Home / News / Africa / I Cry for My Beloved Country Nigeria By DR. AYOKUNLE AKANBI
Dr. Akanbi

I Cry for My Beloved Country Nigeria By DR. AYOKUNLE AKANBI

President Muhammadu Buhari
Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chairman/CEO NIDCOM
Dr. Akanbi

When renowned author Alan Paton wrote the award winning novel cry my beloved country; it was against the background of the unjust apartheid South African regime. My experience of the last few days made me cry for my beloved country: Nigeria.
As it’s common for most diasporans to have two homes; there’s always a raging thought in my mind as to when the push factors in my native country will be resolved. I have always been an advocate for diasporans to meaningfully contribute to the socioeconomic development of their native countries.
I remembered a speech I made at my 50th birthday celebration in Pretoria on the need for us in the diaspora to play a greater developmental role towards our native country, Nigeria. I was invited in 2019 by the Nigeria Doctors’ Forum (South Africa) to give a lecture which was titled: The Role of Diaspora Organizations in the Development Of The Nigerian Healthcare Industry. In attendance was the Nigeria Consul General to SA amongst other dignitaries.
On Thursday, 5th August, 2021;My wife (Dr Mrs Remilekun Akanbi) and I (Dr Ayokunle Akanbi) were scheduled to travel to Lagos. Our flight was scheduled to arrive on 6th August, 2021 at about midday. We had planned to see our ageing and ill parents; use the opportunity to inspect the progress of a project in Kogi state and spend some quality time together as a couple; 11th August being our wedding anniversary.
My wife had applied for a leave of absence from her employer and I had also arranged to take time off from my busy medical practice and other business commitments.
We had our COVID 19 PCR test done and proceeded to upload it onto the NITP site in order to generate a travel permit. We thought we had everything sorted out.
We were shocked when we arrived at the check-in counter and were advised by the airline that there’s a new directive from Nigeria to pay an additional N505,000 (five hundred and five thousand naira) per passenger before boarding. This, according to them, was because South Africa has been red flagged as a COVID 19 hotspot. This did not sound right to me but because we had to make a split second decision, we opted to pay and fight our battle later.
I can remember the story of an elderly man in a wheelchair who was denied boarding because the children were not able to pay the mandatory 505,000 naira.
I later realised on arrival in Lagos that some were able to board without payment probably through the back door; if you know what I mean.
On arrival in Nigeria; our passports were taken away from us and we were made to wait indefinitely. There was no acknowledgement or receipt given to us by any official indicating that our passports were withheld. We told the Immigration and port health officials of our intention to go back immediately with the airline that brought us as we are not prepared to quarantine for 7 days at their facility for so many reasons. More so we should be on our way back on the expiry of the 7 day mandatory period. Our COVID 19 PCR test results were still within the 72 hour validity period. It was only after five hours of waiting, when my patience ran out that I demanded to see the head of port health, Dr Abdulai. I explained our ordeal to him and he immediately went to discuss with the controller of immigration. At this point, we were told a permission has been granted for us to go back on the condition that we present our boarding passes for boarding. This was after all the available flights for the day had left.
We had to go and do another COVID 19 test so as to enable us travel the next day.
I must highlight the situation that ensued at the airport. Most of the port officials were not wearing their masks appropriately, there was no proper social distancing protocols at the point of entry. As the day progressed, we realised that the number of people whose passports were seized were reducing and we kept wondering what was going on.
There are people I know I could have called or “alternative pathways” of resolutions (as they call it); that would have ensured my immediate clearance but we chose the high moral grounds of sticking it out.
On arrival at the Lagos airport hotel which was said to be a government approved isolation centre; we were disappointed and despondent at the reality that confronted us. There was a hand washing sink basin at the entrance without any soap. The rooms were so dirty, the bed linen were very old with a terrible stench, the hand washing basin in the room was not functional, there was no shower but we were given a bucket to wash with. The rooms were mosquito infested! Remember, I was travelling with my wife and was told we had to isolate in separate rooms until I refused on the basis that we had only one clean bed linen that we brought along and was able to change one of the room’s bed linen. The attendants at the facility were not wearing their face masks properly and some not at all. This is a recipe to super-spread the COVID 19 virus. We were told we were not allowed outside of our rooms. I really began to wonder who are those behind the formulation of these guidelines which are not in sync with international practices and protocols.
Our family has a seven bedroom duplex in Lekki which is under lock and key if none of the family members are in Nigeria. I pleaded that we be allowed to self quarantine at home at least for that night until our departure the next day. All our pleas were on deaf ears.
Please remember that we were COVID 19 PCR negative, fully immunised and we were asymptomatic but I was still told that I am PUI: persons under investigation for COVID 19. In essence, I was considered a bigger threat to public health than a confirmed positive case who did not travel and not made to quarantine. I was made to understand that people who tested positive within Nigeria were not being quarantined at a dedicated facility.
We had to buy another ticket the next day as I could not imagine spending another day in that facility without falling sick. We eventually, departed MMA airport at about 13:30hrs on 7th of August, 2021. As I am writing this piece, we are just entering the South African airspace and looking forward to landing at OR Tambo airport shortly.
Now, please don’t get me wrong. It is within the powers of government to promulgate laws and regulations relating to public health. But when there’s a discordant and selective approach in the implementation of these guidelines; then one begins to question the rationale and motives behind such regulations. After going through this ordeal , I am left with more questions in my mind than answers.
Foremost amongst them are the following:
Since the outbreak of the pandemic early last year; governments around the globe have been trying to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on their citizens using different instruments that are available. That has been absent in the case of my beloved country, Nigeria, why ?
The imposition of the seven day mandatory quarantine on citizens returning from some red flagged countries at costs to the travelers is insensitive and immoral on the part of Government. Not to mention the amount of five hundred and five thousand naira per passenger during this difficult time brought on us by the pandemic. How many of our citizens can afford this in a low income country like Nigeria?
It is also interesting to find out how these so called government approved isolation centres were chosen and the criteria used ?
How can they justify the exorbitant amount charged for the quality of the hotels and the services rendered ?
If public health is the main motivation here, government would be more interested in ensuring compliance with the three most important strategies that have been shown to be effective in mitigating the spread of the virus i.e mask up,wash up and maintain adequate social distancing. As we speak, parties are the order of the day, night clubs are operating at full capacity, transport vehicles are overcrowded to mention just a few super spreader events, in various areas in Nigeria. Most people seen in public places would not be wearing their masks.
This law and regulations need to be revised and Government should and must come to the party here. They should be made to fund these isolation centres and make sure they are safe, hygienic and suitable for people’s habitation. And I promise you, the real motivation for this insensitive regulation will then be laid bare.
All Nigerian diaspora organisations should engage the government on this as it infringes on our financial , emotional and physical well-being if we have to travel home, especially in an emergency situation.This is an additional financial burden on us.
Mrs Abike Dabiri (whom I am sending a copy of this letter), should use her honourable office to urgently address this anomaly.
I know a lot of my friends and colleagues who always question the absurdity of my love, passion and patriotism to Nigeria will argue their case with conviction here when they read about my experience. However, I am still very much convinced that if more of us contribute our positive quota, no matter how small in the building of Nigeria, we will get it right.
I am extremely grateful to my Uncle; Prince Oluyori, my brother Engr Tayo Akanbi, friends Dr Ayeye, Mr Olusile ; my personal assistant Mr Ibikunle and others I can’t mention here; who rushed to the airport when they inadvertently heard of my ordeal.
I am earnestly awaiting the day I will be able to travel back to Nigeria again. I don’t give up and will never give up. The refund of the one million and ten thousand naira for the two of us will be rigorously pursued.
I CRY FOR MY BELOVED COUNTRY AND PRAY THAT MY TEARS WILL NOT BE IN VAIN.
GOD BLESS NIGERIA.

 

DR. AYOKUNLE AKANBI IS CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, ARYDET HEALTHCARE, SOUTH AFRICA.

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