By Uche Amunike
The trio of the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, the new leadership of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors, NARD and the leadership of the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, have met in Abuja, Tuesday to seek solutions to the problems between the government and the residents doctors.
This is notwithstanding the fact that the NMA has said that the ongoing strike by the resident doctors under the name NARD, which has stretched to 58 days is as a result of the alleged uncooperative attitude of the immediate past leadership of NARD.
The NMA president, Prof Innocent Uja led the team of the newly elected leadership of the NMA to a familiarization meeting with the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige in Abuja.
At the meeting, Dr Uja said that he was present with the newly elected officers of NARD who came to him so that they would deliberate on the issue at hand. According to him, after the cordial and meaningful interaction he had with them, he informed them that he had secured an appointment to meet with Dr Ngige privately, but that if the meeting went public, they would have opened a new chapter that will be very positive, stressing how bad a chapter can be.
He told the Minister that things were not looking good, especially as they had to look at some of the things that have happened since the strike began on August 2. He described himself as a man of peace and referred to his leadership as one that believed in peace. He assured that they intended to resolve the problems once and for all in order to move on, as Nigerians were the ones suffering since the strike commenced and it needed to stop.
He reiterated that as the NMA president, he signed a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, with everyone present at the meeting and his considered opinion remained that they were all working together on one platform and that they believed in what they signed, which was not in error.
He went on to say that he signed the MoU with a full understanding of its contents and believed that whatever was holding them back was resolvable.
He noted also that they were not asking for every part of the 12 point agenda they demanded to be provided immediately, saying that some could go for a while and others could have been resolved the day before or even immediately.
He gave his word that the newly-elected NARD leadership understood better, the issues in contention, just like they had a better approach of how to resolve them with the cooperation of the Federal government.
He added that the new NARD leadership which was only elected last Friday after approaching him, discussed the matter extensively which led to their visit to his office, saying that it showed the zeal in them. He admitted that the former NARD leadership never came to him or to the NMA but that the present visits indicated that they were one.
He added that with the youthful new leadership, so much could be done to end the present problem and have the situation normalized and that the NMA never reneged on its support for NARD. He added that he had received torrents of insults on this issue but that he remained undeterred because he knew that being a leader meant one will always be on the receiving end and that the important thing was being focused on solving the problems on ground, so that people will return to work. Note that the former NARD leadership went on strike four times in one year.
Responding, Senator Ngige expressed his disbelief at the former NARD leadership who took doctors to strike, four times in twelve calendar months, describing it as strange and a bastardization of the medical profession.
He described the past leadership as a bad example to medical practice anywhere in the world. He did say that what he found painful was that all their actions came against concerted and committed efforts of the Federal government to meet up with their demands. He hoped the new leadership will be different and avoid allowing the noble medical profession to be dragged through such ignoble path again.
According to Ngige, the past NARD leadership give him awards recently for his contributions to the medical practice and lauded him for swiftly resolving every matter they brought forth and yet they swung character in a manner uncharacteristic of doctors, rebuffing the President, the intervention of the National Assembly and major stakeholders walking out on a well assembled MoU that had all elements intended to solve the lingering problems in the health sector once and for all, signed by all parties just two days after negotiation.
He noted sadly, that the NARD leadership strangely tried to compare themselves to university lecturers, forgetting that each time ASUU ended their strikes, they ended up covering all lost hours by giving extra lectures, but as doctors on strike, there is no way that patients that died can be brought back to life.
He hoped that the new steps taken by the NMA and the new NARD leadership will be for good.