The news about a medical doctor who abandoned medicine to become an oil pipeline thief may have cast a pall on the prestige of what is supposed to be a noble profession. But a seeming loss of the prestige of medicine did not start today.
You may have heard it before that many doctors regret reading medicine. For me, it was during my secondary school days. I had told a neighbour who was a doctor, who further endeared me to the profession, that I would want to read medicine, and I thought he would have been pleased. But I was taken aback when he said I should instead go into engineering or even banking like my dad. He said medicine was not worth the trouble. I felt his advice was suspicious. I also recall a visit to our family doctor then. When I told him my ambition, he said, “Why medicine? Since I got into medical school I have not rested, even till now.” In my young mind, I just concluded that some people would say anything to make sure others don’t become like them.
I got into medicine anyway. I remember always waking up with a start. The only thought was how to scale anatomy, physiology and biochemistry. I thought it strange when other students from other departments made a face when I told them I studied late in the cadaver room. We dissected with our bare hands, and from there to the cafeteria. Reading was not by choice. It was a race against time. Twenty four hours was not enough, so you found yourself borrowing from the next day and accruing deficits.
Well, I passed somehow and got into the clinical class. Just when I thought the hurdle had been reduced, without congratulating us, the Dean, Clinical Sciences in introducing us to the clinic said: “If you think you have made it, you are wrong. This is the time to decide whether you should continue the journey―or to voluntarily withdraw!” This is despite those who were withdrawn. And despite those who became psychiatric.
Though a teacher of mine boasted about the study of medicine: “It has never been easy, and it will never be easy,” many doctors do not want their children to be doctors. A 2007 survey by Merritt, Hawkins indicated that 57 per cent of 1,175 doctors questioned would not recommend the field to their children. Another teacher of mine said his son was “crazy enough to become a doctor.”
With the coming of the Information Age, doctors have been demystified. The awe is for software scientists, and those who can give us breathtaking electronic gadgets. And that is where smart kids now go into, and of course, sports and music. Perhaps, Bill Gates or the late Steve Jobs would not have been popular if they were doctors.
Never known before, there is now unemployment in the profession. After medical school, you have to do the compulsory one-year internship. There are fewer accredited places for internship than the number of medical graduates. Even those with accreditation lack the funds to absorb. So you find fresh doctors staying more than a year, even up to two years to get placement. And by the Medical and Dental Council law, if you do not do the internship within two years of graduating, you have to write a council exam. Even after the compulsory National Youth Service Corps scheme, doctors still look for work. Many doctors who want to become specialists, have passed their primaries, but cannot get anywhere to do their residency programme. I know some who have given up on that dream after many years of attending fruitless interviews. The majority of doctors, many with primaries, are doing one locum or the other in a private hospital where they are paid as low as N60, 000 per month.
There are other disincentives. In the US, doctors face malpractice regularly. And many have stopped practising. Yet, the majority of lawsuits brought are frivolous. In more than 91 per cent of cases, the defendants won. And only six per cent of all lawsuits go to trial. Those that are not thrown out are settled amicably. In Nigeria, it is catching on. Of course, doctors who make gross inexcusable mistakes are liable, as those who are unqualified. When a patient dies here, and the hospital remains the best place to, there must be something the doctor should have done he did not do. As doctors, we took an oath, yes, but the oath did not say we will save everybody. Even Jesus did not save everybody. There was still a son of perdition.
The typical scenario in Nigeria is that the patient has taken all sorts of self-medication including traditional concoction, and when organs have damaged they are rushed into the hospital for the doctor to perform a miracle. Children are brought in chronically ill-looking, very anaemic and needing blood transfusion because the parents’ neighbours told them it is “teething”. When you tell a woman she will have an elective caesarian section because she risks a uterine rupture from a previous caesarian section, she will say “I reject it”. Many laboratory investigations cannot be done because there are no reagents. There are many diagnostic tools that Nigerian doctors only read about in textbooks. Many patients are also poor and cannot do investigations when it is available and cannot buy their medications. So your medical knowledge hangs in the air.
There are still other frustrations of daily clinical life. In most government hospitals, the crowd stretches the capacity of the hospital. In seeing a patient, a doctor is making the most of the 15 or so minutes he has to be with the patient, but the patients outside grumble that you are taking a long time. But when they themselves get inside the surgery, they don’t want to leave. Some patients complain that their doctor does not listen. But it is not so. As New York Times health columnist, Danielle Ofri, puts it, “Sometimes, it feels as though my brain is juggling so many competing details, that one stray request from a patient—even one that is quite relevant—might send the delicately balanced three-ring circus tumbling down.” She calculated the number of thoughts a primary care doctor juggles to do a satisfactory job, and tabulated 550. She said doctors keep pushing so many balls into the air and that there is no doubt a few will fall. As it stands, it seems that doctors will simply have to continue this impossible mental high-wire act, juggling dozens of clinical issues in their brains, panicking about dropping a critical one. The resultant neuronal overload will continue to present a distracted air to their patients that may be interpreted as they not listening, or perhaps not caring.
Ofri, adds that when her computer becomes overloaded, it simply crashes. Usually, she reboots in a fury, angry about all her lost work. However, she views her computer with a tinge of envy. It has the luxury of being able to crash, and of a reassuring, omniscient hand to press the reboot button. Physicians are permitted no such extravagance.
There are still other things to ponder on. The retirement age of professors is now 70. Yet, critically speaking, doctors do more for the people. How about increasing their retirement age to 70 also? It pains me when doctors go on strike. But how about removing doctors from the civil service structure and creating something different that covers all doctors in government and the private settings? How about empowering many other hospitals, including the private ones to do internship and residency training? How about increasing the budget that goes to health? Wait a minute. Where is the National Health Bill?
I can’t deny that sometimes, I feel if I had not been a doctor life would have been much easier. I do not have to do calls. My sleep will not have to be interrupted by distress telephone calls. I do not have to leave my wife in a dash. I am condemned to have more than my own fair share of grieving, for every patient that dies in my unit is somehow connected to me. Gasp, and needle pricks!
But, I also shudder at what it would mean for patients if doctors walked away from medicine because of the frustrations. I still marvel at discovering the wonder of the human body. The honour of being trusted by my patient to give them advice, the gratitude the elderly ones especially show when helping them through their illness, their prayers and blessings. These things will remain unchanging. When I look at all these – I still consider myself lucky and privileged to be placed to look after God’s creation.
•Dr. Odoemena, medical practitioner
Who Will Explain Coronavirus To Buhari?
Coronavirus (COVID-19), an exorable doom, threatens life on the planet. It is exorable because it is conquerable. This explains why world leaders are taking the charge to combat this ominous apocalypse. It is a time for leadership from the fore-end; a time when citizens must hear their leaders speak to them; see them take action, making assurances and fulfilling those promises. The counsel, consolation and firm statement of a leader is imperative at this moment.
In Canada, Justin Trudeau, prime minister, despite being in self-isolation and his wife battling the virus after contracting it at a conference in the UK, is leading the fight against this dreaded disease from the fore. He is providing regular updates of the efforts of his government to roll back this scourge, listening and speaking to citizens.
In a popular broadcast on March 13, Justin spoke to citizens of Canada announcing measures to relieve the financial stress brought on by the pandemic on Canadians.
“We do not want any Canadian to have to worry about whether or not they’re going to be able to pay their rent, whether or not they’re going to be able to buy groceries, or care for their kids or elderly family members. We need to make sure that Canadians have the options and the ability to follow the best public health advice and keep themselves safe,” he said.
In the UK, Boris Johnson, prime minister, leads the struggle against coronavirus. He provides updates, alongside health experts, on the measures his government is taking to tackle the spread of the disease. And in the US, Donald Trump is not shying away from speaking to Americans on the virus.
As a matter of fact, President Muhammadu Buhari’s lapses are often easily dismissed by his supporters or by Nigerians who do not know better. Some of them say, ‘’ Why must the president speak when the minister of health and the NCDC DG are already doing that?” This is a contemptible rationalisation of incompetence. Are they suggesting the president lacks the capacitance to understand the issues?’’
Really, I surmise the president has been walled off the ‘’candid cameras’’ over the years by his handlers – not just now – because he lacks the intellectual propensity to understand and discuss incisive issues. The last presidential media chat he held was in 2015 and it was a woeful outing. Also, his non-choreographed media interviews have been abysmal to say the least.
The truth is the unfiltered Buhari is a vacuously gaffing one. On October 14, 2016, standing beside Angela Merkel, German chancellor, Buhari said his wife, Aisha, ‘’belonged in the kitchen and the other room’’, when he was asked to comment on the first lady’s criticism of his government.
On April 18, 2018, at the Commonwealth Business Forum in London, the president said the young citizens of the country he leads are lazy.
“More than 60 per cent of the population is below 30, a lot of them haven’t been to school and they are claiming that Nigeria is an oil producing country, therefore, they should sit and do nothing, and get housing, healthcare, education free,” he said during a panel appearance with world leaders at the forum.
In a February 2016 interview with UK Telegraph, Buhari dropped another clanger. He said the young citizens of his country have a knack for criminality and should not be granted asylum in the UK.
With the Buhari experience, it is indubitable that Nigerians must place a high premium on education — not just certificate – in choosing their leaders. The cost of electing leaders who do not have the intellectual grit to understand and handle matters is far too high.
The senate has asked the president to speak to citizens on this threat, and Nigerians are also asking the president to speak to them. This is an abnormality. Citizens must not beg to hear from their president. But because it is Buhari involved here, we have to beg and even excuse the crass inefficiency and vacuity.
Perhaps, the president is still trying to get a hang of it. I think he has ‘’capable handlers’’ who can break it down to him in ABC.
Mr President, speak to your citizens. The words of a leader are more resounding and assuring than the blandishment of proxies.
PS: Let’s follow all health protocol as advised by the NCDC.
• Wash your hands regularly with soap under running water.
• Cover your mouth and nose properly with handkerchief or tissue paper when sneezing and/or coughing. You may also cough into your elbow if a handkerchief is not available.
• Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.
• Avoid self-medication, report to the nearest health facility when you experience any of the above-mentioned symptoms.
Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist.
Sanusi: Once Upon An Emir, By Wole Olaoye
We are all potential Ex-es: ex-student, ex-director, ex-lecturer, ex-senator, ex-governor, ex-president, ex-oba, ex-emir…. The inimitable Zik famously reminded us when he had a spat with Ukpabi Asika that Ex was an inevitable prefix for any human being as was evidenced by the fact that a certain young man who would someday become an ex-Administrator, was the son of an ex-postmaster!
So, what’s so apocalyptic about Sanusi Lamido Sanusi joining the ranks of ex-potentates? Nothing? Everything! Don’t ever think that bell you are hearing is tolling for the former Emir of Kano. No. It could be signalling the beginning of a comprehensive demystification of traditional rulership by plebeians holding tenured political power. In centuries past, no plebeian messed with the traditional institution. The halo of nobility, the sheer vastness of a prince’s hereditary powers, rights and privileges, made the subject know his place.
Yesterday’s subjects are today’s political sovereign. They make no pretences to sophistication. They load a gun to kill a spider. When you dethrone a monarch and then deprive him of his liberty, forcefully banishing him to a place without electricity and potable water, you are playing god. If it was all a public relations Olympics, the calm dignity with which Sanusi handled the humiliation made people all over the world admire his chutzpa and hand him the gold medal. A
Life and its many puzzles! Why is it that for some men and women, “their sleep is taken away unless they cause some to fall”? What do you do about an ego that knows no satiation? As the Preacher in the Good Book timelessly says, “All the rivers flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full… The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear content with hearing… there is nothing new under the sun”.
The Yoruba have a poem that says just that. “The horse struts and frets and then dies. Being a veteran walker is no immunity to getting lost. Nothing new under the sun. I’ve seen kings reduced to slaves; and servants who mounted the throne. Haven’t my eyes beheld both river and sea? Haven’t I seen a hunchback on spindly legs, and a midget climbing a ladder to add condiment to the soup pot? Tell me, has anyone ever started a building from the roof?
The new Emir of Kano, Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero, is a cousin of his predecessor. As royal intrigues go, when the dust is settled the sword will be sheathed and brother will embrace brother. That is the way of princes. Eventually, outsiders will realise that all they can ever be in palace politics is outsiders. Our very own Nobel prize winning Kongi was not amused by the scandalous extra-judicial detention of the former emir.
He put the emir’s travail down to his progressive stance: “Emir Sanusi was a one-man EFCC sanitisation squad in the banking system, taking on the powerful corrupters of that institution…. “Most important of all, and most pertinently for the nation, Sanusi was one of the early warning voices against religious extremism whose bitter fruits the nation is currently reaping….
The doors of enlightened society remain wide open to Muhammad Sanusi. As for his current crowing Nemesis, a different kind of gates remain yawning to receive him when, as must, the days of governorship immunity finally come to an end.” Support for Sanusi is not limited to radical voices.
Veteran technocrat Alhaji Ahmed Joda penned a panegyric in support of the ex-emir: “The purpose of this letter to you is not to commiserate with you, because I know that you must have known the likely consequences of the principled position you have taken. The reality we must face in Northern Nigeria is that the evil forces of feudalism that have kept us in bondage for so long are still there and fighting. You have been the only voice that has been telling us this truth….”
It is easy to kick a man given a pin-fall by fate, or piss on the grave of a fallen warrior. Dead men don’t bite. Real friends show up when you are in life’s valley. Say what you will, I would rather have a friend like Nasir el Rufai when the chips are down. In the midst of all the turmoil, conspiracy theories have surfaced to the effect that the dethronement is but a political sleight-of-hand to propel Sanusi to Nigeria’s presidency in 2023. Caution! Let’s separate the issues. Political succession is totally different from fundamental human rights. Sanusi is not my next president.
My views on power rotation are well documented. The ex-emir will go down in history as a champion for the rights of the poorest of the poor. He advocated for a new Northern Nigeria where old backward practices such as the almajiri system and irresponsible parenting will be abandoned. His was the voice crying out in the desert, lift my people up from the cesspit of penury. The attempt to demonise him after dethronement through various allegations, including one on religious fundamentalism, is dead on arrival. The same fate will befall the vilification of El Rufai on account of his loyalty to Sanusi. Please quote me: Modern challenges can never be resolved with a resort to medieval solutions.
Christopher Hitchens’ Q&A may someday apply to the ex-Kings College boy who’s now an ex-king.
Sanusi Dethronement: The North Only Beheads The Bearers Of Truth
By Fredrick Nwabufo
Northern Nigeria is prostrate. It is the axis of uglies – banditry, insurgency, kidnapping, diseases, ignorance, and drug abuse. Alas! The region’s elite are aware of the problems, but look away because the disequilibrious status quo sustains them. What is petrifying, however, is that they maul and clobber at anyone who spits the truth in their faces.
I think, this is the mortal sin of Muhammad Sanusi II, emir of Kano – beyond his politics with Abdullahi Ganduje, governor of Kano.
The World Bank says 87 percent of Nigeria’s poor are in the north. And that while poverty is plummeting in the south, it is rocketing in the upper region.
“Poverty in the northern regions of the country has been increasing especially in the north-west zone. Almost half of all poor lived in the north-west and the north accounts for 87 percent of all poor in the country in 2016,’’ the Bretton Woods institution said in its report entitled ‘Advancing social protection in a dynamic Nigeria’ in February 2020.
In August, 2019, the federal government revealed that 1,460 people were killed by bandits in seven months. And that the north-west is the worst-hit by this bloody enterprise. The killings have steadied, expanding in proportion and execution in the region.
In his accustomed manner, Sanusi recently vocalised these depressing figures of retrogression in the north – as regards the World Bank report — earning himself praise from progressive Nigerians and reprimand from the usual suspects — those stuck in the cesspit of bigotry.
Also, the gadfly emir of Kano, whom I regard as the John the Baptist of the north for his vociferous condemnation of this status quo, is alone in his advocacy against irresponsible polygamy, Al-majiri and child marriage – practices the northern elite espouse. He is the face of a progressive north; the northerner of the new age.
As a matter of fact, on different occasions he had complained about the northern elite whom he said wanted to silence him for speaking the truth about the region.
‘’Our colleagues and compatriots among the elite do not like statistics. Numbers are disturbing. I recently gave a speech in which I said the north-east and north-west of Nigeria are the poorest parts of the country. This simple statement of fact has generated so much heat; the noise has yet to die down. The response to this speech has been a barrage of personal attacks and insults aimed at silencing any voices that dare shine the light on the society to which we are saying Bring Back our Girls,’’ he said at a lecture held to commemorate the Chibok girls abduction.
And I guess they can only take the throne away from him but cannot take away his royalty in the community of decent humans. Really, I believe the emir would rather give up his throne than be gagged by the shareholders of iniquity.
To say the least, Sanusi’s dethroning was not unexpected. Ganduje had always shown his hand in this plot. Really, the emir of Kano never hid his dislike for him. But what is there to like about a governor who was allegedly caught on camera stuffing wads of dollars into his babariga? In the build-up to the 2019 governorship election in the state, the emir was not shy in expressing his disapproval to Ganduje’s candidature.
So, Ganduje, who considers Sanusi a ‘’loud mouth’’, plotted a bitter revenge after he was re-elected. He had moved to remove the emir in 2018 but for the intervention of some ‘’higher powers’’. However, he whittle-down the power of the emir by creating new emirates from his domain. He was not done though. He rustled-up allegations, set up probe panels – all in the desperation to embarrass Sanusi.
But Sanusi was still talking.
Really, one of the most abrasive places to exist is in the circle of non-progressives. You talk different, think different or act different, they will feel threatened. Even when you try to clown around; the aboriginal clowns will still feel threatened because you do not look the part.
I think, Emir Sanusi is light-years away from the people he is dealing with in Kano government. He is needed more at the top echelon of government where he can contribute more meaningfully to the development of Nigeria.
Northern Nigeria is not ready for an emir like Sanusi. He is ahead of his time.
Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist.
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