Thought Leadership

Academics, Epidemics and Politics: a book by Idris Mohammed

3 Mins read

There are several reasons why this blog has been a bit slow over the past 2 weeks. One of of them is that I have been deeply engrossed in the most significant book in contemporary times written on health and health care in Nigeria as titled above. If you are reading this blog…you must read this book. My attention was initially drawn to this book when it was mentioned in an editorial in the Thisday newspaper and I mentioned it in a previous blog. All my attempts at getting hold of the book via etc failed as it was not listed.

In Nigeria, despite the evolving renaissance of reading spurred by the run away successof new Nigerian writers as Chimamnda Adichie, Sefi Atta, Ike Oguine etc, bookshops are still rare, and Nigerian books in bookshops are even rarer. Well, I decided to start my search for this book in the most obvious of places for the new Nigerian elite…in The Palms; our new state-of-the-art mall in Lagos…our pride and joy 🙂. I was not disappointed. There lay the book I had spent a year trying to get hold of.

I started in tears and ended in tears.

You MUST read this book, whether you are interested in health or not. When there is a plane crash, we are beside ourselves with emotion (rightly so!). Millions are released to the Fani Kayodes and the Borishades to fix our airports (and we can see what happens then). However when planeloads of children die every week from vaccine preventable diseases no one else is dieing from, no one bats an eye lid. Not even you!

The author, Professor Idris Mohammed had served his country as an academic; a Professor of Medicine and Immunology as well as the Chief Medical Officer of the College of Medicine of the University of Maiduguri. One of the first 2 Nigerians to obtain a doctorate degree in immunology and in whose laboratory, the first case of HIV/AIDS was identified in Nigeria in 1986.

He served his country in operational public health roles as the leader of the task force for the control of the outbreak of cerebrospinal meningitis when the infamous “Trovan” experiment by Pfizer took place, as the Chairman of the board of the National Programme on Immunisation when the national coverage for childhood immunisation fell to 13% (no..this is not a typo!) and the Chairman of the committee that investigated claims of cure for HIV/AIDS including that of our esteemed colleague Dr. Abalaka.

The good professor has been right in the mix…and he spills it all…in all its often gory detail.

The only question on my mind was why was this book not on everybody’s lips? His story begins in Tafawa Balewa Square at the handover of our country from our colonial masters and runs through the next for and half decades. Prof Mohammed has been intricately involved in most of significant public health events of our time and does not hold back in describing these. He uses appendixes of original documents to back up his presentation of events to back up his assertions.

One except here:

At the close of the meeting Mr President (Obasanjo) grabbed my hand and took me to a place I had only seen before on television…asking” Professor, what is going on at NPI?” I said noting despite the question being put to me repeatedly. “…” “if you are not going to tell me, I will tell you. I am told that you are not being allowed to apply your professional experience to move immunisation forward, so coverage has remained low; there is no due process in financial transactions at NPI; contracts are awarded without tenders. I understand that a particular individual has been using my name to get you to award contarcst to them, their friends and

Over the next week….I will pick out a few excepts for the 2 most important events from the book…the Trovan Case…and the NPI story. Nigerians need to hear from Professor Idris Mohammed how the health of its children has been managed.

If you are not emotionally strong, do not read this bookelse buy the book

….it I published by Bookcraft ( Contacts of the publishers are,

23 Adebajo Street, Kongi Layout. Ibadan, NIGERIA.+234 2 8103238; +234 2 7517153, +234 803 3447889; +234 8037220773

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has…Margaret Mead

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