By Segun Adesokan
1993 unrest in Sudan had spiraled into a full blown humanitarian crisis.
Kevin Carter, 33, an award winning South African photo journalist had captured a very graphic description of a near-hopeless state in Sudan as revealed in the picture of a starving Sudanese little girl stalked by a waiting vulture ready to devour her. It sent shocking waves across the world as it also won him a Pulitzer Prize much later.
This picture of an emaciated toddler collapsing on the way to a feeding center, as a huge vulture lurked in the background first appeared in New York Times and later published by other publications.
The picture had revealed a waiting vulture patiently waiting for the girl to die and to eat her as the girl also was struggling to the feeding camp nearby, almost collapsing out of exhaustion in her desperate attempt to also stay alive.
The viral and controversial image became a metaphor for Africa’s despair and urgent need for relief materials and other aid as at that time.
Carter, the photo journalist in one of the his assignments to war torn East African Country of Sudan had found a girl near a village, who had stopped to rest while struggling to a United Nations feeding camp, meanwhile a vulture had landed nearby. Careful not to disturb the bird, he waited for twenty minutes until the vulture was close enough, positioned himself for the best possible image and only then chased the vulture away. At this point Carter was probably not yet aware that he had shot one of the most controversial photographs in the history of photojournalism.
Expectedly, overnight, hundreds of people contacted the newspaper to ask whether the child had survived, leading the newspaper to run a special editorial page. In response, it said the girl had enough strength to walk away from the vulture, but that her ultimate fate was unknown. Because of this, Carter was bombarded with questions about why he did not help the girl, and only used her to take a photograph.
While the photograph continued to generate hot debates, a popular publication in US summarized Carter’s ‘intervention’ as thus; it wrote: “The man adjusting his lens to take just the right frame of her suffering, might just as well be a predator, another vulture on the scene”.
Rarehistoricalphotos.com had also concluded:
“The attitude that public opinion condemned was not only that of taking the picture instead of chasing the vulture immediately away, but also the fact that he did not help the girl afterwards –as Carter explained later- leaving her in such a weak condition to continue the march by her self towards the feeding center.
However, Carter was working in a time when photojournalists were told not to touch famine victims for fear of spreading disease.
Carter estimated that there were twenty people per hour dying at the food center. The child was not unique. Regardless, Carter often expressed regret that he had not done anything to help the girl, even though there was not much that he could have done”.
Sadly, Carter was said to have died after battling so hard with depressive thoughts of what happened in Sudan. He was reported to have committed suicide months later.
Adeoyo Hospital in Ibadan along ring road is a sad reminder, as it had left a deep impression on me, a feeling which perhaps resonates with how those outraged by Carter’s photograph had probably felt.
Carter came, he saw and only took advantage of the scene to capture what he felt could earn him a prestigious Pulitzer Award for Photography. Same way late Ex Governor Ajimobi came, he saw and only took advantage of the ruins left of Adeoyo by building for himself, in partnership with his wife, a lab, whose mandate is to make profit while a Public Health Care under his constitutional watch almost bleed out.
My visit to Adeoyo Hospital in Ibadan was as a result of infection in my right ear. This infection had began with a feeling of partial blockage in my right ear which later grew worse until it became totally blocked within two days. As various diagnoses were carried out, I was told my left ear also had been infected.
Of course treatment commenced almost immediately on my two ears. My two ears were totally blocked with some medications as another tiny piece of bandage laced with ointment was tucked deeper into the two ears. I was asked to come periodically for ear dressing in order for them to keep a tab on my condition, as this perhaps would also allow them to clean up infectious dirts and internal bleedings upon every subsequent visit.
The ear dressing sessions were as painful as hell! Sometimes I weep uncontrollably while the nurses tuck their instrument deeper into my ears cleaning up the bleedings.
Eventually my ears were healed, but parts of the my experiences and encounter at the Hospital’s Lab were quite revealing, having found out the role the former first family, The Ajimobis had cleverly played by positioning their business enterprise within Health Care Eco-system in Oyo State, a plot which had allowed them to continually reap bountifully from the ruins of a State owned Hospital under their watch. This, for me were embarrassingly shocking how a sitting Governor could have scandalously and brazenly aided a process by which Adeoyo Hospital’s diagnostic lab became almost moribund which I’ll carefully explain later.
This is how it all began.
As part of the process which would aid the commencement of my treatment, medical tests were required to be carried out on me. On getting to Adeoyo lab few blocks away, the attendant in unmistakable terms had instructed me with a note, asking me to specifically have all my tests conducted only at Ajimobi Basic Care, (ABC lab) as it’s been fondly called, which was cleverly situated within a four minutes walking distance away from the main gate of the hospital. I wasn’t given the luxury of choice inspite of the hundreds of labs spread across Ibadan.
Upon approaching the said ABC few minutes away, ‘Ajimobi Basic Care Foundation’ inscription on one of the several white blocks of buildings, on the wall, had said it all.
Just at the entrance, another medium sized printed flex had also carried: “Access to Basic Medical Diagnostic Centre” which is also interchangeably referred to as ABC. And finally, the very first Administrative block, the main building which also serves as reception where patients are being received before getting attended to, also had another identity of ABC on it, but this one is called: “Access to Basic Medical Care Foundation”.
For me, this whole thing appeared confusing and suspicious. How could one Brand have three different Identities? It appears while one is being passed off as a NGO and non for profit that must never pay taxes, the one on the other ends is a profit making enterprise whose taxes are ‘forgiven’ because it is an NGO.
The only accessible website for all these ABC Identities is one: ‘www.abcprogramme.org‘ which talks about Access to Basic Care Foundation at it claims to be a foundation, whose founder is a former first Lady of Oyo State, Florence Ajimobi. It was founded in 2011.
ABC was originally formed as one of those hundreds of well intended Pet Projects usually formed by first ladies of states. In this case, cancer control is one of its cardinal focus. It also serves as advocacy group for early cancer control and prevention. It also claims to assist in providing solutions and assists in facilitating health care solutions to rural and unreached target groups.
Just out of the blues, ABC whose original objectives was an advocacy group transited into a full blown lab for testing of all kinds of ailments and diseases, even competing with mainstream lab businesses. Setting the location close to Adeoyo was tactically a game changer knowing fully the State facilities had little or nothing to offer.
While for some of these shadowy Pet Projects, they are formed to rake in ‘official kick backs’ from friends, aides, political associates and beneficiaries of sitting Governors, who now use donations to first ladies’ Pet projects as a means by which they show gratitude or open new vista of more ‘mutually rewarding’ relationship with politicians. More often than not some of the activities of these pseudo NGOs scattered around State capitals barely outlive most of its founders upon leaving office. Some have even become vital tools for money laundering.
That’s by the way.
As I sank myself into the chair to get attended to at ABC, I was greeted with a pleasant surprise of late Ex Governor Ajimobi’s middle-sized picture conspicuously hung on the wall of this State-of-the-art edifice; captioned to this picture is also the phrase: ‘Founder’ accompanying his smiling face and name. Beside this picture is also that of his wife, Florence Ajimobi, also bearing ‘Founder’ title.
For a moment, while my treatment lasted at the Ear clinic where I was being treated, and my experiences at their empty Lab, I was outraged by the shocking manner with which planted agents within the lab, who are employees of a government controlled hospital, in exchange for referral commission were being co-opted to bait unsuspecting patients, with a note, into the waiting arms of another government controlled lab, whose original job was to preserve the former lab from dying.
Days after my encounter at Adeoyo, it began to dawn on me that I had just been served my fair share of how it actually feels like being a victim of a carefully supervised Health care delivery failure. This is the same fate hundreds of other tax payers have had to contend with at one time or the other in their desperate search for medial solution to what ails them.
The above narration is a summary of my recent visit to Adeoyo Hospital along ring road, in Ibadan, a consulting arm of Oyo State owned Health facility for a treatment of ear infection, few months ago.
While I was being wowed by the ambience of ABC; its beautifully furnished interior and brand new ambulances parked outside the building, I thought out loud within myself, seeing the infrastructural deficit noticeably seen in State owned Health Care delivery sector, why couldn’t Ex Governor Ajimobi be magnanimous by affording the tax payers the privilege of having such a masterpiece lab built by the State, under him, on one of the vast and empty lands within Adeoyo compound, for the advancement of the peoples’ well-being, who had collectively placed political authority, their collective resources and fortune in the hands of Ajimobi, in trust.
How come Ex Governor Ajimobi couldn’t fix or upgrade Adeoyo lab and other facilities of the hospital with public funds at his disposal by according it a pride of place in his yearly State budget for health expenditure, making it fully equipped, functional and encompassing, providing the people the much needed succor in health related matters?
How come all he possibly did to salvage Adeoyo lab was to invest privately with his wife in a revenue generating enterprise and even had the audacity to situate it at a closer distance to where a public health care lab had been unwittingly supervised to grow moribund?
My mind paced back and forth on the cruel fate which hundreds of Oyo citizens have had to suffer and the agonizing reality of being ripped off as they make a hard a choice between accepting the infrastructural mess of Adeoyo and the expensive service ABC had to offer.
Even at that, despite ABC’s dubious claims of affordability as one of its core attractions to its target audience on its website, the cost of some of services is still largely considered to be expensive compared to others. For example, abdominal CT scan goes for as high as fifty thousand naira (N50,000) at ABC, while Mecure Ltd, one of the leading diagnostics lab in Ibadan only charges forty thousand, one hundred naira only (N40,100) for same abdominal CT scan. Total Health Diagnostics, also a major diagnostics lab in Ibadan charges forty two thousand naira only (42,000) for same CT abdominal scan.
Paradoxically, Adeoyo Hospital and ABC is being controlled by same man.
While Adeoyo Hospital was being supervised unwittingly to die slowly due to bad health policies and poor funding under the watch of same man whose voracious vultures and its accomplices on the other hand had continued to feed fat, having been carefully positioned to continuously feast on the carcasses of Adeoyo.
Just like the title reads, what did Ajimobi and his wife do with what they met on ground in Oyo State health sector? They positioned their cameras and supervised their vultures have a great lunch, using ABC.
Here’s the point: For every naira and kobo ABC reaps off its baited customers, by default it’s a one less chance of survival for Adeoyo Public Hospital whose primary aim is to see to the welfare and Medicare of hundreds of thousands of Oyo State tax payers, for whom the state owed dividend of quality Medicare at affordable cost.
It’s so sad that Oyo State patients who had always thronged this hospital, upon running away from its empty and ill equipped lab, are received into the waiting arm of ABC merchants, who have been well positioned to use the instrumentality of the government to run the State’s Medical Institution aground so as to pave way for their private empire to thrive. Unfortunately, any attempt to turn down these two options is indirectly endorsing another option waiting for them just directly opposite the gate of the hospital, which are coffin sellers.
Coffin sellers and undertakers directly opposite Adeoyo Hospital are sets of other merchants, stern looking ‘vultures’ also patiently waiting for their time at the feast table, who are also unrelenting in pitching their trade and services to any would-be customer, waiting whether your fate would require their services.
This piece is not intended to cast malicious aspersions against the personality of The Ajimobis. Far from it. Rather, it is a well-intended and noble call to action, on the need for the current government of Oyo State under Gov. Seyi Makinde, as a matter of urgency to halt the steady declining state of medical health care delivery in the state. Oyo State’s Medical health care sector needs urgent budgetary attention and right policies so as to rid it of ravenous and unscrupulous merchants who are hell bent on feasting on it.
More importantly, Gov. Seyi Makinde should reverse the ugly trend and many sharp practices going on at Adeoyo and other publicly owned medical institutions, reeling under the suffocating grip of referral seeking employees, then also probe into the affairs of ABC by sanctioning it where necessary in areas where it is proven beyond reasonable doubt of its culpability in unprofessional conduct and tax evasion.
Mr. Adesokan is a contributor editor of WesternLifeNews