By Tunde Odesola
Babatunde Raji Fashola, God bless him. When you watch American presidents, past and present, and hear how inspirational words drip with honey from their mouths, you wonder why inspiration is almost non-existent among Nigerian leaders just as black is non-existent among the rainbow’s seven colours.
In an article, “Fashola’s eureka moment at Lekki toll gate,” I criticised Fashola, the incumbent Minister of Works and Housing, when he miraculously discovered a hid-in camcorder, James Bond-like, at the Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos, days after the ever inept regime of retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari ordered assassins to kill protesting innocent youths on October 20, 2020.
When in November 2020 Fashola told Nigerians to direct their demand for infrastructural development to state and local governments, and not Buhari, because both governments are closer to the masses, I responded with an article entitled, “Fashola dresses Buhari in borrowed robes.” I also wrote, “Fashola and the angels” when Fashola said in November 2019 that Nigerian roads were not as bad as Nigerians portrayed them.
From 1999 to date, however, no Nigerian politician, living or dead, has uttered a statement as profound as what Fashola said when cornered at the nation’s capital in Abuja by congressmen who were desperate to set him against his godfather, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, while fielding questions in 2015 during a ministerial nomination screening.
Asked to comment on his taut relationship with Tinubu at the time, Fashola responded, “May our loyalties never be tested.” He continued, “In the course of my work, there was a family that had a parent who had a kidney malfunction, and (the) diagnosis was that the patient needed a transplant, and needed to go overseas. We had a procedure in government where we help indigent people who apply to get a board review and get overseas treatment.
“When we had paid and they were to go, the question was who was going to be the donor? It turned out that the only matching kidneys were those of her two daughters, and none of them was willing to give a kidney for their mother, but that was their supreme test of loyalty.
“So, I alway pray that my loyalty will not be tested because you do not know, you may have to take a bullet for somebody or even your own child.”
Life is, indeed, a rollercoaster of twists and turns. From an enviable life lived on horses, hailed with trumpets and entertained by cymbals, the tide of life suddenly changed for serving senator and immediate past Deputy President of the Nigerian Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, who found himself on the back of a furious tiger in faraway UK last week. In Igbo language, ‘Ike’ means power. Surely, the embattled senator needs all the power to save himself and wife, Beatrice, from ending in the belly of the tiger.
A test came the way of the Enugu-West legislator and his wife when their daughter, Sonia, was diagnosed with renal malfunction last year, triggering a search for a donor.
Last December, what a relieved father and a happy mother thought was an answer to their prayer appeared in the person of Ukpo Nwamini David, a homeless young lad, who lived on the streets of Lagos, and a UK visa was procured for the prospective kidney donor, en route to Royal Free Hospital in the UK, where the transplantation was scheduled.
The tale ostensibly developed a twist after David landed in London and the medical test performed on him to know if his kidney matches Sonia’s came out negative, thus an onward journey back to Nigeria loomed. When the doctor inquired about his age, David said 15, despite his passport saying he’s 21. This prompted the invitation of the police whom David told he was brought into the UK for organ harvest.
But does the Nigerian David look as young as his teenage Israelite namesake who killed Goliath? I’ll say no.
Ekweremadu means: “Human beings are unreliable.” What a name! Some claims by the two parties – the young boy and the Ekweremadus – appear unreliable for now, hence the police have remanded Beatrice and Ike in prison pending investigation outcome.
The 60-year-old lawmaker was arrested alongside his wife at the Heathrow Airport on their way to Istanbul, where they were purportedly going to continue their search for another kidney. A cash of $20,000 was allegedly found on Ekweremadu, who has denied the allegations of organ harvesting and exploitation, just like his wife. Both husband and wife were represented by separate British lawyers.
Investigation by yours truly shows that the cost of setting up a kidney dialysis centre in Nigeria is a mere N25m, an amount which isn’t up to the sum being spent by the Ekweremadus to perform kidney transplantation on Sonia.
A Nigeria-based consultant physician and nephrologist, Babajide Gbadegesin, described Nigeria’s healthcare system as primitive, stressing that the system had yet to reach the underdeveloped stage, not to talk of reaching the developing or developed state. He noted that subsequent Nigerian governments had engaged in medical tourism instead of developing the sector.
Gbadegesin said, “Our healthcare system is so primitive that it has remained at the neophyte stage. Sadly, there’s a global upsurge in diabetes and this has led to a consequent upsurge in the incidence of diabetes-related kidney failures in Nigeria.
“Dialysis and renal transplantation are well known medical treatments for patients with renal failure.The three major types of renal replacement therapy are haemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis and renal transplantation, which is the gold standard.
“To set up a dialysis centre with just one machine will cost about N25m. This will include the cost of the machine which is between N12m and N15m, land, building, a water treatment unit, good water storage system, catheters, and other consumables.”
Explaining that transplantation was the most preferred option of the three kidney treatments, Gbadegesin said it offered patients good quality of life and is not as time and money consuming as haemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis in the long run.
“Dialysis costs up to N40,000 per session, and you do this thrice a week. That is N120,000 weekly. Some centres take N50,000 or N60,000 per session,” said the physician, warning that there was a strong link between the use of bleaching creams, toning injections, toning pills, consumption of herbal concoctions, herbal aphrodisiacs and renal malfunction.
Shedding light on the UK’s Modern Slavery Act 2015 by which the Ekweremadus are being tried, Gbadegesin said, “The UK’s Modern Slavery Act 2015 frowns on inducement of any form. You can only be in the UK to donate organs to a family member whom you’re genetically related to or to someone you have close personal relationship with. This means that only your siblings, husband, wife, partners, friends can donate organs. And it must be established that there’s no inducement.
“There’s nothing like buying a kidney in the open market in developed countries like the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Germany etc. When a citizen or legal resident needs a kidney transplantation, it’s the government – through the National Health Insurance Scheme – that’ll get a kidney from the national bank for the patient – if the patient demands it or can’t personally get a donor. Many people in those countries donate their organs to the national organ bank at death.”
When coronavirus commenced mass killing of the rich and poor between 2019 and 2021, a sensible leadership would have embarked on overhauling Nigeria’s health sector. Instead, the Buhari leadership embarked on pervasive corruption and N100m presidential nomination forms.
To go home free, the Ekweremadus must answer these questions without canting: Did they inform the parent(s) or guardian(s) of David before flying him to London? How did David come to agree to donate his kidney without the promise of a reward? What’s the source of the money in David’s account? If the Ekweremadus answered these questions successfully, they would have proved that David was just a Good Samaritan that strayed into Nigeria. If not, the maximum penalty for contravening MSA 2015 is life imprisonment.
May our loyalties never be tested.
Written by Tunde Odesola and first published in The PUNCH, on Monday, June 27, 2022
Facebook: @tunde odesola