Thought Leadership

“Does Leadership Matter” in the Nigerian health sector?

2 Mins read

The greatest challenges and the greatest opportunities that any unit in society has begins with its pattern of leadership. Who makes those decisions that create ripples, trickling down into the lives of the people, and in whose interest are those decisions made? Leadership occupies a pivotal role  from the domestic sphere of the family to the public sphere of companies and organizations, to industries, and ultimately the nation.

Our first Health Watch Forum for the year 2017 will focus on leadership and whether it matters. The change in the leadership of five institutions in the Nigerian health sector in one fell swoop last year led to a rise in the expectations of many Nigerians, including health sector professionals, NGOs working in the health sector, and the international donor community.

No doubt the question on everyone’s mind included: Who are “The Five”, do they have the capacity to change anything, what plans do they have to transform their institutions, and how will this affect the lives of millions of Nigerians?

At the time little was known about the majority of the new leaders, none of whom were already in the Nigerian public service. And perhaps it was this novelty that seemed to inject a burst of fresh air into a health sector that was full of expectation and frustrated at the fail-starts of the past. In this piece written shortly after the announcement, several players in the health sector expressed their enthusiasm in President Buhari’s choices for these institutions, and their optimism that the sector was receiving a much needed break, perhaps even a reset button.

Perhaps… Public service can be notoriously challenging, and the burden on these new heads of institutions, after the fanfare and congratulations, cannot be an easy task. On their shoulders lie the expectations, and the hopes, of millions of Nigerians… seeking to access skilled healthcare in their towns and villages, praying for a Nigeria where a pregnant woman can get to a health centre before it is too late, watching loved ones suffer from disease outbreaks and not knowing what to do, struggling to pay for drugs, trying to keep their children healthy because the fear of going to a health centre that is ill equipped to handle their needs is overwhelming.

Nigerians need hope. They need to believe again that something is being done to help them, to make their everyday lives… better. At the heart of it, this is what good leadership does. It makes the lives of people… better.

The Health Watch Forum a town hall style Breakfast meeting that will provide is an opportunity for the new heads of the five institutions to tell Nigerians just how they plan to make their lives better in the offices in which they have been called to serve. It is also an opportunity for Nigerians to come and dialogue with each other and with leadership, to ask those questions that they need answered.

The journey to a better Nigerian health sector has begun. Join us on April 20th for a conversation with leadership.

If you are interested in attending, please follow us on Twitter and look out for the registration announcement. Please note that attendance requires prior registration.

Editor’s Note: Professor Babatunde Salako of NIMR regrettably cannot be with us for the Forum as a result of a prior engagement but has expressed his appreciation for our invitation. We look forward to another opportunity to engage with him.

The Health Watch Forum Series is a Nigeria Health Watch brand and began in 2015 with the goal of providing a unique platform for engaging and relevant discussion about topical issues affecting the Nigerian health sector. For partnership enquiries please send an email to

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