Chinese Doctors in Nigeria: Matters Arising -Tony Ademiluyi

At the end of the year, many media outfits love to predict how the incoming new year will be like. The likes of the Economist, Time etc devote a substantial part of their reportage to give their teeming readers an insight into how the New Year would play out.

These pundits and analysts completely missed out the lockdown that the entire world was plunged into no thanks to the dreaded corona virus. This virus which started from the little known Wuhan in China spread rapidly round the world faster than the speed of light and has badly disrupted economic activities around the globe. The pandemic which is no respecter of persons irrespective of social class has sent both the elites and the societal dregs back to their maker.

Who could have believed that the United States would record over thirty thousand deaths with no burial spaces in New York – the economic nerve centre of the world which is the most hit in Uncle Sam.

The virus has come to stay in Nigeria which prides herself as the most populous nation in the African continent and the ‘Giant’ of the black race. From one innocuous case of an Italian man, it has ballooned to over five hundred as at today with over fifteen deaths. When you factor in the fact that less than ten thousand people have been tested so far, it sends shivers down the spines of reasonable people.

This illness is indeed a cruel leveler as the usual practice of the elite hopping on their private jets or chartered commercial flights to the West or Asia for their treatment is no longer possible as their favourite medical destinations cannot cope with the huge number of patients they have to see on a daily basis.

Nigeria due to irresponsible leadership cannot deal effectively with the pandemic as we lack both the human and health capacity to defeat it. It is so bad that the Federal Government once asked popular American billionaire, Elon Musk to help out with some ventilators.

The move by the beleaguered government to send for the assistance of Chinese Medical Doctors to help combat the ailment locally was met with stiff resistance both by the National Medical Association (NMA) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The NMA contended that it was ludicrous to invite the Chinese when the illness originated from their country. They went on further to say that successive governments had paid lip service to the sector and the health of Nigerians shouldn’t be jeopardized in the hands of foreign medical practitioners.

The health minister Dr. Osagie Enahire allayed the fears when he said: “This is a global problem; you know that this is affecting the whole world in such a way that all countries must help each other and we must also be our brothers’ keeper.”

The PDP also sturdily backed the call by the NMA when they said in an official statement: “The PDP charges Nigerians to hold President Buhari responsible should there be any upsurge in the rate of COVID-19 infection and death in our country following the importation of doctors from China, the epicenter of the scourge, by the Buhari-led Federal Government.

“The PDP is alarmed that President Buhari ignored the protests by Nigerians and professional bodies including the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and allowed the importation of the Chinese doctors despite warnings that bringing in doctors from the hotbed of the plague will expose our citizens to further risks.

“This is even as Nigerians across board have continued to question the status, identity and interest of the Chinese doctors as well as the safety of kits and equipment from China, particularly following scary reports of escalation of the scourge in certain countries reportedly after the arrival of Chinese medical personnel in those countries.”

In as much as I am no fan of any government in Nigeria whether this or the predecessors as they have monumentally failed to honour the social contract to the Nigerian people as espoused by John Locke, there is no big deal in the doctors coming into Nigeria to help fight against the rapid spread of the virus.

The Chinese have proven that they have what it takes to effectively handle the spread of it. They ensured that the only province that had it was Wuhan and it didn’t spread to the capital Beijing, Shanghai and other parts of the country. That feat is no fluke and it is imperative that we need their knowledge transfer to ensure that the pandemic is curtailed as soon as possible so that we can return back to our normal lives.

The Chinese economy has picked up and the lockdown has ended there due to their deft management of the crisis.

Their doctors have been exported to several countries around the world to help curtail the spread and they have been doing a yeoman’s job there. The NMA needs to stop being petty and face the harsh reality on ground. It is an open secret that there is an acute shortage of medical personnel in the country with many in the West, Asia and as far as the end of the world – Australia. These health workers have long switched allegiance to their new countries and are rendering their services to them. It is justifiable for them to turn their backs on their so called motherland that merely tolerated them. The newly qualified doctors are writing all sorts of examinations to enable them check out ‘like Andrew.’

Nigeria needs all the help she can get to effectively make the presence of the virus history. If advanced countries like the US with one of the best medical facilities in the globe can be so overwhelmed, how much more a third world nation like us with an acute shortage of health workers.

I commend the Buhari led government for allowing the fifteen Chinese doctors berth in the country to join forces to battle the ailment. The NMA and the PDP should forget about their personal grudge with the government and give them maximum cooperation to ensure that it becomes history.

This is not the time for infantile politicking as millions of lives are at stake here. Let’s give our guests all the backing that they need in order to succeed.

A word is enough for the wise!

Tony Ademiluyi wrote from Lagos and edits

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