Agu And The Eaters Of Our Healthcare Allocation

By Ikenga Chronicles April 9, 2018

Agu And The Eaters Of Our Healthcare Allocation

 — Uche Anyanwagu

During my medical school days, a very close friend of mine shared an experience he had with his own elder brother while eating. His experience, though very laughable, was equally pathetic. That story will later earn him the nickname “Agu” (Lion)  in our social caucus.

It happened that Agu was having a bowl of well-prepared, sumptuous, native soup with an equally refined bowl of eba with his elder brother. Their mother had generously put 5 pieces of meat in it. Expectedly, Agu believed that two, out of these 5 pieces would be his. In the spirit of equity and fairness, this seemed right to do.

So, as the journey began, his elder brother quickly reached out for the first piece of meat. In line with African traditions and customs (sincerely I don’t know who enacted this law and why), Agu thought it’d be wise to wait to have any piece of meat when they are done with eating. With 4 pieces remaining, Agu was unperturbed because according to the sharing or allocation formula, his share was still intact.

This same faith was however shaken when his brother reached for the second piece, leaving only three. Agu’s faith began to waiver because he had calculated the time between the remaining pieces of meat and the time the meal would likely finish. At this rate, his territorial control over his imaginary two pieces of meat was seriously being threatened.

He braced up, moulded the next morsel of eba, and swallowed very hard with his “Adam’s apple” running vertically along his throat.

His faith would hit an all-time low when his brother reached out for his third (and his supposed last) piece of meat. Agu’s countenance changed. His face paled and dropped. His taste buds could no longer feel the delicious taste of the okazi soup he so much delighted in. Thereafter, Agu struggled to continue with his meal without a strange thought about the fate of his two pieces of meat –a sad remnant of his brother’s benevolence. To his greatest shock, his brother reached out for the 4th piece.

Agu’s discontent was very palpable at this stage. His brother ignored his tear-clouded eyes and wobbly lips. He was at the verge of bursting into a deserved cry but his elder brother looked the other way. He kindly gave him a pat on his back as they continued.

Agu resigned to fate and settled in his mind for the only remaining piece of meat at the end of the meal. He was so sure this was all he got. So, he struggled to swallow each morsel like they contained some bitter tablets of chloroquine.

Shortly afterwards, his brother took the last (5th) piece of meat and as Agu rose to the realisation that all was now gone, He stroked Agu’s head (which now had all the hair strands standing in anger in protest) and gently urged him:

“Agu, na-atakwa anu” (meaning: ‘Agu, please eat some pieces of meat’). “Please don’t wait till the end. Just be eating meat alongside the meal”. Sadly, there was no piece of meat left. Not even the debris.

Agu turned almost all the colours of the rainbow . What a beautiful meanness.

Agu’s story mirrors exactly the relationship between the Nigerian government and the healthcare of her citizens. Agu’s story calls us to question. Agu’s story calls ours to question.

In a country where the health budget of 180 million Nigerians is far less than what it takes to maintain a President and his Presidency, then Agu’s elder brother has been called to dinner. I hear him echoing “Agu, na-atakwa anu” (Agu, please eat some pieces of meat).

In a country with limited pieces of meat which can still go round and leave everyone with at least an extra piece; then Agu’s brother (like our leaders) floods the dinning table and makes away with all, leaving none for us.

I can hear nothing but “Agu, na-atakwa anu” (Agu, please eat some pieces of meat).

In a country where the budget of the State House Clinic is greater than that of all Teaching Hospitals combined, it is clear that Agu’s brother must be sitting at the table, filtering the Okazi soup and ridding it of all it is adorned with.

His fleecing voice still resonates: “Agu na-atakwa anu” (Agu, please eat some pieces of meat).

From the Presidency to the Ministry of Health; from Health MDAs to the CMDs of our tertiary health institutions, Agu’s brother has taken a stronghold.

With the speed of light and no conscience they have plundered our pot of soup and made away with 2 pieces extra, in addition to their own 3, leaving us with nothing. Their body language (or is it even odour) oozes this same unrepentant command:

“Agu na-atakwa anu” (Agu, please eat some pieces of meat).

When a bug struck his ears, he found solace abroad and for months, treated an ear infection. When “Uncle Yusuf” our “big brother” went to waste scarce petrol on a fruitless bike ride, he found his health too abroad.

None could dip their hands down to pick from this bowl of soup. Rather, having exhausted the only 5 pieces we had, they left in search of the Golden Fleece and left us with this firm instruction:

“Agu na-atakwa anu” (Agu, please eat some pieces of meat).

As I edited this piece, I learnt that a President had gone to CHOGM in London, 10 days ahead of time, so that he can have time to receive the best of medical care in a country, which though its pot of soup has less pieces of meat, had allowed it to go round to all its citizens.

Then it’s apt he has told us “Agu, na-atakwa anu” (Agu, please eat some pieces of meat).

As Agu looked into the bowl of okazi soup, reality struck and smiled at him. The very kind and caring and considerate voice of his brother has not only summoned him to this offer but has left nothing in the same coffers from where his kindness was derived.

“Agu na-atakwa anu”. Inu.

I am Uche Anyanwagu. I want my own piece of meat.

  • This is the 18th in a series of short stories on “Medical Myths – Tales by Doctors”