Akpabio and His Imaginary “World Class” Hospital
A few months back, Senator Godswill Akpabio, the former Governor of Akwa Ibom State very proudly announced with so much grace and aplomb that he had just commissioned a “world class” Ibom specialist hospital in his state. Any scepticism about the announcement was “predictably” deemed ‘enmity to progress’ in Nigeria.
However, Senator Akpabio recently and unfortunately suffered a car crash in Abuja, Nigeria and was promptly flown into UK for treatment, lifesaving or otherwise. What ever happened to the “world class” hospital he built and commissioned in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State? Why was he not taken there?
In one sense, such case of Akpabio’s misfortune can be presented as a classic textbook sign of the consequences of hyper-corruption going on in Nigeria. Senator Akpabio built a “world class” stadium then a “world class” hospital in Uyo but they are both of no significant use or benefit to the local public not even Akpabio himself.
The real beneficiaries of the “world class” facilities built by Akpabio in Akwa Ibom are the contractors and the politicians awarding the contracts including “the man” himself. You have governors who want to build underground rail, air-conditioned bridges, and submarines in their states. Such projects are not for the development of transport in Nigeria; they are good projects for siphoning money and creating rents.
In another sense, Senator Akpabio came to the UK simply because he does not want to die and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. The rich customarily want to live far longer than usual and are perhaps more concerned about their health than their compatriots. So, when then the rich especially the politicians and administrators of the nation are seriously ill or injured going to Europe or America for treatment has become a strictly adhered to tradition.
The rich administrators and politicians never seriously think to build, maintain and upgrade such medical facilities at home. It is a curse for them to think and act in that direction. And there is the fear of assassination and juju too when politicians suffered accidents. Never underestimate the influence of prophets, marabouts and native doctors over those who rule the land.
Nevertheless, Senator Akpabio did “actually” build a “world class” hospital in his home state, Akwa Ibom, as governor breaking the unusually all-encompassing curse placed upon those who rule the land. Wow!
Yet, in the hour of reckoning, Senator Akpabio’s flight to the UK immediately raised questions of how world class his “world class” hospital really is. The hour of reckoning might have craped the image of a man who was portrayed in the media and by NGOs as a “world class” governor in Nigeria.
“World class” as a rule-of-thumb always precedes colossal expensive failures in Nigeria. The National Theatre in Iganmu, Lagos was hailed as a “world class” facility for the Arts in 1977 when it was opened up for Festac ‘77. When I last visited the National Theatre in 2004 it was just like a run-down lecture theatre on a university campus. The swamps in front of the national theatre were never reclaimed.
Not surprisingly, according to Chinua Achebe, the National Theatre was built at the cost of £72 million. In comparison the Barbican Centre in London, England built at the same time as the National Theatre cost a trifling £5 million to build, with or without my experience it remains a world class venue for the Arts.
The “world class” privatisation of the electric power sector was fondly bragged about and vehemently defended by at least one of National Energy Regulation Commission’s commissioners as “world class”. What was privatised was sincerely “black outs” with Nigeria having one of the worst electricity consumption rates per capita on the planet.
Whenever you hear the word “world class” at the commissioning of a mega project in Nigeria be very circumspect because it is very likely to be an indication that the elected and appointed thieves of public funds have just lined their pockets again.
Millions of dollars are spent on the white elephant projects every year in the name of “priorities”. Governor Akpabio and other top-ranking elected and appointed administrators should take at least a proper crash program education in the sensible design and astute implementation of priorities for the political economy of developing nation. It would give them a wonderful education.
The politicians and administrators of the land will learn that needs of the people and the needs of the political jurisdiction are “priorities” that far exceed needs of politician, their patrons and their client. A friend of my who is extremely pessimistic of Nigeria’s future would counsel in this case, “try explaining it to my Alsatian, he will make better sense of it.”
The lesson from Senator Akpabio’s unfortunate experience is that if one really wants to experience “world class” services they should travel abroad to advanced nations for it because anything touted as “world class” in Nigeria is not only an insult to the lofty practical standard, it is also a sign of continuing thievery.
- Dr. Nane is an errant scholar and economist. Follow him on twitter: @Grimot