According to the Nigeria Medical Association, at least 50 medical doctors leave the shores of Nigeria every week, to search for greener pastures in other countries. Indeed, they added, over 10,000 doctors have left the country under the APC regime of Maj Gen Muhammadu Buhari (RTD)..
The main destination country is Britain. In 2015 when the regime came to power, 233 doctors emigrated to Britain. A steady climb in the numbers could be seen up to 2019 when it reached 1,347. Chris Ngige the minister of labour, who is himself a medical doctor said that Nigeria had an excess of doctors and should be happy to “export” doctors.
But this was at a time that there was one doctor to 8,734 Nigerians, while the World Health Organization recommendation of ratio of doctors to the population is 1:1,000.
It is not only doctors we are losing from our national health system. Nurses, dentists, radiographers and other cadres of health professionals are also leaving in droves, contributing significantly to the japa phenomenon, which is an ongoing wave of mass migration out of Nigeria by almost everybody who can find a way to do so.
The number of Nigerian nurses who were trained in the country that relocated to Britain alone between 2019 and mid-2022 was 4,466, bringing the number of Nigerian trained nurses in Britain to 7,256. This is more than twenty times the number of Nigerian nurses that emigrated to Britain in 2000-2001 and ten times the total number of African nurses.
This sharp increase in the exodus of health workers and other Nigerians is pushed by skyrocketing cost of living and generalised state of insecurity.Living from one day to the next has become an herculean task for the average Nigerian, while most medical doctors can hardly afford to live the middle-class lives they expect to live after medical school.
In fact, a sizable number of medical students are already planning to japa as soon as they can, once they start practising.
It is poor working-class people that bear the brunt of this worrisome situation. The public healthcare system which we have to rely on are already understaffed and ill-equipped with grossly inadequate health infrastructure and medical supplies. The reason for all these is because the ruling class do not care for us. To say the public health system has been shockingly underfunded over the years would be an understatement.
The big men and women in politics and the corporate world can afford the best of care in expensive private hospitals and overseas. The health sector unions have had to fight time and again to get even minimal improvements in the salaries of their members.
Enough is enough. We must fight for the necessary funding to be made available for heath workers and to force the government to make quality public health services available for the masses.
But even this is not enough. The ever increasing cost of living reflects the inherent predisposition of capitalism to crisis. Our struggle for a better Nigeria and a new world where there health workers and indeed quality health is available for all must thus be part of the broader anti-capitalist struggle for the socialist transformation of society.
by Baba AYE