Yahaya Bello’s Health Initiatives: Building Nigeria of his Dreams in Kogi

By Nafisat Bello

“Leadership is not all about being in charge. Leadership is all about taking care of people in your charge”

– Simon Sinek

Governor Yahaya Bello is easily one of the most popular governors in the country today who has recently metamorphosed into one of the most sought after presidential aspirants ahead of the 2023 elections.

In trying to decipher what makes the governor’s approval rating across the country tick, political scientists and observers easily mention the strategic and unique location of the state, at the very centre of the country. Some say his relatively young age is the major reason he is this famous. But beyond the above factors, some of these analysts and commentators may not be paying attention to some remarkable things about his governance style. They may not be aware of his deep passion for vulnerable or disadvantaged people in the state like women, youths, children, People Living with Disabilities (PLWDS) and the rest.

As part of our commitment to getting to the root of all matters, we recently embarked on a trip to the state to see for ourselves the things Governor Bello is doing differently that have given him and his supporters across the country the right to believe he should aspire for the highest office in the land.

One of the government officials we interacted with was the Commissioner for Health, Dr Saka Haruna, who spoke at length and explained in detail Bello’s giant strides in the health sector.

The Commissioner described Bello’s achievements as a total reversal of the past. He stated that when the governor came on board, he sent his team to go round the state and check for the health needs of all the local government areas. A New Direction Blueprint was produced and launched with a target set for the sector.

Before we go into the details of what he told us, we need to realise that Nigeria has one of the highest child mortality rates in the world, with an estimated 750,000 deaths annually among children under age five. The majority of these deaths are due to pneumonia, malaria, or diarrhoea. Many parents do not seek sick-child care from trained, biomedical providers, contributing to this high rate of mortality.

It was recorded that as of 2018 that the Maternal and Child Survival Program in Kogi State being implemented by Jhpeigo in partnership with Kogi State Ministry of Health and other partners with funding from USAID is strategizing to improve maternal, newborn, adolescent and child health in the State

Dr. Ogu Okoli, the country deputy director of Maternal and Child Survival programme in Nigeria (MCSP) gave the indication at the official launch of Kogi State 2018-2021 Family Planning Costed Implementation Plan and the unveiling of Green Dot Logo at the Government House in Lokoja.

According to Haruna, maternal/child mortality was just too high and the governor made a vow that before the end of his tenure, there will be massive reduction in maternal mortality rate to less than 100 per 100000 life childbirth and infant mortality rate to 10 per 1000 life childbirth which was above the national average.

“Meanwhile, as recorded in the last survey, Kogi and Kwara states jointly led the nation and were the most improved state as far as infant mortality rate is concerned. As of 2016, immunisation coverage was 38% and as at 2019, the data available rose to 75%. Thus, the soft low cost intervention (lifesaving intervention) has yielded a lot of results and has improved outcomes in the health sector due to a tremendous intervention from his Excellency.

“Looking at the Infrastructural developments scattered round the state, and some are still in progress, it’s undoubtedly true to say that Governor Bello’s intervention is a total reversal from the past.

“In order to bring to an end the frequent trips Kogites embark on upon across the length and breadth of this country in search of medical treatment, it will interest you to know that one of the best health facilities, which will be one of the most equipped hospital in the country is under construction and nearing completion in Okene. It is called “Kogi Reference Hospital, Okene,” he enthused.

The Commissioner went further to give details on some of the equipment and facilities that will be available at the Reference Hospital, some of which are nowhere in Nigeria yet. “Like the Hyperbaric oxygen treatment chamber, a fully furnished Cardiology suite where you can carry out an investigative and interventional therapy, diagnostic and therapeutic procedure that has an AP lab and CAT lab which he said were all debuting in Nigeria.

“The Reference Hospital Okene (RHO) is established as a model for other states to emulate. A situation where we have created a one-stop shop for all health services, there is no need to run to other countries for emergency medical treatment, everything is available at the Reference Hospital.

“If you take a look at the shapes of most of the hospital established by his Excellency Yahaya Bello, you will see that it has a “Y”-shape which represents Yahaya Bello and also stands for the confluence of River Niger and Benue,” the Commissioner said.

Those hospital with the shape include:

1. The Reference Hospital, Okene
2. The Ultra-modern General Hospital Badoko, in Ajaokuta L.G.A
3. Ultra-Modern General hospital in Gegu Beki, Kogi L.G.A
4. Ultra-modern Clinical Center in Prince Abubakar Audu Teaching Hospital, Ayimba.
5. Ultra-modern Clinical Center Isanly, in Yagba LGA.

“His Excellency Governor Yahaya Bello has succeeded in building new facilities from scratch and taking it to the doorstep of his people in Kogi state. They no longer need to travel out to get medical treatment. In fact, people from other states will now start coming into the state to benefit from what Governor Bello has done.

“His Excellency always has this remarkable vision before starting any building. He is building the Nigeria of his dreams using Kogi state as a template. As of now, some of the projects he is working on are yet to be completed while some have been completed. Some, it’s just painting of the interior and exterior that is remaining as the majority of the equipment has arrived in the state.

“A comprehensive renovation has been done at the zonal hospital, Idah and it’s now renamed the Specialist Hospital. It has been renovated, remodelled and re-equipped. Idah is going to have a Renal Dialysis Center (RDC) soon.

“Before assuming office, there was no single state owned Renal Dialysis Center. But today, we are establishing about five (5) different Centers,” the Commissioner added.

They are:

1. Reference Hospital Okene – Centre of Excellence for Renal Services in Kogi state.
2. Ultra-modern General Hospital , built from the scratch in Badoko, Ajaokuta LGA.
3. Ultra-modern General Hospital with a Trauma Centre in Gegu Beki, Kogi LGA.
4. The Prince Abubakar Audu Teaching Hospital, Anyigba
5. The Zonal Hospital in Idah that has also been transformed to a Specialist Hospital.

“So, this is all that we have been doing in the health sector and it’s the first time we are deploying sophisticated equipment to the villages in the rural areas which is quite exceptional.

“We want to make sure that the people in such villages can benefit from the feeling of what it is to have somebody of the nature of his Excellency, Governor Yahaya Bello, in office. That is why it is not just about renovation, we build Clinical Centres where all clinical departments are ware-housed under one roof. No use moving from one department to the other asking your way to some of the departments in the clinic. It’s a one-stop shop where you get all related services,” he noted.

Talking about affordability of such health care provisions, the Commissioner said: “Yes, for the first time in the history of Kogi state, we are having a viable, functional Kogi State Health Insurance Agency (KSHIA). The Federal Government through the health care provision funds is making health care accessible to the less privileged people, the poor. To complement the gesture of the FG, his Excellency, Governor Bello produced a Bello Care (BC) and under BC, 200million naira has just been released to capture 10,500 vulnerable people across the state. The only criterion is only to be an indigene of the state irrespective of the social background, political party affiliation, ethnicity or religion, you can access the hospital. Just show your ID cards and you will have minimum basic medical care. This process is happening for the first time in the history of Kogi state. You have ID cards, free of charge, walk into the hospital and the government pays your bill.

“Kogi state has captured about 10500 people while the Federal Government has captured over 33000 and this number can only be improved,” the Commissioner stated.

In Kogi state, we went, we saw and we conquered our curiosity. Indeed, Governor Bello is a man who knows what he is doing and who is primed for higher positions in this country and beyond.