Nigeria is the only country where one is expected to perform optimally while in one of the harshest environments. I was at a function recently in Illinois, USA when an American soldier walked in with his uniform. Everybody in the gathering stood up in reverence to the soldier. For about five minutes, I was confused and surprised. I was aware that we were not expecting a guest in the gathering, but while the drama unfolded, I learnt that they normally reverence their military officers who lay down their lives for the defence of America. I was shocked to the marrow.
I reminisced how at times our own soldiers in this part of the world would be standing on the road waving to motorists for a ride to their destinations, but our drivers going in the same direction would blatantly refuse to help out and we still want them to lay their lives for the defence of our ter-ritories? That is the pathetic Nigerian story. These soldiers die that we may live.
Today, every Nigerian wants the Nigerian medical doc-tors to perform like their counterparts in the USA, UK, etc, without bringing down the working conditions and remu-neration packages obtainable there to our own country. It is indisputable that the efficiency of labour is determined by two major factors, an optimal working condition and good remuneration. Who bothers to compare the salaries, per annum ofAmerican doctors and those in Nigeria here? I was in a restaurant recently where bank officials, next to me, were discussing the money paid to doctors. One was saying that she tthought doctors were being paid millions of Naira until she was in the unit that processed the payment of salaries for doctors.
They said all sorts of things. I kept quiet, after all, nobody knew my identity. These bankers were aware that we are being paid peanuts because they had the opportunity of perusing our salary schedule. What of an average Nigerian out there who erroneously believes that we are paid millions as our salaries? Hence, everybody in the family (including extended family) resorts to us for any financial help and if we dare say no, the tales will be steeped in intrigue and spiced with oral acrobatics.
To an average Nigerian, doctors are humanitarian workers. Yes, I accept that obvious fact, but we are not living in houses donated by humanitarian governments/agencies, our children don’t go to schools built by humanitarian agencies, where tuition fees would be free. We don’t drive humanitar-ian cars and when we or our spouses go to the market to buy things, we are not given what we want so that humanitarian government can pay for us later. We live like other Nigerians and when we issue cheques to people if they bounce due to insufficient funds in our accounts; we are also liable to crimi-nal prosecution just like other Nigerians. When I worked as an adhoc member of Ebola Operation Centre, Port Harcourt during the 2014 Ebola epidemic, we saw how the represen-tatives of WHO, who were the ‘real’ humanitarian workers, were hosted. They never lodged in one of the cheapest hotels; they did not eat the cheapest food because they were humanitarian workers. They moved with posh cars.
Dr. Paul John
Port Harcourt, Rivers State