Upon the collapse of the defunct National Association of University Teachers (NAUT), The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) was established in 1978, with the goal of regulating the relationship that exists between academic staff and employers. This regulation entailed the constant provision of suitable working conditions of service for ASUU members by the employers. Quite frankly, over the years, the Federal Government has failed to meet the demands of the Union. This grave failure has plunged ASUU into the habit of going on industrial action or strike. Sadly, this habit of calling strikes has been a fruitful means of making their voices heard and getting the desired and required attention to their demands.
On February 14th 2022, ASUU went on another strike. This strike came as no surprise to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige; one who has thrown his hat into the ring. Dr. Ngige who claimed to have done his very best to resolve the current ASUU strike said: “There is nothing new about ASUU strike. It has been a recurrent decimal. In the last 20 years, ASUU has gone on strike 16 times, so there is nothing new as such.” This assertion by Dr. Ngige reminds us of how Tertiary education in Nigeria since 1999 till date, has been plagued and ravaged by ‘strike,’ making strikes more consistent and normal than the academic calendar of Federal Universities.
While we tried to swallow this bitter pill from Presidential aspirant and hopeful, Dr. Ngige, just recently as a guest at ‘The Morning Show’ on Arise News Channel made a costly and terrible faux pas stressing that “there was nothing wrong with doctors leaving Nigeria.” Dr. Ngige hinged his argument on the premise that the mass exodus of doctors from Nigeria was nothing new since, “by 1982 and 1984, our doctors were moving to Saudi Arabia and United Kingdom. By 1990, they were moving to the United States….these countries need our doctors because they are well trained….our medical doctors and consultants are the best…what I am saying is that it is not all that bad in such a situation…those doctors and consultants came back with better knowledge while some came back with equipment…what I am saying is that all hope is not lost.”
Analyzing Dr. Ngige’s comments, it is quite clear that he has either failed to understand the philosophy that undergirds the mass exodus of doctors and consultants from Nigeria or that he is merely turning a blind eye to this problem. The bitter truth here is that these doctors and consultants are not in any way satisfied with the quality of the Health Care Sector and consequently their own welfare, thus, they simply seek a better life outside the shores of the Nigerian state and polity, where their services would be appreciated. Therefore, from the foregoing, it becomes noteworthy to state that if our nation seeks to improve its Health Care Sector, then, we should and must all be bothered about this massive exodus of our medical practitioners from our Fatherland.
Furthermore, to claim that the phenomenon of medical practitioners leaving Nigeria is not new
hinged on the fact that in the late 90’s Nigerian doctors moved to Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom and the United States, is to place the current situation which was to be addressed out of context, hence, begging the question. The real issue and concern should be: Why are our doctors leaving the country en masse? What plans does the Federal Government have to forestall this ugly scenario that would certainly hunt our Health Care Sector? Are our medical doctors and consultants going to come back? If they come back are there provisions put in place to make transformation of the Health Care Sector possible? How and in what ways can we improve the welfare of doctors and consultants? Consequently, we could make bold the epistemic claim that there is something wrong with doctors and consultants leaving Nigeria.
Nevertheless, for a man who has declared to run for the position of President under the aegis of the All Progressives Congress (APC), his faux pas at ‘The Morning Show’ on Arise News Channel does not put him in the catbird seat to rule Nigeria. Dr. Ngige’s fiasco in managing these issues presages a would-be government that would brazenly showboat a crass negligence for Nigeria’s growth and development. If he has failed to deal judiciously with these issues at the level of his Ministry, why should he be trusted with tackling higher problems as President of the Federation in 2023?
Tobechukwu Johnpaul Nwabuisi can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org