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Published July 22nd, 2014

NIGERIAN MEDICAL DOCTORS It is no longer news that the indefinite strike embarked upon by the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), an association of medical doctors in Nigeria, will have entered its fourth week by the time this piece will be published. I have listened to several discussions on electronic media by representatives of the doctors attempting to explain themselves and justify their decisions to embark on the strike, and regrettably, every such attempt left more unanswered questions. In trying to justify their action, the leadership of the NMA always plays to the populist gallery of the parlous health status of our health institutions while the real motive is enhanced emolument.

In trying to justify this quest for enhanced emolument package, our medical doctors seek to establish their superiority over and above other health professionals. It is this assumed position of a Professional Prince in the health sector that undoubtedly informs the Medical Doctors’ mindset that the health sector, as vast and as widely embracing and diverse as it is, is their Principality whose firmament they alone must bestride like the legendary colossus, to the exclusion of all others in the family health tree.


Nowhere was the foregoing more eloquently displayed than the conduct of the members of NMA during the administrations of the late President Yar’ Adua when they rose up in stout opposition to the rumoured attempt  by the then late Yar’Adua’s led government to appoint late Professor Dora Akunyuli as Minister of Health, on the insensate grounds that the Health Ministry could not be headed by any other except a Medical Doctor, not even by an accomplished professor of Pharmacy, as late Dora Akunyili!

Regrettably, the Nigerian Medical Doctors are not about to purge themselves of the superiority warfare as they have taken on another professional in the health sector, the members of the Medical Laboratory Council of Nigeria, whom they insist must be subordinated to the whims and caprices of the medical doctors in the practice of even the medical laboratory profession.

 It is befuddling, to say the least, that our Medical Doctors are yet to appreciate and situate their functions within the context of global conception of “Health” which the World Health Organization has espoused and globally endorsed since 1948 to be “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” By this conception of health to include also the social and psychological well-being of the individual or the society at large, it is therefore rather sophomoric and parochial for our Medical Doctors to arrogantly continue to hang on to the opinion that the Health Ministry must continue to be their exclusive preserve while experts in other areas of health such as Professor Dora Akunyuli (of blessed memory) as aforementioned and Professor Ogoh Aluboh, a Professor of Health Sociology, to mention but a few instances, should never be made to head the Health Ministry.

The Nigerian Medical Doctors must be reminded that the civilized world has since moved beyond the archaic and primordial thinking of looking at health issues from the narrow prism of activities associated only with the white coat and stethoscope. If the Nigerian medical doctors could be charitable enough to step out of their age-long imprinted aristocratic gaiety which they enjoyed at formative years of the medical profession, they would have realized that modern civilization has created a platform for intellectual intercourse among  health and health-related professions in order to tap from the huge inherent synergic benefits. It is instructive that it is this shift in paradigm in present 21st century health development that informs the offering of post graduate studies such as Masters in Health Policy, for instance, even to non health professionals, in some of the world renowned universities such as Harvard. In the thinking of our medical doctors, even a holder of Master Degree in Health Policy is also not qualified to head the Health Ministry!

Furthermore, it may interest the Nigerian Medical Doctors to know that at the time they protested against the rumoured appointment of late Professor Dora Akunyuli, other civilized nations of the world with the best health management systems had all subscribed to this values of conceiving health as an area requiring extensive multidisciplinary inputs. A few examples may suffice. Canada, reputed to have one of the best health management systems in the world had at the time, Leona Anglukkaq heading its Health Ministry. Her only qualification is a Master of Public Administration. In US, from where we copied our presidential system, the comets are still blazing forth the monumental achievement recorded by Obama in the passage of the Healthcare Reform Bill. The face behind the mask that made possible the synthesis of ideas leading to the aforesaid Health Reform is no other than Kathleen Sebelius, the then US Secretary of Health. She has, wait for it, a Bsc in Political science and a Masters in Public Administrations! She has again been succeeded by Sylvia Mary Matthew Burwell, a Bachelor Degree holder in Government from Harvard! In UK, Andy Bunham, a Masters Degree holder in English was the Health Secretary, the equivalent of Minister of health in Nigeria, at the time. He too has been succeeded by Jeremy Hunt, a holder of Bachelor degrees in Philosophy, Politics and Economics!

With all these obtaining in other civilized world with better, nay, excellent Health management systems as compared to our health situation made parlous by the parochial view and misconduct of our medical doctors, many of whom own their private clinics at the expense of their paid public employment, what then is the unnecessary fuss being generated by our Doctors all about? The hood, they say, does not make the monk.








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