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As We Prepare For Another Johesu National Strike!

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JOHESU is at it again,this time another national strike is in the offing. When I read the headline in one of our national dailies,I had to check the date the news was filed believing that it might be a stale headline. Surprisingly, it was a fresh ultimatum from the Nigerian Union Of Allied Health Professionals,a member of JOHESU . If things work out the way they are planned,the national strike commences on March 9th ,2015.

As I finished reading the fresh ultimatum ,the first thought that flickered through my mind was ,'it is time we pleaded with psychiatrists to go over and help these our friends .' My deduction was made based on my experience while as a medical student. It was the first day of our preclinical professional examination ,popularly called 'Second MBBS' examination in some medical schools. I cannot easily forget what transpired that Monday morning .This particular examination is what determines whether one will proceed to the clinical classes,repeat the preclinical class or worse still,fail out of the medical school. In fact in my school ,there was a dictum that went this way,'every medical student is still a jambite until after second MBBS examination.'

During my stay in the medical school,the timetable was arranged in the alphabetical order of the courses hence Anatomy would be taken on Monday, Medical Biochemistry on Wednesday and Finally Physiology would be on Friday. In all these three courses ,Anatomy was, and is still, not only the most difficult but also the most voluminous of the three courses .On that fateful Monday morning,we had prepared and presented ourselves as sacrificial lambs to be 'bombarded' by the tricky questions carefully and professionally prepared by our Anatomy lecturers. Before entering the hall,the members of my class were divided by imaginary lines into ; those looking for distinction(s) in any of or all the three courses,those praying to pass all the three courses once, those praying not to fail more than one course in order to continue with the present class while resitting the course(s) they failed in six months' time and the fourth group that had already known that they would fail more than one course hence their prayers were that their average scores in the three courses would not be less than 40% ,failure of which meant an outright expulsion from the medical school,no matter one's political connections.

In view of this charged atmosphere,one of us volunteered to pray for us immediately the question papers were brought into our examination hall. With that tension ,no student remembered being a christian ,moslem,atheist,traditionalist etc. We all rose to call on God to help us irrespective of our different religious faiths and backgrounds . Normally ,the prayer was not supposed to last more than five minutes. When ten minutes passed our prayer leader was still busy calling on God and presenting us to the heavenly beings. Disturbed by this new development, the chief supervisor went to him to inform him that the same examination had started in the other centers and we were meant to stop at the same time with the other centres ,the prayer leader ignored the instruction. However,when 30 minutes passed and the prayer leader was still busy calling on God,it was now clear to all that something was amiss. The summary was that when the chief supervisor forcefully stopped the prayer,the prayer leader kept on praying and disturbing us while the examination was on. The school security was later invited and they came and 'bundled' our prayer leader out of the examination hall.

He did not participate in the examination that day. After the examination ,many of us went down to the office of our school security to enquire about our dear examination hall prayer leader,the security men told us that he was later transferred to the Neuropsychiatry unit of the teaching hospital of our medical school,when his case became worse. The young man never participated in the remaining examinations and I never saw him again till I graduated from the medical school,three years later. My private investigations showed that our prayer leader was engaged in the consumption of coffee and other Central Nervous System stimulants for a very long time in order to be awake to prepare for the examination, which he never wrote and that he deprived himself of sleep for a very long time in the course of the preparation of the ill-fated examination.

Coming to this fresh ultimatum by a component of JOHESU ,it is clear that something is wrong. How can one explain a scenario where a group that just called off their three months strike is already giving a deadline for another striking exercise less than a month of calling off the last strike .Are You telling me that this is not the right time to invite the services of psychiatrists or must we allow their situation to deteriorate to that of our examination hall prayer leader? The question begging for an answer is,'were they coerced to call off their past strike early this month? From my personal investigations ,two matters have arisen. First,the initially arrangement was after three months,federal government would strictly apply no-work-no-pay rule hence hunger would go a long way to compel them to unceremoniously call off the strike. Having envisaged what was in the offing for them after three months of senselessly abandoning their duties, they hurriedly called off the strike in order to save their faces from the national ignominy. I want to specially thank the current Lagos state governor,a legal guru, who had since established the no-work-no-pay rule in Lagos state before now.

Following this reasoning,JOHESU may make good her threat by embarking on the said strike on March 9th,2015 and they will again automatically call it off around June,so that they will not run into the no-work-no-pay problem and work for another one month ,collect another 'striking access' of three months and the vicious cycle continues .The aim is that they will not exceed the maximum of three months for each episode of strike which is required for the implementation of the most dreaded 'no-work-no-pay' rule . How smart are their leaders?

Second,during each strike, a fixed amount of money is deducted at source from the salaries of members. These funds deducted at source may be urgently needed now to finance the inconclusive election of some of the JOHESU members in the botched NLC election,which definitely will be re-conducted in March this year. It is clear that the sponsors of some of the JOHESU leaders in the botched NLC election must have exhausted their finance hence the need to source for alternative source of funds for the March rescheduled election .This is because JOHESU needs the NLC posts at all costs because they believe in the law of 'mass action'.They believe that by involving many trade unions under NLC,the presidency will be cowed in assenting to their inordinate demands in our fragile health sector . The way the NLC election went sour will remind my reader that a particular group is hellbent on winning the election at all costs. If medical doctors were not decent set of people,the way thugs disrupted the NLC elections would be the way these our friends would be parrying blows and feinting with us in the health sector.

It is a matter of time,Nigerians we get to know the actual group that foments trouble in our health sector. If the presence of JOHESU in the health sector leads to crises everyday evidenced by incessant industrial actions in the sector. Again JOHESU members contesting for NLC positions,the elections which were before now peaceful ended in a stalemate. Therefore by making use of 'a posteriori ' in logic,I can easily deduce that if there will be disharmony in the health sector in the presence of JOHESU and when JOHESU announces her presence again in NLC election ,there is also disharmony ,my inference is that JOHESU cannot be innocent of the cause of the disharmony. It still baffles me how they got the contents of the Yayale Ahmed committee's report/recommendation when it was immediately submitted to the president. Even when the recipient,the president,was yet to peruse the contents.

No sooner had the recommendation been submitted to the presidency than they began to pick holes in the contents. Shortly before then,It was the same group that accused the president and the federal ministry of health of deliberately delaying the Yayale Ahmed committee report. The way they were accusing the authorities then sent chills down my spine,where I wrongly believed that the contents of the said recommendation were going to be pro-johesu .After surreptitiously getting the contents of the report,Some of them were even contemplating going to court in order to question the right of the president to inaugurate the committee in the first place ,the same way they dragged the federal government to court for appointing Dr Paul Orhii,a medical doctor, the director-general of NAFDAC. To this amorphous group,the only right thing the presidency has done in the health sector was when resident doctors were sacked .

I am still surprised how practising healthcare professionals will be free to vie for some positions in NLC national elections. Healthcare professionals that are supposed to be updating themselves academically and busy with their researches since healthcare practice is dynamic . Professor Ben Carson told us how he shied away from the press after his world record-breaking Binder twins surgery of 1987. I have tried to expose in my previous articles that many JOHESU members are underemployed .Underemployment is a term in Economics showing that a worker's skill is underutilised. Consider,for an instance, when qualified pharmacists become drug counters. Mind you,SSCE holders who are given on-the-job-training or better still, pharmacist assistants/technicians or auxiliary nurses can effectively count drugs . Other example of underemployment includes a medical laboratory scientist ending up in running medical tests with test strips and self-explanatory automated machines ,which my illiterate great grandparents can effectively run and/or operate with ease.

It is a question of time,Nigerians will soon know that these ' less-busy' or free workers in the health sector are the cause of proliferation of social activities in the sector,formation of different trade unions being an integral part ,culminating in the formation of the anti-doctors' union called JOHESU .I think very soon the members of Nigerian Army,Police force,Nigerian Bar Association will leave their essential services or professional association and sign up with NLC because they want to pull down a particular association which they see as their rival. I will not end this piece without giving my profound gratitude and thanks to my noble association,the Nigerian Medical Association,NMA ,for remaining resolute,professional and unperturbed by the so-called coalition in the health sector because Igbos say,'that when the crowd prepares food for one man,that man cannot finish it,but when the reverse is the case the crowd will finish the food.' On the contrary,the food professionally prepared by NMA is still difficult for our voracious friends in the coalition to finish and the food amorphously cooked by the crowd(the coalition) was finished by NMA while it was still being cooked.

Dr Paul John
Port Harcourt,
Rivers State.
[email protected]

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Articles by Paul John