The real third world

by Eliseo "Jojo" Prisno

CRPC, MS Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor


I wrote this article while waiting for a flight to London at Nigeria's international airport in Abuja. I had just regained my composure after an extremely stressful 45-minute check-in experience given the layers of checks, rechecks and double checks. It’s a good thing I woke up in a good mood, or else I would have reacted in anger. I've traveled to almost 90 nations, but this trip to the Sub-Sahara Africa is one of my most unbelievable experiences.

We came to Nigeria as volunteers of The World Surgical Foundation, a private volunteer group we support. It was founded by a prominent Fil-Am pediatric surgeon Dr. Domingo Alvear of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Dr. Alvear invited us to come and assess the opportunity of establishing our foundation in Africa. The year 2017 is a hallmark for the foundation for we just established its first international affiliate, the World Surgical Foundation Philippines, Inc. Given the need for altruistic medical care in Africa, I took this project as a vital step in establishing WSF's global advocacy, to give free surgical care to the world's poor.

With enthusiasm and excitement we traveled to Nigeria, and to my surprise, it felt like we were in the Philippines around 30 years ago. So many inefficiencies and layers of bureaucracies cripple everything. Before this trip I had been watching a Nigerian movie on Netflix to get an impression of the country from the reel. I chose the contemporary genre to get a glimpse of their current state of infrastructure, fashion, etc. Initially, my take was they were not much different from the Philippines. Some features of Lagos, Nigeria's major metropolitan area, seem like some corners of Manila, such as their contemporary fashion. Even the command of their spoken English (the defacto national language) is very proficient. So I concluded that this developing country with huge oil reserves and massive human resources with a population of almost 200 million must be exciting; that is, until we landed.


Upon our arrival, it reminded me of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila circa 30 years ago; chaotic and disorganized. Even the toilet facility which was my "first" stop, was primitive to say the least, having no flush and unhygienic. By the time I handed my passport to the immigration officials, I knew my original impression of the country was wrong. Nigeria, since its independence from the U.K., so far has just conducted four national elections (a military junta managed the country until 1991 after a coup in the 60's right after they gained freedom from the British) and their elected public servants are from the society’s elite class, far removed from the realities on the ground.

The infrastructure is deteriorated from all the pothole sizes you can imagine. The skyline of Lagos, a metropolitan area of almost 20 million, dates back to the 70s and 80s, a far cry from Manila's ultra modern high rises. The traffic is horrendous, and makes EDSA’s traffic seem lighter. There is no public mass transit system except mini-buses so beaten up that drivers don't really care much of its conditions. I visited a few city malls, a newer one with half of its real estate still unoccupied which reminded me of the days of Ali Mall of Cubao QC when I was in college 30 years ago. I wondered where the oil revenues were going; this is a country where more than 50% of its GDP comes from oil.

A young Nigerian friend from Abuja summed it up: the Nigerian elite running the government and the oil industry siphons them out of the country leaving almost nothing. This is an oil major with almost half of its government functions financed by global NGOs.


When we arrived at the mission two days later, our team was exhausted dealing with the massive line of patients waiting to be seen by our doctors. A young volunteer described it as "almost a riot." The WSF mission was so rare in that part of Nigeria, that everyone who heard of it with a surgical care need, arrived. Most government hospitals in the major cities have their operating room schedules fully booked until 2019; thus, our mission was the only opportunity for some to get relief.

We tended to 1000 vision care patients and 126 major surgical operations in five days. We could have done more (targeted at least 200) but the operating theaters were non-functional. Our team literally recognized the whole hospital including its lay-out to make the patient flow efficient. The bare minimum equipment were museum bound and the only functional ones were those we donated within the past two years. The inefficiency was also brought about by our paid local volunteers trying to scheme some money from the indigent patients. Some of our supplies were stolen, leaving only to process over 100 major cases.

Though our host, the Children's Survival and Development Organization of Nigeria (CS-DON) was happy with the outcome, most of our team members where disappointed knowing they could have done more.

Almost every Nigerian tried to make money off of the visitors, taking advantage of its inefficiency to offer a shortcut service to get things moving. If they do something for you, they expect to make something from you. It makes me wonder if they're purposely creating the inefficiencies so to scheme on people, very reminiscent of the Philippines some 30 years ago.


ABOUT THE WRITER: Eliseo Jojo Prisno is a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor (CRPC).He founded P/E Capital Investments in 2010, a State Registered Investment Advisory Firm (CRD# 172695). As the firm’s Managing Director and Senior Investment Advisor, he also manages a Fund of Funds investment program with Ameritas and runs an All-Equity Growth and Income customized portfolios in separate accounts via E*Trade Securities. If you have questions or desire a complimentary analysis of your investments or retirement readiness, email or call 1-888-929-2825. Visit our website and our Facebook Page.




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