Opinion: Wale Aboderin, a chairman like no other – By SETH AKINTOYE
FOR close to 20 years or more, I was a medical reporter, covering hospitals, medical institutions, medical personnel and allied matters. By my conservative lifestyle, I don’t keep friends and I can’t remember having any intimate one. But I know a lot of people in the medical profession in Nigeria, big-time medical practitioners in nearly all specialities of medicine. I know many big-time medical doctors to the extent that I can say authoritatively that any medical doctor that I don’t know in Nigeria is not worth knowing (pardon my arrogance). That was my life; that was my business; until fate moved me away from reporting to, perhaps, a higher ground in journalism.
Even though I know so much about medical practice and many highly placed people in medicine, I am not a doctor. I did not study medicine. I dread surgery; I fear any invasive medical procedure. And I don’t like to have anything to do with theatres (surgical rooms).
Unfortunately, fate has wheeled me into the theatre, at least, on two occasions. The first occasion was at the Modular Theatre of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, for an invasive urological procedure, in the 70s. I was much younger then. But when I was wheeled into the room, the sight of the glittering surgical equipment, the serenity of the environment and the appearance of the surgeons in masks looked too eerie for my comfort. I was given general anaesthesia. I slept off and did not know when the procedure was performed by my consultant, the late Prof. Dominic Osegbe, a great urologist of his time. By the time I woke up, I did not remember anything again.
The other occasion was at a private hospital in Surulere, Lagos, when two other surgeons performed a surgery to remove from me what they termed varicocele veins. A varicocele is an enlargement of the veins within the loose bag of skin that holds your testicles. It is similar to a varicose vein you might see in your leg. This time round, the experience was more painful, dreary and eerie. Instead of general anaesthesia, the doctors employed local anaesthesia, by deadening the site of the operation. The injections were painful and unbearable. With this, I was not put to sleep. I could see the doctors perform the operation, and we chatted occasionally during the procedure. But my mind was not at rest. I warned them repeatedly during the procedure to be careful, to avoid negligence and not to tamper with my kidneys, one of which is ectopic. This was informed by tales I had heard about doctors’ negligence.
Surgery, the treatment of injuries or disorders of the body by incision or manipulation, especially with instruments, has become a regular procedure worldwide. According to a source, rude global estimates suggest 312 million major surgical procedures were performed in 2012, an increase of one-third over eight years. With the advance in medicine, surgery is far safer now than 20 or 30 years ago. As a matter of fact, the World Health Alliance for Patient Safety has developed Surgical Safety Checklist, a tool to assist health professionals in improving patient safety during surgery. All over the world, many specialties have incorporated this into their clinical practice. Nevertheless, the fear of failure, death or negligence still reigns high among patients.
Surgeons themselves have this to say: Good surgeons know how to operate, better ones when to operate, and the best when not to operate. Sometimes, too, the chances of survival from surgery are 50:50. Before the procedure, however, the surgeons would have assessed the chances and would-be complications. So, whether a surgeon will be classified as good, better or best, may depend on the outcome of the procedure. There is no point calling a person a good surgeon if he does not know how to operate; a better surgeon when he does not know when to operate; or best when he does not know when not to operate.
On Wednesday, we at the PUNCH NIGERIA LIMITED lost our adorable and indefatigable chairman, Mr Gadebowale Wayne Aboderin. He died after a heart surgery at a Lagos hospital. He was 60 years old. It could be painful to families and acquaintances when in trying to cure a person’s ailment, he dies during the procedure. In times like that, we wonder if the patient would not have lived longer if he had shunned the procedure altogether and depended on prayers. But again, surgery is 50:50 chances. And nobody can say authoritatively when a surgical procedure will result in death.
Wale for short was amiable, approachable, humble and hardworking. He loved life and enjoyed it to the full. Even though he was my employer, on a number of times we had met, he would bow to greet me or respond to my greetings. He was a good mixer who associated with the rich and the poor. Discrimination was not in his character. I was surprised one Saturday morning when my phone rang, and it was the chairman at the other end. I didn’t have his number then and couldn’t imagine he could phone “a small boy” like Seth. Initially, he made some jokes on the telephone before revealing his identity. I was flabbergasted. At the end of the conversation, he said, “Seth, I am inviting you to my house.” And I said, “Sir, I don’t know your house.” He asked me to meet him at the Onipetesi old office of PUNCH. That was his house then.
I am pained by his death. I know many others are equally pained. The social media is awash with tributes and testimonies. “Ajanaku sun bi oke...a good heart departs, early. RIP our Chairman, Mr. Wale Aboderin!” This was the statement of Steve Ayorinde, the Lagos State Commissioner for Culture and Tourism. Another ex-PUNCHman, Sanya Onayoade, said: “Adieu Gbadebowale Aboderin, the Chairman of Punch Newspaper. I can confirm with all sense of responsibility that you were a dogged fighter. For about two decades, we have had intimate discussions bordering on your challenges and triumphs. Your assumption of chairmanship of The PUNCH was a pyrrhic victory. You lost your father at a relatively young age; and your mum in controversial circumstances. You also lost your darling bubbly brother, Jaiye, a couple of years ago, yet you held steadfastly, offering the necessary direction to your siblings and family. You poured your heart to me in the course of your mum’s biography I’m involved in, and I felt your pains.
“I still remember your impact and effervescence at my 50th birthday.
“You were your own man, a pseudo-rebel from youth, or putting it mildly, a non-conformist, who never followed the crowd. Rest in the bosom of your Creator, Big Bros.”
A classmate of mine at the Lagos Business School, Titilope Oladele Odelola, said: “Chairman, as you are popularly and fondly called by all, you will be greatly missed.
“In different ways, many have received that special love and care you share to all in your style and ways. Your sincerity and willingness to be of help to the needs of people. Your very kind advice and push to ensure success cannot be quantified.
“REST ON, DEAR Wale Aboderin.
“You indeed made your impact in this world and have transformed lives in lots of ways.
Adieu father, big brother, friend, teacher, adviser.
May God comfort the family at this time.”
Dear Chair, the scriptures cannot be broken. “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”Punch