A careful analysis of the health sector before the advent of Governor Yahaya Bello’s administration shows that the sector was characterized by gross inadequate healthcare facilities exemplified by the insufficient number of healthcare facilities, poor infrastructure, inadequate manpower, and an almost non-existent drug supply.
Aside from healthcare facilities, a further assessment of the healthcare system in the state in terms of service delivery to patients revealed that service delivery which is an all-important indicator for the state is very poor. Healthcare services in the state are not of standard quality due to inadequate monitoring and evaluation of the activities of healthcare workers especially in the rural centers which is said to be a result of high levels of truancy and indiscipline among healthcare workers. With regards to the state’s low enrolment in the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), most citizens were either not aware such facilities existed or were unaware they were eligible and qualified to enlist.
Infant Mortality and Maternal Mortality rates are alarming in the country as a whole with Nigeria having the 7th highest infant mortality rate in the world as well as one of the highest maternal mortality rates. If the statistics are disheartening, the reality is even more depressing. A typical 70 percent of the health budget is spent in urban areas where about 30 percent of the population resides. With a population of about 4.5m and conspicuous absence of health facilities in many rural communities the situation was dire. Where any exists, the absence of qualified health professionals, lack of drugs and other essential medical supplies hampered service delivery.
These were prevalent realities on the ground when Governor Yahaya Bello took Office. In concrete terms, as of 2016, almost none of the PHCs in the State were functional. A general lack of political commitment to health development coupled with poor funding, and corruption had led to gross inequity in the distribution of health facilities and personnel. Today, however, that parlous trend has been completely reversed. A change in political leadership in the state ninety four months ago ushered in a new era of deliberate healthcare reforms in Kogi State built on a solid foundation of solid policies, targets and outcomes.
The last 7 years and 10 months have seen grand achievements in the Health Sector in Kogi State. A result of adherence to the New Direction Blueprint and sound implementation of policies and programs. The administration set her focus on excellence in Primary Health Care delivery for direct impact on the grassroots. Wholesale construction and reconstruction of Primary Health Care (PHC) Centres saw to the revamping of 332 primary health care centers across the state, such as those at Upagoro and Agassa. PHCs also enjoyed massive recruitment of qualified personnel earning competitive remuneration, rapid drug delivery services and upgrades in equipment and facilities, giving the healthcare sector in Kogi State, not only a facelift, but enhanced capacity to attend to immediate health needs of the citizens.
Governor Yahaya Bello ditched the previous culture of mediocrity in public services for excellence by constructing a 300-bed World Class Reference Hospital in Okene, a 50-bed Ultra-Modern Hospital in Gegu Bekki. These are fully completed and equipped with world-class health facilities as at today. The Ultra-Modern Hospital in Eganyi and Isanlu both in Ajaokuta and Yagba East are almost at the completion stage. There is also massive rehabilitation of the State Specialist Hospital in Lokoja, Prince Abubakar Audu Teaching Hospital, Ayingba, and General Hospital, Idah which have been totally equipped with standard health equipment.
The Health sector also witnessed the codification of critical services into law through the presentation and passage of bills to that effect passed into law in record time to revolutionize the health sector. These include the Health Insurance Bill and the Primary Health Care Bill. Today, for the price of treating one bout of malaria, a Kogite who is enrolled into the Scheme can access one full year of healthcare services. The Health Insurance Scheme has so far absorbed the first batch of 15,000 citizens. These beneficiaries cut across all the 21 Local Governments in the state as well as non-indigenes. The Governor Yahaya Bello administration also purchased 23 Ambulances which would be distributed across all the local governments to attend to emergencies involving the citizens of the State.
Aside from the implementation of the revived COMMES 2014 Salary Structure for medical doctors and 100% CONHESS Salary Structure for nurses in the state, 2,424 health professionals were also recruited to help sustain health coverage in the State. The State has partnered with various organizations to deploy a sustainable Drug Revolving scheme which has made drugs available for the treatment of patients at various hospitals. Significant achievements have been recorded by the reduction in infant mortality rates, maternal mortality, malaria, and tuberculosis incidence as a result of the Governor Yahaya Bello Health Care Plus initiative.
Another critical achievement of Governor Yahaya Bello is his tactical leadership in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic that brought the world to its knees but came and went without Kogi State recording a single incident of the COVID-19 disease.
This administration has indeed achieved a lot in the Health sector, but to continue benefiting the populace, these gains need to be sustained and built on, while the policies need to be constantly upgraded. This is where citizens have to confront their need for Consolidation and Continuity and therefore the question of electing a successor who is trained in, committed to and able to maintain these reforms while managing the overall patrimony of the state for the long-term benefit of the State.
Alhaji Ododo Ahmed Usman has displayed the leadership credentials to carry on with the reforms of Governor Yahaya Bello. His manifesto has clearly shown that with his candidacy, the renaissance in the Kogi State health sector will have Continuity and Consolidation. Some of the focal health sector reforms identified in his manifesto include the following:
~ Managing the many secondary healthcare facilities newly built or renovated by the outgoing administration.
~ Setting up and equipping one Model Primary Healthcare Centre in each of the 239 political wards in the state.
~ Ensuring deployment of the optimal number of healthcare personnel to healthcare facilities and also providing Telemedicine to bridge the gap in manpower wherever necessary.
~ Working to increase awareness and enrollment of citizens in the Kogi State Health Insurance Scheme and also expansion of the scheme to cover vulnerable populations such as the elderly, pregnant women, and people with disabilities.
~ Paying special attention to maternal and child health care, rehabilitation and mental health services, and healthcare support for vulnerable and people with disabilities amongst others.
The November 11 2023 Gubernatorial Election presents us with Alhaji Ododo Ahmed Usman, the flagbearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC) who has been found both willing and able to uphold the signature legacies of Governor Yahaya Bello. He has demonstrated strong commitments to healthcare excellence even as a private citizen. This is evident in the cottage hospital he singlehandedly built in Upagoro community of Okene local government area to cater to the health of the people.
There is no doubt that Ododo has undergone tutelage of Governor Yahaya Bello for leadership qualities that would benefit the people of Kogi State. He is the only candidate running to consolidate and continue these transformational reforms for the future benefit of the citizens of Kogi State. It is expedient that as citizens go to the polls on November 11, they understand that they have a choice of going for long-term benefits or choosing a reversal of these great gains.
The New Direction Blueprint Team is a multidisciplinary Policy, Research, and Strategy think-tank. It developed the New Direction Blueprint for Governor Yahaya Bello in 2016 and has monitored its implementation throughout his two terms. Led by the lead contributor, Moses Okezie-Okafor who is the Director-General of Research and Development in Kogi State, the NDBT believes that Continuity and Consolidation with Candidate Ododo will serve the people of Kogi State best at this time.