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Opinions of Friday, 9 April 2021

Columnist: Tolulope Omole

#HarassBuhariOutOfLondon: A protest against Nigeria’s ‘mentality’

President Muhammadu Buhari President Muhammadu Buhari

The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.)’s arrival in London for his ‘routine medical checkup’ was greeted by the #HarassBuhariOutOfLondon protest led by Reno Omokri, a Nigerian human rights activist. The protest at the Abuja House in London has garnered conflicting views and opinions. While some consider the protest as rightful and legitimate, others view it as a political strategy and some others a mere attention-seeking ploy.

The protest sets to achieve these objectives, among others: the return of the President to Nigeria and the building of hospitals with quality health care facilities for the benefit of citizens. With such lofty goals, the protest is indeed a laudable and commendable one.

Ostensibly, the protest is directed at President Buhari but beyond the obvious is that it is a protest against the mindset and ‘mentality’ of Nigerians. The protest challenges the mentality of Nigerians towards their own country. Their disbelief in the regularly jingled ‘better Nigeria’, their disbelief in every sector of the Nigerian society. From the health sector, to education, to security, to power, to science and technology, Nigerians have developed a mindset of disbelief, disregard and disdain for anything ‘Nigerian’.

Truth be told, Buhari is not the first political office holder in present-day Nigeria to seek medical attention outside the shores of the country. From the Federal Government to the state and local governments, political office holders prefer to seek medical care overseas. One then wonders, what the essence of establishing various health care centres by the various tiers of government across the country is, if they are not patronised by the political class in our society. Undoubtedly, these health care centres are underequipped and the available facilities below standard.

Bearing in mind that Nigeria has clinched the title of the World’s Poverty Capital, the question which then comes to mind is, what’s the fate of poor and hapless citizens? What’s the fate of millions of Nigerians living below the poverty line? How do they access health care? It is therefore unimaginable to ascertain the number of lives lost which could have been saved were it not for the poor health care system in the country. The indifference of government towards the health sector in the country also exposes the value it places on human lives.

When the London Police was called on Omokri, he reportedly gave a touching and thought-provoklng reply: ‘Officer, has Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, ever come to Nigeria to access health care? So, why should you be called on me when I am asking my President to return to Nigeria to use our hospitals?’ The question stirs disgust and shame for Nigeria’s current predicament.

The question also exposes the proclivity and penchant of Nigerians, from the President to ordinary citizens, for travelling overseas at the detriment of their own country. The economic impact is bewildering and perplexing. Travelling overseas for health care services, educational purposes, visiting tourist sites during holidays, although not all of these could be condemnable, the neglect of our own educational institutions, tourist sites, health care centres and the likes should be of concern to every patriotic Nigerian.

On visiting tourist sites, political and public office holders have delight in travelling to countries abroad. Dubai and other European countries have turned places of relaxation during holidays and breaks. But, at the expense and rot of our tourist sites, we are improving the economy of these countries. If as a nation we invest in our tourist sites, they would turn attractive to foreign nationals to visit.

In terms of investment, most affluent Nigerians would prefer to invest in other economies than theirs. The protest calls for a turnaround in investing abroad than in investing in Nigeria.

As stereotyped as the Nigerian educational system, products of the institutions have become jinx-breakers in educational institutions overseas. They are also to be reckoned with in the labour force abroad with outstanding performances. So, the protest also challenges this excessive urge of Nigerian students to study abroad.

The canvass of the present regime for citizens to use and buy ‘made in Nigeria’ products is creditable but obviously, a child’s play as the regime which is supposed to take the lead in the campaign is contradicting itself by its actions. What else is expected of the citizens?

The protest is therefore a call for a volte-face in the mindset and mentality of Nigerians in vilifying and debasing various sectors of their economy for the overall advancement and development of the Nigerian state in every sphere of her national life.

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