By Talemoh Wycliffe Dah MD
The bill by the Honorable member of the House of Representatives from Isolo, Abiodun Jonathan, seeking to compel fresh medical graduates to serve five years at home before being given certificates has to its credit the status of being one of the most publicly debated bills such that, should the committee agree, there may be no need for a formal public hearing. As the debate rages on, different angles to it are being exposed and will continue to be exposed. To the Honorable member’s credit, perhaps the house may consider adjusting its rules and procedures so that all proposed bills will be announced to the public and allowed to be x-rayed properly rather than just a single day of public hearing where many people’s ideas cannot be heard either because they could not be present or they were present but the presiding Committee Chairperson decides not to allow them speak. Call it the Abiodun Amendment so this legislator will be honoured for a long time.
The Honorable member most likely has good intentions and push but these must be questioned. A disturbing situation on ground, the mass exodus of Nigerian Doctors for greener pastures, clement practice weather and invulnerability (security wise), will certainly impact negatively on the health system. A former governor, Senator and now the Honorable Minister of Labour (GSM), himself a medical doctor, from whom such concerns should have emanated, had earlier waived it off by saying that Nigeria has surplus doctors. A colleague of his, a Medical Professor, had also earlier advised doctors to farm or learn fashion design. Unlike them, Hon Abiodun had earlier sponsored bills for the welfare of doctors but does the present bill share the altruism he had in crafting those?
The timing of the bill must be one’s point of first consideration. The history of Nigeria in the recent decade is replete with the avalanches of bills being signed into law at the twilight of assemblies/tenures. It appears that having been distracted by the largesse of their offices, personal pursuits and political campaigns, many legislators suddenly discover that their time is coming to an end and the scorecard will include how many bill they sponsored. So any and all sorts of bills are sponsored. Sharing the same item on the scorecard, the executive and legislative arms find areas of mutual benefits and so bills are passed weeks to the end of a regime and signed into laws hours to handing over. They are then touted as achievements. Could this possibly be what is playing here? Stakeholders who are against this bill but think it will go nowhere or not far should have a rethink because it could be passed and signed before you say Kobo.
Could it also be that, like the proverbial carpenter with a hammer in hand, the tendency to use the hammer as the only solution to every issue was the reason the bill was sponsored? Restraining doctors form emigration is a very far-flung solution. Its only equal is restraining legislators and others from going abroad for medical care because their patronage of care here will improve the system. There will be more money to improve the healthcare system, they will be showing good examples, they will see the rot and increase the budget, they will appreciate doctors and improve the welfare packages which will in turn attract more experts from other lands, etc, etc. All done, the pastures will be green, the practice climate will be clement and vulnerability security wise will disappear and only very few doctors will leave. The real matters are deep-rooted and this approach to accomplish easy, low-hanging solutions will not resolve the matter.
Still x-raying the motive and push, one must attempt to answer the question about the sponsor not picking the minds of stakeholders first. There are Doctors in the National Assembly, there are doctors’ associations, there are doctors in hospitals around, etc. That all of them seem to be against the bill shows that he never sought advice from them. Such a seasoned legislator could surely not have made such mistake. Could the push be coming from somewhere else? Having poached enough young doctors trained with another country’s funds, could the poaching countries now be desirous of better trained doctors so they will spend little or no funds improving their skills when they get over? Are you getting me? Could the Honourable Member be complicit in this by colluding to create laws to that effect so that, after five years of graduating these doctors could be Senior Registrars already? Can somebody please find out how much he was paid to do this if so?
▪︎ Dah, an Abuja-based medical consultant sent this via his email.