By Bala Ibrahim
For the best part of this week, Kaduna State has been in the news for a number of sensitive and delicate issues, some of which are capable of causing disagreements or provoking anger, depending on which side of the divide you belong.
First was the issue of religion, and the need for worshippers to abide by laid down conditions. The government had set out guidelines for worship in the state because of the spread of the coronavirus, pursuant to the advise of some clerics, with a warning that violators would face consequences. With the exception of Wednesday and Thursday this week, when the situation is temporarily relaxed, Kaduna state is under lockdown. The governor has promised to go out personally for the supervision of the lockdown enforcement during the sallah break.
Accordingly, the forthcoming Eid prayers would not be observed in congregation by the Muslims of the state, and same is applicable to worshippers of other religions. Those in doubt of the governor’s resolve, may refer to what happened in late march, when the governor arrested two Imams, for conducting congregational Friday prayers in the Malali and Ungwar Kanawa wards of the state.
The second is the issue of the planned strike by doctors and other health workers in the state, over the mandatory donation of 25% of their salaries, the money of which would be used to fund the provision of palliatives for vulnerable people impacted by the lockdown. All civil servants in the state are affected.
The first issue is delicate, because it involves religion, while the second is thorny, because it’s labor related, and there is the threat of sack. “The government rejects the strike threat and will regard persons who fail to show up at their assigned places of work as having forfeited their employment. Every health worker that is willing to work is required to sign the register at the Ministry of Health and the health institutions to which they are deployed. The Ministry of Health has the mandate of the government to ensure that residents of Kaduna State are not deprived of public health services”, so said governor Mallam Nasir El-Rufai.
Some media have quoted the governor saying, “ The state government will not be misled into granting health workers a special status amongst public servants. The consequences of concessions made along such lines by previous governments, have created a sense that some public servants are more precious than others. Every effort will be made to ensure that health facilities keep functioning, staffed by willing workers who will be guaranteed free and safe access to health facilities. Those who are not willing to work are strongly warned against criminal actions such as attempts to impede access to workplaces, harass willing workers or to sabotage facilities and equipment.”
The planned strike by the Doctors is dangerous, but the threat of sack by the governor is dicey. Therefore, there is the need for consensus, in order to arrive at a win-win. In the interest of peace, Mallam should overlook legality, while in the interest of the patients, the medics should look at morality.
Strike actions may be justifiable due to justifiable reasons, but they can not be ethically justifiable, where they could bring additional harm to additional people, especially in times of vulnerability.
Where necessary, all the stakeholders in the health sector, must strive to avoid strikes. Those in the medical profession should endeavor to give up strikes as industrial pressure tools, and seek alternative, efficient and effectively humane methods of resolving issues, in conformity with the peculiar responsibility that lies on their shoulders as caregivers.
Although in Nigeria, the law allows all workers to form or join unions, except for members of the Armed forces, the Police, Central Bank employees and other paramilitary, by virtue of the unquantifiable importance of the healthcare, the medics ought to be the first on the list of prohibition.
While the society may not necessarily feel the immediate impact of the strike of other unions, or the impact may be limited to material losses, the reverse is the case of the medics. A simple strike by the medics could come with devastating consequences in lives, money and materials.
Mallam Nasir El-Rufai is a leader with passion for public good, and over time, he has built a resolute reputation of damning the consequences of blackmail, particularly the blackmail of the self-serving.
However, in matter’s of health, which sits between life and death, between Mallam and the Medics, let morality over ride legality. The hausa adage says, “Ana barin halal, ko don kunya”