Strikes have become the only tool by which pressure groups representing professional disciplines in Nigeria can gain the attention of the government. This is a shame because every time a union is forced to embark on a strike or threaten one, our communal productivity as a nation plummets sharply. Over the years, this has contributed in no small means to the crippling of the country’s critical sectors especially health and education. It is even more shameful that with how often these strikes happen, all three successive civilian governments we have had have failed to address the underlying problems of welfare that inspires these strikes and progress to other problems, especially if we are going to be dealing with a disease epidemic.
At the moment, the crisis between several states of the federation and their state union of doctors are yet to be resolved. In Osun, the battle between the state Association of Resident Doctors has remained unresolved while Kogi has already declared a total strike which is expected to paralyse the state’s health sector due to non-payment of salaries.
Strikes over the years have been characterised by two main reasons, non-payment of salaries and poor working conditions. The failure of the government to resolve these challenges has resulted in constant friction between the government, the doctors and other health workers.
At the moment the Yellow Fever disease that was discovered in Kwara in September 2017 has made its way into sixteen states of the federation which calls for 100% health surveillance to control the spread. While many states might be working on this, the news from Kogi and other states of the federation where the state health workers are planning or are already on strike has posed a major challenge that needs to be addressed immediately to avoid mass casualties.
It is unthinkable that the government would allow the medical association go on strike in the middle of several concurrent disease outbreaks, a few already upgraded to epidemics. This will increase the spread of such diseases as the means and manpower to forestall an outbreak is nonexistent.
Nigerians need the government on all levels to prioritise health the same way they prioritise receiving humongous salaries. The nation currently lacks the required infrastructure to clean up after the kind of devastation an unchecked epidemic will create in Nigeria.