Thought Leadership

Bill Gates in Nigeria – lessons for us?

3 Mins read

I have been following Bill Gates on Twitter for some time, and one recent “tweet” caught my eye.

“Incredible trip to Nigeria – determined and getting closer to eradicating polio. Government, partners and Nigerians are committed and inspiring”

Then I searched around a bit for more information on his trip to Nigeria….not too difficult! On his website you find the notes from his trip, as well as a film clip that shows him voicing his thoughts and vision for polio in Nigeria. Find an excerpt below.

“I spent most of my first day in Kano, one of the northern states most vulnerable to polio. I met with community leaders, visited a local health center and stopped in at an informal school where students study the Koran in Arabic. On the streets and almost everywhere else we went, I noticed so many young children around. Nigeria has more people by far than any other African country, and more than 40 percent of them are under the age of 15. That makes polio immunization a big challenge. Kano had just begun a campaign to immunize more than 6 million children under the age of five.”

Find a the video here.

Now – I went back to read that tweet again – “Government, partners and Nigerians are committed and inspiring”. How often have you heard that from anyone lately, Nigerian or foreign when referring to the work being done by the Nigerian Government? Something is happening in the deliverance of primary health care in Nigeria, and it might have something to do with the leadership of the National Primary Care Development Agency. We have previously written about the Executive Director who returned to Nigeria after working for the World Bank for several years. Recently, 6 new directors were appointed (some re-appointed) to take forward the vision of delivering the promises on polio and vaccine preventable diseases in childhood. Again what caught my eye in the newspaper article announcing this was the statement…

The new directors were appointed following their success at a recent public service recruitment interview and examination jointly organised by the Federal Civil Service Commission, Federal Character Commission, Governing Board of the Agency, Federal Ministry of Health and a Human Resources Consulting Firm.

Ha? This is happening in our own public sector? 

But let’s go back to Bill Gates and his commitment to public health in Nigeria. Apart from the amounts being spent on global projects and programmes that will eventually affect the health of the Nigerian people Bill Gates is spending millions of dollars directly on programmes in Nigeria. This has led me to wonder about all our millionaires. We hail and celebrate when they break into the list of the richest people on earth. They drive in convoys with police “protection” and fly around our dilapidated airports with their private jets. On the weekends, all the first class seats on British Airways flights out of Lagos or Abuja are regularly fully booked. How much have our millionaires given back to our health, education and social institutions and programmes? How can they sleep at night on all their wealth and drive past (or fly over) all those hospitals and schools all over our country. How do they feel when they see Bill Gates in Nigeria, caring for the same children they just drove past?

As we celebrate Bill Gates for his extraordinary career in building one the most successful companies, and thereby becoming the richest man in the world, let us consider what the biggest lesson in Bill Gates life is for us as Nigerians. I suggest that it is not what you will read in most cases studies for MBA programmes or many of the motivational books on the market.  I suggest that the biggest lesson in his life for us as Nigerians is not that he revolutionised the way we work with Microsoft products in our daily lives, or that he became extremely wealthy in the process, but in his promise that he will give almost all of it away in seeking solutions to the world’s biggest social problems….and God knows we have many in Nigeria.

In 2006, at the International Conference for AIDS in Toronto, Bill Gates made an appearance on the podium for the first time at one of these AIDS conferences. He announced his intention to give upthe day-to-day running of Microsoft, a company that has revolutionized our way of life, and devote the rest of life into work for his foundation: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It is now one of the largest funders of research into health issues in the world.  I could not help but think; in 10 years time Bill Gates might be remembered less for his role in the growth of information technology, and more for public health issues? What a story that will be.
Somone was in the process of redefining his legacy. Could Microsoft become a footnote in the Bill’s legacy?

Bill Gates writes of his experience in Nigeria in the Huffington Post.
Follow Bill Gates on Twitter here and follow Nigeria Health Watch on twitter here

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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