Lagos-based Channels TV showed this Boxing Day afternoon Governor Samuel Ortom acting in the festive spirit as he visited the Bishop Murray Medical Centre in the state capital Makurdi. The governor paid the medical bills for 50 patients who had been discharged but were being detained in the hospital because they were unable to meet the cost of treatment. Many of the patients were children. One mother, whose child was a patient, was grateful to the governor for paying the 200,000 naira ($554) bill.
A few weeks ago we republished a report from Robert Yates about patients being detained in Nigerian hospitals.
One of the nurses at the Makurdi hospital thanked Governor Ortom for his “service to humanity” in paying patients bills during this festive period. But the people of the state deserve a bit more than the governor’s charity.
Martin Luther King once noted in his speech “A time to break the silence”: “On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring”.
It is the time to break the silence about the scandal of Nigerian governors using long-suffering Nigerians as props for electioneering photo-ops. Patients shouldn’t be relying on superficial acts of charity like Ortom’s. The Nigerian constitution states in Chapter 2, fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy, section 17(3)(d): “The State shall direct its policy towards ensuring that there are adequate medical and health facilities for all persons.”
It is shameful that a governor like Ortom, who has failed in his constitutional duty to provide access to adequate medical facilities to all the people in his state, is using, for cheap publicity, a vain act of charity that should be unnecessary if he had acted in line with the constitution he swore an oath to uphold when he took office. He is neither serving his state nor humanity by not providing free and adequate medical facilities – a constitutional and fundamental human right.