried to improve different sectors of Nigeria for the good of ordinary Nigerians, maybe oxygen would not have been a challenge.
Nigeria is managed to meet the segmented interests of those in power. It cannot work as they are hopefully seeing with the passing of Odekunle, an amiable man who spent years preaching how “unworking” Nigeria was. One was unable to get his final words on Buhari’s Nigeria.
Did anyone notice that the lamentations are not about the failure of Nigeria to save her people whether in hospitals, homes, farms, roads, or even in schools? If the powerful strings pulled had worked for Odekunle his friends would have continued with the illusion that Buhari’s Nigeria was the best since creation day.
There could have been a thanksgiving service. Odekunle could have been proof that Nigeria worked for the owners of Nigeria. Now that Covid-19 and insecurity even threaten privileged Nigerians, would they spare a thought for the common good?
It is unimaginable that oxygen my friend Sam John manufactures in abundance in Owerri, and spends ample time seeking buyers, cannot be found in the only teaching hospital in Abuja.
The oxygen issue depicts the various miseries of Nigerians worsened by the inattentiveness of a government that spends its tenure justifying, in high decibels, why it delights in doing nothing. We need oxygens.
Buhari blames the Almighty for unmanned northern borders. The universities have lost a year in peace time. It is normal because it is Buhari’s Nigeria. When the Chief of Staff of Army Lt-Gen Tukur Yusuf Burutai states with every emphasis he can muster that insecurity would be around for the next 20 years. He sounds as if that would be an achievement.
Can friends of Odekunle in his memory opt for measures that would improve the conditions of Nigerians, all Nigerians? Would they lament Odekunle indeed and in deed?
Happy New Year Nigerians. May you find oxygen whenever you need it!
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