OPINION: Dr Alex Otti’s Commitment To Public Healthcare, Education, Others
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OPINION: Dr Alex Otti‘s Commitment To Public Healthcare, Education, Others
By. Dr. Charles Chinekezi.
In the elaborate manifesto presented to Abians recently by the Labour Party governorship candidate in Abia State of Nigeria for the 2023 general elections Dr. Alex Otti, the clearly cut out master-plan for the insurance of health services alongside education and human development of the teeming youth and adult population stands out really laudable.
A comprehensive plan that will reverse the present collapse of the public health sector initiated by the current irresponsible government of the People’s Democratic Party which expanded poverty and continues to further expand critical issues such as maternal mortality rates in our public health facilities by discouraging even private medical practitioners from expanding their own lean facilities to curb the menace of women needlessly dying in the process of childbirth.
The recent rise in the death of women during and after childbirth calls for the need to asses the main causes of, and trends in maternal deaths.
Reduced Risk of Child Birth
According to the world health organization, (WHO), maternal death is defined as the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration from any cause related to, or aggravated by the pregnancy or it’s management, but not from accidental causes. Childbirth is influenced profoundly by the social settings in which it takes place. A normal labour that ends in a normal delivery may after a full term pregnancy usually presents few problems for the mother, her baby or there birth attendants.
Improved Maternal Healthcare Across Abia State
Research and records as well as discussion with health officials indicate that the major causes of maternal death are substandard medical care, severe bleeding, obstructed labour, anaemia, complications of abortions infection of chest and alimentary canal, low birth weight of a child, or HIV/AIDS. Some of the trends spotted by the reports are preventable causes, such as ignorance, myths, domestic violence, a continued stress on the risk to older women having children, lack of understanding of their needs and poor nutrition. Nigeria has one of the highest maternal mortality rates (MMR) in the world. The rate for Nigeria is about one thousand and fifty maternal deaths per one hundred thousand live births. And Abia state seems most affected.
However, it has been said that sixty three to eighty five percent of all maternal death could probably have been avoided with proper handling, hence Health care related facilities are an important factor in cases of maternal mortality. This includes efficient handling of complications, provision of essential equipment and trained personnel, unlimited access to pre / post natal care and maternity facilities.
Modern 21st Century Learning Aids
Education is an important element in national development. With appropriate curricular, that are relevant in today’s competitive world, education produces trained and skilled workforce necessary for the economy. For education to play this important role, it is imperative that infrastructural facilities like classrooms and other teaching aids need to be available. There are other constraints hampering teaching and learning that requires the urgent attention of government. This is the near total collapse of infrastructural facilities particularly in primary and secondary schools across the state. The working environment in majority of the primary and secondary schools is not conducive for effective teaching and learning. This is a contributory factor to the worrisome decline in educational standards.
Though the bulk of the teaching in public schools are more qualified, than their counterparts in private schools, the non conductive environment under which they discharge their duties is demoralizing, which has affected their productivity. In majority of schools in Abia, classroom blocks built several years ago are at various stages of dilapidation. In some of these schools, the situation is so dire that students study in classrooms that are deathtraps. The roofs of the buildings are leaking while others that were blown off by rainstorm many years ago have not been repaired.
Modern Classrooms For All Pupils And Students In Abia State
The universal basic education was introduced to ensure that every Nigeria child has access to free and compulsory education within the first nine years. Investigation reveals that in Abia state, despite the much-publicized free education said to be enjoyed by pupils and students, newly posted Junior Secondary School Class (1) students are required to pay between Fifty Thousand Naira before they are admitted. In one of the schools, a break down of the figure shows that ten thousand seven hundred naira is for parent teacher Association (PTA) while Twenty-Five thousand three hundred naira is for school uniforms and cardigan. Receipts are not issued to acknowledge the payments, which put a question mark on the motive of such other sundry payments.
Insured Extra Curricular Education/ Sports
A principal of one of the secondary schools argue that what the government is offering is tuition free education and therefore students are required to pay for renovation of dilapidated structures. The reduction of illiteracy through the universal basic education is among the millennium development Goals set by the international community two decades ago however it’s target has failed woefully in Abia State of Nigeria. Experts are worried if Abia state will ever be able to join the rest of the world in achieving this goal. That is the reason why an Alex Otti led government in Abia has become most urgent due to his well articulated master-plan to tackle these anomalies in the educational and human development challenges in the twenty first century.
There is a limit to the real development that could accrue from commerce and trading without the backing of agricultural production. Which means that any serious government willing to revitalize the economy of its state has to work at bringing back the glorious days of agriculture by resuscitating government plantations and helping individual farmers to boost production. The reactivation of the state Rubber Company which Dr. M.I. Okpara established its massive plantation in the 1960s.
Up-to Date Agricultural Machinery In Abia State
The issue of raising the level of poultry farming while also recruiting extension workers in order to extend services to more farmers in the state, also the need to ensure that government extension workers visit many farms in the state to assist them with adequate information in ensuring good yields from their farming enterprise thereby turning around the fortunes of the agricultural sector, creating employment opportunities for the people and improving agricultural practices as a basis of sustainable development all presently remain of utmost urgency for government intervention.
Procuring needed equipment like tractors thereby laying the basis of Abia State becoming the centre of agricultural production in Nigeria is also a circumstance of state government emergency. Abia State of Nigeria has a fair share of land that is arable for agriculture and the varieties of vegetation endows the state with the capability to cultivate a wide range of crops all year round. In addition, the National Root Crops Research Institute and the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, which are located in Umudike, have engaged in commendable efforts in developing, multiplying and adopting new crop varieties that give greater yields thereby providing enormous agricultural input for utilization in the area. Unfortunately, these potentials in the state remains untapped. Sadly also, rain-fed and subsistence agriculture remains the dominant source of staple food production and the means of livelihood of the majority who lives in the rural areas of the state.
The failure of programmes by successive governments to reverse the trend with the seeming lopsidedness of government interest in agriculture has been blamed for the situation. Also, the land tenure system, lack of dams for irrigation, ignorance and the near lack of mechanized farming in the state are other factors that contribute to the low productivity and output of agricultural produce in the state.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION/ DEVELOPMENT
The local government’s reforms of 1976 by the then military government of General Olusegun Obasanjo paved the way for the introduction of a uniform local government administration throughout the country in terms of functions, structure and financing. Through the reforms, Local councils were constitutionally assigned more responsibilities as an agency for the promotion of development at the grassroots. The reforms unified the different systems and made it a strong third- tier of government. According to the fourth schedule of the 1999 constitution, local councils are to establish, maintain and regulate abattoirs, markets, motor parks and public conveniences. Also, the council are obligated to maintain roads, drains and dispose refuse. The assignment of these functions is to ensure rapid development of the local areas and has been matched with adequate funding from the federal government. It is estimated that between 1999 and 2021, the seven hundred and seventy four local government areas in the country received several trillions of naira from the federation account.
A visit to some of the Local Government Areas in Abia State paints a picture of dilapidation and displeasure. Almost all the projects embarked upon by past administration of the councils do not function beyond orchestrated flamboyant commissioning. Some of these projects are water boreholes, garri processing plants and skill acquisition centers.
These multi-million naira projects are often seen as conduit pipes for the mismanagement of public funds. There are no public conveniences built and maintained by the local government areas. Those, existing are below acceptable standards, provided in goodwill by individuals and humanitarian organizations. Roads that were constructed several years ago have not been maintained. Many roads and streets in the Local Governments bear the same ugly scar.
Though the state government has at different times taken over refuse disposal which is the constitutional duty of Local Governments, the Local Councils still award contracts to sanitation agents who with the active connivance of law enforcement agents, extort money from residents without rendering the expected services apart from the grants from the federal government, there are also specification on the need to be assisted by the government with funding. Equally, there are many means the councils are empowered to generate revenue through levies like radio licenses, liquor levies, market fees and others. All these are hampered by mismanagement and corruption.
Owing to the dismal performance of local governments, against the huge funds accruing to them for development, there is a public condemnation of the council’s mismanagement in the past process with accountability in building capital projects to improve the lives of the people.
Those and many more are the vital issues that is driving Dr. Alex Otti’s ambition to govern Abia, the God’s Own State in order to correct the monumental damage inflicted on it by visionless ragamuffins who currently parade themselves as political leaders.
Dr. Charles Chinekezi is a chartered management professor (C.M.P.) of the Nigerian Institute of Management, Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria.