Nigeria: “Too Many Doctors!” –


The e-lynching of His Excellency, Labour Minister Chris Nwabueze Ngige, should stop forthwith. Everywhere you turn on the cyber highway, it is a jab here, a hook there, an uppercut to the bearded chin and a vicious roundhouse to the temple. People of all weights, from straw-weight to heavyweight, have combined to dislocate the poor man’s jaw and knock out his incisors. Even if Cus D’Amato’s famous declaration that, “To see a man beaten not by a better opponent but by himself is a tragedy” – rings true, I am ringing the bell to declare this bout a mismatch.

You would think Ngige was responsible for the Easter morning bombing in Sri Lanka. But he wasn’t. His ‘c rime’ was a mere TV interview. I, too, watched that interview on Channels TV and heard him say: “I am not worried (about doctors leaving the country). We have surplus. If you have surplus, you export. It happened some years ago here. I was taught chemistry and biology by Indian teachers in my secondary school days. They are surplus in their country and we also have surplus in the medical profession in our country. I can tell you this. In my area, we have excess… You can quote me. There is nothing wrong in them travelling out. When they go abroad, they earn money and send them back home here. Yes, we have foreign exchange earnings from them and not just oil.”

There are interviews and there are interviews. Some interviews are forgotten as soon as they are aired. Not so for others. Since that interview where the main subject was Labour and the doctors’ matter only came up as an aside, neither Channels TV nor Ngige have rested.

The minister has since protested that he had been quoted out of context by his traducers. His media aide, Nwachukwu Obidiwe, using the same English language medium, tried to interpret what the minister had said: “What the Minister meant is that these professionals have the right to seek for training abroad to sharpen their skills, become specialists and later turn this problem to a national advantage when they repatriate their legitimate earnings and later return to the country.”

But as many fans of Olatunji Dare’s vexatious column (notorious for challenging readers to use their cerebrum) would agree, there is no need for either the minister or his aides to worry at all. The facts are in Ngige’s favour. With a population of about 200 million people, Nigeria already has 72,000 doctors with 37,000 of them practising outside the country. So, there are still a whopping 35,000 doctors at home or, put another way, one doctor per 5700 people.

Don’t mind the World Health Organisation which recommends one doctor to 600 people, warning that for Nigeria to meet international standards in healthcare, the country needs an additional 268,333 doctors. They talk as if Nigeria had ever met international standards in any other sector. One must ask these experts what their verdict would be after using one of our MM Airport’s restrooms where there is a perpetual mixed martial arts contest between various tribes of pungent odour – one must ask the experts if those restrooms meet international standards.

Some cyber-warriors have pointed out that It costs Nigeria N3,800,000 to train one medical doctor and that when 37,000 of them emigrate abroad after acquiring medical education, the country would have lost N140 billion. So what? Do they know how much is lost in stolen crude oil alone in one month?

They also argue that Nigeria has only 200 psychiatrists, about 1000 gynaecologists, 350 orthopaedic surgeons and200 Ear/Nose/Throat specialists. Some are right now writing exams, getting ready to migrate to the UK.

The problem is the narrow definition some people give the word, doctor.

I have it on the good authority of one Apagunpote Olayimika Chocomilo, who shared his esoteric knowledge in this field on Sahara Reporters.

“Women who sell Agbo at the local market are also doctors. Women who assist in birth delivery (called “Iya Abiye”) are also doctors. Neighbours who prescribe drugs for kids are also doctors. I have friends who also dress up wounds after a football match; they are also doctors. Our loving mothers who put salt in water for bathing as a cure to Ebola virus, they are also doctors. Chris Ngige’s submission is based on these analogies. There are truly surplus doctors in Nigeria but we have insufficient doctors in state hospitals.

“Iya Abiye maternity centres and churches have taken up the duty of maternity wards in Nigeria. As hundreds give birth in the maternity ward, thousands give birth in Iya Abiye medical centres. People pay less for delivery and they truly give birth at ease. As people testify to the quality of medical treatment they receive from these local doctors, there are hundreds who have lost their lives over wrong diagnosis and drugs prescription at standard hospitals.”

One Abuja-based rumour peddler whose rumours, I admit, sometimes turn out to be true, told me that there are at least 100,000 Dibias and Witchdoctors in the Southeast, 195,000 Babalawos, Adahunses and Oniseguns in the Southwest, 49,000 native Doctors and Doctresses in the Middle Belt and at least 210,000 Trado-quasi-religious healers, Spiritualists and Birth Attendants in both the Northeast and Northwest, and, believe it or not, 77,777 Herbalists, Diviners and Madmen-Specialists in the South-South.

With all these, who says we are under-doctored?

Add to that, the reassuring words of the Health Minister, Prof. Isaac Adewole, who was quoted sometime ago as saying that not all doctors should dream of being specialists as some can veer out of the profession to become successful tailors, farmers or fishing magnates …

You don’t know whether to laugh or cry!


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Publish date : 2019-04-29 13:08:05

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