Gov.Abdulrazak strides in health sector is peerless. Dr raji Abdul razak
In this interview with First Weekly Magazine , the Commissioner, who said he has had a fantastic working relationship with his boss; Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq also talked about his experience on his first day at the cadaver room as a medical student, reasons for venturing into politics and other issues.
Q: You stepped into this office for the first time exactly a year ago today, how has the journey been in your first year?
A: Thank you. First of all, I want to give glory to Almighty Allah, the Lord of the universe who has kept me alive, I also want to thank His Excellency, the governor of Kwara State, Mallam Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq for giving me the opportunity to serve as Commissioner for Health.
Today, December 16th, marks exactly one year that I resumed fully here. The swearing-in ceremony was done on Friday, December 13, 2019.
I came here on Monday, December 16, 2019 and today is December 16 2020 which marks my first year in office as Commissioner for Health.
In the last one year we have gotten a lot done at the Ministry of Health. We have been able to achieve a lot in 365 days with the support of the entire team of the ministry and a strong political will from His Excellency.
In the last 365 days, we have been able to renovate 40 primary health care and secondary health care facilities. We have been able to employ about 83 personnel; medical doctors, nurses, laboratory scientist, pharmacist and some consultants.
We have been able to fix, renovate, rehabilitate and procure oxygen plant in the state. We now manufacture our own oxygen in Kwara state. We have been able to secure 8 ambulances with intensive care unit package that are of international standards.
We have been able to procure two new brand Hilux for our primary health care facilities.
We have also taken steps to support SERIC activities, I mean; State Emergency Routine Immunization Coordinating Centre, we fixed the SERIC office in line with the policy at national level.
Our staff are adequately remunerated. They get paid regularly and the front line health workers that are managing Covid-19 patients are heavily remunerated if they are not getting the highest in Nigeria, it cannot be more than maybe second or third.
And they are doing very well. The Ministry of Health has been strengthened to attend to all health related matters in the state. All our inspectorate units are functional. All our departments are active very well. We give glory to almighty God. It is not really easy to manage human beings. When you’re talking about resources; human resources, material resources, money, the most difficult one to manage is the human resources but we thank God with the support of His Excellency and the cooperation of our staff, it has been very smooth.
There is a lot on our table; His Excellency paid almost all the counterpart funds that got the partners encouraged to return to the state.
The sum of 82 million naira was initially paid to support free malaria Kwara, additional 41 million was added just last month. The total sum 123 million has been paid to support anti-malaria activity to have a Kwara that is malaria-free . And this programme has made Kwara State to benefit from this Mass net campaign programme where about 3.3 billion naira was spent to procure and distribute insecticide-treated nets in Kwara state for free.
About 2.3 million insecticide-treated nets were distributed and ad-hoc personnel were employed to distribute the nets.
And the basic health care provision fund which will enable us to have access to the federal intervention with about 3 gateways; the state primary health care, the state health agency and emergency Management will benefit from this.
His Excellency paid the sum of 100 million naira as counterpart payment to enable us to have access to different Federal government interventions. The governor has paid about 150 million naira as counterpart fund to ARAIN, that’s another counterpart fund that will make us have access to ARAIN programmes and millions of naira or dollars will be paid into state account to take care of ARAIN activities.
Like I said, in Kwara State, we have never had it so good like this. We have a lot of programmes under social responsibility as part of the responsibility of the state government to ensure that quality health get to the people at the grassroots and across the board.
The Kwara state government has organized several medical and surgical programmes. The first of its kind was the free breast cancer and cervical cancer screening for women across 16 local government areas of the state where about 5,000 women were screened.
And people that were positive were treated for cervical cancer with chronotherapy, and a second course was also taken care of by the Kwara state government in collaboration with the Monitor Health which was the consultant to oversee the activity.
Presently and ongoing also is the free surgical intervention that was carried out and sponsored by Kwara State government to perform major surgeries on about 800 persons in Kwara State across 16 local governments; 50 per local government, and that is ongoing and about to be completed.
These include eye surgery and people that need glasses. We give glory to Almighty God for the journey so far.
We are currently working towards having a neurosurgery neurology unit in Kwara State and it is situated at General Hospital , Ilorin, where spine and brain surgery will be carried out, and His Excellency has given approval that it should be equipped as well. And by the time they complete it, it’s going to be a state of art centre for neurology and neurosurgery that will include the ICU components, it will also include the ward and the theatre.
And we have procured state of art equipment for eye, ophthalmological unit, dental equipment; they are all of international standards.
Two dialysis machines have also been added to our dialysis unit. All these are unprecedented in the state. And in terms of Covid-19 management, there is no way you’ll mention Covid-19 management in Nigeria that you will not mention Kwara state because Kwara ranked 4th in Nigeria out of the 36 states, including FCT , Kwara state is number 4 in terms of preparedness and response.
We ensured that our isolation center is well –equipped, the governor in his wisdom, dedicated a whole hospital of about 400- bed unit capacity to infectious disease unit where Covid-19 patients can be isolated, be managed and get treated.
Whoever has complications can be taken to the intensive care unit. About 4 ambulances are dedicated to isolation center for Covid-19 treatment alone and our molecular laboratory; the geneXpert which is cartridge-based is also situated at our Covid-19 centre.
Our staff are undergoing capacity building and on the job training regularly to ensure that they are in tune with the latest technical in terms of managing patients. So far so good, we give glory to almighty God for the journey so far.
We hope to improve on the capacity building next year in respect of having the personnel encouraged to give in their best to our patients and we hope also to improve on the salaries of our staff and their welfare , to let them become more motivated and to do more than what we even expect.
And we want to continue as well to renovate more hospitals, more facilities, to procure and purchase more equipment, to strengthen the health system, to ensure standard and to enable our people to have access to quality health care in line with the vision of the government.
Q: The number of new coronavirus cases had a few weeks ago reduced and it was like people had leapt to conclusions that the pandemic had been defeated. What really is the true picture of things?
A: We cannot afford to be complacent. People should continue to adhere to the Covid-19 preventive protocols and measures as directed by the state Ministry of Health, the Covid-19 Technical Committee and the NCDC.
People should continue to wear face masks regularly and properly. People should continue to wash their hands properly with soap and water or use hand sanitizer that is alcohol- based, and people should avoid crowded places.
If there is no important reason to go out, stay with your family. Though the number of new coronavirus cases had reduced , Covid-19 is real and it is still very much around. If we become complacent, refuse to do the needful and ensure we defeat it totally; Covid-19 can come back and deal with us.
And recent developments have shown a second wave of coronavirus pandemic.
My advice to fellow Kwarans is that they should not allow us to lose the gains that we had recorded so far in respect of efforts to facedown Covid-19, they should please observe all coronavirus protocols Covid-19 has come to stay even if the number of new cases reduce, I don’t think it will fizzle out completely like that.
The most important thing is for all of us to take precautionary measures and always believe that the next person close to you is Covid-19 positive so that you can be careful.
That’s what I do tell people; don’t assume anybody is free until that person has gone to take the Covid-19 test. I want to encourage everybody to ensure we utilize this opportunity to go out voluntarily and undertake Covid-19 test.
Know your status and prevent the spread of Covid-19. Maintain social distancing and physical distancing . Use face mask properly and regularly, wash your hand with soap and water and use hand sanitizer and avoid crowded places. When you are sick, please report to the hospital immediately.
Q: Why and how did you venture into politics?
A: I have developed interest in politics since my university years.
I love politics because I see it as an avenue to serve humanity at the macro level than just being a doctor. As a medical doctor, the major work to serve humanity is humanitarian but your activities are restricted to the hospital.
But as a politician, you can expand the scope of being humanitarian; service to humanity can be expanded through politics. You touch all the sectors. That is what politics can do for someone and that’s what exactly encouraged me and motivated me to venture into politics.
I started politics in my second year in the medical school. I was the Vice President of Kwara State Medical Students’ Association, KWAMSA. That was the first election I contested for and I won with a wide margin.
And after that, when I got to 300- level, I became a senator representing my class and finally before I left the medical school, I served as Senate President of ILOMSA. I left KWAMSA which is a smaller body for the largest association as a senator representing my class.
And since then I have been nursing ambition to coming into politics properly. But I felt like I should practice what I studied for a period of time before coming into politics fully.
I had initially considered an elective position but as God would have it I was later appointed as Commissioner for Health by Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq.
Now as a Commissioner for Health, I think it’s an avenue to actually demonstrate my political and leadership prowess and to reach out to as many people as possible and touch people’s lives.
And because I have a good mentor; the governor of Kwara State who is my boss, my life has never remained the same. I have gained experience more than the way I was before. This has added to my scope. The way I think about life. I have changed my mind set about people. I now deal with larger people than a few people I had to deal with during my past activities and engagements.
I give glory to God. I do not regret coming into politics at all.
Q: What was your experience like the first day you entered the cadaver room as a medical student?
A: Well, I became scared because I had never prior to that day seen multiple dead bodies.
Laying about 20 dead bodies on the table for medical students to dissect, you know when one gets to 200- level in the medical school he or she will study anatomy, physiology and biochemistry and that of anatomy requires going to the cadaver lab for practical.
Cadaver means dead bodies that are meant for practical purposes for medical students. The first day I entered the cadaver laboratory, I said Oh! But inside me I was fidgeting. I didn’t faint. I noticed that some female colleague students fainted, some were crying but I didn’t cry. If you want to be a good doctor you have to start from that room.
Being a good doctor starts from that room because if you want to be a good surgeon, you must have good knowledge of that cadaver and that exactly motivated me and I paid good attention to it, and I thank God today. Only God knows how many surgical procedure I’ve done for people while practicing as a medical doctor. I am now a politician and I still remain a medical doctor.
Q: Disagreement has not been recorded between the people managing Covid-19 response in Kwara state and you have been described by the people as easy-going and humble. Is this an innate quality?
A: You cannot give what you don’t have. I came from a very religious background and in life when you put God first you will never make mistakes.
Don’t be overambitious. Anything that does not come your way, don’t struggle to get it by force. What shall be shall be. When you remember that you’ll be accountable to God on the Day of Judgment you’ll be careful when dealing with people and when you also allow the reality that no position is permanent to exercise your mind.
Everything is temporary. It’s what you do that will be on record that is permanent. Most especially when you study the body language of your boss, you know what he wants and what he doesn’t want. The body language of the principal matters a lot that also will guide your activities, guide your direction, and guide your movement.
I appreciate God and I thank our dear governor, my boss. He is a man of sterling qualities and I’ve learned a lot from him and he has really supported me and made it easy for me to get the job done. The Deputy Governor who is the Chairman of the Covid-19 Technical Committee has also been supportive.
I am happy also that I am working with a good team here, I mean the Ministry of Health, and they are very wonderful from the Permanent Secretary to the directors. All of them have been very wonderful and that’s why we can achieve this. It’s a team work, I can’t achieve it alone.
Everybody is so wonderful in that team. We are not really after the monetary gain. We are after how to ease things for Kwarans so that we can leave a good legacy for others to follow.
That legacy is what we are after. We are always conscious of that ‘change’ that people clamoured for which made them to vote for us. We don’t want to disappoint them.
Q: Can you tell us about yourself and also tell us about your working relationship with Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq?
I am Dr. Raji Abdulrazaq, Iam in my 40s and I am happily married with four children.
I was at the University of Ilorin where I received my MBSS degree while I later got Master’s degree in Public Health from the Obafemi Awolowo University.
I was the national trainer for malaria management in Niger state for a good number of years.
Iam currently the Kwara state Commissioner for Health.
I am here to contribute my quota and ensure we enhance and improve the state’s healthcare delivery system in line with the vision of the governor. The idea is for the health care delivery system in Kwara State to be one of the best in Nigeria.
The governor’s vision is to ensure that the healthcare delivery system will be so improved that medical tourism will be reduced to the barest minimum.
We should be able to treat any disease here in Kwara State and that is exactly why His Excellency is putting machinery in motion to ensure that we take necessary steps to get that achieved.
I am an easy -going person. I am myself, I don’t pretend. When I’m happy, you see it on my face and when I’m sad you see it on my face. I don’t copy anybody. I do things in my own way and I believe in God and I believe in myself too. But I know my limitations. When you know your limitations, you will be careful and you can learn a lot from others. I have had a fantastic working relationship with His Excellency. Being with him is one of the best things that has ever happened to me . The governor is such a wonderful leader. He is a father. He’s moderate and steady.
He has recorded achievements. Initially when the Covid-19 issue began, we were number four in Nigeria in respect of coronavirus response. Later we became number three. Now some assessment reviewed Kwara State and declared us the best in North Central.
That’s how we are moving from strength to strength. He is a loving man and he doesn’t tolerate nonsense.
Honestly speaking, he’s one of the best governors Kwara state has ever produced. What we have achieved in one year, some states cannot achieve that in four years. By the time we spend two years in office; many people will have good testimonies to give to the whole world. I love working with him.
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