By Oluwagbemileke Takuro
The Nigerian medical association (NMA) has been in an electoral mood recently as it’s time to select new leaders in various branches of the association across states in Nigeria. The election of the association’s national president, Professor Innocent Ujah, was met with congratulatory wishes from President Muhammad Buhari.
However, the electoral process continued in various states in order to elect executive officers that would lead NMA branches.
In preparation for the election process in Enugu, the outgoing chairman of NMA Enugu branch, Dr. Ike Okwesili, made it clear that members who did not meet up to the constitutional rules of the association would not be considered eligible to participate in the forthcoming elections. He went on to mention specifically that the Association of Resident Doctors (ARD) of Enugu state teaching hospital Parklane (ESUTH-P) failed to render their dues as the financial records of NMA Enugu showed that the consultants but not the resident doctors were the only people that actually paid their membership dues.
In response to the allegations towards ARD ESUTH-P, accusations were laid by them against the outgoing chairman so we are left wondering if these dues were actually not paid to the NMA branch and why.
This matter was taken to a Magistrate court in the state with part of the applicants being ARD ESUTH-P and the respondents comprised of Electoral officers and members of the outgoing executive group among others. The accusations were backed up by a twelve paragraphs affidavit which was signed by an ex-officio of ARD ESUTH-P, Mr. Bonaventure Nwachukwu. The lawyer to the applicants requested for an interim injunction that the election process should be put on hold till the issues between both parties are sorted out.
The court order was given by the Chief Magistrate Ezeobianidi Ngozi and the interim injunction request was granted as was clearly stated that the election should not be held on the stated date, 6th of August 2020.
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our gods but in ourselves for we are underlings. pic.twitter.com/rPMmXo38OB
— Chidi Odinkalu (@ChidiOdinkalu) August 6, 2020
The accusing party went ahead to suspend Dr. Okwesili based on the decisions of the Ethic and disciplinary committee and on account of this selected Dr. Onyekachi Ugwuonye of Federal neuropsychiatry hospital, Enugu state to act as the chairman of the association pending when a new chairman is elected. Ugwuonye also accused Okwesili of abuse of power among other things to which he responded that Ugwuonye-led exercise was a charade and told members of the association to disregard the embarrassment.
It seems that contrary to our expectations, people have become so caught up with going back and forth about election processes, forgetting that there is still an ongoing pandemic that we still ought to be looking for ways to tackle.
The court order and suspension however did not seem to be sufficient enough to restrain Dr. Okwesili as he dug his heels in and went ahead to coordinate the election. He also still maintained his stance of not allowing those who failed to meet the constitutional requirements to be considered eligible to be a part of the election process.
The election held on Thursday, 6th of August at Michael Okpara square, Enugu state. While the election was going on, some thugs approached the election venue accompanied by weapons. These thugs succeeded in turning the election venue into a chaotic environment as they destroyed the any thing in sight including chairs, tables, canopies and ballot boxes. They also attacked people that were present at the venue, leaving them with no other option than abandon the electoral process and seek safety.
There are speculations that these thugs were sent by the ARD ESUTH-P members who were not allowed to participate in the election process having defaulted in paying their dues to the appropriate authorities.
This incident is definitely embarrassing, especially with the optics of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, because we expect the doctors to be part of the front liners helping to fight the pandemic and not with each other over election matters.