The overhang of the pervading rumors – and sometimes truth – of incompetence, greed and corruption had up to now cleverly hidden from memory the clear and indisputable knowledge we all have, especially in Lagos State, that indeed, we do strike lucky and come up with some quality leaders sometimes.
I was pleasantly reminded of that this afternoon, Friday, 25th October, 2019 as we sat listening to the testimony of Professor Emmanuel Akin Abayomi, Commissioner for Health Lagos State during the inauguration of a committee charged with bringing arts in its different forms into synergy with health and healing in Lagos State.
It is novel, ingenious in its concept and the objective clearly defined – bring art, visual, grafitti, framed pictures, framed inspiring words, music, dance, poetry, book and play reading, star visits and more into the hospital, grow each government owned health delivery destination in the state, into a warm, pleasant, welcoming place that helps the healing along the path of recovery, reassures the sick with true hope and provide an ambience that makes the staff look forward to work.
Listening to the gentleman Commissioner, I felt proud again to be a Lagosian. He was cultured yet firm, emphatic about his vision, resolute about his intent to achieve it, suave and exuding competence that both reassures and challenges those of us gathered in that room for the short and simple ceremony. It was devoid of any pageantry or fanfare. It was not a ‘come-chop’ event. No one was left in any doubt that as far as the man was concerned, this was a done deal and he could go on to other things.
And I think he should indeed go on to other things. When you have people like Dr Yomi Finnih, Aduke Gomez, Yeni Kuti, Wale Adeniji, others who come highly recommended and yours truly, you should go on to something else.
The assignment itself is as daunting and it is exciting. Even while seated there among them all, I could see in my minds eye, a new General Hospital that does not smell of drugs and rot, Health Centers that have exchanged their bare intimidating hallways and that general feel of gloom for cheer and welcome. I could see children running around in the new gardens, I could hear soft music wafting through the halls from unseen speakers, carefully chosen art works that speak hope, minister peace and encourage the hopeless to aspire lining the walls and rooms, soft laughter from the beds of those who had been forgotten, those who have resigned, beginning to believe again. The patients joining in making music, learning new songs, painting their dreams or confronting their demons in creative engagements, rediscovering peace, forming new bonds and living again.
I could hear it as first he then Dr Finnih and Aduke Gomez spoke. I saw it when he shared his experiences in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, I saw it when he spoke of the hopelessness and fear of the Ebola patients and those they left behind. Then he spoke of how simple art helped to draw the reclusive living dead out, made them laugh again, pick up their lives again and forgave those who abandoned them. He was aided by artists, like some of the ones we have here in Nigeria, in Lagos but they came from South Africa, men of faith and deep trust, Nelson Makamo, Ms Lungi Morrison and Ms Freda Soglo who were awarded by the ministry during that event. They deserved it, for the risk they took, the courage they showed when no one else was allowed into the Red Zone because it portended certain agony, even death. They deserve more.
People like Professor Akin Abayomi also deserve to be awarded for the work they did not only here at home but in West Africa, saving the world.
That Committee will also be positioning itself for accolades if it can deliver on this challenge to the benefit of the people of Lagos State and Nigeria, each will be able to go home smug in the knowledge that they have given back something of themselves to the sick, the dying, the indigent, the helpless and the hopeless. Their families will probably also be able to go home, secure in the belief of what they have seen in the environment where they have left their relations.
Professor Akin Abayomi desires a state health system that fuses healing through art with the best practices of professional health delivery and creating facilities in the process that will stimulate medical tourism in Lagos State.
I wish to be a part of that. I do not envy the Committee Chairman, Aduke Gomez. It is a big and noble calling.
The hope we carry is that when these ideas take form, it will inspire other states and the Federal Government to device contemporary customized concepts of their own best suited to whatever the needs of their people are and the long term vision of their locale.
As at today, if Professor Akin Abayomi is representative of other commissioners and directors working with the Lagos State Governor, I am renewed in my flagging faith in the ability of government at any level in Nigeria to indeed make a difference, the sort that defines their time in office and their aspirations for their citizens.
My fingers are crossed but today, I have nothing but praise for Lagos State for the likes of Akin Abayomi.
The overhang of the rock has blinded us from acknowledging such service and people like him and their vision…because they are hidden behind the rock.
Congratulation Lagos. Kudos Lagosians!
And so ends my effusive musing, my Lagos and Akin muse.