He came to the world in a rush. His mother, a trader had gone to the market when she went into labour. A vehicle was arranged to ferry her to the hospital but the child was too impatient to have a feel of the world. She was delivered right inside the vehicle. That child happens to be Nigeria’s current Health Minister, Professor Isaac Folorunso Adewole.
For many who knew him while growing up, either in Ilesa, Ibadan or Akure in Ondo State where he completed his primary education, Adewole was always in a rush to get things done. He had to traverse three states of Oyo, Osun and Ondo for his primary education due to the fact that he was always on the move with his uncle, who was then a staff of the Cocoa Marketing Board.
Adewole was born on May 5, 1954, in Ilesa, Osun State. His parents were traders. He attended Ogudu Methodist Primary School, Ilesa, where he spent one year, and Methodist School, Oke Ado in Ibadan, where he also spent another year before completing his primary education at St Mathias Demonstration School, Akure. He later attended Ilesa Grammar School, where he obtained a Grade 1 certificate with distinction in 1970 and Higher Certificate, HSC, in 1972.
On August 1, 2002, he was appointed Provost, College of Medicine and while serving in that capacity, he was also a member of the committee of provosts and deans as well as chairman, university campus committee on AIDS. He also served as chairman of the committee on evaluation of academic staff in 2004.
On 1 May, 2010, he became an adjunct professor at Northwestern University in Chicago. In December 2010, he was appointed as the 11th substantive Vice-chancellor of the University of Ibadan, succeeding Olufemi Bamiro, a Mechanical Engineering professor.
Adewole started his career as a leader of men’s rights from secondary school when he was appointed the Secretary of the Students’ Representatives’ Council at Ilesa Grammar School. He has not looked back since then. At the UCH, Ibadan, he was influenced by Dr. Kayose Obembe, the former President of the Nigerian Medical Association, who encouraged him in the early 1980s to contest as the Secretary-General of the University of Ibadan Chapter of the Association of Resident Doctors.
He served in that capacity for one year. In 1984, he was elected President of the National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria and led a nationwide strike that resulted in his dismissal by the then military head of state, General Muhammadu Buhari. When Buhari declared him wanted, Adewole went into exile. He worked at the Cancer Campaign Research Institute in London, where he authored four papers. He later returned to Nigeria and was elected deputy Secretary General of the Nigeria Medical Association in 1988. In 1990, he was elected Secretary General of the NMA.
In an ironical twist of fate, the same President Muhammadu Buhari, who, in 1984, declared Adewole wanted for leading doctors on a nationwide strike, found him worthy to be appointed Minister of Health on his second coming as a civilian president. Indeed, he was a bit surprised, when, on October 12, 2015, he was nominated as a Minister of the Federal Republic. Expectedly, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), lauded his nomination and described him as “a round peg in a round hole”.
The chairman of the union, Professor Olusegun Ajiboye, described his nomination as a “right step towards the change that Nigeria needs by appointing change agents who have achieved global recognition in their chosen academic careers and have unblemished administrative record”.
Since his assumption of office, Professor Adewole has gradually changed the narrative in the health sector as he anchored his programme on the revitalisation of the Primary Health Care system in the country which he described as the bedrock for our health care development.
Under his watch, Professor Adewole has transformed the health care system in the country. The implementation of the National Health Act 2014; development of National Health Strategic Health Development Plan; implementation of the Universal Health Coverage; scale up in malaria control: under which an increase in coverage with LLINs to over 69% from 42 percent in 2010 as well as steady increase in awareness, availability and use of ACTs in the treatment of malaria in children were carried out.
Primary Health Care Revitalisation project under his watch has received top priority. To date, over 4,000 PHCs have been upgraded. The World Bank provided funds to support the upgrade of 1400 PHCs, UNICEF paid for 774, while maternal, new-born and child health support the upgrade of 954 PHCs. State Governments are also supporting the PHC upgrade in their States. His desire is to ensure that 10,000 PHCs are renovated in the next few months. He has been reaching out to state governors to key in to the programme.
There has also been an improvement in storage of Health Commodities through the ‘Warehouse In A Box Project’ in Lagos and Abuja, strengthening of leadership and governance in health data management in the country through the inauguration of National Health Data Governance Council (NHDGC) including provision of infrastructure to strengthen the health information system, increase in access and availability of child spacing commodities and counselling in order to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity and improve child spacing, while new Family Planning (FP) Logo, the ‘Green Logo’ has also been launched.
It is to his credit that there is now an improved response to health emergencies in the country through the provision of medicines, treatment, ready response and care to IDP camps while partnership and collaboration with the private sector, has shown tremendous promise, bringing about support in the face of dwindling resources. Examples include the joint support by the European Union, UNICEF and WHO of 70 million Euros to scale up maternal and child health care delivery in Bauchi, Adamawa and Kebbi states and strengthen health systems in Anambra and Sokoto states; the MTN Foundation’s ‘Yellow Heart initiative’, meant to provide free health care services to underprivileged women and children in six states of Oyo, Ogun, Niger, Kaduna, Cross River and Abia which is presently in the first phase.
There is now swift response and containment of disease outbreaks across the country. For example, polio outbreaks in Borno and Jere IDP camps were successfully contained.
The actualization of the Basic Health Care Provision Fund which is meant to increase the fiscal space and overall financing to the health sector to assist Nigeria achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is set to take off. The pilot scheme is presently being implemented in Abia, Niger and Osun states.
In addition, the ‘Save One Million Lives Project’ to make resources available to states for health programme implementation based on performance has been strengthened and rejuvenated, while initiation of the ‘Primary Health Care Under One Roof’ project, which is meant to remove fragmentation and lack of coordination in PHC management and service delivery has been put in place.
Under Adewole’s watch, eight tertiary hospitals have been selected from the six geo-political zones for upgrading to provide services on cancer treatment, cardiology, renal and orthopaedics.
Support for increase in the knowledge of HIV status by Nigerians through the launch of HIV self-testing (HIVST), which is an innovative way to help achieve the United Nations 90–90–90 treatment targets – which provides that 90 per cent of all people with HIV should know their status by 2020, is being implemented while the ‘Tertiary Health Institutions Intervention’ Project which covers- 21 Federal Teaching Hospitals, 31 Federal Medical Centres, four Specialist Hospitals and 14 Fistula and Cleft lip/palate Centres have been given top priority. The provision of free surgical and laboratory services to all fistula patients in all Federal Teaching Hospitals and Federal Medical Centres (FMCs) in the country came under Professor Adewole’s watch while the supply of medical equipment to medical centres e.g. provision of 26 dental chairs to Federal Medical Centres and their outstations across the six geopolitical zones of the country to strengthen oral health service delivery is ongoing.
The ministry has also supplied and upgraded six orthopantomogram machines in six dental schools across the six geopolitical zones to facilitate the development of human resource for oral health while at the same time, providing support to local drug manufacturers.
Of recent, the Ministry of Health under him provided 8000 free surgeries and free cancer and Hepatitis B screening for indigent Nigerians under the Rapid Result initiative (RRI) while Health, Nutrition Emergency Response in the North East is been pursued with vigour.
In October last year, the Federal Government took delivery of two multipurpose trucks for Tuberculosis treatment tagged ‘Wellness on Wheels (WOW)’, for the eradication of TB in Nigeria.
Also recently, President Buhari gave approval to the ministry to add 50,000 HIV patients on treatment which has greatly expand access to treatment, testing and management of the disease in the country.
As he clocks 64 today, it is our hope that the man who came to the world in a rush will not depart as hastily and will be around to see the fruits he has planted in the health sector germinate for all Nigerians to see.
– Akintunde is the Special Assistant, Communication and Strategy to the Minister of Health
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