Why begrudge the doctor?
Cosmas Odoemena’s article with the above title published in The Guardian of Sunday July 13, 2014, brought to the forefront yet again, the tussle for equality that is blamable for Nigeria’s underdevelopment. Without a doubt, there is so much unhealthy jealousy (leading to unending spats) among medical employees, whose, primary interests should be, to take care of-sickly-sweet people and it is upsetting therefore, when lives are lost due to lack of care when strikes actions are embarked upon.
The starring role of doctors anywhere in the world cannot be queried and it is not my intention to x-ray their undeniable significance to society. What I find baffling is why the writer was one-sided? He gave the impression that doctors in this country are pursued after, by fortune hunters in the health sector; he also gave a picture that they are all-knowing, and a “crescent” instead of a group that should work with others as a “full moon.” He surprisingly, opined that they are intelligent because unlike others (would be doctors) who couldn’t pass medical examinations in college, they did, while those who couldn’t stand the rigours of medical school split out to non-science discipline.
Regrettably, some doctors in Nigeria work with the specious impression that they are brainy over and above all other line of work, a very trite belief. The writer also got it wrong by alluding that the break down in professional harmony started with our democratic experience, presumably the fourth republic. This is not correct. This started during the autocratic rule of some military governments in Nigeria but made worse with the return to democratic rule. Specialists were given the chance to negotiate and define their welfare benefits without recourse to previously held codified standard. In the bid to be accepted by the people, military rulers outmaneuvered the benefit system of the public service that earlier improved harmonious relationships amongst all cadre of our public institutions.
Time there was for instance: when every professional who went into the civil service knew where they belonged in terms of the pecking order. On graduation, a holder of the ordinary national diploma knew without being oriented that he was on Level 6, the higher national diploma owner was on level 7, the bachelor degree holder was on level 8 (step 2), the new graduate engineer on level 8 (step 3) and a doctor on level 8 (step 4) etc., consideration was given to those who completed their trainings at a much longer time than others ( 4-5-6- year courses) until they catch up with each other in the ladder eventually. There was never an alleged subservience complex between HND and BSC holders. The elevation of one over the other was not because the other was inferior but as a matter of policy. A policy fashioned out only because of their roles to national development.
The case is not the same today as there is excessive complication, caused by leaders who have twisted the rules; refused to be in charge; to return to the status quo and by failing to make the tough decisions unmindful of how unpleasant. There was a time in this country when professors were truly revered and they earned higher salaries than the permanent secretary who was the highest civil servant in our land. There was a time when the polytechnic graduate never asked for equity in status with the university graduate because their curriculums, training, entry requirement into higher institution and roles were different. In this day and age the political classes has left the professor wretched, have made themselves extremely wealthy and unionized every profession to the neglect of national growth. This neglect of important people is reason why professors during my time as an undergraduate went to Botswana for sabbatical (not to rest but to work) and do you know why? Because over there, they were and are still treated as human beings first and their services highly valued and rewarded generously.
One expected the writer to have explained the real cause of the never ending squabble all across the different aspect of our public life, to also give us data as an expert, further recommend ways to improve our compensation system which is in dire need of reconstruction and not to have passed a witch-hunting judgment’ which was what he ended up achieving with his piece.
May I, also remind the writer that the mistaken belief about cleverness as a “given” for doctors above other discipline is reason why Nigerian doctors within our shores have not been credited with anything ingenious, save for a handful like Jeremiah Abalaka who was frustrated by the government and yet was not stoutly protected by his medical association (no disrespect intended). It is also odd for him to give us the example of single-handed doctors who went from door to door in times of yore when most physicians learnt the trade by the development of their sixth sense or by watching other experts.
Time has changed and, the time we are in now, calls for synergy amongst all experts for medical breakthroughs. This is the reason why people in developed climes go for psychoanalytic psychotherapy sessions periodically and why doctors are not always the first point of call for distresses over there except in emergencies. This is also the reason why non-medical professionals like philosophers are considered the greatest thinkers and accorded due respect.
May I, further remind the writer, that administrators elsewhere have seen the need not to exclude the humanities in the quest to promote developmental causes; pitiably, you still hear people say in this nation, that you should, ‘study useful subject’, as a pathway to success and not as a gateway to knowledge and education of citizens.
Every discipline — regardless of orientation and preference — deserves to be part of the larger dialogue that development provides. This is why Odoemena even as a medical practitioner, could submit article pieces and they would be considered for publication in a non-medical medium and, for a following that cuts across all spectra, reason why Soyinka is celebrated around the world, why renowned British theoretical Astro-physicist, Professor Stephen Hawking is carrying out research on the innermost part of the earth to ascertain how human factors could lead to the destruction of the Earth, why environmentalists daily bring to light the destruction to the earth’s biodiversity and the sermon for sustainability, why engineers watch movies and read books not related to their profession and why all doctors who claim to be too intelligent never asked for their spouses hand in marriage by quoting lines from medical books but instead chose lines from bookish works (poetry) which is not related to medicine.
Can we ever reclaim the Nigeria of old? Those saner days when our society was ordered and when there was no bad blood among all workers. The days when everyone knew their place and when the labour laws did not change with successive governments which came with hidden agenda.
Can those we elect into offices at least try to teach the next generation how to reach the top by sidestepping self-indulgence, antagonism, hostility and a restricted vision of the mind and professional calling — a very difficult task.