As I made it to the Church for worship at 9:50 am last Sunday, an unlikely caller never gave me a hunch of what to expect. As the Christian I have known for several decades, Mr. Nathaniel Ikyur, SA (Media) to Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, should be attending the usual Sunday service, instead of calling me.  So I thought.

“Editor, we have just lost Dr. Obadiah Mailafia”.

“What? Where and how?” I replied in confusion.

“It was this morning in Abuja.”

“Are you sure of this news?

“Yes, it is true.”

After absorbing the shock of such devastating news, I reached out for confirmation from some of the people I thought should know. None of them confirmed the story. 

I heaved a sigh of relief as I fervently hoped that the news may, after all, be fake.  I felt a momentary consolation.

“We just lost Barr Hauwa Shekarau. We are yet to bury her and this news, may it be fake,” I prayed and wished.

I walked into the church but my agitated mind denied me concentration. Less than 20 minutes after Mr. Ikyur’s phone call, a staff of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) confirmed to me that Dr. Mailafia was indeed dead. He said the news of his demise had already been made known to the CBN at 9am or so.

Definitely, I was not interested in being one of the early news breakers of such a death. The burden to announce the death of the consummate scholar was too heavy for me and I later resorted to my Facebook wall with the following words: ‘What is happening? Dr Obadiah Mailafia. Black Sunday.’

My Facebook post set the news hounds on the trail, with many asking for additional information. There were too many phone calls. At one point, I wondered what normally comes to someone’s mind when ‘Black Sunday’ is mentioned.

I soon got confirmation of the death from the National President of the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), Dr Pogu Bitrus. I soon joined the President of the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU), Hon Jonathan Asake, at his home. We then set for Gwagwalada, but we were later told that the corpse was being brought to the Asokoro Hospital.

After depositing the corpse at the Asokoro Hospital, few cars accompanied Mrs Mailafia to her home. Shock was written on every face as there were too many questions than answers.

According to the statement signed by the National Publicity Secretary of the MBF, Dr Isuwa Dogo, “Arising from various enquiries from Nigerians over the circumstances of his death, the Forum wishes to state as follows: That Dr Mailafia arrived Abuja last Sunday September 12, 2021 from Akure and was received at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport by his wife.

“On arrival at home, the wife noticed he was not in the best of health conditions and seemed to be suffering from malaria. After three days of treatment without signs of improvement, he went to the CBN Hospital on Friday September 17, 2021 where he was shabbily treated. It took the intervention of a senior medic who immediately placed him on oxygen and admitted him.

“Dr Mailafia was later given the option of choosing three hospitals: Gwagwalada Hospital, National Hospital and EHA Clinics. The wife opted for the third choice. On arrival at the EHA Clinics, the wife was subjected to yet another moment of anxiety as it took a direct order from the top management of the hospital to accept him.

“After a few hours of treatment, the EHA Clinics told the wife that it was expedient to transfer the former CBN Deputy Governor to Gwagwalada as the clinic was not fully equipped to handle the case.

“The wife opposed the decision and insisted that she was opposed to the idea of taking her husband to Gwagwalada. Mailafia’s wife only succumbed when the consultant assured her that nothing bad will happen to her husband.

“Yesterday, Saturday September 18, 2021, Dr Obadiah was transferred to Gwagwalada. On arrival, the name of the doctor that was billed to attend to Dr Mailafia was not on duty. Even when an attempt was made by foreign health consultants to save the situation, the doctor on duty got angry and said he was not obligated to listen to any foreign consultants that had been brought into the matter with the sole purpose of ensuring nothing goes wrong.”

From what transpired in Gwagwalada, the statement added, “Wife of the former CBN Deputy Governor was asked to pay the sum of N600, 000 as deposit even when it was a referral case, with accruing medical bill to be settled by the CBN. At one point, Dr Mailafia complained over his breathing problems and pleaded with the doctors to place him in a ventilator. The doctors flatly refused.

“Even after the doctors declared Dr. Mailafia dead, foreign consultants who were brought into the matter through Dr Mailafia’s son that is living abroad, had directed a family member who is a medical professional, with the wife of the CBN Deputy Governor, to mount pressure on the chest of Dr.  Mailafia for resuscitation and thereafter place him on a life support.

“The doctors in Gwagwalada refused all entreaties by the family members of Dr Mailafia to follow the advice of the foreign consultants, insisting that they have already pronounced him dead. Even when the wife could feel the pulse of her husband, the doctor flatly declared there was nothing they could do since they had already pronounced him dead.”

Both the Gwagwalada Hospital and EHA Clinics have categorically denied any form of negligence, insisting that he died of COVID-19 and some underlying ailments.  In a response to the MBF’s statement that chronologically captured the last 48 hours of the deceased’s last moments, accounts by family members clearly indicate that the medical care offered by both hospitals was allegedly less than expected.

For some of us that are no strangers to the Gwagwalada Specialist Hospital, the journey to that medical facility may as well turn out to be a journey of no return. From the various accounts of Dr Mailafia’s dying moments, it is clear that some alleged lapses arising from the treatment given to Mailafia ought to be probed. To endorse some of the alleged inefficiencies of some health practitioners as demonstrated in the management of Dr Mailafia’s heath amounts to encouraging carelessness.

There should be an inquest into the surroundings that led to this death. If indeed the CBN Clinic had agreed to transfer the deceased to the Gwagwalada Hospital after agreeing to the choice of EHA Clinics, why was the nurse not availing the information until when she was asked?

From the account given by the wife, it took a stout resistance by her to have the ambulance return to EHA Clinics. Even after arriving at the EHA Clinics, it took some time to have her late husband admitted to the clinic as, according to the nurse of duty, she was directed not to admit the patient, thereby leaving him in the ambulance.

Another inscrutable angle of the story is that Mrs Mailafia was given the name of a particular doctor that was billed to attend to the former CBN Deputy Governor. However, on arrival, it was a different doctor she met. Why was it so? If the consultant on ground had cooperated with some of the consultants monitoring Dr Mailafia’s health from abroad, why was it too much for him to oblige the request of these “foreign doctors” who had requested mounting pressuring the chest for resuscitation and, thereafter, placing him on life support?

It must be stated here that one of the family members, a qualified nurse, had commenced mounting pressure on the heart. The wife had felt his pulse and rushed to call the consultant to the scene where she pointed to the machine that indicated that all hope was not lost. Why did the doctor flatly decline, insisting that there was nothing he could do since he had already declared the patient dead?

There is no doubt that Dr Mailafia’s death has left so many questions than answers. Considering the tragedy of our nation’s crippling healthcare system, human laxity and inefficacy may have exacerbated the health conditions of Dr. Mailafia that eventually led to his untimely death. When viewed against the circumstances he found himself in, it is normal for some people to smell a big rat in his painful death. It is necessary for the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) to probe into any act of professional negligence during the course of Dr Mailafia’s treatment.