As the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors, NARD, gears up for another industrial action that would again disrupt healthcare delivery to Nigerians, the President of the World Medical Association, WMA, Dr. Osahon Enabulele says frequent strikes by doctors, indeed workers, in general, could have been averted if the federal government had heeded NMA’s suggestion to always tie salaries and allowances to inflationary trends in the country. Dr. Enabulele, who recalled that he had headed the negotiation team that negotiated the current salaries and previous hazard allowances of doctors, regretted that these had been wiped out by inflationary trends in the country. He noted that the frequency of industrial actions in a country is a reflection of her socioeconomic development. He was however quick to point out that it’s not an African thing as a country like Botswana hardly experiences such because according to him, “they’ve gotten it right”. Recall that NARD had on July 5, 2023, served a strike notice of 14 days on the federal government, which expires July 19, if its demands are not attended to. In a communiqué after their virtual National Executive Council, NEC meeting Wednesday, July 5, jointly signed by the president, Dr. Emeka Orji; secretary-general, Dr. Kelechi Chikezie, and publicity and social secretary, Dr. Umar Musa, the resident doctors not only reviewed their demand for a salary increase from 200 to 550 percent to cushion the negative impact of fuel subsidy removal, they are also demanding the immediate payment of 2023 Medical Residency Training Fund (MRTF) as contained in the 2023 budget, in line with various agreements reached; payment of all outstanding arrears owed members, including hazard allowance; skipping arrears of 2014-2016; and arrears of consequential adjustment of minimum wage. They also demanded immediate release and implementation of guidelines on one-for-one replacement of clinical staff, to cushion the effect of manpower shortage in hospitals nationwide. Speaking in an interview with TELL, Enabulele, who has climbed the ladder of leadership of the professional body, first as Edo State chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association, then the national President of NMA, and now the number one physician in the world as WMA president, regretted that the government is always doing the wrong thing. According to him, “I do know that in terms of the hazard allowance, after a long struggle – because I was part of the negotiations at the beginning – supporting the Nigerian Medical Association, for instance, to argue for a new hazard allowance. That, after a long struggle, was done; but even what was done is not enough when you look at what actually should be the ideal. I was the head of the negotiation team, and I negotiated the current salary package for our Nigerian doctors. And I was also the head of the negotiation team that negotiated the previous hazard allowance, and we had told the government then to tie it to inflationary trends. But they will never do that, and so, sooner than later, you find that even what they think they’ve done now will be wiped out by inflation. “And you know that the inflation in Nigeria now is at a high level and so, whatever you are even earning now is wiped off by inflation. And so, the government always does the wrong thing; that is, they fail to understand that these things are dynamic and you need to move the issue of salaries and wages, for instance, the issue of compensation, also dynamically. And one way to do that, which countries have also done outside Nigeria, is to tie it to some index; and in this case, inflationary index so that you don’t have workers agitating every now and then. “They know that if the economy is bad, inflation is high, they (workers) expect that it will also reflect on their wages and salary earning. But here, you now have to wait for workers to go on strike, to struggle and struggle, sometimes, it never works out well. The system is closed down just because of this poor understanding of the nexus between wages and the economic trends in the country”. Insisting that incessant industrial action is a reflection of a country’s socio-economic development, Dr. Enabulele posited that countries that are much more developed may have fewer of these strike actions. Comparing what obtains in other climes with the situation in Nigeria given his wide travels, he argued that “It’s not that these strike actions do not occur. In fact, in UK, we are still grappling with the whole agitations by the young doctors. In fact, the senior doctors were even angling to join the young doctors to embark on an action. In Israel, in the US, you saw the masses that were out there. So, it occurs; but not frequently because the conditions are different. And that is why I said sometimes, it’s a reflection of the socio-economic development of a country. Dr. Enabulele however believed that these things can easily be fixed. “We saw the case of Botswana. Botswana is one ideal country in Africa that is doing so well in terms of putting the people first and so you hardly hear of such things in Botswana. But it’s in Africa; because they’ve gotten it right. The welfare and the prosperity of the people are put first. You won’t find Botswanans moving to America the way we see Nigerians and other Africans going because they’ve been able to organise their system in such a way that everybody understands that look, it’s the people first. “So, for those who think that it’s an African problem, I say no; it’s about the kinds of leaders that we’ve thrown up over time, and that is why I always talk about citizens engagement and empowering the citizens – politically, economically, educationally, and otherwise – to be able to have enough understanding of their power and their rights to get the leaders that they have elected to govern in a people-led way. ‘So, here you find a government tars a road, people are clapping as if it is not an expected basic responsibility of government; they commission bore-hole and people are rejoicing; you pay salaries, people are clapping. What then is the basis of government? Over there, it’s routine”.