On the 18th of October 2018, Prof Usman Yusuf was going to make a presentation to the Board of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). Armed with a list of what he believed were the Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs) who had proven their non-indebtedness, it was to be the authoritative document with which to begin a long-overdue housecleaning of the health parastatal since it was founded 13 years ago.
He would not accomplish his mission; the Board announced on the same day that Yusuf, the NHIS Executive Secretary, had been suspended. But with a vindicating proclamation from the Secretary to the Government of the Federation confirming the inability of the Board to order such suspension, Yusuf muscled his way back to retaining his office. Nevertheless, President Buhari has taken the side of the Board demanding that Yusuf proceed on administrative leave effective November 5 to enable investigations into allegations of financial misconduct against him be carried out.
Sensing there will be no investigations (if there will be one, its implications will count for little in the grand scheme of things), Yusuf has made his move by recording a 44 minute-long video published on YouTube this Wednesday in which he attempts to clear his name. He is not willing to slip out of the space with the cloud of presumed guilt hanging over him.
He explains the events that led to his suspension by emotively conveying selflessness and patriotism (explaining NHIS’ mandate as “God’s work”) while being, with his stone-cold facials, combatively self-defensive. His defense is not heavy on facts about the remote and immediate causes of the breakdown in relations between he and the Board members (whom he extols more than once in the video as people of goodwill). But he says much for a viewer to assume that Dr Enyatu Ifenne (the Board chair) and her colleagues are in business with HMOs displeased with his sanitization efforts. The account of events above which supposedly happened on the 18th of October is his, told to reflect the fact that the Board may have been nudged by the HMOs about to be landed a hammer into dismissing him.
The video will not be enough for Nigerians to make definitive judgments on the saga. The various other actors involved – the Board, the HMOs, the Minister of Health – should have much to say on Yusuf’s insinuations of a collusion to undermine his good intentions for NHIS. The Board chair has been quoted as saying that “if President Buhari is fully briefed about a 10th of Yusuf’s atrocities, he would throw him out”. The administrative leave may well be a fulfilment of that.
But if Yusuf’s video defense is the last we ever hear of the investigation, it will not be hard to see many take his side.
Watch Prof Usman Yusuf’s defense here.
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