The saying, “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown”, is a line from the play, Henry IV, Part 2, by William Shakespeare. The quote, taken from Act III, Scene 1, is an expression of the king’s frustration about the situation around him. He is portrayed here as unwell and speaking to himself before the arrival of the Duke of Warwick. He is specifically worried that others may retire to their beds and get a good night sleep while he, the king, cannot sleep soundly because he has great responsibilities.
The story of King Henry and that phrase flashed through my mind as I perused the varied online comments and reactions to the return of President Muhammadu Buhari to Nigeria on 19 August, after his sojourn in London for over 100 days for medical treatment. The reason for this is simple. Even though the story of King Henry, as told by Shakespeare, in his play has wider political dimensions, it also shares a striking semblance with what is happening in Nigeria and especially to President Buhari, who even though may still need time to properly recover is already being bombarded by Nigerians who want him to provide instant solutions to the multifarious problems facing the nation. I don’t envy President Buhari and I doubt he sleeps soundly, considering the current chaotic state of the country. He sure has a lot on his plate to chew. He has to do something about the increasing agitation for restructuring, deal with proponents of hate speeches, sustain the war against corruption and bravely face the attendant backlash as “corruption fights back.” He also has to develop new ways to fight Boko Haram terrorists who seem to be staging a worrisome comeback, deal with the menace of marauding herdsmen, strive to harmonise the different forces in his political party, pacify striking workers and those still threatening to embark on theirs, as well as gallantly nursing the economy back from recession.
Indeed, uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. Even for a young, healthy, energetic man, these challenges can be overwhelming. How much more for a man of 73, battling bouts of ill health! But that is his lot. He asked for it by seeking to be president and eventually getting elected. While I have sympathy for him, especially concerning his ill health because I know he is just like any other human being who can fall sick at any time, and wish him the strength and needed wisdom to deliver as president, I must say that he has his work cut out for him and has to face it squarely. That notwithstanding, I still need to add to the burden of this president. For me, one thing that his frequent ill-health and medical tourism have revealed is the sick state of healthcare delivery in this country. The fact that Mr President could not help but seek medical treatment abroad must be seen as a failure of the health care sector which must be corrected. There is no gainsaying that the Nigerian healthcare sector has been in doldrums and incapable of providing the needed care for Nigerians for decades. That is why those who can afford it, like President Buhari, fly abroad for treatment.
The Clinical Director of St. Nicholas Hospital, Ebun Bamgboye, recently said that Nigerians who seek medical treatment abroad spend at least 1$ billion annually. This is a huge capital flight. President Buhari must therefore work hard to ensure we halt this trend of having thousands of Nigerians including him travelling abroad to get treatment for conditions we should be able to treat in this country. Interestingly, one of his campaign promises was to end medical tourism if elected president of Nigeria. He therefore owes it to this nation, not only to abide by his promise, but also to seek ways to replicate in the country the quality healthcare delivery he has enjoyed in the United Kingdom. He must ensure that our teaching hospitals which are supposed to be apex centres of excellence in healthcare delivery are equipped to deliver on their mandate and be able to take care of Nigerians with any health condition. This nation must make the necessary investments in modern health care infrastructure, and properly fund the health sector to attract and retain the best brains and have a health system that ensures all Nigerians have access to quality healthcare delivery. This is an imperative task for Mr President, and I wish him success as he confronts all his obligations.