Nigerians will be shocked and disappointed to learn that President Muhammadu Buhari is yet to step foot in the facility built to cater for the health needs of the president and his close collaborators. In the build up to his election in 2015, President Buhari repeatedly said on the campaign trail that the abolition of medical tourism would be one of his cardinal objectives in government. He even promised to sponsor a bill against medical tourism by public officials to encourage patronage of Nigerian hospitals. Few Nigerians really believed the APC candidate but many relished the possible ripple effects such an action would have on the health sector and by extension, the economy.
But since assuming office, President Buhari has instead demonstrated a high proclivity to travel overseas for medical treatment even for trivial conditions like his ear. The health sector and indeed, the economy has been the worse for it. More alarming, however, is the discovery that the President is yet to even patronize the Aso Rock Clinic for any form of medical consultation since taking office in 2015.
It is hard to explain why the President has opted to stay away from the Aso Rock clinic since he took office, even though Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and his family are said to frequent the Aso Villa clinic. Just like former President Goodluck Jonathan was a regular face at the hospital and was even treated by dentists when he had a tooth problem.
Rather Buhari has flouted his own promise, drawing condemnation from his critics over his frequent trips to Europe to attend to his ailing health. Between 2017 and 2018, he visited doctors in Europe to examine and treat him for an undisclosed ailment. In 2018, for instance, there was agitation for the President to resign after he spent over 100 days in a UK hospital and became inaccessible, except for a few politicians.
First Lady, Aisha Buhari had in 2017, attacked the management of the Aso Rock Clinic over poor equipment and non-availability of drugs. Speaking at a stakeholders meeting on Reproductive, Maternal, Nutrition, Child Advocacy and Health and Nutrition, RMNCAH+N, at the State House, Abuja, Mrs. Buhari had revealed that she took ill and was advised to travel to London for treatment, but she refused.
“I called the Aso Clinic to find out if they have an X-Ray machine, they said it’s not working. In the end, I had to go to a hospital owned and operated by foreigners 100 per cent. There is a budget for the Hospital and if you go there now, you will see a number of constructions going on but they don’t have a single syringe there. What is the purpose of the buildings if there are no equipment there to work with? You can imagine what happens across the states to governors’ wives if this will happen to me in Abuja,” she said.
The Aso Rock Clinic management, at the time, responded swiftly to the criticism, saying it was short of funds for major projects and purchases and would demand the commercialization of the clinic’s operations for efficiency. But over four years on, nothing has changed in the hospital as it still remains without critical equipment and drugs to meet the medical needs of the Presidency.
Aisha’s criticism came after her daughter, Zahra Buhari took to Instagram to criticize the Permanent Secretary of the State House, Jalal Arabi, for failing to provide even Paracetamol tablets to the clinic despite a budget of N3 billion for the provision of drugs to the hospital.