The Ogunbiyi medical odyssey
Sometimes this week an autobiography of the medical practitioner, Dr Bamigboye Ezekiel Ogunbiyi, will be presented to the public. The autobiography tells the story of a boy born long before Nigeria’s independence in 1946, in very rural Iloffa, now the capital of Oke-Ero Local Government Area of Kwara State. Though orphaned at a very early age he survived various vicissitudes of life to accomplish so much in life – attending one of the most outstanding secondary schools in the North, becoming one of the pioneer medical students of ABU Zaria and going further North to establish one of the pioneer private clinics in Maiduguri. The book comes highly recommended by none other but our former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, who had known Dr Ogunbiyi for a considerable length of time and wrote the forward for the book.
Dr Ogunbiyi wrote affectionately about lloffa, where he was born. The village is located in the southeast corner of Kwara State and sits deep in the midst of the northern part of the rain forest and at the descending crest of the Ekiti hills. He wrote about the people, their origin, lifestyle and daily struggles in those years when there was little to soften the harshness of daily life in a rural setting. He wrote at length about his parents and other members of his close-knit extended family, particularly how his elder brother took over the parenting after his father died. He wrote about his early school life in Iloffa, Ilorin and Offa where his elder brother, then his guardian, took him.
He wrote a great deal about Government College, Keffi, where he went after primary school, to spend some of the most defining years of his life. The college established in 1949 was one of the only two colleges run by the Northern Regional Government – the other was Barewa College Zaria. The admission policy of the college was geared towards the promotion of unity among the diverse groups of people in the region. Dr Ogunbiyi wrote: “Students were selected (purely on merit) from the thirteen provinces of the Northern Region to reflect a regional and representative spread. This meant that we had students from diverse cultures and varying socio-economic and religious backgrounds, all of whom learned in the same environment... I learnt about national unity, love, equity and justice at a tender age, likewise, I imbibed the values of team work as I interacted with different people. The school was a ‘small Nigeria’ with both majority and minority tribes adequately represented. The history of my life cannot be complete without Keffi. In addition, Keffi gave me the foundational secondary and high school education which ultimately gave me a ticket to read medicine.”
After seven years in Keffi, Ogunbiyi was accepted in 1967 as one of the 46 pioneer students of the Medical College, ABU Zaria, then the only university in the North. Ogunbiyi had a strong sense of purpose and had decided from an early age to devote his life to the medical profession. He had assiduously worked towards that throughout his secondary school years. He brought the same resolve to his studies while at Zaria, which saw him graduate within schedule despite the difficulties of being a pioneer student. It was at Zaria that he met and married the love of his life, Clara, who recently retired as a Justice of the Supreme Court. When Clara qualified as a barrister, the Ogunbiyis wanted to set up a home in Kaduna where he was a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynecologist in the ABU Teaching Hospital, but fate had other plans for them. Clara couldn’t secure a job in Kaduna and they had to relocate to Maiduguri in 1983 where she was a State Counsel in the High Court and Ogunbiyi became a Consultant in the State Specialist Hospital.
The Ogunbiyis set up home in Maiduguri. Being the only consultant in that field made his services to be stretched over to the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital where he took on preclinical students. However, Ogunbiyi had other plans. Since coming to Maiduguri he had retained a vision of starting a result-oriented private medical establishment, an idea that became concrete when in 1985, he established the Nakowa Specialist Hospital in the serene GRA part of Maiduguri. It was that same year that I ran into Dr Ogunbiyi. His new clinic was just a few houses away from where I lived in a residence rented by my employers at the time, Chad Basin Development Authority. My wife was heavily pregnant with our second child and we resolved to go to a private clinic for delivery. Our baby boy, now 36 years old, was one of his first deliveries in the clinic.
Nakowa Clinic soon flourished and became a household name in Maiduguri, becoming the clinic of choice to all and sundry. Dr Ogunbiyi became a retainer to most of the prominent families, both in government and business, in Maiduguri due mainly to the quality of service his clinic rendered. The Government House also and most of the large government corporations retained him as a consultant.
Dr Ogunbiyi concludes the book with snippets of his views on issues now raging in the health sector: abortion, National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), the menace of early girl child marriage, medical brain drain, etc.