EVERYONE’S PROBLEM, NOT MINE
In July 2018, Azeez Adeshina, popularly known as Naira Marley released his hit single, ‘Japa’. While the song was mostly concerned with escaping from law enforcement, the word Japa has been co-opted by those seeking to escape from Nigeria. It is perhaps symptomatic of the chronic emigration that Nigeria faces that every generation seems to have a slang for leaving the country. In the 80’s, to stem the tide of emigration from the country, General Buhari’s government rolled out an orientation video encouraging Nigerians to stay and build the country. The star of the famous video was a young man named Andrew, who wanted to check out. Instead of reducing the queues at the embassies and airports, the video simply birthed a new term for leaving the country. “I’m checking out.” Simply became a mantra for those looking to better their lives in green pastures.
Amongst those checking out, healthcare personnel are very well represented. In January 2023, the National Association of Resident doctors revealed that more than 85% of doctors in Nigeria had plans to leave the country. In 2022, the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives announced that 57,000 nurses had left the country between 2017 and 2022. Only india had more skilled worker visas issued by the UK than Nigeria. Tweets with #Match2023 had so many Nigerians the hash tag trended in Nigeria for a while. Everybody wants to japa. Many people will leave. Not everyone can, but a lot of people will. Those who leave will do so looking forward to a better life; constant electricity, good roads, steady pay. But a problem persists. Who stays back to hold the fort?
Nigeria has one of the worst doctor-patient ratios in the world. There is only one doctor to about 10,000 patients in the country, according to the Nigerian Medical Association. Even though the country’s numerous medical schools churn out graduates every year, the ratio does not look to be improving. In fact, it is getting worse. Recently, a resident complained to me that his call hours had doubled, since the number of residents in his program had reduced. Why is this happening? The answer is simple really. Many medical graduates are not interested in residency training in the country. Some found their calling in medical school and simply stuck around for the degree. Others are interested in specialization, just not in any Nigerian hospital. They can’t be blamed, since they have witnessed the house of horrors that a residency program in Nigeria can be. One may argue that doctors trained in Nigerian medical schools have a responsibility to the country, as their education was heavily subsidised. But a counter argument exists, that of the doctors’ responsibility to themselves and their families. Our current system is set up like a feeder club in European football. We generate top talent, but eventually lose them to the bigger clubs offering better wages and more opportunities.
The horrors that loom over the medical sector in Nigeria and Nigerian society as a whole are enough cause for grave concern. But in typical Nigerian fashion, we have kept our heads down and refused to look up at the storm clouds that are gathering. When the rain comes, we will be caught by surprise, wondering when it got so dark and windy. A fix is needed, but not from my end, or yours. You see, it’s a systemic problem, and we won’t be the ones to solve it. The rot is so ingrained that anyone attempting to fix it will be left frustrated and angry. One man can’t change the world. Even if one man could, I am not that man and neither are you. The government does not seem interested in fixing it either. Why would they? London is just 6 hours away. Our latest leader hit the ground running, flying to the UK for medical treatment. If they won’t see us here, we’d see them there. With that in mind, I have visited the Immigration office and applied for a passport and I would enjoin you to do the same. Or not. You can stay and attempt to fix the country. As for me, I am checking out. Yes, it is everyone’s problem, but it does not have to be mine.