By Abdelghaffar Amoka Abdelmalik
The trending news/video of the over 500 doctors that turned up in Abuja at the Saudi health ministry organised recruitment meeting to pick Nigerian doctors for work in Saudi Arabia reminded me of a comment by a Nigerian Professor in a university in the UK sometime in 2008 or so. There was a discussion on the management of PTDF oversee scholarship scheme, the scholars in the UK, their future, Nigeria, and capacity building. He said Nigeria is perhaps the only country in the world that spends a lot of money to train scholars and doesn’t care what becomes of the scholars after the training.
This scenario is common to all the scholars funded with government money. We send scholars to the UK and other countries under PTDF, TETFund, NEEDS Assessment, NITTDA, etc., and we do not care if they return home or not. As a matter of fact, there is no provision at the home institutions to utilise the knowledge acquired by the scholars during the training on their return. It’s like you were trained for yourself and not for the system. Those who return are not better than they were before they left as no laboratory to train others. They most times become more frustrated.
Then, how do you expect a system that makes no provision for scholars sent abroad for training to make provision for those we managed to train at home? This is the case with our Medical Doctors moving to other countries to practice. Even though we do not have enough medical personnel, medical doctors sometimes find it challenging to get a job as Consultants after their residency. So, why they should not move to the UK, Canada, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, etc., to practice?
We need to deal with the lack of respect and value for our universities, professionals, and intellectuals. It worsened when our leaders abandoned our institutions while taking their families abroad for education and medical care. They are not even ashamed to post their graduation pictures on social media and shamelessly requesting us to celebrate with them. I thought COVID-19 and the lockdown would teach us lessons, especially our leaders, but it seems we have not learned any lesson from experience.
I read a comment sometime back that during the slave trade, our people were forced into slavery, but if it is now, Nigerians will give themselves up to be taken away. They believe that whatever the challenges are in those countries, it will still be better than Nigeria.
The gathering of over 500 professionals (Consultants and Resident Doctors), both Muslims and Christians, for a recruitment exercise to Saudi Arabia called for sober reflection and not throwing insults. These guys do not care about the Shariah law and the stories of racism in Saudi Arabia from those that have worked there. They just want to leave. So we need to sit down and reflect and ask ourselves questions. What future do we want to create for Nigeria and Nigerians?
Our leaders don’t believe in the country. They instead take our money to London, Dubai, and Saudi Arabia, etc., to secure the life of their family members. They patronise medical care in first-class state-of-the-art hospitals established by the leaders of those countries since they can’t make our health sector desirable. And they are not ashamed of that as leaders. On the contrary, they travel for medical tourism with pride and class.
You will not blame our doctors who were trained nearly for free in our “ASUU Strike” public universities by our “ill-equipped” professors to move to London, Canada, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, etc., to help those countries treat our politicians. But, of course, they want a better life too, and they will be paid better there. So, why should they be ashamed of running away when our leaders are not? Why should they endure and MILT (manage it like that) when our leaders aren’t prepared to MANAGE our hospitals and schools LIKE THAT for their kids?
It is unfair to expect the people to be patriotic when the leaders are not — and don’t even seem to believe that Nigeria can work. The president, Vice President, the Governor, the Senators, others that are supposed to make our schools work have their kids in schools in the UK. The president and other political leaders that are supposed to make our hospitals work receive medical care in the UK, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, etc. How will they make a system they don’t patronise to work? They will just think the system is OK for us as they are, and we can MILT.
Come to think of it. How can our doctors be on strike and hospitals shut for patients for over three weeks? It is not surprising. After all, they allowed the ASUU strike to last for nine months and public universities closed for that nine months. They would not have let that happen if they and their immediate families patronised the system that was and is on strike.
The leaders don’t believe that the country can be fixed, and the led also don’t believe the country can work. So let all of us just run away, even to Niger, Cotonou, Rwanda, etc., and let Nigeria fix itself before we return.
While I am in solidarity with our Medical Doctors on strike, I only wish that the strike is not just about salaries and allowance but also on the proper funding of the healthcare sector so that we can have hospitals similar to the ones they patronise in the UK, Dubai, and Saudi Arabia.
The question now is: Do you want Nigeria to work? Just be the change that you desire—both the leaders and the led.
Meanwhile, the Punch newspaper has reported that the organisers have suspended Saudi Arabia recruitment as DSS disperses doctors, arrests journalists. Is that the way to fix the problem?
It is relieving that despite the ASUU strikes, the breaks, and all the insults on lecturers, our graduate doctors can still pass International examinations and are qualified to work in the UK, Canada, Dubai, and Saudi Arabia. To God be the Glory.
Kudos to our “ill-equipped” professors who have helped train this Nigerian workforce from 100 Level till graduation for the UK, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, etc.
Maybe I need to run too. Meanwhile, I am still thinking of the country to run to.
Abdelghaffar Amoka Abdelmalik writes from zaria can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.