Friday, April 23, 2021



It’s Ngige Again!

It’s Ngige Again!
April 07
15:24 2021

Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige is in the news, again. Or should we just say: “It’s Ngige Again!” Thanks to award-winning producer Don Jazzy’s catchphrase “It’s Don Jazzy Again!” The man (Ngige) appears to effortlessly roll from one gaffe to the other, releasing hit after hit, back-to-back, to back (apologies to Olamide). For those of us watching from the sidelines, he looks like a man on a mission, someone who must be speaking the mind of President Buhari and the federal government. I mean, he seems to be a star actor in this government’s team. It certainly doesn’t look like you need much to fit into this team. In what I called the #MumuOlympics last week, it seems as if all you need is a capacity to say the most outrageous thing in public, talk down on, and even insult Nigerians, be aggressive and arrogant or essentially be aggressively ignorant, etc. No day passes without some government official, a supposed public servant, rubbing salt into our wounds as citizens under the guise of defending God knows what/who. But let’s focus on the honourable minister of labour and employment.


Last week Friday (April 2) while Ngige was a guest on ‘Politics Today’ on Channels TV, he was asked by host Seun Okinbaloye about the strike embarked upon by the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria, NARD Nigeria.  The strike was just one day old and just two days after President Buhari travelled to the UK for what’s supposedly a routine medical check-up. Against this backdrop, one would’ve expected a government spokesperson to be less combative. Instead, Ngige who could barely hide his contempt was threatening the striking doctors and sounded dismissive: “By Tuesday, I will invite them back. If they become recalcitrant, there are other things I can do. There are weapons in the Labour Laws, I will invoke them. There is no work, no pay.”

However, what drew the most reaction from the public was Ngige’s claim that the Nigerian government was doing far more for resident doctors than even first world countries: “The people who are talking about those who are going for greener pastures, how many medical doctors in residency training in America ask the government to pay them resident training fund? How many? In the United states, you pay to enter into the residency programme. In the UK, the same, you’re paying. Here, we pay them salaries and allowances and also give them money for examination for books, for transport to exams. Ha. Please Seun, don’t draw me into that area….”

There’s so much that one could unpack from the above quote. But my only query is why our public officials only seek to draw meaningless and selective comparisons with other countries. You never hear them question why citizens of other countries have it better than Nigerians or seek to emulate the good things. I’ve never heard a Nigerian government official say something like: ‘In the United States, there’s constant electricity.” No one has ever drawn our attention to the financial help the US government is giving some of its citizens to help them cope with COVID-19. Meanwhile in Nigeria, politicians and other government officials hid COVID palliatives that were donated. It would’ve been interesting to hear Ngige’s answer to the question of whether any American or UK president travels for a routine medical check-up in another country. Not even UK prime minister Boris Johnson who has ties with Turkey. The point is, aren’t there some other wonderful examples we should seek to emulate from other countries?


Anyhow, the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA in solidarity with NARD Nigeria responded to Ngige in a press release which captures most of my thoughts: “The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) wishes to clarify the misinformation by the Honourable Minister in the interview, which is seriously viewed to be a hate speech capable of bringing down the health system in Nigeria and thereby worsening the health care delivery and further escalate the rather unimaginable current brain drain. In the United States of America and other developed countries, Resident Doctors work as they are being trained and they are paid by their employers. In the United Kingdom, the employer of Resident Doctors is the NHS, which is similar to what is obtainable in Nigeria.

“Furthermore, Residents also pay to take their postgraduate Medical examinations in the developed countries, which is what also obtains in Nigeria. The NMA is totally in disagreement with the way and manner some government functionaries carry out their duties’ which is completely insensitive to the plight of the people. Accountability is the fulcrum for good governance in all facets and we do not demand anything less from those charged with the responsibility of governing the people.

“In order to resolve the lingering crisis in the Nigerian health sector, the NMA urges the government to prioritise and improve the healthcare delivery to Nigerians and at the same time improve the welfare of Medical practitioners and other health workers, which is considered the most sustainable means of delivering quality health care to the people who in the first place elected them. Perhaps, this will help to reduce the current brain drain being experienced that is dealing a deadly blow to our health care delivery system, which has made our hospitals to be regarded as mere Consulting Clinics.


“The NMA wishes to assure Nigerians that it is willing to partner with the governments towards enhancing quality health care delivery in Nigeria, despite the persistent provocation from its functionaries.”

This is not the first time Ngige has committed a gaffe about doctors. In April 2019, when asked if he was worried about the constant exodus of doctors out of Nigeria for greener pastures abroad, Ngige was again flippant. He said that he wasn’t in the least worried about medical doctors leaving the country in droves for one simple reason. According to Ngige, Nigeria has surplus doctors and ‘when you have something in surplus, you export it.’ Or words to that effect. On what planet is a minister of Labour and Employment not worried about the depletion of manpower in the workplace? Also, on what planet would anyone believe Nigeria with a doctor-patient ratio of 1: 2753 (which translates to 36.6 medical doctors per 100,000 persons) has surplus doctors? The World Health Organisation, WHO recommends a doctor-patient ratio of 1: 1000. At the time, I wrote in this column: “Ngige and the real brain drain.” The summary, in case you don’t get to read it, is essential that while Nigeria doesn’t have surplus doctors, we do have one thing in spades which we, unfortunately, cannot export because you cannot export stupid. And that’s the real brain drain, literally.

There are many other ministers to consider. We can gripe about Amaechi, Ngige, Keyamo, Fashola, or Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu (the Aki and Pawpaw duo media advisers), etc. Just last week I wrote about Amaechi who was happily telling Nigerians how he had to beg the Niger Republic to construct a rail line for them. A few days earlier while delivering the University of Calabar’s convocation lecture, Amaechi said the 6-year-old Buhari administration couldn’t be held responsible for the current poverty in the land: “For the avoidance of doubt, let me state that the desperate poverty that we have today has its roots in dispensations that came before the Buhari administration. Specifically, our epidemic of mass poverty dates back to the return of civil rule in our country. It is unfair to heap the responsibility for the prevalence of poverty and inequality on this or anyone administration in the history of the country.” If the prevalent poverty has its roots in dispensations that came before the Buhari administration, someone in this dispensation is definitely helping to keep the roots well-nourished. And Amaechi conveniently rules the military era when Buhari was head of state. With this quality of thinking, is it any wonder Nigeria is fast sinking?

Fashola often leaves his immediate purview as minister of Works and Housing to take on Nollywood, going as far as blaming the film industry for ritual killings, etc. There’s so much I can say about Fashola, the #gbatueyo proponent who had answers to most of Nigeria’s problems before his party won the presidency. What is it in this government that has neutralised a former ‘action governor’ like Tunde Fashola? Is it just for power and the need to dumb down so as not to ruffle too many feathers? As governor of Anambra State for three years, Ngige was known as a performer. So, why is he working so hard to be the minister of War and why does every politician/government official think Nigerians are fair game? I could go on.


However, at this point, we need to start looking at what binds these people together. I daresay it’s not the water at the Villa that’s polluted. Whatever these people deliver or don’t deliver by way of service is based on what they see as the mandate from their principal, the President. This is one of the few administrations in history where no one is afraid of losing their jobs due to non-performance. The FCT minister, nicknamed ‘ghost minister’, was praised to high heavens by the president and given another four years. The minister of finance appears to have delivered more recessions than a few ministers put together. Is she in any danger of losing her job? For where? These people, if they were thinking straight, ought to make the job of the President easier and this includes interfacing better with the people, instead of creating new enemies for him.

Ultimately, it’s this lack of common sense that’s driving the competition in the #MumuOlympics.

Onoshe Nwabuikwu, AIRTIME columnist is a renowned TV/Film critic and Film scholar. She also has experience in Advertising as a senior Copywriter and Corporate Communications as Communications consultant



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