By NOSA OMORODION
I cannot believe that Governor Godwin Obaseki wants to privatize the ultramodern Central Hospital Annex – or could we say the New Central Hospital built by former Governor Adams Oshiomhole. The question I ask is where was Obaseki when Oshiomhole conceived and built the “5-star world class” hospital with yet undisclosed billions of Edo Taxpayers’ money – a project he now claims the state government cannot fund in spite of receiving, in addition to buoyed statutory revenues, about N18billion unexpected Paris Loan Refund in less than eight months at the saddle? Of course Obaseki was right beside Oshiomhole and indeed, according to Oshiomhole on the day of commissioning, he advised the ex-governor to build the complex which they said would bring Edo a lot of money in view of the health tourism traffic it would attract. So what then is Obaseki talking about?
Did Governor Obaseki, then Chief Economic Adviser to Oshiomhole, not know that the hospital, as he now suggests, was a white elephant project? Or is there any ulterior motive behind this sudden privatization plan? Could the original plan have been to build with government money and then invite family and friends to take over for profit, for God knows whom, like it is being done with the “Private Government” University in Iyamho? Perhaps Obaseki is just confused not knowing how to weave the story around the hospital that Oshiomhole delivered to him completed, furnished and commissioned but which has become strangely uncompleted, empty and commissioned for, could we say, ghost services.
No matter how proper the intentions of Governor Obaseki is, he owes it an obligation to Edo people, who are his employers, to be transparent and accountable. The new Central Hospital that Obaseki has made his intention known that he would sell or rent out, is the property of Edo people. The structure was built with their hard earned and scarce money. It is also, by the claim of the past administration of Adams Oshiomhole, of which Obaseki was a frontline member, a veritable money spinner for the Edo State Government, nay Edo people. So why should the governor be spinning a perplexing yarn?
If however, we should concede to the governor his determination to trade with the “world class” hospital for pecuniary benefit, he should first convince the people as to the reasonableness and viability of his economic plan, with regard to the hospital. And there is a condition that should precede this. The condition is the disclosure of: (1) the value of the building – including costs of design, construction, equipping and commissioning; (2) the approximate rent per annum expected from the investor-managers; (3) the social corporate responsibilities of the managers; (4) the method of choosing the private investor; and ultimately (5) the corporate profile of the primary investor.
The fulfillment of these conditions would give the people an analytical frame upon which the government may be properly advised.
Meanwhile, I want to say that it would not be in the interest of Edo people for Obaseki to give away the hospital in spite of the huge public funds committed to it and the high hopes for marvellous returns. And let me say that selling the hospital as is being speculated too, should not be an option.
My psychoanalytical view of Governor Obaseki reveals a man that is averse to trusting civil servants with responsibilities that involve revenue generation and accountability. He cannot be faulted to hold this fear because of the prevailing situation in money making government establishments. There is also this other negative attribute of the archetypal Nigerian civil servants, which is the penchant for a lack of maintenance culture.
Although undesirable, these and other foibles not mentioned, should not be the reason why the Edo State Government would want to give away our flagship hospital to mercantile and perhaps unscrupulous businessmen.
While health facilities should have sustainable sources of funding, the preoccupation of government in health care provision should be basically welfarist and not profit driven. It does matter whether is at the primary, secondary or tertiary level. With a creative mindset and sincere rapprochement with the income receiving public, the government can source funds to run a world class hospital, if indeed we can call the new Edo Central Hospital one, to the benefit of the people and the glory of the State. Governor Godwin Obaseki should stop and ponder well this encroaching hyper capitalist Private Government initiatives that he may just have found himself having a blind love for.