did you embrace a medical career? Was it by accident or
is an interesting question. I actually came to the US with
the design to continue my high-school ambition of being
a chemical engineer. My post-secondary study at DMGS was
a combination of Pure Math, Applied Math, Chemistry and
Physics, which prepared me for career in chemical engineering.
My cousin, who was already a medical doctor in the US at
the time of my arrival here, persuaded me to change course
from chemical engineering to medicine. I heeded his counsel
and the rest is now history. My preference for surgical
specialty was the closest I could come to the practice of
engineering in the field of medicine.
Can you throw more light into your professional
left the US for Nigeria in early 1982, less than two months
after my board certification in general surgery, to resume
medical practice with my cousin, Professor Uchenna Nwosu,
who had founded Apex Medical Center, Igboukwu, several months
earlier. I later served as Medical Director and Consultant
Surgeon of Union Hospital, Igboukwu, before starting LaSalle
Hospital, Nnewi and Igbo Surgical clinics, which were sited
at Igboukwu, Nnewi and Amichi. My clinical practice in Nigeria
covered all aspects of surgery, obstetrics & gynecology
as well as internal medicine specialties. I even found myself
performing limited dental procedures when no help was immediately
was your re-entry into the American health practice?
family and I returned to the US in end of 1995. After dusting
up my certifications and licenses, I resumed office-based
practice in Washington DC metropolis in early 1996. The
economics of health care delivery that I encountered upon
my reentry into the US compelled me to adjust the nature
of my practice to resemble what I was engaged in during
my stay in Nigeria. I am slowly phasing out my surgical
practice while devoting more of my time and resources in
developing general practice in a walk-in setting. I have
taken interest in primary health care and my practice presently
offers pediatric immunization, adult screening for cancers
and an active weight-loss programme as important preventative
and lifestyle changes that augur well for extended healthy
In your candid opinion, what is the major obstacle
to Nigeria’s health development?
problems and poor quality control mechanism are major areas
that stunt development of Nigeria’s health care industry.
Lack of physical facilities, like well-established hospitals
and clinics, compounded by decrepit societal infrastructure
constitute a nightmarish scenario for whoever wishes to
join medical practice in Nigeria. To get my hospital functioning,
from day to day during my stint in Nigeria, I needed to
procure and maintain heavy-duty power generators and construct
private water cisterns for storing daily deliveries from
water tankers. During the fuel scarcity that still afflicts
the country on regular intervals, I did dissipate a lot
of time and resources to acquire enough diesel and petrol
to power generating plants, ambulances and vehicles for
both my personal and hospital needs. Because of uncertain
power supply, I had to operate in surgical theaters without
air conditioners, sometimes, for hours at a time. Poor quality
control affects every aspect of health care delivery. All
categories of medical equipments and medications are still
mostly purchased at the Bridge Head (Head Bridge) Market
from vendors and merchants who have little understanding
of standard protocol that should be complied to by whoever
deals with those vital commodities. Counterfeit drugs and
medical equipments are commonplace throughout Nigeria. There
is little or no oversight by the government or professional
bodies regarding the qualification of health-care practitioners
and adherence to minimum standard of care provided to the
average patient. Quacks and charlatans compete with qualified
specialist doctors for patients who are often mesmerized
by exaggerated claims of fantastic cures by potions from
native doctors, even concoctions that have no intrinsic
medicinal value. The depressed state of the nation’s
economy makes it extremely difficult for medical doctors
to earn adequate income to enjoy a lifestyle, which is close
to that of their counterparts residing overseas. Nigerian
doctors play major roles in health systems of European and
American countries as well as Arab nations of the Middle
East. Nigeria, whose indigenes have acquired modern medical
skills in very large numbers, still operates a health-care
delivery system that ranks amongst the worst in the world.
this an excuse for the fever-pitch flight of Nigerian professionals
from the country otherwise called brain drain given its
adverse effects on Nigeria’s socio-economic development?
can use myself as an example. I left Nigeria soon after
the Civil War for further studies in America. After accomplishing
specialist certification in general surgery, I returned
to my hometown, Igboukwu in Anambra State in 1982, to practice
my profession, which was obviously in demand in that rural
town and surrounding communities. I subsequently extended
my practice to Nnewi and environs. After building my practice
for more than 13 years, I was compelled to move my family
back to the US because of the deterioration in the educational
system and marked devaluation of the naira. My daughter,
Adora, just finished her high school and there was no future
for her in the Nigerian university system, which was shut
down repeatedly due to one strike or the other. The tough
decision to abandon the work I had done for past 13 years,
my employees, long-term patients, relatives and friends
was made in order not to deny my very children the chance
to, at least, get the level of education of their parents.
Since my departure, dust and gloom have descended upon everything
that meant much to our lives for more than a decade of living
in Nigeria. On a broader scale, the Nigerian economy is
ailing badly while millions of its well-educated and qualified
citizens are residing and providing top-class services to
their host countries overseas. Human capital is the basis
for realizing Nigeria’s socioeconomic advancement.
The task of moving the economy forward becomes even more
daunting when there is paucity of skilled qualified manpower
to translate policies into palpable accomplishments. The
brain drain continues to intensify with each passing day
that no visible change is seen in the status quo. Nigerians
are entrapped in material poverty, disease and deteriorating
infrastructure while their kith and kin, who possess the
skills and training to provide relief, are not available
to help. Need I say more?
Can you draw some parallels between the US and
Nigeria in terms of health care delivery systems?
overcoming all the impediments to delivery of health care
in Nigeria as explained above, the medical doctor must first
find it within his heart to perform his professional duties
with one aim in mind: putting the welfare of the patient
above everything else.
the United States, doctors are well rewarded for fulfilling
the demands for their profession in the society. In the
hyper dynamic socioeconomic system of Nigeria, the economics
of survival makes many doctors to adopt practice models
that further retard development of modern health care delivery
in the country. Nigeria has little industrial manufacturing
base. In the US, all logistical needs for normal medical
practice as well as instruments of quality control are not
only handled within the country but also they could be local.
The greatest difference between the two systems is the ways
in which these contrasting systems are regulated. Both professional
self-regulation and government oversight are the standard
practice in the US. In Nigeria, on the other hand, both
regulatory instruments are deficient or barely perceptible.
Health care delivery is an important social service but
it takes money, discipline and willpower to execute well-planned
health care system that can enhance citizens’ quality
of life. Nigerian economy, particularly the private sector,
should be empowered and encouraged to take needed bold ventures
to improve the quality of life of the average citizens.
viable solutions can you proffer?
must expand Nigeria’s industrial base by opening up
new opportunities by developing an economic corridor east
of the Niger River, which is currently lagging behind in
industrial growth. A buoyant economy that is self-sustaining
is the engine that shall power the nation’s healthcare
industry and hence the physical and mental well being of
the average citizen. Improvement in Nigeria’s health
care system must be propelled by a strong private sector-driven
economy. This system shall minimize corrupt official practices
that are ubiquitous due to excessive dominance of government
bureaucracy in the national economy.
other issues should be tackled especially at the individual
of the nation’s economy determines the health care
system that Nigeria can afford to provide for its people.
The economic woes that confront Nigeria are not expected
to vanish overnight and thus the dilemma in the nation’s
health care industry shall also linger for a while longer.
We must utilize whatever meager resources we have at present
to implement basic policies in the realm of primary care
and provision of adequate food, clean water and hygienic
environment for the population. Immunization and avoidance
of HIV infection must be emphasized, especially amongst
children and youths. Regular physical exercise and avoidance
of obesity as well as proper treatment of persistent high
blood pressure and increased blood sugar level must emphasized
in the adult population so as to enhance longevity in this
group. The philosophy, in current scheme of things, is to
do the basic things we can while anticipating emergence
of a more robust health care delivery system that will be
buoyed up by a revitalized national economy.
traversed several fields in your professional career, what
are some of the major challenges militating against the
challenge facing my generation today is to lead the implementation
process of many good ideas about which we have pontificated
over the years. Having lived and worked within the context
of rural Nigeria and US, I had the unique chance to see
the problems facing our people from the grassroots perspective.
The most daunting challenge facing the South East today
is the erosion menace, which is defacing, desecrating and
ravaging our ancestral land.
infrastructure is the first casualty of uncontrolled flood
erosion. Without optimal land and water transportation network,
socioeconomic development of our society is being retarded.
Erosion gullies that scar our ancestral land today constitutes
an eyesore, which cannot be allowed to exist for even a
day longer. Starting the process of containing this great
threat is a challenge that stares my generation in the face.
is a cacophony of voices all pointing to solutions. In your
views what are the most realistic options for the Igbo and
is material poverty in Nigeria anywhere you look. Rather
than focus on obtaining our fair share of the national shrinking
pie, I believe that Ndigbo should play a leading role in
bringing a turnaround of Nigerian economy through the pursuit
of new wealth creation and entrenchment of a robust private
sector. I am Chairman of Igbo Agenda Committee that is tasked
to derive plans of action for issues about which Ndigbo
have pre-existing consensus. New wealth creation and erosion
control have now been identified as key areas of consensus
on which everyone can start work immediately. Information
collation and its dissemination to the grassroots level
is the challenge that we face at the moment. With interest
of the mass media outlets like yours enlisted, the campaign
in these crucial fronts shall soon pick up required momentum.
What role can the Igbo in Diaspora play in this
Igbo Diaspora can play a leading role in revitalizing the
home economy because they are well placed to leverage the
financial and technological resources of their host nations
for a speedy transformation of Nigeria. Ultimately, it would
take synergistic interplay between home-based and Diaspora
Igbo to achieve the best outcome for our people in the shortest
possible time. Growth, whether in sheer numbers or wealth,
is always a welcome phenomenon. Ndigbo have come a long
way, as a people, since the Civil War ended 34 years ago.
Alaigbo has virtually eliminated all visible scars of Africa’s
most brutal war, which was waged on its turf for 30 long
months. There is an untapped economic genius within the
mindset of the average Igbo and this latent resource base
holds great promise for orchestrating a quantum leap in
economic potential of Nigeria, in particular and the West
African sub-region, in general.
best should the menace of erosion be tackled since it has
become a major environmental problem, threatening the economic
and social progress of many communities in the Southeast?
genesis and perpetuation of flood erosion in South east
are not complex and thus not difficult to identify and correct.
Erosion gullies are recent phenomena in the equatorial rain
forest region of Nigeria to which the South east zone belongs.
The South east receives about 80 inches of rainfall annually
and this precipitation pattern has existed possibly for
thousands of years. Our ancestors where more knowledgeable
in land husbandry than our present generation because they
hardly experienced any erosion-induced disasters as are
commonplace today. Rainwater is meant to sink into the soil
as close to where it falls as possible. Our ancestors developed
farming techniques that ensured zero runoff from the farmlands
they cultivated. Whenever runoff occurred, it was carefully
channeled through well-delineated flood paths, which usually
ended in wooded meadows where the floodwater gradually soaked
into the soil. Contemporary attitude and development patterns
as well as rapid population growth has put intense pressure
on our land management skills. Metal roofing sheets, concrete
and bitumen pavements as well as haphazard soil cultivation
methods help to generate huge volumes of flood water runoff
from our homesteads and farmlands nowadays even after only
a light drizzle.
The end result of this enormous floodwater discharge is
emergence of ugly gullies in low-lying areas downstream.
The torrents generated as floodwater rivulets converge possess
enormous power with which it can easily devastate the road
network in the area, especially during the peak of rainy
season. These torrents also carry our valuable topsoil and
other debris to nearby springs, streams and lakes thereby
polluting them beyond belief. Some springs and stream have
simply disappeared after repeated bouts of heavy silting
by floodwater debris and a marked reduction in underground
water supply due to reduced volume of filtration upstream.
Solution to erosion menace lies in understanding of the
mechanism of its development and perpetuation. I am heading
a group that is determined to address this menace in a comprehensive
manner, find solutions to it as well as provide leadership
in their implementation. As we speak, there is a draft legislation
titled "Erosion Control and Road Maintenance Bill"
which has been submitted to some state legislators of the
Southeast and the Governor of Anambra State for debate,
amendment, adoption and enactment. This bill provides the
legal framework for implementing and enforcing zero-runoff
principle in all states of the Southeast. It is our expectation
that this model shall be adapted and replicated in other
parts of Nigeria where the menace of flood erosion exists.
Beyond the erosion problems in the South east,
the nation’s overall environmental status is equally
deplorable and this also bears negatively on the citizens
and their health status. What are your views on this unfortunate
enlightenment is the key to improving both poor health and
environmental status of Nigeria. With regards to health,
emphasis on preventive and other primary health care methods,
like immunization and avoidance of HIV infection, shall
go a long way in initiating a turnabout in the overall well
being of the populace. Likewise, environmental standards
are better implemented and sustained when the grassroots
are properly sensitized to the negative consequences of
environmental decay and the role they can play in arresting
and reversing the present trend. Floodwater erosion, for
example, can be effectively checked by implementing zero-runoff
principle from each homestead, village and community of
areas that lie upstream from gully sites. If each homestead
tidies up its immediate surroundings, the entire community
would come out looking squeaky clean. Urban sanitation is
in deplorable state now because people dispose of waste
by littering even the streets in front of their places of
residence. We need a legislation that mandates everyone
to clean up his immediate surroundings or face prompt enforceable
sanctions. We just need to invest our time and resources
in re-orientation of the grassroots. This form of community-based
education will yield tangible visible dividends within a
very short period of time.
Why did you establish www.osondu.com web site?
Internet has revolutionalized how information is communicated
and managed. I consider myself to be a restless writer because
I have come to the realization that the written word is
a very powerful tool for eliminating ignorance and effecting
change. Therefore www.osondu.com is the publishing outlet
for Osondu Foundation, Inc., a Washington DC-based non-governmental
organization (NGO), dedicated to the actualization of Igbo
renaissance. The site is primarily a tool for sharing the
vision of founders of this NGO with the public at large.
It is also used for communicating the essence of being Igbo,
Nigerian and African in today’s world. Because of
the strong ideological conviction that underlie the creation
sustenance of this publication outfit, its message has begun
to influence the thinking of many who write often to show
appreciation for what it tries to do. We expect this site
to become a popular port of call for anyone who desires
to learn what it would take to build a strong, united and
tolerant Nigeria for the 21st Century. You are welcome to
visit us soon at www.osondu.com and let’s know what
seem to have a lot on your hands. For instance, how do you
combine a very busy medical practice with the demands of
running a web site, www.osondu.com?
residency years prepared me for a profession that runs on
24-hour basis. I am totally immersed in my professional
practice at any point in time. But I have learnt, over the
years, to find time for other aspects of life and world
that exist outside the practice of medicine. In recent years,
I schedule physical exercise workout in the morning before
heading out for the office. In between seeing my patients
and handling other administrative issues, I work on completing
a publication, catching up with Nigerian news or partake
in Internet forum discussions within the Nigerian Diaspora.
I admire the power of the computer. It enables me to multitask
thereby accomplish more in any given timeframe. Any other
free time available to me is deployed in building Tribex
Corporation, an IT enterprise and its online Yellow Pages
directory offered at www.conzumerguard.com.
I have invested almost 30 years of my life in the practice
of medicine. I still have the zeal in me to explore other
possibilities of making even greater impact on improving
the lives of our people. Greater percentage of my time and
focus will eventually shift away from medical practice to
allow me to engage in other equally compelling tasks that
you elaborate on some of the compelling tasks you referred
was the founding president of Association of African Physicians
in North America (APNA), which was inaugurated in May 1981.
This was the first organizational platform for African doctors
in the US, Canada and the Caribbean. We now have many successful
professional groups that, among other things, regularly
go on medical mission to Nigeria and other parts of Africa.
In 1988, I led the group that founded the Run for Life Campaign
of Nigeria. This youth-oriented non-governmental organization
conducts regular jogging exercises to emphasize the importance
of good health habits, societal responsibility and charity
in the upbringing of future builders of a prosperous Nigeria.
In February 2002, I took part in a Run for Life Campaign
outing in Nnewi, Anambra State. I was quite active politically
during the aborted Third Republic transition program. I
was Deputy Chairman of National Republican Convention (NRC)
in Anambra State and was heavily involved in electioneering
politics of that era. I am active in Osondu Foundation,
Inc.; a US-based NGO that publishes the Osondu Newsletter
and Osondu.com web site. I am co-founder of Tribex Corporation,
which does business out of Northern Virginia suburbs of
Washington, DC. I collaborate with individuals and groups
in planning and executing projects of mutual interest. I
belong to many professional and community-based organizations.
some of your major achievements including awards and publications.
awards received during the period of formal education and
professional training, I do not have many accolades that
are worth mentioning here. I have spent almost my entire
time in private practice setting both here and in Nigeria.
I was really never interested in academic medicine as such.
My obsession has been to translate the technological know-how
in my profession for service where it really counts, at
the grassroots consumer level and that approach has worked
for me thus far. For the past 20 years or more, I have been
writing profusely on issues that range from medicine to
the discriminatory Osu caste system in Alaigbo. My writings
have been published in almost all major newspapers in Nigeria
over the past 2 decades and part of my work is referenced
by authors, particularly those with special interest on
Nigeria. Most feature articles and poems in Osondu.com have
my input in authoring or editing them. I invest time and
effort in a few Internet forums that deal with issues of
concern to Ndigbo, Nigerians and Africans on a global basis.
I look forward to making compilations of my writings into
books when I retire from active practice in a decade or
so. There are interesting thoughts that I would like to
share in my autobiography when I get to put it together.
Are you continuing at this level or are you
taking a new turn in terms of public service and political
journey is not yet done. I am now at the stage of my life
where implementation of life-long ideas is the watchword.
I have tried my best in various aspects of human endeavor
to serve the world around me. I am presently consumed with
the task of creating reliable avenues for new wealth creation
to further empower others and me in the implementation of
the noble ideas that we have dreamt for our people since
my childhood. As long as there is health, there are many
more mountains to scale and many more horizons to explore.
Courtesy of Champion Newspapers Limited.
Published June 19, 2004 - Lagos,