For a first time visitor to the ancient Benin Kingdom, negotiating his route from the King’s Square into the heart of the metropolis through Sapele Road, he would assume that a multinational has relocated its headquarters to Benin City, the capital of Edo State. It is not so. Rather, the imposing edifice that might have made the visitor have the feeling at the beginning of the road that links Edo State to Delta State is the rebuilt Central Hospital; a health facility that many citizens have hailed as quite impressive. Originally built in 1903, the old facility had been lacking the all-important human face necessary for a healthy treatment of medical patients. Governments after governments had failed to renovate th efacility until Comrade Adams Aliu Oshiomholeled decided to construct the new building blocks. Workers at the hospital complex, who craved anonymity said that the situation was so bad that the old eye care centre of the old hospital operated under broken, rotten and open roofs, a situation that shocked and disgusted Oshiomhole when he visited the hospital for the first time.
The rebuilding and upgrading process effectively began in 2012 as part of an enlarged and encompassing basic infrastructural renewal policy of the government before Oshiomhole’s reelection on July 14th. However, the reconstruction of the Central Hospital by the Oshiomhole administration was not a smooth ride. Derided by the opposition party as a white elephant project that will never see the light of day the moment it was announced and budgeted by the government at inception, the actual process proved to be something harder than the proverbial camel passing through the eye of the needle. For example, at a publicised media briefing in Benin City then, the leadership of the main opposition, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), had described the state government’s effort as the mere construction of an ordinary ward. Amidst a growing funding concern owing to an increasingly poor allocation from the federal government especially in the case of an Edo State that was wholly dependent on federal government allocation apart from a yielding taxation drive, the government mobilised contractors to the site and began the construction work. No sooner had the construction work began than a section of the building collapsed, killing one person and slightly injuring six others. At about 5pm of June 4, 2012, the west wing of the Accident and Emergency building under construction collapsed, killing Dr. Stefano Delaroca, an Italian project manager with Sincies Chimentin Limited, the Italian firm that was then constructing the hospital building.
The building reportedly collapsed when a crane in use on the site collided with a freshly constructed beam, cutting its rope in the process and falling on the section of the multi-story building. According to officials of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), which joined the state government rescue team at the site, six workers were lucky to have been rescued with slight injuries from the rubble of the collapsed building, beside the dead victim, whose corpse was deposited at the Stella Obasanjo Children and Women Hospital, another hospital that the Oshiomhole administration had also equipped with a state-ofthe- art eye care facilities. The emotion, angst and fears that the collapsed parts generated could have forced a cowardly government into abandoning the project. But not the Oshiomholeled government of Edo State that dusted itself, braved the odds posed by at least one court case, calls for public enquiry as well as endless allegations, rumours and lies stoked, like the harmarttan wild fire, by the opposition, which claimed that the hospital collapsed because fake and substandard work were awarded and executed by the state government. Following the more calls, the government duly investigated the incident that led to the collapse, accepted the experts’ recommendations and determinedly began to rectify the issues without necessarily making the investigative report a public debate. Particularly, it re-invited structural experts to determine the integrity of the structure as at then and also ascertain any possible collateral damage to the building.
Notably, during this time, work completely stopped at the building site, paving the way for another fresh rumour that it has abandoned the hospital project. On the 27th of March, 2014, the state government announced that it upgraded the Central Hospital to a 5-star status and re-awarded the contract to Messrs S & A Construction Company. Governor Oshiomhole stated then, “Again, even before now, the work had been redesigned before it was re-awarded because we know that the project, when completed, will be another signature of this administration and we are doing everything possible to encourage the new contractor to meet the new deadline” and added that from the assurance of the new contractor, “Not only will the complex be completed on time, it will be equipped with state of the art hospital facilities because government has concluded plans with foreign expatriates that will supply the sophisticated equipment needed; so that patients here will have no reasons to go abroad for treatment anymore.” Many residents are united in the chorus that merely judging from the look of the imposing hospital, Governor Oshiomhole had indeed matched his words with actions. They have therefore tasked the government about the proper equipping of the hospital with modern facilities; sustainability of the hospital; as well as proper and management of both human and material resources that work in the hospital for optimal service at all time. Hendrix Oliomogbe, a journalist said, “To be honest, it is about the best I have seen in the country.
It is comparable to many hospitals in Europe and the Americas from what I’ve heard and seen. “But I’m afraid it may not be well managed. My fear is that it may go the way of other government projects, which started off very well, but fell by the wayside in no long a time due to mismanagement.” For Ayodeji Oiseomaoje the new Central Hospital is a gift to not just Edo State but the whole of Nigeria. Oiseomaoje said, “Actually, it is a good project for the state and for Nigeria. The Comrade- Governor said it was going to be the best hospital in not just Nigeria but Africa; comparable to Europe and America. And he did it like he promised. I pray that God will give us a good management team to manage the hospital very well.” “I will like to suggest that the in-coming Governor should do a proper audit of the management board of the hospital so that whatever is necessary to make the hospital better can always be done. The management should get good hands that can make Edo people and Nigeria proud by way of good and proper maintenance of the facility,” he added. The new Central Hospital is a twin-block consisting of Accident and Emergency Ward and a 200-bed ward Complex for patients. Speaking during a recent inspection of the hospital work in the company of his beautiful wife, Iara, Oshiomhole promised to equip the Central Hospital just like the best of Asia, Europe and the Americas so as to stop medical tourism from Nigeria. He said, “When I said at the beginning that our intention is to build what I called a five-star hospital, most people tried to imagine what that meant.
But I am sure that just looking at the building, I don’t know of any hotel in Nigeria, in terms of aesthetics, has a better appeal than this. And this is the sort of thing you find in Europe and some other advanced economies. “If you are in the 21st Century, begin to think as if you are in the 22nd Century because the world has changed and it will keep changing. The pace of change will keep accelerating. “The whole idea is that when a typical Edo person comes from a village like mine, if he gets in here and realises that even the environment psychologically impacts on him and he begins to appreciate that he is important, that he is in the hands of professional healthcare providers, that way, that forgotten rural man, for once, will have access to modern facilities. “You don’t need to board an airline to London, to India, or to Europe to be told how hospitals look there. I am sure that those of you who may have for one reason or another travelled outside; there are many hospitals in Europe and in India that are not as beautiful as this.” Oshiomhole continued, “And so, I believe that a hundred years from now, this hospital will not look out-dated. You will see that as you look at the internal finishing, we took into account the conventional challenges you have with public building; problem of painting and repainting; and with the facials that you have, you will never need to do repainting. All you need is proper cleaning at regular intervals.” The governor emphasised, “The only thing we must now do is to address the critical issue of the human factor. Once the hospital is open, we must re-engage the doctors on the rule of engagement. We won’t invest in this kind of facility and a doctor comes in to work for one hour and goes back to do his private practice and then collects a cheque for one month at the end of the day.”