By Ehi Braimah
SUN 14 FEB, 2021-theGBJournal- When the news reached me last Monday February 8, 2021 that Dr Adeniyi Amole, our family doctor of over 15 years, had passed on, I was too shocked to absorb it. No, it can’t be true, I told myself as I tried to shake off the news that hit me like a ton of bricks.
“Where are you?” my wife asked when she called me. Apparently, she picked up the news before me. “I’m in the office,” I replied. The late Dr Amole’s hospital, Lister Medical Centre where he was the Chief Medical Director, was next door to our office in Ikeja, Lagos. The expectation was that I would have heard the news of his death but there was no hint until my wife called me. I was snowed under with work that Monday afternoon.
Eventually, when the news was confirmed, it gradually dawned on me that Dr Amole was no more – he died at Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) of complications arising from Covid-19. A harvest of deaths has been recorded globally due to the stubborn virus; a grim reaper that is stalking everyone and thrashing our common humanity.
The second wave of the virus infections and numerous deaths slowed down the pace of economic activities and human interactions. It was why President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Executive Order recently to control the spread of the virus so that we can at least get our lives back.
Dr Amole was a good man and accomplished medical practitioner with a high profile list of patients who trusted his medical opinion and judgement. He was patient with every patient, taking his time to listen attentively as he took notes. From a layman’s perspective, his diagnosis was always thorough – you received both emotional and psychological healing after a session with Dr Amole. He was probably the grandest medical counselor in town.
As a surgeon, Dr Amole was one of the best hands you could ever find. After graduating from the University of Lagos with an MBBS degree, he proceeded to the United Kingdom for further studies, specialising as consultant surgeon with interest in oncology.
He worked in the UK before heading to Saudi Arabia for about six years. “I’m still being paid my pension every month in the UK,” Dr Amole once told me. “The money is paid into my Barclays Bank account and I don’t usually have any need for it until I travel to London.”
It is safe to describe Dr Amole as a complete gentleman and family man: he was husband, father and grandfather. Most of his children are married and they live abroad. He was truly devoted to Jumoke, his darling wife and business partner – they were inseparable lovebirds. How would she cope without her soul mate of so many seasons?
Before he passed on, Dr Amole was very mindful of the fact that he was vulnerable and tried as much as possible to stay safe. He avoided the virus like hell because of underlying medical conditions, but how careful can we be? He tested for Covid-19 regularly and by the time his fifth consecutive test was negative, he stayed away from the hospital to minimise the risk of infection. He would have been 70 years old in August.
At Lister Medical Centre, Dr Amole was blessed with a very dedicated team of loyal staff – they shared his values and embraced his vision for excellent professional healthcare services. From my personal experience, his core values included integrity, sincerity and honesty.
Let me cite an example. Dr Amole told me he was once approached by a billionaire investor who asked him to set up a high brow hospital facility in Lekki. The investor pledged to provide one hundred per cent funding for the hospital for a 50:50 partnership deal. Dr Amole declined the offer based on his integrity rule.
“I thanked the investor for the offer but told him that I will be unable to run the hospital in Lekki in addition to Lister in Ikeja in view of my age,” he explained to me in one of our numerous conversations.
“It would have been too stressful for me,” Dr Amole continued. “Instead, I advised him to search for a younger medical practitioner and invest in him.” Dr Amole was an incredible networker and worthy professional of immense goodwill. He built trusting relationships and his word was always his bond.
Dr Amole was a kind-hearted care giver but he was honest to a fault. More importantly, he was a detribalised Nigerian as he had friends without borders; it did not matter to him which part of the country you are from. He had VIPs as friends and patients but he lived a very simple life full of enduring humanism. “My needs are not many,” he said, “but I want our healthcare system to improve.”
Yes, an efficient and “democratised” healthcare delivery system was dear to his heart but he was also passionate about a better Nigeria that works for everyone. During one of our light banter moments, Dr Amole expressed his disappointment at our poor leadership culture and orientation. He told me he preferred leaders who act as conscience of society.
Although he was not bitter about our condition each time we spoke, there was however an unmistakable hint in his voice and glint in his eyes indicating that he was worried about what the future of Nigeria would be like. He was genuinely worried for the younger generation and what lay ahead of them.
In one instance, Dr Amole confided in me that he was thinking of heading back to Saudi Arabia to take up a lucrative offer. Was it out of frustration? I couldn’t say but he told me he was spending too much money on diesel to power the hospital’s generators. It was another way of saying the enabling environment to run a “proper” hospital was missing but I discouraged him from taking up the offer.
Since we became neighbours more than 12 years ago, Dr Amole took me under his wings and mentored me. His knowledge of the ways of the world was vast and I had the priviledge of drinking from that fountain of knowledge. Every December, we exchanged Christmas gifts but he always made me feel special — he believed so much in me and my abilities.
When I gave him two copies of my book, “My Lockdown Diary: Reflections on Nigeria and COVID-19 Pandemic”, which I launched to a virtual audience on November 22 last year, he asked for my bank account details. Dr Amole made a generous donation on behalf of himself and his wife, and Lister Medical Centre.
It was Dr Emmanuel Sunny Ojeagbase, the Executive Chairman of Complete Communications Limited and publisher of Complete Sports, who introduced Dr Amole to me. When I broke the news of Dr Amole’s death to him on the telephone, he was speechless for the first few minutes. “He was a good man,” Dr Ojeagbase recalled afterwards, “but we shall live with his pleasant memories.”
Before Dr Amole passed on, I asked my brother, Moses, a communications strategist in the healthcare sector, to produce a concept note for a TV programme on issues relating to public health crisis in the country. The plan was for Dr Amole to be a resource adviser and I had no doubt in my mind that that he would have used his extensive network of contacts to support the programme in terms of content and sponsorship.
Hopefully, Lister Medical Centre will continue to run under one of the doctors that Dr Amole mentored; it will be one way of sustaining his legacy and keeping his memory alive. When my longtime associate and insurance broker, Lanre Balogun who also knows Dr Amole showed up at my office, we walked across to the hospital to sign the condolence register. It was a surreal moment for me.
As we look forward to receiving Covid-19 vaccine doses, conspiracy theorists such as Yahaya Bello, Kogi State governor, continue to live in denial. Bello had previously lied openly that there was no Covid-19 in Nigeria. It is best to ignore the governor for his unfounded claims and misguided rants which is a clear manifestation of youthful exuberance.
It served him right when his colleagues issued a disclaimer on him. In a press statement, the Governors’ Forum criticised Bello for rejecting Covid-19 vaccines. How can a governor say that vaccines are meant to kill people? Bello’s ignorance of key national issues is worse than Covid-19 disease in plain sight.
Governor Kayode Fayemi who is chairman of the Governors’ Forum dismissed the egregious pronouncement of Bello. It was clearly regrettable that Bello turned himself into a rumour monger on the deadly virus when information on the disease is available on a daily basis from credible news platforms that he has access to – even for free.
For the avoidance of doubt, Covid-19 is real and it is a deadly disease. People are dying every day and it is therefore deeply troubling and indeed an irony that a governor will shamelessly use state resources to spread falsehood in the national news media.
For the benefit of Bello and his co-travellers, Fayemi said the Forum will be guided and informed by science so that every decision they take on matters relating to Covid-19 will earn public and professional trust and certainly not compromised by conflicts of interest. It is up to Bello to face reality and behave like a governor otherwise he would be consumed by his own hubris.
Braimah is the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of Naija Times (https://naijatimes.ng)