By Dr. Olamiji O. Ibitoye
Lunatic as defined by Oxford Advance Learner Dictionary is:
1) a person who does crazy things that are often dangerous or
2) ‘old fashioned’ a person who is severely mentally ill (offensive use) and when used as an adjective; it means crazy, ridiculous, or extremely stupid. For the sake of this write up, I will be referring to the first definition.
Since the return of democracy in 1999, I’ve watched and studied keenly the leadership and compared with the time of the military regime. Then I began to wonder if this is the democracy we all were rejoicing and jumping for, with the hope for a better future. In military regime, entitlements are paid as at when due, though you may not get promoted as supposed. In democracy, with recent happenings, there are workers in some states who have not been paid for 18months, some about a year and some few months, with reasons not justifiable as some of those states still carry out capital projects, which makes me want to ask the leaders, why are you there if you can’t pay your workforce? Same people who voted you into office base on your promises of good governance. Do you owe yourself?
For the governors, do you owe your political appointees or do you owe the house of assembly members? If no, then why do you owe those who really slave for all the money you spend? This is lunacy! They say there is freedom of speech in democracy but the leaders are now hard of hearing, they have developed crocodile skins. Nothing the masses say touches them with their ‘i don’t care’ attitude. Just like lunatics. There are people (pensioners) who have served this country in various capacities who have not been paid their pensions running from months to years since they retired. Gratuity is nothing to dream of. Most recently the actions of some of our leaders are so ludicrous that I could not but agree that it is cheer lunacy as I could not see the essence as it does not benefit the masses and the state at large.
Starting from the most recent and most annoying, which prompted me to write this piece. About a week ago, I read NUC proposed plan to prolong unnecessarily the stay of medical students from the former 6yrs + x (where x can be a year or more depending on the incessant industrial actions) to 11yrs. The implication of this, is that their children will school abroad because they can afford it while the children of the masses who have no financial strength will have to endure the painful and worthless 11yrs + x. For your information, the Britain education system that our education system is fashioned after don’t even spend more than 6yrs in medical school. It is only in Nigeria that our leaders feel more years in school will automatically translate to better graduates (Medical Doctors) in the absence of necessary infrastructures to train them.
Few days before Christmas last year, I read in the online vanguard newspaper of the plan of a northern (Jigawa) State Government to bring in about 100 foreign Doctors for employment in the state at the expense of many jobless Doctors within the country. Meanwhile in the same state, Medicins Sans Frontieres also known as ‘doctors without bothers’ is largely responsible for the recruitment of indigenous Medical personnel and this is a foreign non-governmental organization. Why do our leaders short-change and misrepresent us? While you are busy wasting our money looking for foreigners, our graduates are looking for way out in search of greener pastures. You end up paying the foreigners almost double of what we asked for, is that not an act of lunacy? And the truth is that, a Nigerian Doctor is a foreign doctor without enabling environment (well equipped hospital). Okay, let me ask you, how will you describe that action? Is that an act of patriotism?
Another is a southern ex-governor who after building the so called ‘world class’ hospital in his state, traveled abroad for treatment after an accident in Abuja road. As if Medical tourism was not bad enough, he also said he was going to bring in foreign Doctors even when many Nigerian Doctors are jobless as government hospitals failed to absorb them despite the great numbers of Medical Doctors being turned out yearly by various medical schools in the country, who end up subjecting themselves to exploitation in the hands of owners of private hospitals. This is a major cause, among other causes responsible for ever continuous brain-drain as they search for greener pastures in other countries with well developed health system who can give them what our leaders have denied them. These same countries are where our leaders run to instead of developing their own. Almost all government owned hospitals are understaffed including the teaching hospitals. When will our leaders learn that a building does not make up a hospital or school? Where is the common sense? Recently it was estimated that the ratio of Doctors in practice to patient is 1: 6000 as against WHO recommendation of 1: 600
Often times, the leaders claim that there is no money but their actions and body languages are opposite. More like there is no money for workers and electorates but there is enough money for us to lavish on ridiculous purposes which are mostly of benefits to them and members of their caucuses. Sometimes last year a state governor/government spent 40million naira on sallah ram and this was just after the state received bail-out fund to pay unpaid workers salaries. Won’t each household be able to buy a ram If their unpaid salaries running from months to years were paid? Where is the common sense?
How will a (Osun) state governor/government spend 50million Naira on Christmas decorations in the midst of unpaid salaries running from months to years? This is one of the state governors/governments who got bail-out fund and one of the states who claimed they can no longer pay 18,000 minimum wage. One will wonder where the bail-out fund was diverted to. Recently, the same state governor sacked Medical Doctors in the state for embarking on industrial action to press home their demands of their unpaid salaries after dialogue failed and he announced vacancies with view to replace the sacked doctors. Who does not know that, like my people use to say ‘pasan ti won fi na iyale, o mbe lodede iyawo’ (rod used on the old wife is in safe for the new wife).
Another state governor gave out public fund to the tune of 500,000Naira to the family of each hajj stampede victim in his state. I am not trying to dissuade anyone from being generous but not when you have not paid workers and pensioners, yet you have money to give out. How does it improve the state in terms of human development?
This write-up won’t be complete without a certain oil-producing state who still owe workers and retirees their salaries and pensions respectively with several unpaid arrears even after getting bail-out fund. The last time gratuity was paid in the state was 2011. These are people who served the state in various capacities. The state governor’s investment in propaganda is far greater than his investment in human development. What is the essence of building new schools and hospitals which are not affordable or accessible to the masses or at the detriment of the old ones which are closer to the people which should have been upgraded? It is no news that our leaders would rather have quantities than qualities.
Since the return of democracy, all the state governors we have had and even the present have created one school or the other which are poorly funded, poorly staffed and poorly equipped. Sooner have they left office, sooner are the school abandoned and the new governor is on the verge of creating something else. Whatever happens to ‘government is in continuity’ I really don’t know, which makes me query the common sense behind all these, if at all there is any. They just want to do something they can use for propaganda not minding the usefulness to the people. A state governor once built markets all around the states but more than half of the markets are currently not in use majorly because of where they were sited (you can’t site a market at the outskirt of a town and expect people to use it).
As a medical doctor, i have had opportunities to really seen poverty in its worse forms. And it’s so sad because most of the common medical conditions plaguing us in this country are preventable if only there is improve standard of living. And for those that aren’t preventable, cost of treatment will be affordable.
Time has come for us to demand good and better governance from our leaders but first we need to choose good leaders. I have heard some leaders say they bought their votes. What can such leader offer? We should no longer vote for candidates who share rice or money e.t.c and deny you all your entitlements when they eventually get into office. By then it will be too late to cry cbecause we had sold our birth right so cheap. We need credible leaders who listen and that we can hold accountable. It is no longer enough to do multimillion projects; the question is, is it cost effective? Why build roads if your people won’t be empowered to ply the road in their vehicles? Why build schools and hospitals which are below standard, inaccessible, poorly staffed and poorly equipped?
With careful examination of the above, you will agree with me that we have some lunatics in leadership and that we need to examine our leaders and aspiring leaders mentally and critically because we can no longer afford to have lunatics in leadership. And if the current trend is not curbed as a matter of urgency, we may be heading for doom.
Fellow Nigerians, it is time to re-orientate ourselves. Don’t allow this lunacy to continue. Future of Nigeria depends on it.