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Rest in Peace Dr Dantong, Chair Senate Committee on Health

Every time news comes of another tragic incident in our country Nigeria, we cry, shrug our shoulders and move on. The routine condolence messages are sent, a firm statement is made from the presidency, normally to the effect that government will leave no stone unturned in finding those that carried out the dastardly act, a high powered committee is set up, if we are lucky, we will get a Senate hearing……and then we wait for the next tragedy.

While many people would have heard of the death of Senator Dantong Gyang in Jos last weekend, you may not know that he was also the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health. He undertook his medical training at at the University of Jos and until his ill-fated  foray into politics, was the MD of Vom Christian Hospital. 

Until his death, he was committed to the signing of the new Health Bill into law by our President Goodluck. The bill has been sitting with the president for over a year, neither signed, nor returned. Now the good Senator is gone….and our health bill remains somewhere in a pile in the president’s office; untouched. 

Many will remember how Senator Dantong Gyang attended and actively participated in some of the sessions of the 1st workshop on ‘Improving Financial Access to Health Services for the Poor in Nigeria” which held at Tinapa Calabar from Nov 1-3, 2011. At the time, he assured participants that his committee had been in talks with the presidency on the signing of the health bill. He promised he would expedite work on the Bill once Mr President sends back the unsigned Bill back to the National Assembly. Sadly that will no longer happen, as the good Senator is gone and we have to find a new Health Committee Chairman to chase our president to sign the Health Bill. If he does send it back one day – Nigerians will again work to educate the new Chairman on the tragedy of a bill, passed by both houses of parliament, sent to the presidents office……only to be locked away. Just one example of the tragic state of affairs in our country. 

Those that knew the Late Senator  Gyang  well say he was calm and easy going, just as he was so passionate about how to improve the health situation in Nigeria. a blog post on Nairaland says:

This passion for the health sector was displayed by the late Senator Gyang Dalyop Dantong when he met with the leadership of the National Association of Resident Doctors, NARD Thursday, May 31, 2012 in the wake of threat by the doctors to go on strike nation wide during the logjam between the Lagos State government and the doctors. During the marathon meeting to end the crisis, Senator Dantong told the doctors that they were special people in the society who play very important roles, adding that doctors as a result of this, be treated like eggs and must not be allowed to embark on any nationwide strike.

However, it is important to remember that Dr Gyang belongs to an elite group of  Nigerian Senators that are in a position to change the country for better or for worse. I just wonder if his death will stir his colleagues in the Nigerian Senate to wake up to their responsibilities to the people that voted them in. As Plateau North will have to bury its dead and seek a new Senator, so will the House Committee on Health have to seek a new Chairman. There will be many candidates, but I wonder how many of them will care more for health than the perks of the position. For Nigerians…the struggle continues.

Rest in Peace Dr Dantong…and hopefully not for the Health Bill of 2008!

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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