Zamfara and ONE Campaign’s bogus advocacy

A professor of mine, an expert in public commentary, once opined that many times, people are hoodwinked and bamboozled by dodgy reports, especially coming from advocacy groups that never expose their data collection approaches to public scrutiny, or make any attempt to explain to the public how they arrived at some outrageous conclusions.

It is in keeping with the shady practice expounded by my professor above that, ONE Campaign, a health advocacy initiative, in partnership with National Advocates for Health, Nigeria Health Watch, and the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC), recently released a report titled “The state of Primary Healthcare Delivery in Nigeria”. In this report, the advocacy partners averred that Zamfara is the worst state in Nigeria with respect to access to basic medicare.

From the jumbled report, where availability of infrastructure appears to have been superimposed on access to the infrastructure itself, it will appear ONE Campaign and her so called partners sat down somewhere in Abuja and began to concoct bogus, sweeping data, perhaps, supported by bits and pieces bought off a few rural people, which it relied on to dismiss Zamfara as the worst state in Nigeria with respect to healthcare delivery.

It is very interesting that an investigation of this hue and magnitude will be undertaken in Zamfara state without the knowledge of both the state ministry of health and the chief medical director of the state’s foremost tertiary health institution, even if just for the security of the data collection team. I can say here, without equivocation, that no amount of discreet investigation into the entire healthcare delivery system of Zamfara state or any state in Nigeria, for that matter, is supposed to happen without the knowledge of some key institutions or individuals. But ONE Campaign and partners want us to believe that they discreetly trampled over Zamfara, fetched negative data and left undetected.

Perhaps, the federal government should engage ONE Campaign and partners to deploy equal stealth and dexterity into sniffing out bandits from their hideouts and rescue all Nigerians that have been, unfortunately, kidnapped. Better still, they should simply lead the nation’s army to these forbidden locations. I am sure even Governor Bello Matawalle will be willing to engage such a stealthy outfit to help rid the state of not just parlous healthcare service delivery, but also insecurity.

Well, this is what I think these people did! Sitting in Abuja, ONE Campaign imagined a picture of Zamfara as a state overran by bandits. In their minds, this dour image of Zamfara state includes skinny children and malnourished mothers made more helpless by the absence of medicare anywhere within 5000 kilometers that they started dropping down in droves. If ONE Campaign’s highly imaginative mind could be indulged further, it may possibly have painted the picture of crows hovering ominously over men, women and children perilously close to death. A pure Pulitzer prize in waiting.

I won’t blame them. This is what the Nigerian media can do to you with their highly sensational reporting style – spreading media fever of fear, dejection, death, etc. To everyone in Nigeria and not just ONE Campaign. To the media and, obviously, ONE Campaign, Zamfara state is a wasteland with only few people still breathing and so it goes without saying or much effort that there can be no healthcare infrastructure talk more of access to them.

In reality, however, the Governor Matawalle led Zamfara state government has been dogged in their resolve to upscale access to medicare in the state since he was sworn into power three years ago. This is manifest in the huge capital investment in the health sector which has resulted in the construction of over 147 primary healthcare centres, one in each polling unit of the 14 local government areas of the state. Shocking? Anyone can go and verify.

And because of the terrain of Zamfara state, the state government opted to equip these facilities with one tricycle ambulance each. In addition to the 147 primary healthcare facilities, the government has also built eight maternal care hospitals for women, and a standard general hospital at Kagara. All 17 general hospitals in the state have also been provided with fully equipped ambulances just as an Infectious disease control center has been built at Damba.

That’s not all. The Sani Yariman Bakura Specialist Hospital, the state’s tertiary health institution, has been completely overhauled. This magnificent edifice is now fitted with a multi-million naira 50 megawatts hybrid solar project to ensure 24-hour power supply.

The hospital also has a multimillion naira computerised CT scan imaging machine as well as an industrial oxygen producing plant which aims to churn out 1000 giant cylinders per day. Yes, the hospital has an E-Motive programme, put up in conjunction with the University of Birmingham which aims to prevent maternal deaths.

Also, in the specialist hospital is a female cancer prevention campaign and strategy front, adapted from, and certified by the Union of International Cancer Control (UICC) Switzerland to which the government developed a road map for building cancer screening and research center at the specialist hospital. Other sections of this modern healthcare center includes a dialysis center fitted with 20 dialysis machines to offer relatively free renal replacement therapy to the needy and a modern six-bed capacity intensive care unit.

Perhaps, healthcare is not only about infrastructure. It includes medical practitioners. And this is why I can beat my chest to say that Zamfara state is among the few states where 24 doctors are being trained every year on mandatory housemanship programme by the state owned specialist hospital. The objective is to provide an indigenous solution to the global shortage of medical doctors and allied health workers.

I challenge ONE Campaign to tell us how many states in Nigeria have done much more than Zamfara in the period under review, assuming they delineated any. I think it’s high time Nigerians began to really interrogate the balderdash that many of these NGOs spew in the name of advocacy. People like Senator Oloriegbe, who posed for paparazzi clicks with these so called advocates, need to be able to hold these latter day advocates to account. This, I believe, will go a long way to making them clean house and start doing the work for which they have been enjoying undeserved accolades.

Ahmadu, a public affairs analyst, writes from Kaduna, Kaduna state.

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