By: Israel Umoh
The Health Commissioner is a member of NMA. Having worked in the then Mobil Producing Unlimited for several years, he has been exposed to public life and the dictates of the health sector. Even though the NMA officials might have shown intransigence in their discussion, Dr. Dominic Ukpong knows how to talk them in. He has to invite them for a family meeting and bring in old medical doctors in the state and the matter would be amicably resolved instead of heading for hair-splitting. It is improper for him to join issues with his colleagues knowing once a day he would return to the fold as a practitioner.
During the military era, the late Dr. Emmanuel Nsan, then Minister of Health helped in the proscription of NMA, his professional body. Eventually, the political appointment lapsed and he could not be accommodated in the house he wanted to pull down.
As the Number 1 image maker in the state, the Information Commissioner is expected to rebrand the government and employ the best public relations strategies based on global best practices to package and project the state in a good light. He should not be seen as an instrument of tyranny and deception. He should not put up holier-than-attitude in attempt to please his employer but earn a bad-boy image. He was said to have organized a few government media appointees to IDH, Ikot Ekpene. Why didn’t he go with some tested media professionals to prove that the hospital has ventilators? Why did he not invite NMA and other health professionals to accompany him to the isolation centre? As the pandemic is raging, must a commissioner afford to play politics with the virus seeking to devour lives?
To the NMA officers and other health-delivery professionals, two wrongs do not make a right. In this perilous time caused by the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, all hands must be on deck. Unhappy that they were blackmailed, the healthcare professionals issued a communique on Wednesday, March 25, which was signed by the state chairmen of Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) and Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria (AMLSN).
Among other things, the communique flayed the apparent lack of communication and synergy between government and health professionals and said healthcare professionals have received no formal training on the COVID-19 outbreak response. The communique noted with shock that travellers coming through sea and land borders into the state are not screened, condemned payment of the miserly hazard allowances to healthcare professionals, no tirage points and established protocols in hospitals in the state, calling on the state government to apply partial lockdown policy as one of the measures in checking the virus.
Thank God for the national body of NMA Concerned about the Hippocratic Oath -saving a life, the national officers pleaded with their striking colleagues to call off their strike and return to work. They complied and returned to their duty-post to join in the fight against the pandemic. Forsaking their rights for agitation was an act of philanthropic gesture borne by altruistic service. As lifesavers and caregivers, they can go to the discussion table and iron out their grievances with the government in an amicable way.
However, Akwa Ibom State governor deserves commendation for making his broadcast to the people. He told the people measures adopted by the government to contain the pandemic. Whether those measures are there or not, the issue is the governor had talked about them remaining implementation. But, the governor from time to time should be rolling out other measures. His representatives are not the holder of the mandate but him. So, people want to hear from him always in time of this global calamity. In a family, the children want to hear from a good father not from the house helps. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Lagos State governor; Nyesom Wike of Rivers, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta, and Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia, among others would address the press on measures adopted to contain coronavirus. This approach gladdens their subjects and draws accolades from other people.
Regrettably, the world including Nigeria has been entangled in a season of uncertainty. The uncertainty is not death caused by coronavirus but the aftermath of the virus on the economy, employment, lots more. The Federal and state governments are not sure of their ability to implement the 2020 budget owing to a major drop in the price of crude oil in the world market. Some state government workers are not sure of getting their new minimum wage even maintaining due to worsening economy. The Nigerian Minister of Finance and Budget, Mrs Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed stated that Nigeria may swing into recession due to the virus lockdown. Social life has plunged. Many bills may be unsettled. The havocs caused by the pandemic has thrown every person and sector in a grave season of uncertainty about tomorrow. How does life go after the dreaded virus? This is the fear not the death by the virus.
The government needs the cooperation and collaboration of all professional bodies especially in the health sector to eradicate the sickness. Such pandemics as Spain plague, influenza, smallpox, HIV/AIDS, cholera came but the medics won the fight against them. A period like this does not call for fear. It does not call for arbitrariness among the people. And the traders and other people are not expected to cause artificial scarcity to make a cut-throat profit.
On its part, the government is supposed to be a custodian of the well-being of the people. There is a lockdown in some states. Akwa Ibom is yet to join in closing its land and sea borders. Prices of goods and other commodities have shot up. This unhealthy development is not comical to many poor and financially struggling families. Let the state government offer economic stimulus to its citizens to build hope, not anxiety, security, not uncertainty, satisfaction not hunger.
The government must have a strong feedback mechanism that the public could be reached. It must have a coordinated piece of information programme that is needed to boost the economic and social fabrics of the citizenry. It calls to question the vote of an office that such leaders have taken whereby the courtier acting on the information available at their scale since the government is not on a scale basis.
Some local government areas in the state are lacking in hospitals while many villages travel kilometres to access health-care delivery in moribund health centre and posts. Let the government renovate and equip more hospitals and establish isolation centre in the three senatorial districts of the state for emergency pandemic cases.
Since some people may lose jobs, it behoves the government to provide soft loans to some traders and artisans to boost their businesses.
A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, where policies are formulated and determined to achieve the desired needs of the people. It is not operated like a terrorist organization like ISWAP and AlQaeda. The organization is a clandestine cell system organized by a group of people such as resistance fighters, sleeper agents, or terrorists so that such people can more effectively resist penetration by an opposing organization.
In a cell structure, each of the small group of people in the cell only knows the identities of the people in their cell. Thus, a cell member who is apprehended and interrogated (or who is a mole) will not likely know the identities of the higher-ranking individuals in the organization.
Where government is passworded and operated as a cell administration, then the masses stand to suffer. With the pandemic, the government must open the system and show transparency in the issues of disbursement of funds and equipment to nail the virus.
In the words of Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft “It is reminding us that we are all equal. It is reminding us that this Earth is sick. It is reminding us after every difficulty, there is ease. It is reminding us that the power of freewill is our hands… Whereas many see the Corona/COVID-19 virus as a great disaster, I prefer to to see it a great corrector.” So, COVID-19 is not a death sentence but a constant reminder to the fact that human beings are equal before God and death and the need to stamp out injustice, discrimination and man-know-man from human existence.