Dr. Raymond Ijabla: The Doctors are fighting the wrong fight

by Raymond Ijabla 
In writing this, I am breaking a promise to self and my family to keep quiet about the ongoing strike by doctors. I feel compelled to write this because of the number of abusive emails I have received since publicly sharing my thoughts on the strike.
 I know that Nigerian doctors work under very challenging circumstances. Actually, this is true for every healthcare worker in Nigeria. Many of you are unsung heroes and heroines. I respect all of you for working so hard and making massive sacrifices in the face of deplorable working conditions.
A few things need clarification:
1. I am not anti-NMA or anti-doctors. I am a doctor myself. But I do not believe that we should place tribal sentiments above simple logic, truth and fairness.
2. The NMA has made it abundantly clear that the issues of non-medical consultants & headship of hospitals are sacrosanct, and NOT OPEN to negotiations. This means that without the government granting its demands on these issues, it will never call off the strike. These are not my words but the NMA’s.
3. Point number 2 above is exactly why the NMA has lost public sympathy. The public perception is that doctors are on strike for their egos, and not for better working conditions or improvement in hospitals and patient care. The public and the government do not perceive the issues covered in point 2 above to be good enough (or legitimate) reasons for a strike. Unfortunately, the NMA has not attempted to change this perception. Or may be it has, but the attempt has been lackluster or the demands are simply unrealistic. Doctors are now seen as a group of people who will go on strike for no other reason than to stop the professional development of their non-medical colleagues.
When NMA representatives have come out to speak, they have squandered the opportunity by appearing ill prepared, not knowledgeable enough or using emotions rather than logic to justify their actions e.g.. I think his example about air-hostess flying a plane is unfortunate.
4. As I have said pointed out previously, the NMA has chosen a wrong battle and has not been advised well. For these demands (point 2 above) to pull through, the NMA needs to demonstrate how the creation of non-medical consultant posts and non-medical heads of hospitals will adversely affect patient care. The NMA has failed to do so in nearly 7 weeks since it began its strike on 1/7/14.
5. It’s no use playing the victim now, and blaming the public for not its apathy towards the strike. We need to introspect and ask ourselves why the public supported the strike by tanker drivers and not the strike by doctors. Has this anything to do with perceptions and the legitimacy of our demands as I mentioned earlier? I think the answer is most probably “yes”.
6. The argument from the overwhelming majority of doctors who comment on this subject is emotional. But the truth is that emotional arguments do not win cases for you in courts. You have to present evidences that are logical. I believe that my articles have been balanced but I am shocked by the amount of abusive private emails that I have received rather than coherent arguments and productive engagements.
7. I do not need to be in Nigeria to be able to contribute to national discussions. This strike affects me too – my family and friends still live in Nigeria. Immigration will never end as long as humans exist, and we must learn to accept this fact. There will always be Nigerians working and living abroad, and we cannot all be expected to return home. We do not all need to live in Nigeria before we can contribute to its development. As a matter of fact, we should encourage greater participation from our brothers living abroad because they are often well resourced and we should harness their knowledge and skills for the good of the motherland. It appears that only Africans see this as a problem (I am sorry for generalizing).
8. I know that Nigerian doctors work under very challenging circumstances. Actually, this is true for every healthcare worker in Nigeria. Many of you are unsung heroes and heroines. I respect all of you for working so hard and making massive sacrifices in the face of deplorable working conditions.
9. The only way out of the current crisis is for the government, NMA & JOHESU sit together. If we work together, we can force the government to improve areas of shared interests e.g. hazard allowance, funding for laboratories, radiology, research, post-graduate training etc. The government can become a common “enemy” if we work together.
10. Although I will continue to say what I think is honest and fair, I feel that I have said everything (or most of it) that I need to say on this subject. It’s tedious and pointless to keep repeating myself.
I welcome constructive criticisms and will endeavour to respond to them. But I will not be engaging in circular and abusive arguments because they are unproductive.

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

Comments (5)

  1. Dr Raymond, I quite agree with you, you work and live abroad,concerning the same point 2 of your article, is that what is practice over there where you work? Are non-medical personnel made to be consultants and also head government hospitals?? I want to know please

  2. My thoughts exactly Dr.

  3. Thank you Dr Richard,many of these Drs are just been unfair to d system,they shud stop seeking public sympathy based on emotions but rather on logic as you have said,and for dos attacking you via emails are the ones forcing others who do not support d strike to join dem.

  4. U r on point Dr Raymond; its a pity that those who pride themselves as being at d echelon of professional knowledge can’t reason d plain simple truth u v adduced in ur piece.point 9 said it all whch v bn my own position on d whole saga. U can’t continue looking f a way to suppress others & expect to b lifted. In all honesty many Nigerian doctors share similar view wt u but u know what d chains & shackles of unionism v caused.infact w r to conduct an opinion poll on d condition of anonymity on this current strike by NMA;am pretty sure nt up to 30% of d members wr in support. We hope for a positivea change in our health sector but nt d NMA’s desired change.

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