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Minister for Strike and Unproductivity

by Ahmed Yahaya Joe
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Ahmed Yahaya -Joe

As Resident Doctors down tools again, over 72,000 medical doctors are registered with the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria as at 2018. It is estimated that almost half – 35,000 have already migrated abroad in search of better pay and working environment.

So, what does the nation expect from a doctor who is not bothered about the mass exodus of members of his primary constituency?

Hear him,

“I’m not worried. We have surplus. If you have surplus, you export. It happened some years ago here. I was taught Chemistry and Biology by Indian teachers in my secondary school days. Who said we don’t have enough doctors? We’ve more than enough.”

Meanwhile, the standard of one doctor to 600 patients set by the World Health Organization. That leaves us with one doctor to an estimated 5,000 persons in Nigeria.

Yet here he is laughing when there ain’t no joke.

But is it really his fault? An obstinate political messenger boy cannot really be blamed for the serious shortage in medical training. For instance, in the entire North East geopolitical zone there is only one Teaching Hospital in the embattled Borno capital. In the 19 states of the North there are only two Dental schools, Maiduguri and Sokoto.

Nor is the laughing minister to blame that since 1999 Resident Doctors are still being paid N5,000 as hazard allowance when individuals in the upper and lower chambers of the national assembly are receiving between N1.2 million to N3 million or more for hardship allowance.

What is the grouse of the Resident Doctors?

According to them, “Our demands are not new to the government.”

This is because they had embarked on a similar strike back in April, 2021. They suspended it only to resume this August due to the non-implementation of conditionalities by government.

They add, “Doctors in Imo state have not received their salaries for about eight months and there is non-salary payment for doctors at the Abia State University Teaching Hospital for 19 months. There is non-payment of salaries for doctors at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Ekiti, for over one year.

We need to get our priorities right. We lost 19 resident doctors to COVID-19 and as it stands, their families are yet to receive any death benefits. We cannot ignore the fact that the doctors that died in the line of duty during the COVID-19 pandemic have families and children that attend schools and need to feed and survive,”

Ironically, as ASUU members strike to resist joining the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), Resident Doctors are partly on strike to join IPPIS to streamline their salary structure, ensure conformity and consistency in payment. What a country!

Notice how each time Mr. President is out on medical tourism this year the Resident Doctors down tools. First in April, now in August.

One day President Buhari would write his memoirs. The envisaged chapter on his government’s 8 year intervention on healthcare delivery and his 2015 ban on medical tourism abroad for public servants on government expense would no doubt make an interesting read particularly against the background that according to presidential aide, Femi Adesina his principal does not unduly interfere with any designated assignment of any of his appointees.

So, Mr. President might not even be aware of the fundamental issues at stake concerning the striking doctors. Or the laughing doctor is just another quintessential scapegoat;

“Franklin D. Roosevelt (the 32nd President of the United States in office from 1933 to 1945) had a reputation for honesty and fairness. Throughout his political career, however he faced many situations in which being the nice guy would have spelled political disaster – yet he could not be seen as the agent of any foul play.

For twenty years, then, Louis Howe took the blame. He handled the backroom deals, manipulation of the press, the underhanded maneuvers. And whenever a mistake was committed, or a dirty trick contradicting Roosevelt’s crafted image became public, Howe served as the scapegoat, and never complained.”

– page 204, 48 Laws of Power

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