Govt has not done enough in the fight against COVID-19 – Outgoing NMA President

In this encounter with the outgoing NMA President, Dr. Francis A. Faduyile, he bares his mind on a range of issues including his tenure, the fight against COVID-19 and the entire health sector. HASSAN ZAGGI writes.

Over the past two years, you piloted the affairs of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), how has it been?

Thank you very much. Being the president of the NMA has been a position of challenge. You are leading one of the most educated, highly intelligent set of people. We have diverse opinions which you must be able to bring together.

We have the elderly who are our senior colleagues who believe that their words should be followed as they have directed. We also have the group of younger people who believe that the world has moved into a stage in which anything is possible. They have the believe that anything can be done.

So, we have these mix in which you must be able to navigate to get the best.

Again, the government of Nigeria has not been easily predictable, you need to also understand how the governance work vis-a-viz how it will affect the welfare of the NMA and its members. We need to keep the association going. So, all these are the real challenges that one faced when you lead such movement.

So, I looked back and I will say I under estimated the job that I was going to do.

I will say its challenging and interesting and also very happy for us to be able to move the association in the last two years.

What was the major challenging moment you encountered in the past two years?

I have several. But one of the major is the ability to convince the membership of the NMA to part with some of their money for us build the NMA House. It was herculean task because at several times we have not been too truthful in terms of the donation and the construction of that building.

So, a lot of people have lost interest and confidence on the leadership that something good will come out of that. We needed to get the land back from one of our contractors who won a case against us. We needed to ensure that the land was not taken back and in doing this we, the Local Organising Committee (LOC) felt that we must have a ready source of funding so that immediately we are successful in this early set out plans, we can go immediately to start building. And the way we wanted to start building was different from the way we have always believed we want to Build Operate and Transfer. But we said we want to contribute and build.

So, the noise was deafening all over the nooks and crannies of the country but even up till now, we have a lot of people still castigating us and calling us all manner of names. But we are happy that today, we have been able to do our ground breaking and everything is set for us to start the building. It has really been a challenge all through my two years.

Was there any moment of regret?

Well, I don’t think I have any moment of regret. All the things we set out to do, we were able to achieve them and many of our discussions and activities have been well thought out and, yes, we could have done some things differently, but it is not really regret because we had a very clear view of the actions we had taken.

The one that was a challenge, well, should we have done it differently, was the issue of how we decided to postpone the Annual General Conference and AGM because of COVID-19 and people came heavily on us, castigating us and telling us that we are into tenure elongation.

We couldn’t have done something different because the mode that we have decided to take to conduct our election is the first in the anal of the NMA and we thought we could tarry a while for us to be able to have physical meeting but I think that was another area that, well, if we could have listened because a lot of people do not know that we were ready to leave. They were attacking us from all angles as if we want to sit tight. It was not really a regret, but it was one of our lowest period.

The NMA resisted the coming of the Chinese doctors, but they still came. From what we heard from the health minister recently, do you think these people were truly medical doctors?

Well, people have asked me this questions so many times, but I have always referred them to the Minister of Health who welcomed them.

I have read in the papers where the minister was saying he was not at the airport to receive the delegation and that he actually went to receive the supplies.

So, I think, it is the Minister of Health that is in the best position to answer where they are, who they and what they are doing.

The NMA made a lot of input and suggestions on how the COVID-19 war should go, are you comfortable, or do you think the country is on the right path?

Well, I will say we are not very comfortable because many of our suggestions and advice have not been followed as we have expected the government to. This is largely because, may be the government is looking at other parameters aside health to make their decision.

Our own is to see health as being the paramount. They say health is wealth. The person who is not healthy cannot give you the best productivity. So, we are not happy because the government has not done enough that is expected of it base on the parameters that we are seeing in the health sector.

Like I told someone, we eased the lockdown when the total number of Covid-19 positive cases were 2,398 on May 2, and at that time it was actually increasing, the slop was still going up and we thought it is not the right time for us to ease the lockdown. However, the government claimed that they have to look at other reasons or issues for them to make decision and I can tell you since that day, we have now added over eight thousand cases. It is now becoming a common occurrence that every four days we add a thousand to the pool. That spell danger to the country because it means that we are increasing in terms of those who are positive to COVID-19 and this is largely as a result of community spreading.

So, we are not comfortable with it the easing of the lockdown.

You still insist that the lockdown should be total?

Well, we are not saying it should be total in all the federation of this country, but in areas that are epic centres, you must be able to contain them.

Unfortunately, one of the epic centres affected is Lagos which is the commercial nerve centre of the country, so, we need them to balance it. This is because if you do not stop the chain of transmission, you may have it very difficult.

During your tenure, you tried to build a good relationship between the NMA and other health workers, are you satisfied?

Yes. We are satisfied. We are having a cordial relationship with our pharmacists, nurses and others. We have started discussing with the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU), and this shows that once we can achieve all this cordiality, the health sector will be the greatest beneficiary and the public will enjoy that harmonious relationship.

If you observe in the past two years, we have not had this frequent strike rivalry where a particular group will go on strike and on resumption, another group will go or you have us going to the press and start talking ill about ourselves. We have laid that to rest. We have been able to have a composite relationship where everybody is appreciated and we believe we can work together.

You have successfully served your tenure and a new set of people are coming in, what area do you want your successor to concentrate on?

I expect the next person to work on the welfare. We have a lot of gaps in taking care of the welfare of doctors. We have a lot of issues in terms of the salaries of civil servants, especially, those in the tertiary schools. We have issues that also relates to government have to see us in a positive outlook.

I expect the next leadership to build upon what is on ground so that we can have a better image in the side of people.

Again, we expect them to be more robust in their discussion. They need to give the necessary direction in terms of health policies in the country and I think, with this, they should be able to soar higher and do better than we did.

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