Thursday, June 13, 2019
Harrisburg, PA, USA

rchbishop Benson Idahosa, founder of the Church of God Mission International, one of the pioneers of TV and evangelical ministries in Nigeria, passed away in 1998 at the young age of 60. He died suddenly in the midst of colleagues that had come to visit him from Oral Roberts Ministry, United States. His wife recalled that on the fateful day, after lunch with his guests, he started muttering, "Glory to Jesus". The rest of the people around him thought he was praying and so closed their own eyes and started chorusing the same line in unison. After a while, an awkward silence ensued, prompting some of his guests to open their eyes. He was on the floor! That was it.

I do not know the exact cause of death, but it is almost safe to assume that since he was not sick before then, his passing may have had something to do with his heart – some form of cardiac anomaly. Though Idahosa passed away in 1998, this untimely death syndrome continues in Nigeria even as I write today in June 2019. No week passes that one does not read about or hear about the untimely death of someone, too young to die, in Nigeria. The more this pandemic continues, the more average life expectancy in Nigeria depresses.

As of 2019, average life expectancy at birth for United States is 79.7, France is 82.9, UK is 81.9 and Mexico is 79.9. Ghana is 64.5. But Nigeria is lagging way behind at 55 years! []. The gap between Nigeria and the rest of the world is staggering and cannot be ignored. Some people have posited that there is nothing Nigeria can do about this because citizens in advanced nations are genetically predisposed to living longer. That is nonsense! In fact, digging deeper into the life expectancy statistics for more nations, one would see that even countries that would not necessarily be categorized as “advanced”, live a lot longer than Nigerians. Nigerians just need to find out what citizens of these other nations are doing that make them live longer and adopt them. In this treatise, I will point out some of these things, as I see them.

It is my considered opinion that one of the major reasons why people live longer in advanced countries is that at a very early age, their doctors help them identify diseases that they may be genetically predisposed to. If a doctor knows that a patient is genetically predisposed to a certain disease, maintenance medications and lifestyle changes, as the case may be, tailored to that person, are prescribed. This type of early intervention, plus health education awareness, goes a long way in prolonging life.

In case the reader is wondering what I mean by a doctor helping to identify the diseases someone may be genetically pre-disposed to, I will answer by telling a story. The first time I went to a hospital here in the United States, I was asked to complete a health questionnaire. It started with questions about my susceptibility to certain ailments, surgeries I may have had, and then progressed to ailments any member of my family, both living and dead, may have had. The doctor explained that because members of immediate and extended families have genetic linkage, they not only pass on physical traits but also medical traits, including predisposition to diseases. Someone could actually inherit a disease that the grandparent or a great uncle or auntie or nephew suffered from. If a doctor knows some of the ailments that family members had or have, the doctor will be in a position to design yearly medical exams that specifically look for any sign of such ailments in their patients. That is a pre-emptive strike.

The idea of a doctor using medical information about a patient and family members to design medical checkups sound so simple but that remains elusive in Nigeria for many reasons. Nigerians do not always know, for sure, what ailments their family members died of because of incorrect diagnoses and the absence of autopsies at death. Moreover, people still feel embarrassed to discuss their ailments even with family members because ailments are either seen as personal weakness, a curse or disadvantage.

I have even heard people insinuate, when someone gets sick, that it was a punishment from God for an atrocious sin that person or family members may have committed. People therefore hide ailments they or family members have and choose to die with it rather than divulge it. All this is compounded by the unwillingness of some doctors to insist on getting such information from new patients.

Continued in Part 2…

Author of the books- 1. Nigeria: Contemporary Commentaries and Essays

2. Surviving in Biafra: The Story of the Nigerian Civil War