Image: Aisha Maureen Edward
When the crack team of reporters working for Elombah.com, factreporters.com, thesoutherngong.com, and southeastadvocates reported an investigative story on sicklers [HERE is the LINK], we received some Calls from the people in charge of Sickle Cell patients in Nigeria, they are based in Anambra state .The President did not find most of our report in tandem with their goal and belief, she registered some opinion but as our tradition, we publish our fact and give room for your fact. Therefore, we gave her right to “Right of reply” or interview to balance it.
She opted for an interview and here we present the interview, wishing you a good read:
Good Morning Mrs Aisha. This is Mazi Odera on behalf of the crew. Can we meet you?
Thank you. I am Aisha Maureen Edward. At first, I had cause to disagree with you on a publication you wrote which I personally investigated. But it was nice we started on that note. What shot my spine was the last piece you wrote on the people living with Sickle cell disorder. The first paragraph I read threw me off balance. I think you have very strong sources of information. I want to thank you on behalf of people living with sickle cell disorder for the way you went out of your way to call on both your friends and your enemies to intervene in our case. That is my only interest. All other parts of that report of yours are areas I personally would rather not go into. What we are going through as sickle cell patients, or rather, what I am going through as a sickle cell patient is quite complicated. Like i said in my last press releases, there are many interest groups that are beneficiaries to our case.
The truth is that since our launch of this sensitization campaign, we have been recording changes in attitude. The pharmaceutical society of Nigeria led by Pharm. Chisom Uchem, after my confrontation of their aiding and abetting those of us who are drug addicts; and this happened on a platform provided by the Anambra State commander of NDLEA. And they came out en masse to support us during the last walk in honor of those living with sickle cell disorder by providing us drugs and first aid boxes. Also, the bishops of Awka and Aguata Anglican and Catholics communion have been showing us positive responses. They have been with us in our cry against carrier marriages – marriages between sickle cell carriers. The Catholic Church started by providing us accommodation. It is those new generation churches that are still our headache. I advocate that any church that does not abide by the sickle cell law on marriages should be closed down. It is this their hypocritical attitude of tolerating the proliferation of sickle cell babies in the name of expectant miracles while they themselves still subscribe to western medicine when they get sick that made me focus on the more realistic Catholic and Anglican church.
We observed that you are in the Fore front of fighting for those living with Sickle Cell against those Charity organizations that collect money for them but rarely use the fund, how is the experience going?
The experience is so horrific. I have been termed a militant by some quarters because of my confrontational manner. We have been promised that something will be done by the government. I work by the sickle cell law which is one edge Anambra state has over other states. The commissioner of health has also promised in the last event at ABS that he will ensure that he starts from the nursery schools to ensure that carrier marriages are stopped in Anambra state. It is a pity that at the national level, some fraudulent organisations have been hiding under the protection of some politicians to amass wealth for themselves, in the name of research on Sickle cell. How can a researcher of sickle cell disorder not been able to detect their poor psychological conditions in the last decades, yet this grossly contributed to the high rate of death occurrence? How can a research not be able to emphasis on the important of NHIS for his patients? How can a research not be able to provide solutions to the drug addiction? These are all charade and fraud if you ask me!
We also noted that the state is not Sickle Cell-friendly, or are we wrong on that assumption?
Well, I wouldn’t want to judge you. I don’t know the angle you are seeing it from. I told you after that last publication of yours that it might be so before now, but that in recent times the trend has been reversed. The commissioner has been paying us listening ears and promising to aid us. Financially, we are yet to be empowered from the ministry, but we are still expectant. Our major concern is that the Anambra State government creates a regulatory body that will go into the hospitals to find out what they are doing. We are talking about business of life here which is very serious and therefore any hospital that still falls short of the standards should be closed down. And those with inadequate facilities be merged. The association has also written to the executive governor seeking an audience with him and we are yet to get any response from him yet. Though we are still expectant.
I wouldn’t like to be forceful as it may affect my members who are at the mercy of the society. Some people working in corridor of this government are obviously there to ruin and destroy the good image of this government just for their own selfish interest, this same group of individuals will make sure that you don’t have access to either the governor or his wife to avoid spilling the beans, but trust me when the time is ripe I will ensure that I unleash my own arsenals to break down those territories that are responsible for my peoples suffering, sometimes the government may have good intentions but some uncultured character around the government will do everything possible to sabotage the government and rubbish their efforts thereby painting them black and portraying them insensitive before the masses and their well-wishers, I for one has been a victim of the fraud from the corridor of power but the popular Omawumi song says ‘if you ask me na who I go ask?’
If I dare expose them, I will buy myself a bigger job, as the Cadet in the Army will say. Remember that am now saddled with the responsibility of protecting myself and people who has been perceived weak and harmless except you push them to the wall. Those individuals are no doubt anti-Sickle Cell agents, including the people who will go as far as telling you His Excellency said, when in the actual fact the person never spoke to His Excellency let alone made him aware! Anambra state has already set the pace by passing a law. I am not being a sycophant. I am just being careful and patient. I’m sure you have heard that the daughter of the President, Zahra Buhari, the new Sickle Cell brand ambassador, has agreed to come to Anambra. Let us see how the state government treats us prior to the visit.
What are the challenges your association are meeting and how do you think the state or people will help out?
We have written to see the governor of the state. I know he is somebody who is very pleasant. I remember his visit to Ofu Obi General Hospital where he commissioned reconstructions there. I am expecting the visit of the daughter of the president. We are now in touch with the United Nations and they are beginning to direct me to Nsukka. But I think it is better we draw the United Nations down here in Anambra state. We have already proposed in writing to the state government to facilitate our campaign in the 21 local governments of the state. All these are still hanging on the red tape of bureaucracy. We are still expectant though. The wife of the governor has personally promised to attend to us and has already trained 10 patients from our association, courtesy of CAFE’s empowerment program. Because we are still unable to hold this 21 local government campaign, Nnewi, Onitsha parts are yet to benefit from all these. So, the state needs to put action where their words are. I want to thank Hon. Charles Ezeani and Hon. Obinna Emenaka who have gone out of their way to resurrect the law. That alone is much.
The state can help us in amending the law and activating it as we humbly recommended; the state can also help us in ensuring that our effort in breaking record considering the United Nations commendation is not in vain. The state can help us with the provision of some buses, bearing in mind that most of us are victims of ulcer of the legs. Giving that some of us literally drop out of school as a result of incessant medical crisis, a special academic curriculum should be set aside for the group especially through National Open University. Partnership with the media is equally sacrosanct with the government sponsorship.
Can you say that the Rich in our society are kind and considerate to Sickle Cell patients in Nigeria, especially those Rich men with Sicklers that they kept indoors ,are they identifying with your cause ?
The next time I will speak to you on the rich attitude I shall make bold effort to reveal some of their identities since they have equally joined the bandwagon of those maltreating us by keeping quiet and threatening some our members who are their children and wives not to associate with us so that they will continue to remain in self-denial, yet will have reason to punish the impoverished one through their partnership with those NGOs, the society only gets to know when they died, sequel to that they will seek for public sympathy and possible fund raising, while the families of the impoverished will not waist time in burying their own almost immediately as if they have been counting their days to die and leave their treasures for them to inherit. It is a crazy world. I am appalled at their attitude and pray they change.
On a last note, I’d like to specially appreciate all the media people who have been partnering with me on the cause. I also pray for those who are close to the government that should be stakeholders with us, having sickle cell patients as wards but would rather engage in petty blackmails. May God give them a change of heart. Rest assured, Mazi, that this association will continue to partner with you and in due course, I pray, our efforts for the betterment of humanity, will be duly rewarded. Thanks again, Odera for this opportunity.
Thanks Aisha, we promise to keep on doing what we do best, also I will make bold to tell you that when next we write about Sickle Cell in Nigeria, that we do not need permission from you to name names of those that oppressed the Sicklers directly or indirectly, we know that you are trying hard to play a good advocate by avoiding some Hard response but don’t worry we have our sources and ways of getting hard core informations which we also use the hard way. But we will appreciate if your organisation can help us with names of big men that turned their back on you or the Government bodies that specialized on making promises they cannot keep to you.
We work for the progress of humanity and not to please the leaders with mind of scorpion.
Thanks and looking forward to our next interview which by god’s grace will be entirely different and no hold barred.