In the build up to his election in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari had, on his campaign trail, listed the abolition of medical tourism as one of his cardinal objectives in government. Not a few Nigerians relished the possible ripple effect such action would have on the health sector and by extension, the economy.
But since assuming office, President Buhari has done everything but keep to his pledge, what with his penchant for travelling overseas for medical treatment at will. The health sector and indeed, the economy have been worse for it. More alarming, however, is the discovery by The Guardian that President Buhari has not visited the Aso Rock Clinic for any form of medical consultation or treatment since taking the reins in 2015.
Yet, competent sources could not explain why the President has opted to stay away from the medical facility since his first election. A source confirmed that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and his family are documented for using facilities at the Villa clinic. “Occasionally, the Vice President and his family come in to be attended to for one reason or the other,” the source said.
Another source disclosed that former President Goodluck Jonathan was a regular face at the hospital and was even treated by Dentists when he had a tooth problem. While campaigning ahead of the 2015 elections, President Buhari had promised to sponsor a bill against medical tourism by public officials to encourage patronage of Nigerian hospitals.
But the President has flouted his own promise, frequenting Europe to attend to his ailing health. Between 2017 and 2018, he visited doctors in Europe to examine and treat him for an undisclosed illness. The situation drew heavy criticisms from his opponents. In 2018, for instance, there was agitation for the President to resign after he spent over 100 days in a United Kingdom hospital and became inaccessible, except for a few politicians.
His wife, Aisha Buhari had in 2017, attacked the management of the Aso Rock Clinic over poor equipment and non-availability of drugs.
Aisha had followed the footsteps of her daughter, Zahra, who earlier criticised the management of the Clinic. Zahra Buhari had taken to her Instagram page to criticise the Permanent Secretary of the State House, Jalal Arabi, for his inability to provide even Paracetamol tablets to the clinic despite a budget of N3 billion for the provision of drugs to the hospital.
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 commercialisation of the clinic’s operations for efficiency. But after four years, sources maintained that nothing has changed in the hospital as it still remains without critical equipment and drugs to meet the medical needs of the Presidency. Efforts to get reaction from the Presidency on the matter proved abortive.