Healthcare in Nigeria dies with Fela's brother

The death of Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, the elder brother of Nigeria’s Afrobeat king Fela, will likely have repercussions throughout the country’s health care system, health professionals said on Tuesday.

Ransome-Kuti (75) a pediatrician, former health minister and a pioneer in basic health care in Nigeria, died on Monday on London during a UN World Health Organisation meeting, his family said.

As health minister under the military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida from 1985 to 1993, he was reponsible for making primary health care a bedrock of the Nigerian social welfare system.

“He was quite a visionary, dedicated, a hardworking medical practitioner and public health worker whose achievements have remained unmatched,” said a close associate, Martins Olusola Ogundeji.

“But I am afraid that his efforts in the field of health, especially in primary health scheme, may die with him. Since he left office as minister, there has not been anyone like him to continue the policies formulated under him,” he said.

Impressed by a public lecture on primary health delivery programme Ransome-Kuti gave in 1985, Babangida invited him to join his cabinet, Ogundeji said.

Before that appointment, he had worked under various governments as director in charge of the national basic health services scheme.

“The scheme was popular among Nigerian health practitioners and public as he produced many health journals which remain today reference documents in that field,” said another doctor, who did not want to give his name.

In 1988, he set up a committee which crafted a national health policy giving primary health care top priority countrywide.

“I am afraid that this policy is not being implemented religiously… and this may spell a big disaster for the Nigerian health delivery system,” said a Lagos-based doctor, who demanded anonymity.

As minister, Ransome-Kuti relentlessly fought against childhood diseases and spread of HIV/Aids.

It was that issue that propelled him back into the limelight in 1997, when he went against traditional norms and announced that his younger brother Fela—a music legend still revered across much of Africa—had died of HIV/Aids.

Fela’s death sensitised most Nigerians to the reality of the deadly disease in Africa’s most populous country.

The news of Ransome-Kuti’s death dominated the front pages of most Nigerian dailies on Tuesday.

The Guardian reported that Ransome-Kuti, the “apostle of primary healthcare and preventive medicine” would have joined President Olusegun Obasanjo’s yet-to-be-formed cabinet to turn around the ailing health sector.

Obasanjo had already invited him into the cabinet, the newpaper quoted him as telling journalists at the weekend in Abuja.
- Sapa-AFP

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