Opinion

GENERAL IBM HARUNA, JOURNALISTS AND THE FRAMING OF REALITIES IN NIGERIA

“you are free to show me what is bad about Nigeria but don’t be angry when I show you what is good about Nigeria.”

Few days ago, I shared the attached photograph (not picture above). But I did not tell the story behind it. I only said “things are happening in Nigeria”. I feel the need to tell the story today and the lessons I have learnt from it.

Sometime in July, Dr. Sade Akiode opened her second dental clinic in Ikeja G.R.A. Journalists were invited including my team and I. My friend and egbon, Adekunle Yusuf of TheNation was there. Many dignitaries graced the event including Engr. Ernest Ndukwe, Jimi Agbaje and Funke Opeke among others.

At some point, we were taken on tour of the facilities. What happened at the event was straight news materials. Seeing what has been put up there, I wanted to know more to do a feature story. So few days after, I booked an interview appointment with Dr. Akiode. We had the interview. After the interview, we started talking. I left with some lessons.

The investment at the clinic will slightly fall short of a billion.

Dr. Akiode practiced for 20 years in Hollywood, California. She sold her practice to return to Nigeria to set up Choice Dental Clinic; first in V.I in 2013 and the second at Ikeja G.R.A. Her American background ensured that she set up a world class clinic you will find anywhere in the world.

Now, what sane person relocated from the “almighty America” to a “failed state” like Nigeria?

But she did.

I asked what informed her decision. Did it not sound crazy to her?

She gave me five reasons why she had to do it and happy to do it.

Here are they:

  1. The need to give back. According to her, Nigeria was good to her and her generation. She studied Dentistry at Ife for next to nothing and the bursary she collected while studying was good enough to travel abroad and back. She feels indebted to Nigeria forever.
  2. The need to give back to her parents. She was lucky both parents were still alive at the time she did. But the Dad has passed on now. But she felt the need to be around her parents at their old age. For her, they sacrificed so much for her that she can ever pay back. Anything she can do to make their old age a happy one, she will do it. It starts with being around them.
  3. Her children need to get integrated into the Nigerian society. Her children are obviously Americans. But she doesn’t want to lose them to America. She then planned that at least they will have their secondary education in Nigeria so they can be integrated into their culture. They may go back after the secondary education. But they need to know about their Nigerian culture, especially Yoruba.
  4. Nigeria dun, Sade ma bo nle. Meaning Nigeria is sweet, Sade, come back to home. Her friends kept pestering her to come back to Nigeria because Nigeria is sweet. She has built social capital that is serving her. Her friends have been successful even while doing business in Nigeria. They are well traveled but Nigeria is a must because it is where things happen for them. She can also see their successes. They regularly urged her to come back and she answered. For her, social capital is important for anyone to succeed. It is not government that will make you succeed ultimately. It is your circle of friends. She gave the example of when she was setting up. The money she came back with wasn’t enough and our banks were calling astronomical interest rates. Two of her friends stood up and said “Sade, if you need anything, let me know.” It turned out that only one friend was enough. Even the second friend was still asking her “what do you need?” “Is that enough?” “Tell me o.” So it is good to cultivate and nurture relationship/friendship. If you are not successful, perhaps, you need to check your circle of friends.
  5. She stopped listening to news! When I asked if all these negativities about Nigeria didn’t bother her or even scare her before taking the decision, she said no. Because she stopped listening to news. She shut down all negative thoughts and people. All she was listening to were positives and opportunities that are available in Nigeria. And she could see that her friends were succeeding. They were telling her “Nigeria dun” and that she will succeed too. and why not? For her, mass media is a no no!

When I heard her story, my hope was renewed. I then asked myself that “how much investment do I have in Nigeria that I want to lose hope?” Here is someone who has seen it all in the abroad but had to pack her bag and returned home to invest money that will eventually run into a billion in Nigeria. The facilities at her Ikeja clinic could well be described as “Why Go Abroad” for dental treatment. She practically brought America and Hollywood to Nigeria. When she opened the big computerised screens at each floor and I saw what people surfer, I thank God I didn’t have to kiss many girls before I got married.

But she is not the only one.

Before Dr. Akiode, I had a reason (not medical) to visit Marcelle Ruth Cancer Centre & Specialist Hospital on Victoria Island early 2021. It is the first comprehensive healthcare centre of its kind in Nigeria and, indeed, West Africa. The founder and CEO is Dr. Modupe Elebute-Odunsi, daughter of legendary Professor Ade and Professor Oyinade Elebute of Lagoon Hospital and now Hygeia HMO.
The hospital is named after Dr. Modupe’s mother-in-law, late Mrs. Marcelle Ruth Odunsi, former Vice-Principal, Igbobi College, Lagos and Principal, Government Girls’ College, Agege.

As at the time I went there, the centre was still being set up although it had commenced operation. But as at then, over N5b had been spent to bring a global standard hospital to Lagos Nigeria.

For Dr. Modupe, they had not stopped spending. They still expected to ship in some equipment from the US. When they took me around, I marveled at what someone put up there with a full compliment of Telemedicine.

When I left, I asked myself, “but wait o, are these people mad to invest N5b and still counting in a country people are running away from?”

Just like I asked myself after leaving Dr. Akiode. I have my answers although I am still learning to know if my answers are valid.

My answers are:

(1) Those who still find this country viable enough to invest billions of Naira just don’t see negativities some people see. They are positive people with positive mentality who move with other positive people.

(2) Nigerians who invest in Nigeria are people who don’t have “hire me” mentality. No sense of entitlement. They just want to do something, do business that will add values to other Nigerians.
Whenever some young persons ask me to help put their CVs together, I simply ask them to go and look for a business idea instead. I tell them they don’t need beautiful CV, they need beautiful business ideas they can do. You hardly earn salary and become wealthy/rich. It is business that will make you rich/wealthy.

(3) Most Nigerians who are investing and running businesses in Nigeria, most often, took one or two things from their parents or homes. There are some families in Nigeria that will not beg or apply for jobs. In their families, they simply create business. Apples don’t fall far from the tree.
Example is Professor Mabogunje who just died. May God rest his soul. His daughter, Folasade Ogunsola took after him and became a professor and first female Provost of Unilag’s College of Medicine.

One of Professor Soyinka’s children is already an established professor who supervised a friend’s PhD thesis. Dr. Elebute-Odunsi took after her Professor of Medicine father and mother.

Adenuga’s children will still do business no matter the situation.

Dangote’s children will still be in business.

Chief Subomi Balogun’s boys are running the show.

Lawyers have prominent lawyer children. Even outside Nigeria, parents played and are playing prominent roles in what their children became or are becoming. But once in a while, children of poor parents like me will just crack it. They call it break the ceiling and cross to the other side. Generally, government has its roles, parents have even a bigger role.

Back to Dr. Akiode. She shut out the mass media in her life for her sanity.

It reminds me of Gen. IBM Haruna’s appearance on Arise TV yesterday. He told the anchors “you want to show me failure but you don’t want me to show success.” That is profound.

Journalism doesn’t have to cause chaos.

Journalists don’t have to bury what is good and highlight only what is bad. It is also erroneous for journalists to think the “human interest” characteristic of journalism only means bad news.

Good news can also attract human interest and sell.

I corroborate Gen. IBM Haruna’s view by saying that “you are free to show me what is bad about Nigeria but don’t be angry when I show you what is good about Nigeria.”

I see bad and good daily. I will tell you what is bad, I will also tell you what is good.

For me, electricity is not what I should relocate abroad for. I have at least 18 hours every day and I am not rich. In some areas, they have it for 24 hours. The argument for me is not that I don’t have electricity. I do more than I need. I am even the one switching off my appliances in order to reduce cost.

If anyone asks me, the argument should be why do some people have it and others don’t have?
That is where to begin finding answer to the question.

It is about balance of views.

By Richard Adeyinka Alaba

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