Herstory: Health Care, Self Care, Prayer, Miracles, Animists & Atheists

I have been sick the past few days. I’m in bed and can therefore afford to indulge in the luxury of a long rambling post. I hope you can indulge in the luxury of reading a rather long rambling post. Sickness makes me feel vulnerable on so many levels.

If you have a job you and your family have health care. If you don’t have a job you have to buy you own. The cheapest reliable individual health insurance plan is NGN100,000. Per annum. Is there any really good coverage for NGN50,000?
I wonder what happens if you have a pre-existing condition?

Anyway good health care is bloody expensive in Nigeria and you can’t get it in a public hospital. I can’t remember the last time I was at a public hospital. For treatment that is. I was at the National Hospital the day the UN Building in Abuja was bombed with Lola and Elnathan. .

In my fathers village they say only the dying go to the big hospitals. The pall of death was everywhere that day. Emergency vehicles rushing in and out. Distressed relatives looking for kith and kin. I could imagine dying of self pity in such a miserable unkempt depressing place. All the staff were surly too.

The UN evacuated ALL their injured staff to SA within a couple days. An indictment on health care facilities here. Can’t blame them of course. They were probably treated by Nigerian doctors in SA the best of who have all left the country.

One of my biggest regrets was not continuing the health plan I had with Ashoka. They let me choose my plan. When I joined Oxfam they imposed their plan and provider. I lost 3 years of insurance history. Now I got no coverage again. I wonder can I pick up my old plan?

And I’m one of the ‘privileged’ top 10% percentile! My old plan included air ambulance evacuation. Just in case I’m in a car accident. My friends dad was put in a mortuary after a road accident. He woke up 2 days later. He was a retired Ambassador. Privilege doesn’t always protect.

An Ashoka fellow is paraplegic because it took 3 days for the National Hospital to figure out she had a spinal cord injury. She’s a nurse. She was eventually flown to Ghana. National Hospital are immune from prosecution or something. So don’t call me paranoid.

And stop asking why we pray a lot in Nigeria. Can you imagine what would happen if we didn’t have a God and a church and a priest or pastor to reassure us that we will make it through the night? The nights in Nigeria are pretty dark and scary. You’re never sure whether that light is the end of the tunnel or an on coming train.

Give me Jesus for my peace of mind! Without him most of us wouldn’t be able to step out of the door in the morning. We don’t pray because we’re good. We pray cause we bad. Really really bad. And we know our selves.

I wonder what that young man over there would say?

‘You mean there is no Jesus?’


‘And there is no God?’


‘And there is no heaven?’


‘And no hell?’

‘That’s right!’

‘You’re sure?’



‘What you do that for?’

‘Because I can.’

‘Well I don’t have to turn the other cheek! Come here!’

You must be a privileged white man to remain an atheist in Nigeria. Not only are we surviving against the most incredible odds. Population is booming! We’re all supposed to be dead already. Everyday past the day you were born is a miracle in Nigeria!

And you know what? We do get a whole lot of miracles too. Its a miracle the maternal mortality isn’t higher than it is. As a kid in my fathers village I regularly met women in their 70s who had 10 children and lost 9 in infancy. We’re down to losing 2 out of 10. In 50 years. That’s progress.

Even if the people don’t actually need religion how else can the elite keep the people from rising up and bitch slapping them across the room for their bad leadership and provocative displays of ill gotten wealth?

In the rural villages the only folks that look well fed and healthy are the priests and the folks that work for the church. I wonder why? They’re always wining and dining with the rich and famous. And bitch slapping the natives! On camera!

I was born in Moscow during the Soviet Era. So I wasn’t baptized. In the US Lilia took me to Orthodox mass sometimes. I like Russian Orthodox churches. The iconic art.. The priests medieval garb. The candles. The incense. The hushed tones. Its a time warp. A cocoon. A haven. I had no idea what they said but I felt it deeply.

In my fathers village in the 70s the Catholic Church reigned supreme before the rise of the evangelical churches. The parish priest came to lunch every Sunday after talking hours and hours during sermon to debate its finer points with my father and uncle. I listened.

My father got Nile River fever when I was 12. He relied on traditional health care. I’m not sure it helped but he had more confidence in it than in western medicine. Unlike me. I’m at the hospital demanding an MRI and CAT scan if I have a headache. It could be a tumour. Why do you think our life expectancy is so low?

I read the Bible when I was 8, I thought it had cool stories and I started a search for a personal God. The Pope kept getting in the way though. Always had something ill informed to say about family planning, condoms, marriage, divorce and premarital sex. The Bible explained all about hypocrites.

My father died at the age of 72 without health insurance of complications caused by diabetes after serving his state and his beloved ‘people’ for over 25 years. The Catholic priest said he wouldn’t officiate his burial because he hadn’t paid church dues in over 25 years.

Mind you its not only the arbitrary violence of nature to our health and wealth we pray against. This is Africa. Nigeria. Every body is into some dark voodoo shit and you got to protect yourself from the forces and principalities of the Dark Lord too. The squeamish go to church instead of a shrine.

If only we taxed the church we could list prayer warriors as our next biggest export earner after oil. The western conservatives seem to like our particular brand of fire and brimstone. I wonder why? It reminds me of the Inquisition.

Many attempts were made to exorcise me of the many witches and demons I was told afflicted me by bogus shamans and prophets. There was the demon of the river, the demon of the forest, the demon of single women, and the demon of talking back at your elders, the demon of stubbornness.

At 14 I watched The Exorcist. I thought I might end up like that poor little girl. I was terrified of the Catholic church, God, Beelzebub and Lucifer for a long time after that. I ran away screaming when ever the prayer warriors came near me. They said it confirmed I was possessed. (And I think some of them still think I’m possessed)

My father did try to protect me from the worst of the natives ignorance. But when someone told me when I was expecting my last child that if its a girl child they would circumcise her without my knowledge I prayed and prayed for another son. I got another son.

I’ve been to the hospital. Resting at home now. Feeling better already. I’m not going to die just yet. Saved once again by modern medicine. Or was it? My son Eddy took away my laptop to help me rest. He’s into yoga, meditation and mind over matter. When he tried to pry away my Black Berry I growled ferociously and he let it be.

I’m getting better at self care. It takes on a whole new relevance in Naija. You don’t want to rely on the health care system. Even the best and most expensive is unreliable. Why else would a Vice President travel abroad for a sprained ankle. Or was it his knee? Pity it wasn’t his neck.

I’ve got all these little self care rituals going on. Like twitter free Sunday, TV free Monday, morning yoga, evening walks, chillaxing days, no work days, long and short travel getaways. Even God was in need of rest on the seventh day who am I not to take a day off? I’m a type A personality. Self care is tough. And vital.

So were you wondering? Did I find a personal relationship with God? That is so personal! I rather be judged by what I do than whether I believe in a God or not and what name I might be calling her. Or him.

I dare you to be sick in the presense of a playful, joyful puppy! Its a miracle! I am healed!

I dare you to be sick in the presense of a playful, joyful puppy! Its a miracle! I am healed!

Posted by MzAgams with WordPress for BlackBerry.


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