Unending Doctors’ Strike
With the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic in Nigeria, many hoped that an opportunity had come for the pathetic state of the nation’s health system to be addressed.
The poor infrastructure in the government-owned health facilities, the pitiable working conditions of health workers, poor remunerations and allowances and other incentives were brought to the fore and the opinion of quite a lot of people was like “yes, Covid-19 is deadly and it might claim the lives of many citizens but in the end, going by the collaborative efforts of government and the private sector toward dealing with the epidemic, the health system would never remain the same.”
Recall that the government projected that it would need US$330 million to control Covid-19 pandemic but it raised more than US$560.52 million, of which more than 90 per cent came from the private sector and the donor/philanthropist community.
People were, therefore, optimistic that the welfare of workers in the health sector will be prioritised, thereby stemming the industrial actions that have characterised the sector for decades, and that the health sector will be strengthened so that there will be no need to run helter-skelter during a health crisis as was seen at the onset of Covid-19.
But how wrong they were! It’s about a year and six months since the index case of Covid-19 was recorded in the country and there has not been any noticeable change in the health sector. The numerous problems of the health facilities in the country remain as they were and the political leaders and some well-placed individuals who were compelled to use them during the lockdown, have again dumped them, seeking medical care in other countries.
The health workers are still singing the old song of “no allowance, delayed salaries, poor working conditions and many others, being part of the reasons for the on-going National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) strike. The nationwide strike which was suspended in April this year after some agreements were reached between the doctors and the federal government, was resumed on Monday, following the alleged failure of the government to keep to its own side of the bargain.
According to NARD president, Dr Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, the industrial action is to push government to honour its agreement on payment of arrears of hazard allowance as well as insurance benefits to families of doctors who have died of the virus, payment of several months’ salaries owed doctors in many states, among other demands
Why the minister of health, the minister of labour and other government officials that are supposed to address the issues of the doctors would not nip matters in the bud and save the nation from the pain associated with the strike is still a puzzle. The National Hospital, Abuja NARD president, Dr Akanimo Ebong, appearing on national television on Wednesday narrated how difficult it was sometimes for the association to reach government officials to table their demands, noting that “there is usually no negotiation done until we go on strike. Once we suspend a strike, the negotiation stops”.
That is definitely not the attribute of responsible leadership. A responsible government should be able to keep its word. As an author, Anthony Hill, admonished, “keep every promise you make and only make promises you can keep”.
During one of the briefings by the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, the Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora, was quoted as saying that the government had released about $53 million for death-in-service insurance to health workers. Where then is the money, if NARD, which makes up the bulk of the doctors in government-owned hospitals, is claiming that only one out of 19 of its members who died in line of duty has been paid the insurance benefit? Something must be wrong somewhere and the authorities should dig into the matter.
Another issue is that of owing about two years’ salaries to doctors in some states. For heaven’s sake, how do the governments of these states expect these doctors and their families to survive? It has become the habit of some governors to deny workers their merited allowances, promotion, salaries and other benefits for whatever reasons they may adduce and it is most unfortunate.
Management of hospitals across the country has continued to lament the brain drain in the health sector and it is this glaring insensitivity towards health care in the country that fuels the exodus. How can a doctor being owed 19 months’ salary or who does not have equipment to work with, and who has no life insurance be encouraged to be patriotic and stay in the country and help the system work when he has better offers out there?
And one wonders what becomes the fate of the country, especially the poor masses who may not have the resources to run to the best hospitals overseas for treatment if measures are not put in place to curtail the brain-drain or to reduce the frequency of doctors strikes in the country. Last month, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) raised alarm over the detection of the more contagious Delta variant of Covid-19 and the likelihood of a third wave of the disease, the Federal Capital Territory is still battling with an outbreak of cholera which has claimed many lives as well as an outbreak of gastro-enteritis in Sokoto State, among other health challenges in different parts of the country.
We, therefore, cannot afford to allow our doctors to desert the country or stay away from the hospitals. It is imperative that sincere attention should be paid to NARD’s demands and the health sector in general. Budgetary allocation to the health sector at both federal and state levels should be increased significantly, even as more private organisations and good spirited individuals should be encouraged to invest in the health sector. But without checking the corruption in the health sector, no amount of investment made towards the development of the sector will bear the desired result.
By: Calista Ezeaku
Roots Of Nigeria’s Predicaments
After the publication of an article titled: Recolonising Nigeria; (The Tide: Wednesday 10, 2023), an anonymous reader sent a test message, saying some pleasant things. The fact that leadership is at the root of the development or underdevelopment of any nation, is not a far-fetched reality. What many Nigerians are not aware of is the truth that there are usually huge interventions by foreign powers in the politics and other critical sectors of this nation’s affairs. How the mechanism of such interventions operates would always remain security secrets. Real politics!
That an imperfect electoral system throws into leadership positions persons who rarely possess the capacity to lead a complex nation like Nigeria, is a truth which any intelligent person can grasp easily. What would remain unknown to many people is the jinxed mechanism of electoral laws that are foisted on developing nations by internal and external powers and interests. Similarly, who the external powers and interests are, will usually remain nebulous. It is obvious that a faulty structure or foundation would hardly produce anything perfect, as an outcome.
Between November 1966 and May 1967, some foreign powers and interests revealed the abundance of oil and gas deposits in Southern Nigeria, whose result was the repudiation of an “Aburi Accord”. Someone asked: “Why did the British Government, with Russia, its cold war enemy, help the Nigerian Government to fight against Biafra?” Wars are fought or sponsored for political and economic purposes, largely. Real politics!
Therefore, the intrigues, conspiracies and diplomatic plots involved in global political economy are issues which average Nigerians know nothing about. Expectedly, the top echelon of a nation’s military and security institutions constitute impregnable and exclusive cult system, where no intruder can be spared. Similarly, under the cover of national security and national interests, a lot of things can be buried permanently and with an immunity that acts with impunity. Thus an aspect of governance known as a cryptocracy, whose operations are shrouded in secrecy, cannot be ignored as a present reality.
When General Colin Powel, late former American Secretary of State, delivered “Tell Magazine Lecture” in Abuja in 2009, he made some statements that were quite revealing. He and late General Sani Abacha were close friends and it became known that late Abacha had some relationship with foreign governments even before he became a military head of state. The Nation newspaper of June 7, 2009, also published an interview with Prof. Taiwo Ogunlade where Nigerians were told that: “Abacha attended a special school, later to be known as School of Assassins” in the United States which prepared him for the task of becoming the nations’ head of state, many years before he eventually made it”.
Late General Sani Abacha was not alone in the list of top Nigerian military and security personnel who attended special courses in foreign countries or had some relationship with foreign powers and interests. We cannot rule out the fact that foreign powers plant those they prepare and choose to occupy critical positions in developing countries, especially mineral-rich countries.
The Central Intelligence Agency of the United States of America may be an old player in the game of national security, but current competitors in that game are getting really smart. In their book: National Security and the American Society, Trager and Simonie, defined national security as “the part of government policy having as its objective the creation of national and international conditions favourable to the protection and extension of vital national values against existing or potential adversaries”. What are the “vital national values” which every nation seeks to protect and extend?
“Stomach infrastructure” is obviously a basic value for several Nigerians, because, that value represents self-preservation and protection of life. For nations, no matter the level of development or underdevelopment, vital national values, would include security and safety from internal and external aggressions or abuses. We cannot deny the fact that a nation’s political-economy accounts for the aggressiveness with which vital national values are protected against existing or potential adversaries. The history of colonialism and other forms of exploitation have been characterised by moving into new frontiers in the search for vital national values. Application and extension of power!
What we call foreign powers and interests are those nations that have developed the capacity and strategies to protect and extend their national values beyond and outside their own geographical territories. A nation is great and powerful largely through political and economic structures that can make other nations depend on them and also inspire some fear. This is where security and military might combine with modern technology and information to create an awesome influence globally.
While developing nations would not be right to blame all their predicaments on foreign powers, there is a need to ask what have kept backward nations at the mercy of powerful foreign nations. Neither can we say that Nigerians are not patriotic, hard-working and honest; but, on the contrary, the flaws in our public institutions have been deliberately put in place, by clever means. It is true that corruption is a serious predicament in Nigeria, but Goodluck Jonathan told us that corruption goes beyond taking bribes or money changing hands. Politics of wit!
There had been the speculations that many Nigerians holding vital national appointments are “screened agents and moles planted by foreign powers and interests”. It is also alleged in some quarters that “none in this country will in the next decade or two, also ascend the presidency if these foreign powers do not know who you are and have not given their approval”. There is also a theory that “Nigerian money-bags”, many of who made their wealth through criminal means and who had deposited such wealth in foreign banks, had some conditions attached to the “safety of their deposits”. It is a form of “plea bargaining” where you are required to give or do something in return for the protection you enjoy.
Apart from sponsorship of certain activities in the country as a pay-back for foreign protection, there are Nigerians who would not defend vital national values, for fear of some back lash from those who keep their secrets secret. At the end of the day, information is power, for those who use it as vital accoutrement for the protection and extension of vital national values. There are Nigerians programmed to undermine their nations interest, for the protection they enjoy. Foreign powers have secret dozziers of many Nigerians.
There is currently a predatory and exploitative global economic order whereby over 80 per cent of available wealth and resources are controlled and enjoyed by less than 20 per cent of powerful nations. The masses can scramble over the crumbs allowed to trickle down to them. Being the custodians and managers of this economic system, powerful nations have the task of ensuring that no developing nation disrupts or destroys this political-economy. What have been the motives and patterns of management of national borrowings? Why are our refineries not functioning? We grow the economy of foreign powers.
By: Bright Amirize
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.
Cultivating Culture Of Charity
It’s been interesting reading some of the comments that have continued to trail the claim by some Nigerian celebrities on the cost of their outfits to the recently held African Magic Viewers Choice Award (AMVCA) . To some, the claim is a big lie. “It’s funny how you try to justify your lies, real truth doesn’t fight for accreditation”, someone wrote, as a former reality show star who claimed that her dress was worth $20,000 went ahead to share a receipt of $20,000 as evidence of her claim.
Some other people do not see the reason why someone should spend as much as $20,000 to make a single outfit when there are millions of poor people in the country whose lives can be positively impacted with a fraction of that money. Yet, some people see nothing wrong in someone spending her money the way she deems fit. Indeed, Tacha Akide and the likes have given Nigerians something to chew and the argument may be on for some days to come. One cannot agree less that it is at the discretion of anyone who has made money to spend it the way he/she prefers.
Some people may decide to spend their last kobo on real estate, electronic gadgets, automobiles, ornaments and all that. It largely depends on what gives the person satisfaction. Someone may consider buying a handset worth about 1 million dollar as a stupid act and waste of money while another will deny himself a lot of things to be able to own it. However, one cannot deny the fact that the culture of donating to charity is greatly lacking in our society.
Often, many people concentrate on themselves and families alone without caring about the poor people around them. Some see charity as an act to be performed by the rich. “I have my own problems; I do not have enough to give”, they will say. Sometimes you even hear people claiming that they don’t do charity because charity encourages laziness. The dictionary defines charity as the voluntary giving of help, typically in the form of money, to those in need.
It is an act of benevolence. Acts of charity could be in the form of cash, material gifts, quality time or kind words. It could be in the form of providing basic necessities like food, water, clothing, shelter, healthcare, education, occupation and security. You could give directly, volunteer for a charitable organisation or invest in a charitable trust. One undisputable fact is that we do not live in a perfect world. Everybody’s financial status cannot be the same.
As the saying goes, “all fingers are not equal”. Even the Bible made it clear that there will always be the poor among us. Unfortunately, in Nigeria, many people are lacking because some people in high authority are sitting comfortably on their rights. Some having served the nation meritoriously for 35 years and retired are denied their pensions and gratuity by their state governments thereby turning some of them who have nobody to cater for them into beggars. Some people have developed a beggar attitude due to lack of employment, food and basic healthcare. Their children go to bed hungry.
Poverty or lack is far from being an African or under – developed countries thing. Even in the developed world, poor people abound. The difference between them and a country like ours is their consciousness towards charity. Their mindset, value system, and sociocultural ethics are greatly progressive and they make deliberate efforts to cater for the needy in their communities and beyond. From the start of life, they introduce their children to a tradition of donating to charity, they do this by creating a family donation box that everyone can add to and choose a charity that the family can support each year; sharing the experience of donating to charity with the children and many more.
Through this way, children are shown from a young age that they can make positive changes in the world. They grow up with a greater appreciation of what they have, and will carry on supporting charity and good causes in years to come. Little wonder the volume of foreign financial donations to charitable organizations in some third world countries. At the opening of the Abuja office of Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation last week, its president, Global Development, Chris Elias, announced that BMGF, the second largest charitable foundation in the world, has invested approximately $1billion (N461bn) in various intervention programmes in the last 10 years of its stay in Nigeria. Many Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in the country today will not be existing without donations from foreign charitable trusts and philanthropists
No doubt, many Nigerians and organisations (both religious and non-religious) are remarkable when it comes to uplifting the downtrodden in the society. Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, of the Catholic Church is a typical example of a group that has been a source of joy and hope to the poor, the abandoned, the vulnerable and the captive in various communities and states across the country. This society provides health, welfare, education and other support to these people, giving them reasons to be happy. I recall a particular homeless, blind beggar whose life they impacted greatly through provision of accommodation, adequate health care, feeding, clothing and other support for several years before the man eventually passed on.
Many other religious organisations and other charitable organisations like Feed Africa Foundation, Land of Hope, O.B Lulu Briggs Foundation are trying to make up for the government’s lack of services and social protection for Nigerian citizens but a lot still needs to be done. The harsh economic realities in the country have pushed many people into poverty and it will not be a bad idea if we at this critical time and going forward, can truly be our brothers’ keepers. We all have poor people around us, can we make their lives better by forgoing some luxuries or even needs? Instead of a dress of N30 Million, a watch of N5 million, a hair of N1 million, can we go for cheaper items of high quality and use the balance for charity? Can we begin now, like the people in the western world, build the culture of donating to charity in our children? Yes, the government owes the citizens a lot in terms of provision of basic amenities, health care, quality education and all that.
We as individuals still have roles to play in making life worth living for our fellow citizens who we are better than. You don’t have to be a millionaire or a billionaire to be charitable. That N100, N500, N10,000 can make a difference in someone’s life. What about sharing your food, good clothes and other items with the people that do not have it? Most importantly, what about sharing our love and time with the poor people around us and treating them with love and dignity? Luckily, by donating to charity, you are bringing joy and happiness to the beneficiaries as well as yourself. A writer calls it a major mood-booster. The fulfilment, the inner peace and joy you derive from helping others is unquantifiable.
A series of studies have identified a link between making a donation to charity and increased activity in the area of the brain that registers pleasure. They found that neurons in the portion of the brain associated with a sense of satisfaction start firing when a person chooses to give. Little wonder it is said that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Are there people who abuse other people’s act of generosity? Of course, there are. Should that deter you from being charitable? Not at all. Give whenever you are able, expecting nothing in return and you will be happier for it. As Winston Churchill puts it, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.
By: Calista Ezeaku
·Of Happy Endings And New Beginnings
May 29, 2015, was like every other day in Nigeria; nonetheless, it was very remarkable because, on that day, one who could accurately be called the Anti-Nigerian was given the reins of power. His reemergence after a 32-year hiatus in political Siberia, (following his first coming as head of state) warmed the heart, of millions of Nigerians who had the misconception that he was a disciplined man, a man who favoured law and order, a man who was capable of taking charge, (unlike the one many openly called a ‘woman’ due to his peaceful disposition). The hyping was so much that a political whiz like former President Olusegun Obasanjo was so deceived that he commented that “even if Buhari fails in everything, security won’t be one of them”. But we now know better.
However, under President Buhari, Nigeria was dealt a bad hand. In the past eight years, Aso Rock has been occupied by a President who had been overseeing the flow of blood like a river in the mountains of the Plateau, the savannah forest of Southern Kaduna, in the Benue Valley, and across every nook and cranny of this country. Under his assumed incorruptible posture, Nigeria has been fleeced by the most fantastically corrupt administration in her history. This is in terms of the spread, and value of what has been stolen from our commonwealth. In other words, under President Buhari’s administration, corruption was deep and wide. As if all that were not enough, the economy has been left in tartars, and the dollar he promised Nigerians would be able to exchange for one naira, now goes for almost eight hundred naira leaving millions in abject poverty. Today, Nigeria is not just the poverty capital of the world, it is estimated that under President Buhari, Nigeria is also home to 133 million multi-dimensionally poor people.
Things have fallen so far apart that those who were gloating over President Jonathan, and cheering when hurricane Buhari made landfall (according to one newspaper headline on April 13, 2015) are now discombobulated. I am sure the editor who coined the infamous headline would forever be self-loathing for being a prophet of doom. Thankfully, Nigerians are resilient. The average Nigerian, according to Fela Kuti, knows how to smile in the midst of suffering and tyranny. But like the Holy Bible says in the Book of Ecclesiastes: “To everything, there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven. A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” For most Nigerians, this week is a joyous week, full of laughter and dancing, for the singular reason that they survived the Buhari years against all odds. Just as in nature and the seamlessness of the cosmos, specifically as it relates to endings and beginnings, so also is history being made once again before our very eyes as we witness the peaceful transition of power one more time in our country.
The curtain is brought down on Buhari, yet there is no vacuum because Act-1 and Scene-1 of the four-year tenure of Bola Armed Tinubu as president begins. It is a miracle of unfathomable proportions, and we must, in spite of our national aches, pains, and miscarriages of justice, and the apparent lack of a cohesive national story after 62 years of nationhood, thank God for what we have. If you are in doubt of our blessings despite the conglomeration of forces both within and without, working unremittingly to derail the destiny of the largest black nation on earth, look no further than Chad, Mali, Sudan, Congo, and Somalia. It must be noted, that the civil war in Somalia and Congo has been on for more than 30 years. Even though we are stepping into the unknown with the new Commander-in-Chief, in the person of Bola Armed Tinubu, we must count our blessings, and see what God has done for us.
Coming back to Rivers State, even though we can not say it’s a garden of bloom, we have every reason to be thankful. In fact, about a fortnight ago, I was in gathering where someone was reeling out what he felt was the state’s litany of woes. But to his shock, a response came from a most unlikely place, Abia State; and the response was: “Una dey see flyover everywhere and other projects, una still dey talk, come to Abia state, just go to Aba alone, you will weep for us.” That response in its simplicity has vindicated Governor Wike a million times. However, Governor Wike’s Legacy is beyond brick and mortar. Governor Wike once said: “Now that we have become victorious and have arrived at the homeward end of our beautiful water-side, it is time to work, to erect landmarks of progress and prosperity. Yes, it is time to deconstruct, reconstruct, rehabilitate, and restore…our commonwealth. Now is the time for us to rebuild our state; to rebuild our educational and health institutions; to rebuild our occupations, and to rebuild our infrastructure. It is time to provide new opportunities to maximally touch the lives of our people. It is time to restore hope.”
To this end, Governor Wike specifically promised to, “subject to available funds, prioritise the completion of all ongoing road projects; construct the Trans-Kalabari coastal road network, dualise the Ahoada-Omoku road; Saakpenwa-Bori road; and Oyigbo-Afam road, among others. We shall also tackle the challenges of urban renewal, road congestion, and traffic gridlock in PortHarcourt City, Obio/Akpor, and other major population centres in Rivers State”. Did he keep his word? Overwhelmingly. Governor Wike started, finished and commissioned Phase 1, of the Trans-Kalabari Road which was only in the realm of possibility until he made it a reality with N14 billion. Other roads started from scratch and completed includes: the Obiri-Ikwerre-Airport Dual Carriageway, Chokocho-Umuechem-Ozuzu Road, and Chokocho-Igbo-Etche-Rumuokurushi Road, Igwuruta-Eneka-Rumuokurushi dual carriageway, the Federal Government-owned Igwurura-Chokocho Road, Iwofe-Rumuolumeni dual carriageway.
He also completed the reconstruction and dualisation of Creek Road, which was awarded by the previous administration but abandoned due to paucity of funds, Bori Skpenwa Road, and the ongoing phase two of Ahoada-Omoku – Egbema Road and the Emohua-Tema Junction Road projects that are ongoing are at the cost of N80bn.His giant strides in the Judiciary, where he rehabilitated existing facilities, built new ones and made both judges and magistrates comfortable enough to deliver justice without being needy. He also made lawyers and litigants happy by building an industrial court in the state. But the crowning jewel of his efforts in the Judiciary is without any doubt, the brand new N17 billion Nigerian Law School, Port Harcourt Campus that has been handed over to the Federal Government. In the Health Sector, thanks to Governor Wike’s effort, River State is set to become a regional destination for health tourism. The state is now home to two teaching hospitals three colleges of medicine, and several centres of tertiary health care: namely the Dr. Peter Odili Cancer and Cardiovascular Diagnostic Treatment Centre, the 258-bed Mother and Child Hospital, the Maxilo-Facial and Dental Hospital, the completion of six zonal specialist hospitals. Rivers State is poised to enjoy superb health care delivery and proper training of medical personnel for a long time to come.
His giant strides permeate every facet of the economy of Rivers State, which this article has only managed to skim. He touched Oil and Gas, Education, Agriculture, and ICT. By his exceptional approach to governance, Governor Wike has already made his protégé, Sir. Sim Fubara a successful governor even before he took the oath of office. Sadly, President Buhari will bequeath a house of cards (Nigeria) to Bola Armed Tinubu. In the end, it’s a happy ending because we survived, and a time of honour for the old boys and girls of Comprehensive Secondary School Opobo Town, my alma mater. We have produced a governor, His Excellency Sir. Sim Fubara.
By: Raphael Pepple
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