The Concourse: NAUTH where art thy brother? – Eze Jude O.

Late Dr Martins Ifeanyichukwu

The preventable death, a week ago of one of Nigeria’s foremost Medical Immunologist, and a doyen of Medical Laboratory Science, a University Don and an administrator of impeccable repute, Dr. Martins Ifeanyichukwu of the College of Health Sciences, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Nnewi campus, has shattered the hearts of all of us, whom he had impacted, taught and encountered in life, for so many reasons.

First, he was an honest gentleman in every sense of the word. He jettisoned the lust for material wealth. His simplicity astounds the noblest of minds. His avowed sense of contentment is scholastic. And his erudition was unequalled.

But how could we have such a fellow in our world and he remained unknown to so many in other parts of the country, you may ask? Yes, may be because of his unparalleled humility which was so sublime that, like the oil of olives, it sinks deep to the base while it coats the surface with amiable aroma of gentleness. He was humility personified.

Dr. Martin’s perceived offence is his refusal to join the bandwagon of office ‘politics.’ He comes to school, does his duties and leaves. His uncommon courtestic nature made it difficult for anyone to victimize him without incurring the guilt of conscience. He acquiesced himself to all (his seniors and juniors alike). He was one Lecturer who comes to class contentedly with the picture of his wife and kid. Indirectly, this serves as a caveat to female students who may exhibit electrical impulses towards him to gain any wanton favour whatsoever at a period many of his contemporaries were slaves of Incubus.

He was closer to his students more than Deans of students affairs. And that was why sometime in 2013, as he felt the desperate pulse of final year students in his department whom, ASUU strike was threatening their graduation, and made a swift alternative plan to hide them in an underground hall in Anatomy Department and set exams for them there.

He had almost succeeded when some ‘forces’ claiming to be ‘superior’ to his, stopped him. He would later call those unfortunate students to school on Saturdays and Sundays to write the exams. He showed himself HOD per excellence.

And when (through his fatherly shepherdhood) they were through with final exams, he delegated one of them to send an e-mail on his behalf to Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria (MLSCN) for induction. Office politics has been his bane. And it played out that Madonna University sent similar mail two days after his.

In true Nigeria method, MLSCN approved and gave Madonna’s request priority treatment and told Unizik to join on in Madonna if they want to induct that day or wait extra one month if they don’t.  Dr. Martins don’t want his students to suffer unjustified prolonged stay on campus. He knew he has a case to prosecute. His mail came earlier, so what happened to the “first come first served” dogma of social justice? Also, his, is a federal university, Madonna is privately owned. So if there is any of them who should join the other, it must be Madonna who should join Unizik and not the other way round.

Gentle Martins won’t delve into all those, to the detriment of the students. And so he played along. And the rest became history.

He has always been victim of unjustified malicious envy. As brilliant as he was, this self same vicious negative energy delayed and prolonged his Master’s and Doctorate degree programs for ten years.

Ten calendar years!

And then, it took eternity to get his professorship, till after his sabbaticals in Portharcourt last year. In a phone conversation with one of his former students three weeks ago, Dr. Martins said: “It has been unfairly delayed, I am just waiting for it (his professorship), so I can voluntarily retire and start off my own personal business.”

Little did he know that he would be drilled through the unforseen circumstances which would culminate in his death.

Martins somehow attracted envy to himself. He majored in a rare field of Medical sciences courted by all — Immunology. How many of them do we have in this country as at 10 years ago? But here we are; one of the pioneers of human immunology has been chanced off the terrain avoidably.

Why this piece has to take you through this brief journey into the life and times of Dr. Martin is for you to understand why there was a widespread rumour that his death was necessitated by the recklessness and perfunctory attitudes of the management and staff of Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital (NAUTH) Nnewi.

A statement credited to his lawyer friend Barr. Ikenna Obidiegwu read:

“How Nnamdi Azikiwe University teaching hospital murdered my dear friend…..Dr Martins Ifeanyichukwu was an Associate professor of immunology in the Nnamdi Azikiwe university college of medicine. By all standards, he paid his dues in the university having worked in different categories as head  of department, laboratory science department and other capacities. He had  a track record of diligence to his duties and showed the highest level of commitment to his job even  at the expense of his health”.

In summary, he gave his best to the university. Dr Marthins became sick and was referred to the Nnamdi Azikiwe teaching hospital from Hope Specialist Hospital on the 7th day of January 2021. He was admitted at the isolation centre of the hospital as he presented low oxygen circulation and needed to be fitted with an oxygen mask. As soon as he was fixed with the oxygen mask, his breathe became normal and stabilised. When he observed a lacaidesical approach to his treatment, he personally placed a call to the CMD Prof. Igwegbe demanding better treatment. Not long after the call a young doctor came to his room and warned his wife to tell her husband that if he makes any further call from his sick bed, no doctor will ever attend to him.

The said doctor retorted that he didn’t care who Dr Martins was. Soon after that, Dr Martins shifted his hand and the drip went off from his veins. His wife called and pleaded with the doctors on duty to fix back the drip but they rudely refused to do saying that it was because of the calls he was making that the drip went off. He stayed the whole night without the drip which obviously would have helped his situation.

The next day being Monday, the management of the hospital decided to transfer him to Irua specialist centre as they suspected he had  Covid. My mind questioned wh transfer him to faraway Irua when there are centres in the state. That notwithstanding, the hospital pulled their ambulance and my friend — Dr Martins was wheeled into the ambulance with his oxygen mask still fixed.

At this stage, he entirely depended on oxygen to breathe. As the journey to Irua commenced Dr Marthins was stable and at intervals asked his wife whether they were approaching. He was strong and showed great determination to surmount the sickness. Before as they approached Agbor, disaster came knocking. Lo and behold, the oxygen in the container became exhausted and there was no spare oxygen  cylinder.

The one initially being in use was even half filled. When the wife alerted me of the situation and knowing how fatal the consequences could be I suggested that they moved into town to see if they can source oxygen from any hospital. At this stage  our own dear Dr Martins was gasping for air and  struggling to stay alive. Unfortunately there was no oxygen anywhere and death swiftly stole Dr Martins in a painful manner. This is how the hospital rewarded a man who gave his best to the institution. The soul of Dr Martins is crying and demands justice.”

The above statement rent our hearts!

The Chairman Medical Advisory Committee (CMAC) of the hospital Dr. Ugbuaja Joseph, waited two days afterwards to release a statement trying to counter the one cited above. However, truth cannot be thwarted without consequences.

Here was what he said:
“The death of Dr Martins, a colleague and personal friend is devastating to us all and we ask God to accord his soul an eternal rest as we console the young family he left behind”.

In view of news making rounds capable of damaging the image of the hospital and sending wrong signals to the public, it has become very pertinent to make some clarifications just to put the records straight.

Dr Martins was refer to us on Friday, 7th January 2021 with an  SPo2 of 63% on oxygen, after about a week of admission in a private hospital.

Through out his stay with us, he was managed by the highest echelon of staff at the isolation center and this includes 3 consultants, 2 senior Registrars, a very senior medical officer in Infectious diseases  with the full compliments of the nursing staff, medical laboratory scientists, the hygienists and other  staff of the center.

On Monday 11th January, the family requested that he be transfered to Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital (ISTH), Irrua and they were obliged.
The hospital brought out an ambulance, 2 cylinders of oxygen, a nurse to accompany him to Irrua. The events that led to his death on the way to Irrua and the other allegations are subjects for investigation for which the hospital management has constituted a panel of enquiry to deal with.

Its instructive to note that our staff at the Isolation center are very committed, passionate about their job and always work round the clock to ensure that the patients are well looked after and the management has provided all the Personal protective equipments they need. We also have oxygen in adequate supply.

While I send my most sincere commiserations to the family of the deceased, I plead that we rest our comments for now to allow the hospital management do the needful.

Make a critical appraisal of the CMAC’s statement and match it with antecedents in NAUTH, and see the holes.

If there is any tertiary health institution in Nigeria that is reputed for patients negligence, it is NAUTH. Many of us have had our friends and relatives admitted there, and witnessed first-hand their unpalatable experience from non-challant attitudes of the workers. That compassionate affection which is the core ingredient of healthcare practice is grossly absent in NAUTH.

The CMAC just made a claim that Dr. Martins is his friend. He doesn’t even need to say it. What mattered at that time is that he was a patient, and needs all attention there is. But he did not get any. In medical practice, patients-caregiver relationship ranks above friendship ties. One is ruled by passion, principle and rationality of science, the other is ruled by emotion and biased sentiment.

It sums up the story of Martin’s life. He died of the same fate he had suffered all along — the unsavoury conspiracy of ‘unfriendly’ office colleagues.

The fact that NAUTH officials had to wait for protests from his family and lawyer before releasing a statement says a lot about the whole issue. It only affirms the suspicion that Our own Martins died under the mindless brutality of physicians who call the shot at the isolation centre. His life was lost to the same institution he spent the better part of his youthful and productive age serving. I blame him. He was too gentle to a fault. Sometimes you have to shake off the amiable nature of sobriety and tow the path of ruggedness. But that is not Dr. Martin.

He would rather keep his cool than distraught any ambience for his personal convenience.

And so the caregivers tragically took undue advantage of his peace-loving nature.

If we should take the path of the CMAC, we will implicate so many areas where Igbos have serially refused to foster brotherly love and fraternal affection.

The CMD and management staff of the hospital are all Igbos, greater percentage are fellow Anambrarians with Martins. What happened to the “Onye agahala Nwanne ya” (Be your brother’s keeper) spirit?

APGA which has dominated the politics of Anambra state for years now was founded by Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu as the cosmopolitan party of the Igbos. The party’s slogan portrayed the philosophy of its founder: “Onye aghana Nwanne ya.”

We can’t blame Nigeria government for the perfunctory approach to duty by those who managed Martin’s health that led to his death. His sample was sent to COOUTH (Amaku) Awka and the test result was released as Covid positive a day after his death.

It was just unfair and unjust!

It is also unfortunate that the Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria of his chapter and branch has kept mum in the face of this broad daylight tragedy on ebullient colleague. How could they be so cold in error? Were all these a calculated decision and deliberate effort to snatch our noble lecturer, scientist, philanthropist, father and law abiding citizen from us?

His death ought to be redressed, once it is established that his lawyer friend was right in his postulations.

Dr. Martins Sir! you lived a life of nobility worthy of emulation. With tears we say, “you deserve to be treated better and fairer!” But let God be the Judge. May your beautiful soul find eternal repose in Christ. Amen

Your mourners span across Ebony State University (EBSU), River State University of Science and Technology (RSUST), etc.

We have, so many things to say, but our grieving and heavy hearts are distorting our thoughts.

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