Popular journalist Azuka Jebose is quite known on social media as a crusader who intervenes in medical challenges.
In the last few years, he’s championed the treatment of many financially deprived Nigerians by seeking donation.
And now, he’s planning a foundation to properly practise what he’s been preaching.
In this interview, the former Punch columnist and writer speaks about his dream and modus…
What’s Azuka presently doing in journalism and business?
My primary focus is the success I am having with my son’s mild autism challenges. He was diagnosed with high functioning autism at age three. It was a new challenge for me as a dad. So I gave up all comfort to aggressively be involved with and in his treatments which are mostly non-medical.
Through therapy and regiments doctors recommended participation in various therapies and structured lifestyle, I am at 95 percent reversal for him and at ten years old, the young man beams with talent, strength and brilliant curiosity. Imagine if I had not given up everything to be aggressively involved with his treatments? It is not easy to go through this process but worth every sacrifice a father could dedicate to a son with mild challenges.
Every day is a gift. No regrets leaving Journalism. But I also gained from my time and involvement. I became a great storyteller/writer and also focused on my second passion: automobile sales for myself.
We’ve seen your intervention in medical challenges. How did it begin?
I really never went out seeking to intervene in vulnerable Nigerians with medical challenges. The social media exposed our griefs and hardships with the state of healthcare in Nigeria. My first case was from a girl, Esther, a relative of the famous Yoruba actress, Ronke Oshodi Oke.
Late Esther’s pictures and story went viral almost a decade ago. They were horrible pictures of her swollen, sore shoulder joint, gushing out pus from her injuries. She appeared to be decaying while alive. So I made inquiries and I discovered she had cancer. I took up her case on social media, contacted her and Oshodi Oke. It was tough.
I also contacted the Cancer Institute here, one of the best in the world at Duke University. Shockingly, the hospital responded and we cost her treatment to about $100,000. But our fund drive was slow. Just as we had luck from one of the Governors’ wives, who donated about N7 million, Esther died the next day. I was wrecked… I had taken other cases to help Nigerians: Sadiq Daba, Ibrahim Monye (Stella Monye’s son), the 15-year-old kerosene explosion girl (Joy Chiedozi), late Ndidi who died after four years of seeking just N200k to perform surgery that would remove her goiter fibroid on her neck. She contacted me late and a few hours after her contact, I arranged for her to go for a test which I paid for in Asaba. Her scan revealed that her goiter had become terminal cancer which had spread to all over her organs including her brains.
The doctors gave her less than one year to live. That was June last year. She died in November. It was horrible. Her husband died at 42, four years ago. A few weeks after her husband died, she found out she was three weeks pregnant and also the goiter was manifesting. She left behind her four year old daughter and a 15 year old beautiful girl whose education we silently supported.
Why are you starting a foundation?
Every day, I get appeals from Nigerians unable to pay for their healthcare and or wellness treatments. I wish you could exchange inbox or WhatsApp with me. Just yesterday, someone inboxed me that a widow needed help for two of her daughters. I have another lady in Gombe receiving the final stages of her treatment thanks to our crowd funding. I have never met any of those that I had helped, except Sadiq Daba. I am being overwhelmed by the number of cries and appeals for help. It’s heart breaking. I cannot continue to call social media followers and fans to donate.
So I decided to start a Foundation: GRA-GRA FOUNDATION. My approach to a foundation is very different. I am not a Nigerian NGO. I am very different. Gra-Gra directly impacts and empowers patients or anyone we raise funds for. For example, take the young 15-year-old kerosene explosion victim: Her grandfather, the family’s sole provider was felled by a stroke. He had been quietly seeking help within his community to pay for surgery for his granddaughter.
But mild stroke weakened him. Gra-Gra paid for his physical therapy and treatments for eight weeks while Joy was in the hospital for reconstructive surgery. We also donated N100K to the grandmother to start trading so that her granddaughter would have time to heal and she could trade from home to care for her family. My Foundation is the change I seek, the commitment to saving lives and making the world a better place, it is the healthcare management that I wish for all humans. It is the care that I dreamed of. Hence I started the Foundation.
What’s your foundation about?
It’s about giving functional and structured healthcare to every person on planet Nigeria. It’s about providing affordable healthcare and assisting every Nigerian unable to pay for his/her medical care or treatment pay through our crowd funding. Health is wealth. Nigerians die everyday from preventable and treatable diseases and because they do not have money to pay for hospital treatments or at the clinic. Go to various teaching hospitals, you will see Nigerians being held hostage until they paid for their hospital treatments. The hospitals are in deplorable conditions. The sick went to the hospital to get well but get infected because the environment is dirty, dysfunctional and disorganized.
In Nigeria, access to healthcare is still years from reality. Our hospitals barely exist. The healthcare system is: pay before treatment. It doesn’t matter if the patient is facing a life-threatening illness. Vulnerably ill Nigerians pay to be treated of their ailments. The existing government hospitals are unstructured, neglected and deplorable. There are no functional hospitals or clinics. Visit the Teaching hospitals and your heart would hurt horribly with conditions of patients’ care and management. Nothing works.
Medicare for all in Nigeria is a death wish or hope. Yet every year, our administrators allocate billions of Naira to the health sector from annual budgets. Corruption and inhumanity have damaged our nation’s healthcare system.
Sick Nigerians beg friends, families and strangers to help them pay for their wellness treatments. Fake drugs litter Nigeria’s health industry, just like garbages and vultures litter land fields. Most Nigerians, especially those in rural Nigeria, have no access to affordable healthcare.
Our Kings, Emirs, Sultans, Obas, Queens and grass-root leaders do not care about us, the people. We have been waiting for our inalienable rights, as citizens of Nigeria, to enjoy the basic necessities of life, liberty and happiness in our land. My great grandparents waited. My grandparents too. My parents died waiting for governments to provide us functional and affordable healthcare. Our hospitals are slaughter slabs where minor surgeries are powered by candle lights and or lousy generators, depending on the financial status of a patient. In this 21st Century Naija. Every day, sick Nigerians are either misdiagnosed or over-medicated with wrong prescriptions. Many Nigerians have been killed in our hospitals. But each time our leaders sneeze harmattan dust, they run to Obodo oyibo hospitals for treatment with our money. We have been abandoned for too long.
Hence this brazen project to help Nigerians. I am launching this appeal fund to help raise money to build an affordable Community Healthcare Clinic in Nigeria where no one would be denied treatments because of his or her financial status.
How do you plan to raise funds and realize your dream?
A consistent public appeal is my focus, an everyday fund drive with transparency. Tell our stories, why we are doing this and who would benefit from it. It’s a people’s foundation. We also hope that reasonable, rich Nigerians who see this would donate to help us where the governments have failed to provide the basic necessity of life to its citizens. Our Community Health Clinic shall be for all persons in homeland Nigeria. No one shall be denied any treatments because of his/her financial status. It will be funded by the public and kind hearted Nigerians and other international agencies that we are navigating for participation.
How will the hospital run?
As a Community Health Clinic, the basic running of the Clinic begins with providing functional healthcare to patients regardless, the patient can afford the payment or not. The rest of its administration shall happen when it begins operation.
Towards our set goal, I have opened a gofundme account for easy and safe donations. Please, join us. It’s a brazen project that we hope to accomplish in 2021. Please help by donating thus: