THE PUBLIC SPHERE with Chido Nwakanma
Last week I essayed that the coronavirus presents several opportunities for Nigeria. One group is taking advantage of the opportunity in coronavirus and running with it. It is serving as an example of corporate good conduct; if it lives up to the promise, it should lead to many other such practises and ventures.
Cacovid is the coalition of corporate bodies against the covid19 pandemic. Their initial steps have been heart warning as have their pronouncements. Before discussing them, a little historical excursion would place things in perspective.
The Muson Centre stands tall in physical appearance, functionality and reputation. Muson Centre is the venue of choice for significant events in the arts, sciences, politics and all other fields. The Muson Centre is the product of vision and enlightened collaboration.
This project of the Musical Society of Nigeria was a visionary leap into the future. It has surpassed the goals of its founders. They wanted a project that would contribute to the propagation of the ideals of MUSON while earning income to sustain it. It has done so and more.
In the late 80s and early 90s, the MUSON team canvassed corporate Nigeria. They had a beautiful scale model of the proposed structures and their proposal on how to fund and maintain it. They placed on the line the names, pedigrees and value of their council members. Many companies bought into it. Art connoisseur Dr Christopher Kolade was Managing Director of Cadbury Nigeria, where I worked and made a case before his board. They agreed. Oil money answered fast and big. Shell Petroleum Development Company shelled out a huge sum for a significant slice of the pie now famously known as the Shell Hall. Agip also did same and got the Agip Recital Hall. Many others supported them. Muson Centre has run like clockwork since then.
The efforts of Corporate Nigeria are the trigger for this reminiscence. Corporate Nigeria has come together to assist Nigeria to build capacity in healthcare infrastructure by providing the three Ms of men, materials and money. The immediate goal is the efficient management of the coronavirus threat in Nigeria. It has potential, however, as a long-lasting intervention fund.
Dangote Industries Ltd and Access Bank Group lead the Coalition Against Coronavirus (Cocavid) in collaboration with Zenith Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank, MTN, ITB, and others. CoCavid will mobilise the private sector through leadership and resources in creating public awareness and directing support for private and public healthcare institutions.
Africa’s richest man Alhaji Aliko Dangote said of their mission. “The coalition is working with Lagos State Government to erect fully-equipped medical tents that will serve as training, testing, isolation and treatment centres. We are also providing an additional facility on Victoria Island, Lagos.”
“COVID-19 affects us all and threatens our collective health – economic, social, psychological and physical wellbeing; hence, the urgent need to work together to beat this common enemy.
The task ahead is daunting and bigger than any one organisation.
“To win this battle, it is critical we all come together as one,”
On 6 April, Mr Isaac Okorafor, spokesman of the Central Bank of Nigeria, announced that Cacovid has now raised N21.5b for its mission. Fifty firms and individuals signed on as donors.
Cacovid has three committees to manage the projects it would take on. There is a Technical Committee composed of persons from the medical field with responsibility for “intellectual leadership around testing issues, treatment protocols and isolation centres”. There is one for logistics and another for communication.
Cacovid has a focus on providing fully-equipped tents such as GTB has done at Onikan, Lagos. This is laudable. However, from the outside looking in, I suggest they should have a longer-term perspective. Coronavirus will leave us sooner than later. The basis for providing the tents as short-term measures will remain; it is the absence of adequate healthcare infrastructure.
These men of timber and calibre should dream bigger for Nigeria’s healthcare. They should bestir themselves and consider building at least one or six world-class hospitals as the opportunity that Nigeria snatched from coronavirus. Their goal should be to reduce significantly medical tourism from out of Nigeria.
They should aim for world-class health care which a scholar has noted: “is achieved by going above and beyond compliance with professional, accreditation, and certification standards to bring the best of the art and science of medicine together in a focused effort to meet the physical, mental, social, and spiritual needs of the patient.”
The Australians recently completed a 450-bed Bendigo Hospital Project as a PPP venture. It cost approximately US$464m. It offers 372 inpatient beds, 72 same-day beds, an 80-bed psychiatric inpatient unit, 11 new operating theatres, a parent-infant unit, an integrated cancer centre, multi-deck car park, a helipad, 15 short-stay accommodation units, a conference facility and a selection of retail, food and cafe outlets.
Many of the leading lights of Cacovid know even more about world-class hospitals in places such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and the developing world. They should think long-term and deliver at least one medical facility that would be as iconic as the Muson Centre. Deliver to us, gentlemen projects that reflect big dreams as huge as your influence and capacity.