Wicked Doctors Leaving Nigeria in Droves

There was a time when Nigerians were so proud of their country that they would hurry back home to build their careers, preferring the simplicity of their homeland to the ill-gotten wealth of yonder. But what do we have today? A young Nigerian is admitted to an ultra-subsidised university, merely suffers a little sprinkling of strike actions, gets awarded a MBBS degree, begins the stipulated medical internship and immediately starts plotting to leave the land that trained him. How much more wicked can we be?

Alright! Hold it. This article is not about bashing doctors, nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists, nor any other health worker. Rather, it is about a land of wicked victims calling their fellow sufferers wicked.

Nigeria is a very interesting nation adept at scoring own goals. Here is a land where a certain Minister of Health publicly cited his well-sewn clothes being masterly crafted by a trained former-doctor as justification that not all doctors need to work as doctors. Not to be undone, another Minister, also a qualified doctor, argued that Nigeria has too many doctors, so it does not matter if many doctors choose to leave. As expected, many disciples of the government in power exulted triumphantly at the portrayal of doctors as being irrelevant.

Now let us try juxtaposing this with a Nigeria where there are many complaints of doctors being overworked because there are not enough of them available; so, sick persons are having to wait longer to see a doctor. This is a Nigeria where the head of a federal hospital is lamenting that health workers are resigning in droves as many seek greener pastures away from the green flag. Surprisingly, many of the same persons who earlier argued that doctors are irrelevant are shaming doctors for leaving the country. A common argument is that doctors were trained for peanuts and are leaving without paying back the cost of their training. But is this so?

The current japa trend is seeing Nigerians from literally every possible career path jumping ship to restart their careers in other countries. Yet, the villains always appear to be doctors. Could this be an implicit acknowledgement of the value of doctors to our society? Because I cannot understand why we hardly accuse the lawyers, accountants, software developers, linguists, and others of being unpatriotic. Are doctors the only ones who attended subsidised universities?

As an undergraduate student at the famous Obafemi Awolowo University, my total school fees (excluding accommodation and ancillary expenses) over five academic sessions amounted to less than ₦100,000 (barely $700 at that time). My fees were this “high” because I was studying engineering. Students in the arts and humanities paid much less than this, while medical students paid either the same as engineering students or slightly more. Unlike some of us who could afford to go through our programme without buying many textbooks and depended on free e-books, most medical students had to buy expensive textbooks in full colour because woe betide the doctor who photocopies a textbook showing veins and arteries. Clearly, it costs more to become a doctor in Nigeria compared to studying literature or engineering, even if we accept that there is an immense amount of educational subsidy in public universities.

We return to the issue of wickedness. How is it being wicked and unpatriotic for a doctor to leave Nigeria but when a banker leaves, it is not wickedness? We recently witnessed a meltdown in the banking sector where some banks had prolonged IT issues because entire teams of IT professionals packed their bags and left Nigeria. We somehow did not shame the relocating staff but blamed the banks for not providing adequate value for their employees to stay. Why should doctors be treated any differently?

When we resort to blind accusations of wickedness, we lose the chance to look within and address the issues driving many Nigerians to leave. Nigeria clearly cannot compete with the biggest economies on staff remuneration, but it has the “home advantage”, which means it could focus on certain non-monetary enablers to give citizens a reason to stay back. For example, if people could wake every day, go to work, and return safely to electrified homes, and not have to fear about the security of their loved ones, I believe there are many who would rather stay in Naija near their family and friends than head out to an unloving land to risk battling loneliness. However, until we get it right, we can take solace in the FX sent home and the potential for our expats to return with highly enhanced skills. That should be enough penance for their wicked decision to japa.

1 thought on “Wicked Doctors Leaving Nigeria in Droves”

  1. “However, until we get it right, we can take solace in the FX sent home and the potential for our expats to return with highly enhanced skills. That should be enough penance for their wicked decision to japa.”

    This sums up the situation. I hope we get it right sooner than later.

    Liked by 1 person

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