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Doctors’ Election: When Life Savers Turned Agents Of Death

From the beginning of the process, there were signs that the August 6, 2020, election of the Enugu chapter of Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, the umbrella body of medical doctors in Nigeria, would turn violent and ignite crisis.

True to the signs, the process to choose a new leadership for the organisation was abandoned as doctors, who are tained to be life-savers, discarded their hippocratic oath and became agents of death.

What was supposed to be a democratic and peaceful process became a free-for-all, leaving blood and destruction in its trail.

Trouble started when some members of the association claimed they were not allowed to be accredited because the Electoral Committee (ELECO) claimed their organizatsion did not remit their dues to NMA, a condition for a member to participate in the poll.

A witness, who chose not to be mentioned, said members of the Association of Resident Doctors (ARD) of Enugu State University of Science and Technology Teaching Hospital (ESUT- TH), Park Lane, were not allowed to vote because NMA said their organisation did not remit their dues.

As a result, the chairman of ARD in ESUTH-TH, pleaded with the ELECO Chairman, Dr Chika Agunwa, to allow his members to vote as they had paid their dues, HumAngle learnt.

The witness said Agunwa refused, insisting that the amount remitted by ESUT- TH ARD did not cover all its members.

Realising that they would not be allowed to vote, the aggrieved members of ARD ESUTH-TH vowed not to allow the process to go on, he added.

The witnesses said, “Sensing that trouble was brewing, the ELECO in their bid to ensure successful completion of the election, took the ballot box away from the venue of the election to a nearby hotel, Villa Touscana, to count the votes.

“However, some of the aggrieved doctors besieged the hotel and unleashed mayhem on the committee members, destroying the voting materials, forcing the committee members to abandon the counting and taking to their heels.”

In his report after the election, Agunwa stated that the electoral committee was provided with a list of eligible voters, comprising names of members who were up-to-date with NMA dues payment over the past six months.

According to him, the list comprised members in University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Ituku-Ozalla, Enugu Stàte, University Teaching Hospital, Park Lane and members in the private sector.

Agunwa stated that members in National Orthopaedic Hospital Enugu, and Federal Nero-Psychiatric Hospital, Enugu, were not on the list because remittances of their dues stopped several years earlier.

Also, private sector members who were not up-to-date with their dues were not on the list and so were newly employed doctors of UNTH whose dues had not been remitted to NMA in the last six months, Agunwa reported.

These reasons for disqualification, according to the report, were explained to each voter present at the venue.

Agunwa noted that trouble started at the venue when the President of the Resident Doctors of ESUT- TH, DR Emmanuel Edoga, confronted him on why his members were disqualified.

He said he ELECO chairman) explained to him that his people had not remitted their dues to the association but Edoga argued that about seven million naira was remitted by his group which covered about 106 out of 289 members.

He said, “Edoga was asked to bring 106 names, he later came back with 106 names, which the ELECO after deliberation, disqualified on the basis of not being sure of the criteria used in selecting the 106 names out of 289 members.”

The agitation by members of the ARD members disrupted the election process, according to Agunwa.

He said the committee succeeded in securing the ballot boxes with the help of some police officers.and moved to Villa Touscana, for vote-countingnbut this process was again disrupted by a group doctors led by Dr J.O.T Onyia, one of the contestants for the chairmanship position.

Onyia is also a resident doctor with ESUT-TH, Agunwa said, adding, “In their bid to forcefully gain entrance into the hotel, the group shattered the aluminium and glass doors of the hotel, leaving some doctors and security personnel injured.

“The outgoing President, Dr Ike Okwesili, who was with the committee at the hotel, fearing for his life, jumped out through the window.”

He said that later, the driver of the official vehicle of the president of the ARD ESUTH in company of some doctors from ESUTH -TH, Park Lane, brought a court order halting the election.

Agunwa said the court order was applied for by the ARD ESUTH -TH, Dr. Bonaventure Nwachukwu and Edoga.

The order was purported to have restrained the electoral committee from conducting the election based on a suit which was adjourned until August 13. 2020, for motion of notice.

Agunwa stated that the committee was not summoned for hearing, adding that the court was located at Agbaogugu district which had no jurisdiction on Enugu metropolis matters.

Some doctors told HumAngle that this was the first time such a thing was happening in the association and described it as unbecoming of people of such noble profession.

“This is the first time such a thing is happening in our association, it is a shame and unbecoming of our members,” one doctor said.

Another member of the association told HumAngle that the reason for the crisis was “mainly about money, the benefit they enjoy in the position”.

The doctor said that membership of associations like NMA should be made optional.

“It is the benefits they enjoy in the executive position that make them want to kill themselves.

“Membership of associations like this should be optional and not mandatory; this will make them not to have too much money under their control, to enable the associations to know who actually want to lead them,” the doctor said.

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