If you’ve read Aminata Sow Fall’s The Beggars’ Strike, you just may understand a bit of what is going on in Nigeria with the ongoing strike by the National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria (NARD).
In the novel, the Beggars’ Strike, the beggars, after being hounded out and beaten for cluttering up the city, finally decided they were going to deal with a society that thumbed its nose at them.
Consequently, they withdrew from the city and refused to take alms offered to them. When they did, they were very selective and took no rotten giveaway. The beggars, the so-called “dregs of the society” recognized their own importance to society, especially to the politicians, who wanted to get rid of them.
But before I tell you what happened in the book; let me tell you why I made the comparison between beggars and doctors.
I was at the General hospital a few months back. The doctor who attended to me was in his late thirties. He looked worn out, wore a shirt with a tattered collar and an even drearier suit. His phone was an old Nokia with an elastic band keeping it together…I asked him how long he had been practicing.
“12 years,” he said to me…
Have you observed that doctors in Nigeria are now people we slip N1k, 2k “for lunch; “for coke…” “for transport…”
Years back when I was growing up; once you did well in school, your parents wanted you to be a doctor. Being a doctor meant being rich, living well and when the doctor is a specialist or surgeon; they are usually very delicate beings, revered for their superior knowledge and their ability to determine whether you lived or died! They had that kind of godlike ability to mend broken bodies and restore one back to good health; thus the reverence.
Doctors were the ones who gave their patients money, not the other way round. Not the corrupt twisted way we now have where after you see your doctor; you are moved to slip him a few naira notes…like a poor cousin. It is demeaning. It is embarrassing. In fact, it is wrong, and may I say, it is no fault of the doctors but the politicians!
Today, that pedestal of prestige, of wealth associated with doctors when I was growing up; as professionals – rich and revered, who only spoke in cultured tones, has long been ripped off; no thanks to our crop of politicians who are sick in the head to imagine doctors don’t matter!
Only a sick society will keep mum while its doctors are leaving in droves to foreign lands!
Why should we watch politicians who go abroad at the slightest throb of a headache, tell us to carry on like all is well even as doctors go on strike?
We see how doctors are well treated even in neighbouring Ghana. Yet, we handle ours like they aren’t important. That is why they go abroad and are paid like kidnappers collecting huge ransoms!
Let me go back to what happened in the novel when the beggars went on strike.
Politicians needed the beggars for the sacrifices their marabouts and imams/pastors tell them to make to the poor. They needed the beggars to receive the sacrifices their spiritual mentors asked them to give to “the poor,” in order to remain in power. Well, the beggars refused the alms and the politicians’ positions were threatened.
With Resident doctors on strike, once again, since the 1st of August 2021; even an ailing and aging government such as ours should see that there’s trouble ahead; not just for itself but its people!
Nigerians should also understand that doctors on strike is a prescription for trouble for everyone; except you’re a robot. We should be all involved in this doctors’ strike, especially as we have a President junketing from Lagos to London at the slightest ailment.
But maybe the President is unaware he was sitting on a sick nation…
So, who will tell the President that all is not well with our health sector?