When will Nigeria be blessed with a leader, just one man, who is imbued with sufficient level of patriotic madness or zeal, the strength of character, the political will, the gumption or guts and the good sense to confront frontally at least one major ill that has hindered our development? This cry has again come to my mouth now that our doctors have embarked upon a most murderous or bloody strike leading to the deaths of many across the country. When will that man emerge who realizes the harm cruel strikes are doing to the nation and who is ready to damn short term political consequences and squarely put a decisive end to some of the sometimes frivolous, ego-motivated, treasonable, mischievous and rashly called out strikes by labour unions and professional associations in this blessed but thoroughly misgoverned country? Strikes that can hardly be said to advance the national cause have cost us so dear in the past 30 or so years and no leader seems to have emerged yet who can say, ‘’we have had enough; we cannot tolerate any more heartless strikes’’.
If proper records are kept, we would have realized by now that in the past three decades, we have lost several lives to strikes, the economy has suffered severe hemorrhage, the nation itself has suffered unnecessary social dislocation and the authority of government to determine national priorities have been severely questioned or undermined by many labour leaders who act more like saboteurs, anarchists or opposition politicians than the representatives of labour they are supposed to be. What is even more lamentable is that crippling strikes by some powerful unions who have the intimidating ability to negotiate with government and win wide-ranging concessions have led to a severe distortion in our public sector reward/remuneration system which inspires further strikes from organisations within the public sector who feel shortchanged by the success of their colleagues within the system who have gone on strike to press for certain demands.
The story of Nigeria in the past thirty years is largely the story of an unserious minded people who embark on strike at the slightest provocation sometimes only motivated by envy or petty jealousies of the success of others. ASUU will go on ‘’a total, crippling and indefinite strike’’ and win ALL their demands. Their success will distort the parity being enjoyed between them and other sister or brother organisations within the academic community. The next two or three weeks after ASUU members are on ‘recess’ from their strike and are enjoying their loot from the ‘endless’ Federal bounties, the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) will start their own. After they do their own measure of damage to the university system, government will grudgingly concede to their own set of demands. This will in turn set the Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU) on collision course with government. They too will go on strike and inflict their own portion of damage to the system.
Since everyone seems motivated by the need to destroy rather than build the system up, another union or professional group within the system will start its own and since it lacks the strength of ASUU, SSANU or NASU, government will not be in any great hurry to grant them the candies it had extended to other powerful cry-cry babies. What happens is that the delay will take its toll on the system. In the end, they too are pacified.
But the story does not end here. The success of unions in the university system inspires strikes in the polytechnic and colleges of education sectors. We are experiencing that right now. After ASUU ‘finished’ the Federal Government with strike between 2012 and last year and got a hefty pay off, it has been relatively quiet on the university front. But the polytechnics and colleges of education picked a cue from ASUU and have been doing their own for more than a year now. But because they lack the strength of the universities, no one has taken them as seriously as the university people were taken.
Now we are contending with strike in the health sector. Doctors who think health facilities are created for them to be lords and masters over everybody else have been on strike in the past few days, with some of their demands clearly motivated by ego and a feeling of superiority to everybody else in that sector. They say for example that they cannot bear hearing other health professionals being called and addressed as consultants. That appellation is exclusively theirs and must be defended at the cost of lives of fellow citizens who are unfortunate to be sick. That demand of theirs sounds to me like the tribe of human beings going on strike against God wondering why he dared to allow lions, goats and insects to also be called animals like us humans, the Lords and Dominions of the earth!
The almighty doctors say also that they need N100, 000 hazard allowance a year as if they are the only health workers exposed to hazards in the course of their work. While they are making all these demands, it has not occurred to anyone of them to bother to know whether the country has enough to accommodate that demand. Nor has it occurred to them that if that demand is met other health workers will follow suit in making a similar demand and the cycle of strikes and counter-strikes will continue ad infinitum.
No one in the labour aristocracy or in government is worried about the fact that over 80 per cent of Nigeria’s money circulates among the less than 20 per cent of the Nigerian elite making ours one of the countries with the widest income disparity in the world. Our powerful unionized workers suffer from what the Kabbalist teacher Michael Berg calls in his book Becoming Like God ‘’the desire to receive for the self alone’’. He calls it ego nature and says it is the source of all our pain and suffering on this planet. I think this is more so in Nigeria. Ego-motivated strikes have inflicted so much pain and suffering on this country that it is indeed a great wonder that no one seems to have fathomed a clue for addressing them.
The truth is that no Nigerian leader wants to be called a bad man. No one is ready to damn the donor-sponsored cries of human rights agitators and activists and refuse to be intimidated or blackmailed by any level of pressure to be able to do the needful so as to put an end to the malady. I expect that after this doctors’ strike someone will have the courage to get the ring leaders prosecuted for murder, manslaughter or aggravated negligence leading to loss of lives, if any charge can be so coined and insist that the matter is diligently followed through until some people are convicted to serve as a powerful deterrent to others. And such a man will not care if the heavens fall. Too many people have gotten away with literal and real murder in this country. An end must be put to the madness of unnecessary strikes.
Article written by Idang Alibi
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