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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

THE GROWING MISERY INDEX OF NIGERIANS AND THE SEARCH FOR GOVERNMENT Nigerians readily point out what Governments ought to do which they are not doing. Indeed, virtually every problem in Nigeria is blamed on the government. And for many Nigerians, the government to be blamed often is the Federal government. Many are oblivious of the other tiers of government, especially the local governments. It is as if the local governments have no responsibilities or may be the people have come to expect little from them. The many years of over centralization fostered on the Nation by the military now makes most Nigerians think and act as if the Federal government is the only government in Nigeria. The 1999 Constitution sustains this misnomer by granting the Federal government a long exclusive list and the freedom to dabble into every other matter, some of which should better be left with the traditional councils in the states. This has led many Nigerians to allow the local and State governments get away with With 'blue murder' while holding only the federal government to account,even if feebly. While it is justifiable to blame government for poor infrastructure, poor education, poor healthcare, high unemployment, high insecurity, and even for hunger, corruption and traffic hold ups, it is beginning to look to me that this is an orchestrated ploy by some Nigerians to take a permanent flight from being held responsible for our individual and group conducts. In the first place, the governments we blame so frequently for failing us are run by Nigerians. Indeed the irony is that some of those who blame government for everything are in government themselves! Sometimes, it looks like that there is a mystery man called 'government'. But no, government is no mystery man, but a collection of persons who are first citizens and who run the government on behalf of and for the good of all the citizens. For convenience, they are grouped into the EXECUTIVE, LEGISLATURE AND JUDICIARY. And that includes politicians, civil servants, public servants, professionals and non professionals of all cadres and categories; from cleaners,security men and permanent secretaries to ministers; from legislative aids to the House Speaker and Senate President; from the court bailiff to the Policeman, to the Registrar and to the Supreme Court Judge; from the gatemen to the Director Generals of Parastatals and Agencies, they are all constituent parts of the government, agents of the State. And that's why they are paid from the tax payers money.Every action, each one of them takes or omits to take reflects on the effectiveness or in effectiveness of the government they are part of. But it looks to me that this realization does not exist sufficiently. Some how, you get the impression that the President or the State Governor alone is the government and everybody else is either the governed, observer, bystander, supporter,complainant or critic. Perhaps this may explain why there is a woeful failure of the"government " to satisfy the expectations of Nigerians. It is practically impossible for only the President to satisfy the 170 million Nigerians or the Governor to satisfy all the over 12 million people in Lagos for example. Everywhere you go,you meet people who work in the government institutions who act as if they care very little about the success or citizen perception of the government they serve in. When you complain about the poor service you are getting,the same people who are part or agents of the government turn around to blame the 'government', absolving themselves of any blame and often the complaining citizen seems to either agree or empathize with the government employee that the problem is with the mystery ' Mr Government ' Early this year, I wanted to make a trip to the United Kingdom and applied for the UK Visa. Few days after submitting my visa application, I received a call from the British Embassy that there was no space left in my passport to affix the visa. I quickly collected my passport and ran to the passport office in Ikoyi Lagos to get a new one. It took me six visits to the passport office over a period of six weeks to collect a new passport.Reasons ranged from missing file to long queues, mismatch of finger prints, the absence of the engineer and late approval from Abuja. It was an ordeal. Mean while I missed the trip to the Uk and was almost missing a trip to the USA because my subsisting US visa was in my old passport which had been 'quarantined' in the passport office. At the end of this rigmarole I was still expected to show 'gratitude' In August last year, I went to renew my driving license and I was told to fill out forms and make payments. Thereafter I was asked to come back one year after in July this year at the FRSC camp in Ojodu, Lagos for what they called 'capture'. I wondered why it would take a year to come for the 'capture'. I was told that many people were on the queue and their 'capture' equipments were few. I was told that a photocopy of my form on which the July date had been written would serve as my temporary driving license until that date. I shook my head and left. On the assigned date and at the stipulated time of 7am, I arrived. First, it took a lot of pleading to let me drive in through the gate. With one year scheduling, I had expected few people but was shocked by the large crowd milling around the place. I moved from place to place and after several hours when I arrived in front of the 'capture' machine, I was told that my name had not dropped. 'From where ?' I asked. I made three other visits over a period of five weeks, because either, my name was still traveling from wherever to the 'capture' machine, or because there was no 'network' to capture me. I finally got another temporary driving license. And so I will have to return to Ojodu in 60 days when it expires or wait to be called to come and collect the permanent driving license when it is ready and who knows how many more trips that will take, because I saw People who had been called to come and collect, and they came, only to be told that the license was not yet ready. I do not know of any other country in the World where citizens are subjected to this kind of torture just to obtain a driving license. When my son-in-law heard my story, he sympathized with me because he went through an 'agent' and got his with ease! I suffered the same fate in trying to renew my plate numbers as demanded by FRSC. I have completed my registration for the National Identity card at a special unit set up by the National Identity Commission at an interaction in Lagos. I was given a temporary National Identity card. I do not know when I will get the permanent one. Now I have been asked by the Central bank to go to my bank and obtain another Universal identity card. I do not know how many trips I will have to make to obtain a temporary card before I struggle to get the permanent one. I will still go for my voters card and do biometrics and for my Pension, another set of biometrics and identity card. How many Identity cards is a normal law-abiding Nigerian expected to carry?.Why the National identity card can not suffice for all these is what I am asking. I am searching for Mr Government to ask him, because that is what I am asked to do. Can't these government agencies and officers who are asking for these many identity cards share information ? Or is it the fault of Mr government ? Why do we relish in making life difficult for fellow Nigerian citizens and then blame government. Any where Nigerians are to receive service from a government agency, the story of misery and denigration of human dignity is repeated. Who is government? What can be the problem? Is it a matter of lack of a compelling vision, or lack of motivation, or lack of empowerment or plain lack of commitment. What ever it is, I believe that something must be done urgently and in a holistic manner to remedy this anomaly which is creating a lot of problem for the citizens in Nigeria. The unnecessary suffering to which Nigerians are subjected to at every point can not continue this way. What is worse is that the pains intensify when people are doing their best to obey the laws and be responsible citizens. This backlash may seem to promote deviant behavior or corner cutting. Some are 'compelled' to 'settle' police on the highway than go through the torture of trying to get a driving license. All those who are part of government at all levels will need to undergo a fresh orientation to make them understand that point, that a chain is as strong as its weakest link. That Government is not about a single person but a chain of persons who deliver service to the Citizens and that the best President or best Governor will achieve little if all other parties are not playing their roles with the same efficiency and consistency. The leaders of our Governments must therefore take appropriate initiatives on building this consciousness in all persons in government. For empowerment and motivation, the leaders must ensure proper skilling up and motivation of all those involved in the governance process. The right persons must be put in the right positions to ensure the integrity of the chain.For commitment,the leaders must demand evidence of performance down the line. This must be measured and rewarded so that the unskilled for the assignment, the unprepared and the indolent are weeded from the system, so that the impact of good governance can be felt by citizens leading to improved quality of life and the reduction of the misery index. It seems this is perhaps the most critical responsibility of the leaders of the different tiers and arms of government and may actually be the differentiating characteristic of the effective government leaders. Sitting at the capital and hoping that all the 'beautiful' policies, projects and programmes are yielding the desired result will not do. If those who are part of government are blaming the government,one can then understand why some other Nigerians make a past time of blaming government for every problem. If the gutter overflows, it is the government that must be blamed and nothing to do with the citizens who throw pure water satchets and sundry rubbish into the gutter. When the road is blocked, it is the government and nothing to do with the indiscipline of citizen drivers who refuse to give way to each other. In those Countries that we admire and aspire to be like, most Citizens regulate themselves and accept responsibilities for the good order of the society, thus allowing the regulatory enforcement agencies to effectively contain the few deviants. If everybody is a deviant, no government can effectively manage public order. That is my point and it does not in any way absolve the government in power from its statutory responsibilities. There is a role for the government and there is a role for the citizen. Any dereliction on either side will create problems for the society, just as we are having,Period. Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR

TAKE AWAY POLITICS AND THIS COUNTRY CAN DO MUCH MUCH BETTER When you meet Nigerians at International fora, it is amazing how they hold their own and shine bright like many stars. Meet the same bunch at home and they are extinguished or go into the hibernation mode. In academia, literature , Sports and Entertainment Nigerians are doing extraordinarily well in the globe today, most of it by private or individual efforts. Even in Peace keeping, Nigerian Soldiers and Policemen are winning awards. But bring them home, they are either abusing human rights or collecting 'egunje' on the highway:"Chairman, your boys are loyal" Look at the brilliance of our athletics team at the recent commonwealth games. You were proud to be a Nigerian. Nobody cared where double-gold medalist Okagbure came from or which Geo- political zone he represented, Most Nigerians( if not all and certainly excluding the Boko haram insurgents) cheered her and rejoiced at her accomplishments. But look at what is happening in the National Foot ball Federation(NFF). Aminu Maigari removed! Maigari back! Maigari impeached! Maigari back! Somebody should be ashamed. If no body is ashamed, I take it upon my self to be ashamed on behalf of Nigeria. Twice we introduced divisive politics and twice FIFA shot us down and for us it is business as usual. I thank God for global institutions that are resistant to our penchant for impunity and tendency to corrupt. If you check our sports history as a nation,it will be apparent that anytime we did well in international competitions, be it in football or in Athletics, our football or Sports associations operated with minimum political interventions. The World Health Organization( WHO), the United Nations, the United States of Nigeria and the US Centre for disease control(CDC) have all applauded Nigeria for apparently halting the advance of the Ebola Virus Disease( EVD) in a manner that was uncharacteristic. When the demonic virus arrived our airport in Lagos, the World held its breath in their hands. Nigeria where nothing is said to work, with dilapidated health care system and a very large poor population, how could they handle this virulent and highly contagious disease?. Hitherto, this is a Nation, where what is easy in other Climes, becomes difficult and convulated. So many people including Nigerians became frightened that we were in for a terrible time of travail and affliction. They expected cataclysm. Infact, I am told of a Nigerian who was out of the country when Mr Sawyer came visiting with his load of Ebola Virus. He decided he was not coming back until the epidemic subsided. He asked his workers to stop coming to work including his domestic staff, drivers and security men. That was the level of apprehension. The apprehension escalated when some of the Nigerian infected patients began to die and many more became sick. But Nigeria has been able to contain the disease. The 12 or so infected cases were primary contacts with the index case, and though we have lost 5 but God saved the other 7. What is more, nearly all the primary and secondary contacts were reached and put on observation,many of which have been discharged as being virus free. The kind of cooperation shown between the Federal Ministry of Health and the Lagos state government was unparalleled . The Federal government mobilized resourçes and International support and provided the kind of leadership and responsiveness that is scarce in our Nation. The speed with which the !agos State built a new Isolation ward was unmatched even with Lagos standards. It was so heartwarming to see the Federal Minister of Health in the company of the Lagos State Commissioner and other official on both sides address the press everyday, sometimes twice a day. I have seen epidemics and disasters in our Nation, but I have never seen the level of proactiveness and responsiveness shown by our government officials as I have seen in this case of EVD management. What is more, the level of rapport and information sharing between Lagos government and the Federal government has been astonishing. The Federal government is said to have sent 200 million naira to Lagos State government in support of the State government's praise worthy efforts.President Jonathan's leadership on this matter was on the mark and the speed with which 1.9 billion naira was released showed that Government can work when there is the will. You will not believe that it is the same Lagos that refused Federal SURE-P branded buses to run in Lagos or that is in constant dispute with the Federal government over the Ports and Apapa roads. Some thing changed here. POLITICS was taken away! And what mattered was the life of Nigerians. There was an overriding need to halt the carnage and nothing else mattered. It was not important who took the credit or who did what. There was apparent unanimity of vision and that drove actions at both the Federal and State levels. This commonality of vision and the minimization of politics to my mind was the critical success factor. That this was achieved with the Nigerian Medical Association( NMA) still on strike into the Second month makes the accomplishment more phenomenol. We must all express our unqualified appreciation to the volunteers ( local and international) who have put their lives at risk to help contain the EVD. The professionalism of the First Foundation Hospital and the heroic efforts of the Healthcare team must be recognized and fully rewarded. The names of the medical and nursing personnel who gave their lives in the effort to deal with this invasion must be put in our National Hall of fame. I am of the firm conviction that the War against Boko Haram has been less than successful essentially, because we have failed to take politics away from the campaign. The Frontier states of Borno,Yobe and Adamawa have continued to mix politics with the war. The Arewa Consultative forum( ACF), the Northern Elders forum( NEF) have continued to play politics with the Boko Haram insurgency. Some of these groups have even suggested that Boko Haram was brought to the North by the Federal government or President Jonathan to weaken the North and make it easy for Jonathan to return to Power for a second term. What a preposterous accusation! The mixing of politics with serious National security matter also led the federal government to initially think that the abduction of the CHIBOK girls was a ruse and indeed a political ploy. And whether we like to admit it or not, this must have sub optimized initial military and rescue responses. Lagos government is run by an opposition party, but I believe that the enlightened leadership of the State realized that dealing a deadly blow on Ebola required the combined weight of the Federal and the State governments and rightly decided to take politics away and allowed maximum professional interaction to prevail. The result is what we have seen. It could always be better. But in my opinion, this is as good as it can be or has ever been! There may be arguments as to which is worse between Ebola Virus Disease and Boko Haram Insurgency. But if we can achieve the success we have attained with the EVD in such a spectacular way, then it is possible that we can achieve similar feat with the more deadly( in my opinion ) Boko Haram. The first key success factor must be to remove politics from this National security issue. It is doable and I pray we do it today! Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

MENINGITIS, EBOLA VIRUS,EXPERIMENTAL DRUGS AND THE REPEAT OF HISTORY


   A few days ago, faced with a rapidly advancing invasion of Ebola epidemic into our territory, the Nigerian Government authorities sent a request to the United States Centre for Diseases Control ( CDC) to send us some of the experimental drug that is claimed to be helpful in managing this 'latest' disease that the world has seen. Though the disease has been known in Africa for the last several years, it had not attracted serious international attention until this year. So far, the drug Zmapp has only been given to two human beings- American health workers who caught the Ebola virus while treating patients afflicted with the disease in Sierra leone. Until a week or so ago, the drug had only been tested in monkeys and had neither been approved for human subject trials nor for marketing until these Americans- good Samaritans fell sick and in the absence of any other viable alternative, in the face of imminent death, the victims agreed to try the "untested" drugs and became real " guinea pigs". 

   As I watched the current minister of Health, Prof Onyebuchi  Chukwu declare the unfolding Ebola epidemic a national emergency while addressing the Press a few days ago, my mind went back to 1996, when Dr Ihechukwu Madubuike, the then Minster of Health addressed a World Press, calling for international help to assist the Nation deal with a rampaging and particularly vicious Meningitis epidemic that was decimating Nigerian Children. For many years, in the early months of each year, Nigeria faces a bout of Meningitis epidemic particularly in the Northern  parts of Nigeria. Thousands of lives are lost each year to this disease which causes the inflammation of the lining of the brain, killing mercilessly. Up till then, the only drug available for managing the disease was chloramphenicol, a very toxic antibiotic which is hardly used all over the world now even for adults not to talk of children.This has been an annual occurrence  and every year, hundreds, if not thousands of young Nigerians are killed or maimed by the disease, but in 1996, there was an exacerbation that overwhelmed the Nation, leading to the appeal to the international community to come and help us.

   Pfizer International, an American Pharmaceutical company with a subsidiary operations in Nigeria hearkened to this call. In addition to bringing several medicinal products, medical equipment and consumables loaded in a chartered cargo plane which were donated to the Federal Government and the Kano State government, Pfizer decided to do a limited clinical trial on a limited number of Children using its new drug, Trovan that was undergoing clinical trials world wide. The drug was tested on 99 Children in Kano. It's efficacy and safety was measured against 101 Children who were placed on Rocephin an approved competitor antibiotic product . Out of the 99 patients who were on Trovan, the drug saved 94 patients, whereas out of the 101 patients  on Rocephin 95 were saved.  All the patients who completed the trial were reviewed and followed up several weeks after the end of trial and discharge from the hospital. The Children and their Parents were very grateful to Pfizer.  Both the Kano and Federal governments were pleased with the goodwill shown by Pfizer. The company and its representatives were pleased that they had responded to the needs of a Nation in crisis and had helped helped save lives.

  Pfizer Inc was jolted therefore to note that several months after, a Nigerian medical doctor wrote a petition against Pfizer to the Minister of Health accusing Pfizer of all sorts of things, including conducting the trials without approvals. The Minister of Health then instituted a board to investigate the accusations. The board of enquiry dismissed the accusations, noting that they were made in bad faith and for selfish reasons. The doctor was not satisfied with the verdict and then launched a full battle against Pfizer.

   He carried the battle to the media and received very liberal support. When that did not yield the result, he took the campaign to the United States of America and instituted a legal action . The American Court dismissed the case. He returned to Nigeria and began to recruit support for his cause. He and his group did all within their power and influence to get the Kano and Federal governments to take over the matter and take Pfizer to court. To achieve this, he and his cohorts maintained steady adversarial media campaign against Pfizer.

  Ten years after, in the middle of 2007, he succeeded in getting what he wanted. In one fell swoop, Pfizer got four suits- two from Kano state and two from the Federal government,one criminal, one civil on each side. And to booth, three top local management staff of Pfizer Nigeria who were in employment in the company when the trial was conducted in 1996 were joined in the suits in their personal capacities. The suits were well advertised in the media.

  From 2007 to 2009, the matters ran in the courts, especially at the Kano Court. Pfizer maintained its innocence insisting that it did nothing wrong. It's trial drug neither killed nor maimed any child, rather, it saved life and helped Nigeria overcome a distressful epidemic.

  To save its former top local management staff who had become pawns in the matter from the continuing embarrassment and pain of going to the dusty courts of Kano every month, and following the intervention of well meaning statesmen, Pfizer agreed to settle out of court. This cost Pfizer a lot money including an agreement to build an infectious diseases hospital in Kano. This twelve year ordeal of Pfizer reverberated all over the World and has changed the attitude of the global Pharmaceutical Industry towards clinical trials in Nigeria.

   I have just skirted over the whole drama in this article. Some day the whole story will be fully told of how the ' Good Samaritan' became the victim largely because of the selfishness and greed of some Nigerians who believe they must profiteer even with the lives of fellow Nigerians. Nigerians would be shocked to know the full details and intrigues that happened on the Trovan case. Therefore, when I read about the request of Nigeria to the same United States to ask another Pharmaceutical Company to donate an experimental drug which had only been given to two people who are critically sick, the above story flooded into my mind. Trovan had been tested on more than 5000 patients in clinical settings before being tried on the 99 children in Nigeria and the Nigerian campaigners said it was "untested" and that the Nigerian Children were used as "guinea pigs". I wonder what they would say about Zmapp which is still in the preclinical stage, only tested in monkeys and just given to two critically ill Amricans in the case of extreme emergency and hopelessness.

   The adage says "once bitten, twice shy". Little wonder I read lately, that America has declined Nigeria's request to send them the experimental drug. Would you blame them? History has a way of repeating itself.

   Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR
   www.samohuabunwa.com
   samohuabunwa@gmail.com

Monday, 4 August 2014

This is to remind us of the SOFEE’s Business Breakthrough Seminar

Date: Friday, September 12, 2014
Venue: IBIS Royale Hotel, Ajao Estate, International Airport Road, Lagos.
Time: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
   
....Powered by THE SAM OHUABUNWA FOUNDATION FOR ECONOMIC EMPOWEREMENT (SOFEE)
For more information call the following numbers: 08030690511, 08036001991
or visit www.sofee.org.ng, samohuabunwa@gmail.com


                                       
                                                               ....DON'T MISS IT!!!

Friday, 1 August 2014

DEFECTIONS,IMPEACHMENTS, HYPOCRISY AND POLITICAL INSTABILITY

There is a popular saying that what goes up must come down. Another says that what a man sows he will reap. And another, says what you gain in the straight you lose in the bend. And yet another says that if you defecate on the road on your way to the market,on your way back you will be greeted by flies. Unfortunately, many of our Political Leaders seem not to learn anything from these age long lessons from the sage. And that's why, rather than accept the consequences of their indiscretion, they are either startled by them or look for some one else to blame.

A couple of months ago as I was incensed by the gale of defections mainly from the PDP to the APC. In one fell swoop, five PDP governors defected to APC, followed by hordes of members of the House of Representatives whose Speaker cheerfully announced the defections on the floor of the house apparently completing the 'simple' process of changing parties in the National Assembly. In a blink of an eye, the APC became the majority party in the house and was already gearing to change the House leadership. The 'coup' was aborted by the counter defections of a couple of other members of the house from sundry parties. The same scenario was to play out in the Senate where PDP was set to lose majority until, the Senate President made a deft move by refusing to read the letter from the defecting senators, forcing them to technically remain in PDP in the Senate, though outside the senate, they were already APC Senators. Subsequently the hand of the Senate President was strengthened by the suit institututed by PDP asking the Court to declare the seats of all decamped legislators vacant.

At that time, it was all jubilations for APC leaders, members and some supporters who were so enthused with the successful dismembering of PDP. For many, it was Democracy at work, nothing immoral, nothing reprehensible. But I had argued in my despatches that it was political fraud and totally morally reprehensible for a governor elected on a particular political platform to just wake up one morning and decide to defect to another party without caring a hoot about the feelings of the electorate that put him in office. I had reasoned that constitutionally, it is the political parties that contest elections and that is why it is only their symbols that we see on the ballot papers. Though our choices may be influenced by the individuals contesting, but we vote for the parties they represent. My case was supported by the Supreme Court justices who made Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi Governor of Rivers State, when he actually was not a candidate at the elections, but because his party then(PDP) won the election and they felt he should have been the candidate and not Celestine Omehia. The People of Rivers State had no choice but to acquiesce.

I had said then that I had no problem with any Governor or any elected political office holder changing his party for whatever reason. All I insist upon is that they will need to resign their positions and go back to contest on their new political platform if they want to retain the political office. That will then give the electorate the opportunity to agree to support or to refuse the new party and all that it represents. To do otherwise is to take the electorate for granted and to abuse their mandate. I received no support as apparently the politicians especially the opposition saw no merit in my argument. All is fair in war!. Now the chicken has come home to roost and what goes round has come round. And hell is let loose!

A couple of days ago Governor Nyako of Adamawa formerly of PDP, but now in APC was impeached by the PDP-dominated house of assembly. First, we thought that the impeachment threat was a joke and when it became serious,Nyako made frantic efforts to stop the proceedings. He tried everything in the books and some outside the books including declaring two days of Public holidays for no just cause except, political survival. The state legislators were implacable and went ahead to impeach Nyako. Meanwhile the rumors of impending or actual impeachment began to fill the airwaves from Borno, Oyo, Enugu, Edo and Ebonyi. Not only of governors, but also of deputy governors and Speakers. As all these stories and rumors were swirling around, Nassarawa legislators began to hunt for Governor Al Makura to serve him impeachment notice. Panic ensued.

Having lost two States in a row within one month, with a third threatened, it was natural to be frightened. May be the whole party and its gains were quickly unravelling. Such could cause hysteria and lead to the kind of outbursts we have been hearing from APC leaders especially that from General Buhari. And most of the outburst has been directed against President Jonathan. He is being accused of either being the author or the mastermind of all the impeachment moves, including the electoral loss of EKITI. This led a friend of mine to ask, "But this Jonathan whom they say is clueless and can not even bring back our girls after 100 days, when did he transform to become such a lion and master strategist to cause APC such unbelievable pain discernable in Buhari's statement?" I had no answer!

Personally I do not support Impeachment if it goes to subvert the electoral mandate of the People. When a people have elected a Party or a particular candidate through the party, I believe it is the responsibility of the People to vote out such a party or the Party's candidate at the next election if they no longer want the party or its candidate. Though the legislators may claim to represent the people and that the constitution permits it, they are only expected to exercise choice on behalf of the People in such matters as change of governor or the governing party in extreme and grave circumstances. It is not a responsibility that must be taken lightly or just done to pander to political whims and caprices. It must also not be taken in a manner that will threaten National Security and political stability or disrupt the economy. So all political actors must exercise utmost caution noting that all actions have opposite and equal reaction.

The trouble with our current situation however is that we have too much hypocrisy in our Polity. Principles and values are lacking. A politician who sees nothing wrong with five Governors decamping from their parties to join his in one day, can not start sermonizing and threatening our sensibilities when one or two governors from his party are impeached especially when those being impeached were the same ones who decamped to his party. Where is the moral basis to cry wolf and threaten our polity? We must always remember that what is not good for the gander, should also not be good for the goose. Or is it the other way? Which ever way, I trust that you have gotten my drift.

Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR

www.samohuabunwa.com

samohuabunwa@gmail.com

INCESSANT STRIKES AND DISRUPTIONS OF THE ECONOMY: TIME TO HALT THIS GROWING MALADY

For more than six months, the Association of Senior Staff Union of Universities infamously called ASUU embarked on a needless strike that lasted longer than its usual biennial rumpus. Nearly an entire academic session was wasted. I severely criticized the wanton economic waste and disruption of academic calendar of Nigerian students. I argued that ASUU had misused the instrument of Strikes to the point that it had become counterproductive, even for them. I thought that it had become infradig and demeaning for academicians to use the same method over many years to solve the same problem and still hoped for different outcomes. My take was that ASUU has perpetually used the instrument of strikes as a blackmail weapon to force their employers to "agree" to what they neither have the resources nor the willingness to implement . The Federal Government would 'agree' just to get the pressure off their backs and avoid political backlash and in the process buy some time. A year or two later, implementation will cease and ASUU will return to the trenches and the cycle will repeat.

I have always held the view that the only sustainable way to resolve employee- employer disputes is through COLLECTIVE BARGAINING , not with knives dangling over anybody's head but with agreements freely reached by the righteousness of positions and strong persuasion, often involving compromises but always allowing superior logic to overthrow inferior logic.

I am constrained to raise the same issues with the current embarrassing and bewildering National Strike of the Nigerian Medical Association(NMA) which has caused so much disruption to the Public healthcare delivery to Nigerians . Between Lecturers and Doctors,I do not know which holds the World record in going on strikes. It used to be the National Association of Resident Doctors( NARD), essentially doctors in postgraduate training who can go on strike up to four times in a Year( warning strike, real strike, sympathy strike and non implementation strike), but so very often the NMA, an otherwise respected and respectable professional association of medical doctors joins in this denigrating malady. How a group that claims leadership in the health care team can subject Nigerian patients to constant pains in the name of fighting for their professional rights or even for the benefit of healthcare delivery in Nigeria as a whole leaves me baffled and befuddled. Who knows how many patients have died since the current malady? And at a time Nigeria is facing the most virulent demonic attacks affecting the health of the Nation- Boko Haram and Ebola Virus, the leaders of NMA have ignored all appeals.

Without prejudice to the righteousness of the issues in dispute, Iam completely opposed to the use of strikes, blackmail or force in exacting concessions from the government, employers or from the people of Nigeria. Yes, a symbolic one day strike in extreme cases perhaps when you are dealing with a recalcitrant employer can be tolerated but to call out doctors, Pharmacists or Nurses for weeks from work is simply inhuman and contradictory to their professional oaths. What is worse, when a professional association, rather than a trade union interferes in what is essentially an employee- employer matter, the matter gets complicated . And this is part of the reason, many of us are asking for the restructuring of our Federation so that we can practice true federalism. Why should doctors who work for Arochukwu Local Government insist to be given the same emoluments and conditions of service as those that work at the Federal Medical Centre in Ebutemetta Lagos. Problem of over centralization! Every body goes to Abuja with a bowl at the end every month to share National cake!

Some people say Healthcare is important, but so is Education, so is Security, so is Power, and so is Transportation. Some say Medical Profession is important but so is Engineering, so is Accountancy, so is Policing, and so is Journalism. Every sector of the Nigerian economy needs fundamental restructuring and massive investment. Every Profession needs better pay and enhanced welfare schemes. No one was forced into any profession though and no one is compelled to remain in any .But none of these can be achieved in a sustainable manner through workouts, work stoppages,strikes or lockouts. Therefore for ASUU, NMA and their like to continue to insist on interminable strikes as a way of causing reformation in Education and Healthcare is patently inappropriate . Can we imagine the damage that will be done to our fragile polity and economy, if all government employed professionals use the arcane strike option as a means of forcing desired change in the way the government runs its institutions.

What is required to sort us out and perhaps make employers more responsive to the demands of its employees, is to completely de-regulate the economy, transferring much of the economic powers to the private sector and the consumers. This will promote competition and better allocation of resources. Here the consumer is the one that will price all professions and the services they supply, not some mundane colonial carry over thinking that one profession is more important than the other or that one professional must be assured of higher wages and secured leadership positions which relate to neither the value he creates nor to his leadership impact. When this is implemented in a restructured federation, where the States and local governments have the freedom to pay wages for services in line with what the market is offering and what they can afford, then we will achieve a better appreciation of the relative value of each profession and every professional within a given profession.The law of supply and demand in a free market remains the most universally acceptable way of placing value on products and services, including those of the NMA members.

But until we get there, given the penchant for majority of our Nationals to prefer centralization instead of decentralization as borne out in the recent National conference, we must take some very drastic actions to halt this growing malady of disrupting the economy by some professional or trade groups. First, is that all groups that want to be involved in the negotiation of workers salaries and welfare must be registered as trade unions. Government and all employers must no longer negotiate with any other associations on these issues, if they were not officially registered and gazetted trade unions. Two, all demands and negotiations with regards to salaries and welfare must be undertaken in line with the collective bargaining principles enshrined in our labour books and laws. Every other method that involves any form of coercion must be outlawed. Thirdly, the approved methods and timelines for declaring trade disputes must be followed strictly by all parties. Fourthly, employers and employees must negotiate in good faith and conscience. They must accept only what they have the ability to deliver. They should never allow themselves to be cowed, bullied or blackmailed into accepting what they know they can not deliver on and can not unilaterally repudiate what has been collectively agreed. Fourthly, every aggrieved party, must have recourse to the National Industrial court for adjudication. It is the courts responsibility to see to the enforcement of its pronouncements. Recourse to self help must be prohibited by the courts as well. Fifthly, the Nigerian public must stand up against selfish professional or trade groups who use the pain, suffering and blood of fellow Nigerians to pursue their narrow interest while pretending to fight for the people. This is why we are united against Boko Haram. The same must be done against Every association or trade group whose style and operations may be different,but whose actions yield similar pains on the People.

We must stop bringing disrepute to our Nation and then start looking for whom to blame. We complain of falling standard of Education. ASUU and NASU strikes have done far more damage to the quality of our tertiary education than the lack of infrastructure in my opinion, and the unpredictable temperament of our doctors has contributed more to foreign medical capital flights than lack of equipment in our hospitals. Let us stop this malady today, Nigerians.

Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR.