It is no credit to the regime of Babatunde Raji Fashola that the self-induced healthcare crisis still lingers and in fact, about to assume wider dimension. I am convinced that when Fashola and his cohort embarked on the ill-advised decision to summarily sack the almost entire medical workforce in Lagos State, little did they give any consideration to the possible snowball effects of such an irrational decision. If words are not to be minced, the unfortunate action of Fashola and his coterie of mis-advisers is social irresponsibility and democratic betrayal.
Since the self-induced crisis started, the arrogance and laissez-faire attitude of the state government has not in any way helped in resolving the raging inferno. The entire administrative apparatus of the state, along with the leadership of the party in power, has so far displayed an attitude that bothers on haute indifference. Indifference, that is, to the plight of the suffering masses of the state. Of late, there has been a flurry of actions and decisions of the state government that raises serious concerns on the quality of leadership in our fatherland. For a party that touts itself as a credible alternative to the murderous and corrupt one in power, recent actions of Raji Fashola, a scion of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), put hope asunder for Nigerians who have grown weary of political mis-leadership and perpetual deceit. The stewardship of Raji Fashola in Lagos State beckons on history and posterity for a second review.
Whilst the aim of this write-up is not to delve too extensively into the genesis of the present crisis (that much is in public domain), nevertheless, it is pertinent to state that for a crisis that started as far back as 2009, it is a gargantuan failure of leadership that it still lingers, 3 years after. This is no compliment to the leadership abilities of Mr Raji Fashola. Indeed, some pertinent questions beg for urgent answers.
The first of these is simply this – should there have been a crisis in the first instance? The summary of the problem is the demand for what is termed CONMESS (Consolidated Medical Salary Scale) by medical practitioners employed by the state government. This demand dated back to 2009 and led to a prolonged strike of almost 3 months in 2010. An agreement was reached between the state government and the then striking doctors on the implementation of CONMESS. It is pertinent to state that there is a guideline and reference point in this CONMESS agitation – the CONMESS initiated by the Federal Government. Reports indicate that other states in the federation have started implementing this salary structure. Lagos State itself, despite the arrogance and braggadocio attitude of those at the helm of affairs, has not denied reaching an agreement with the medical doctors following that initial strike. In fact, Raji Fashola and his turbulent health commissioner have denied nothing, including the criminal attitude of turning the doctors pay into a complete mess following the suspension of the 2010 strike. Knowing full well the burden of their guilt in the whole fiasco, the state government has chosen to focus on a frivolous concept of disrespect on the part of the doctors to their employers. This has formed the thrust of its argument in support of the irresponsible and myopic decision to dismiss an entire workforce. A workforce built on several years of service in many instances. By deduction, it has become apparent that Fashola never intended to pay the striking doctors in the first instance. The doctors were merely conned to abandon the initial strike, a situation which has created a terrible mess for the state. CON – MESS indeed!
The second question thus becomes quite important. Did Raji Fashola single-handedly come to this less than altruistic decision? It is not far-fetched to surmise that the answer is simply no. It is ironic that at least two medical doctors are top ranking members of the Lagos State government as presently constituted. Ore Falomo and Jide Idris are two classic examples of professionals who are committed traitors to their calling. The utterances of these two men have been purely inflammatory and combative. There is no doubt that these two traitors have been busy mis-advising Fashola on steps to take in order to teach their striking colleagues a bitter lesson. There have also been insinuations in some quarters that the idea of sacking the doctors was first muted by the National leader of the ACN some years back. I may be missing something, but to my knowledge, Bola Tinubu has not said or taken any active action to date to dispel this insinuation. Somehow, the entire leadership of ACN feels so ensconced in the comfort of their delusional knowledge of the eternal grip of their party on the political fortune of the state. It is such that the party leadership can continue to wine and dine in unrestricted luxury whilst the citizens of the state are lamenting in anguish and dying from preventable illnesses.
The on-going saga speaks volume of the importance accorded healthcare delivery in the state by the Fashola regime. For a state to perpetually reel from one industrial action to another amongst a vital sector of its healthcare force makes a mockery of the outstanding “achievements” of this state government which praise singers would never cease to drum into our ears. Lagos State has never has it so bad, ironically from a democratically elected regime. The continued indifference and arrogance which characterises the reactions of functionaries of this regime to the lingering strike and purported dismissal of the medical doctors is unpalatable and unforgiveable. The governor is not exempt from this arrogance. Lagosians endorsed a democratic dispensation to enjoy the dividends of good governance, healthcare delivery inclusive. They did not vote for Fashola so that he could have a platform for carrying out his undisguised grudge against the medical profession.
The third point seems ominous and rather disheartening. The acrimonious state of inter-professional relationship in this country is further highlighted by the current situation. It is inconceivable that Raji Fashola, a trained lawyer, would harbour so much disgust and disrespect for another profession, this time around, the medical profession. His lackadaisical approach and responses to the doctors’ dilemma is very unfortunate and speaks volume. The situation is however compounded when one considers the input of the likes of Ore Falomo and Jide Idris. Is this just merely inter-professional envy and disdain or even a case of intra-professional disharmony and disunity? Could it be that in the long run, the medical profession in Nigeria, and Lagos State in particular, actually has itself to blame? Is the medical profession its own worst enemy?
It is difficult for a government that spends huge sums on publicity and on questionable projects to convince the citizens of its inability to cater for its medical workforce. Examples abound of the wastefulness of this government; recent ones in memory include the huge sums expended on celebrating the birthday of its benefactor. Questions also arise on the embarrassing remunerations being paid members of its rubber-stamp state legislature. One can also not forget in a hurry many questionable practices of this government that actively siphons money into private hands, most especially its almighty benefactor. The case still lingers on the questionable Lekki-Epe expressway that in the first instance exposed the barbarity of the Fashola regime when it unleashed violence on peaceful protesters. In addition, tongues are still set on the issue of Alpha Beta Consults. It is really baffling, that in a state that collects federal revenue, payment of an agreed salary scale to its medical workforce has become such an embarrassing major issue. Coming from a government that proclaims to derive its mandate from the people, there can be no greater irony.
The all-powerful Lagos State government has used its last
joker. In using this joker, wisdom took flight and reasoning was in abeyance. The consequences of the foolish decision were not properly evaluated. On would have thought that such a state government would have made adequate provisions for credible and effective alternatives. What we have is a sorry state of confusion and embarrassing inefficiency. One in which NYSC doctors were suddenly elevated to the role of saviours. The reality on ground is that the supposedly superior Raji Fashola and his coterie of mis-advisers have no magic wand. They only created a problem whose multiplier effects appear endless. My personal disappointment can only be imagined. I never knew so much foolishness has been ingrained into the acts of governance in this state.
This leads one to a brief purview of the Action Congress of Nigeria as a political party. While this party is ready to throw all it has into the re-instatement of Justice Salami, same party has been dilly-dallying on the issue of the sacked Lagos State doctors. For a party that claims to offer credible alternative in our body polity, its underbelly has been exposed to be not too attractive. This singular act of its supposedly shinning governor in Lagos State gives it no credit. Indeed, the hypocrisy entrenched in the foundation of the party cannot be measured by any other yardstick. If a PDP government were to have been in this mess, God knows that Lai Mohammed would have cried himself hoarse. Suddenly, everyone that matters in the party has suddenly developed sore throat.
The point remains that even a military junta with any sense of social responsibility would hesitate before summarily dismissing a very significant aspect of the entire health workforce of a state. This action by Raji Fashola calls for nothing but outright condemnation. Words should not be mingled on this. The continued arrogance and intransigence of the state government smirks of nothing but that of a state functioning in the absence of logic and wisdom. Chaos would only result when reasoning takes flight on a vital issue. In the absence of reasoning, mediocrity and confusion reigns supreme. Anarchy becomes the order of the day and ego assumes boastful control. Indeed, this is the situation in Lagos State today. The government has boxed itself into a cul de sac such that face would be lost if the doctors are recalled immediately. Unfortunately, I really cannot see just any other option for Raji Fashola if the crisis must be resolved. This is a bitter pill he has to swallow. A lesson to be learnt in the act of governance.
Fashola has thrown a futuristic punch at posterity. The sad fact is that the so-called achievements of his regime would always be blighted by his lack of statesmanship when crucial issues call for this precise ability. In the best of times, Lagos State cannot boast of a comprehensive healthcare delivery worthy of emulation. For such a shaggy and parlous healthcare delivery system to be persistently eroded by administrative indifference and incompetence, the end result is nothing but unmitigated disaster. The unfortunate recipients are only the poor masses of the state.
I do not write to placate anyone but to point out the truth as it is. The sorry state of affairs has gone far too long beyond comprehensive understanding. The Hippocratic oath taken by medical doctors is yet to be defined as an oath of eternal poverty. Lagos State government should stop fooling itself in its sentimental romance with this oath as its basis for social irresponsibility and unparalleled rascality. Lagosians are suffering and unwarranted deaths being recorded. Raji Fashola cannot continue to remain indifferent in the face of this glaring disaster. The onus is on him, not any other person, to immediately reverse this unorthodox and draconian decision. In the long run, the buck rests on his table. A word is enough for the wise.