Opinion: Pay attention Nigerians, doctors REALLY angry – let me tell you why

by Obinna Aligwekwe

I have been reading my news feed with very keen interest the last few days.

The truth is, even if GEJ ends up recalling the sacked resident doctors, whatever was left of the chord between doctors and the masses has been finally broken. The mass euphoria that greeted the sack was not surprising, but only goes to confirm the level of ignorance and double standards Nigerians live daily.


When lecturers go on strike, the masses blame Government, when Tanker Drivers go on strike, Government is blamed, when even the police went on strike during OBJ’s era, the Government was blamed. But somehow, the doctors are mysteriously at fault when its their turn:

  1. Nobody asks about how it is that the government breaches agreements from year to year, agreements of which salary IS JUST ONE COMPONENT. The same government that makes the promise breaches the same EFFORTLESSLY and waits for the last day of a strike action notice to re-commence negotiations over the same issue.
  2. Nobody asks about how it is that a doctor’s hazard allowance is N5,000 monthly (at the risk of contacting, HIV, Ebola, Hepatitis, Yellow Fever and all other deadly diseases), while a Senator/HOR member takes several times that amount for entertainment allowance.
  3. Nobody looks at how facilities within the Hospitals severely undermine the capacity for the Nigerian doctor (and other health care Professionals) to be efficient, part of the reasons for which they go on strike.

Yet, at the commencement of each strike, the reflex action is to vilify them. People have severally talked about the Hippocratic oath. I say to you, if you cannot read the whole document, you deserve pity, for you do not know who is actually killing you.

For those who say essential services cannot go on strike, please HIDE YOUR IGNORANCE. I will give you instances where doctors have gone on strike, even in saner societies. The records are verifiable. (please note that while I am talking about doctors, other emergency services like the police and fire service are also recorded to have gone on strike in Brazil and the UK respectively)

  1. The United Kingdom where I work has one of the most stringent rules concerning strike action, yet there is no law banning any group from striking. Even doctors. And you know what? Doctors went on strike in 2012!!.
  2. When I worked in the Caribbean, doctors went on strike in 2010!!
  3. Even while Israel was bombarding Gaza, ISRAELI DOCTORS WERE ON STRIKE.

Now, where did the UK and Trinidad Government differ from their Nigerian counter-parts?

  1. The Governments acted swiftly and decisively. They did not wait for the strikes to linger before a pot-bellied minister comes and lazily addresses a press conference that negotiations have begun.
  2. The Governments HONOURED their agreements.
  3. NOBODY ever dreamt of sacking them en masse. Of course the issue should not even arise when agreements have not even been honoured.

I am not saying you must understand the technicalities of the medical field to appreciate the stance of Nigerian doctors, you do not have to. Its all COMMON SENSE, but I have become increasingly aware that even common sense is not that common.

Anyway, this is just for the records.

The Rubicon has somewhat been crossed. I would not advocate any revenge or vindictiveness on the populace, but I think its high time the relationship be properly defined. Within the context of appropriately caring for the patient, it should be quid pro quo.

The greatest emotion should be empathy, not sympathy. It should be professional and impersonal, not informal and personal. Where finances are involved, its either you have your money or go to Government to heal you. I went through great lengths for my training which my parents paid for (it was not free). I spent over six years in University while most others spent four, with a few spending five.

My counter-parts abroad who obtained loans to train are still paying off their loans years after graduation. Even after graduating, I will spend years training myself to become a specialist.

If we were to go by your principles that those in these categories are students and should not be paid, then a Doctor would be well over 40 years (or 45 depending on the speciality) before he earns his first salary, but I know common sense is not common.

When I go to you for services, you even jack up your fees because I am a doctor. I have other bills to pay (They do not disappear you know). I also have mouths to feed. Sometimes, I am the SOLE BREAD-WINNER. I went to study medicine to help humanity, but like everyone else, to be able to make a decent living.

So, my friend, you are free to rejoice that they have been sacked. But be ready to appropriately share the burden of an irresponsible government. The doctors have borne it for so long. Records show doctors never gone on strike in the past, other bodies did it for them, then they started when it was obvious other bodies had their problems and governments were not listening, but then they still kept emergency services open, now they are so hardened some can even walk away from emergency posts during a strike, and you still cannot smell the coffee?


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