Professor Innocent Achanya Ujah, mni, President of the Nigeria Medical Association(NMA), was recently the Guest at Health Track, a Radio Nigeria weekly program.
Listening to the renowned Professor of Obstetrics and Genaeology brought back the sad memories of 2020. Prof Ujah had taken over the reign of leadership at NMA at the most difficult time in Nigeria’s health history. The covid 19 pandemic had spread from China, with alarming speed, and reached Nigeria with so much confusion, disbelief, ignorance, and awe. The accompanying palpable fear led to a national lockdown. The future seemed very bleak and uncertain. As Prof Ujah rightly said, the horrendous mortality rates in the First World countries, like the United States of America, Germany, and Britain, made matters worse in Nigeria as they could hardly explain the pandemic, not to talk of proffering any solution.
However, in what looked like a good omen and a sign of the good times ahead for Nigeria, instead of the impending NMA election being postponed due to the lockdown, advancement in technology came into play and, for the first time in Nigeria, an election of such a magnitude as NMA was virtually conducted, with Prof Innocent Achanya Ujah being successfully uploaded to the Nigerian medical space as it’s first virtually elected President. And as if to stress the efficacy of providence, President Muhammadu Buhari congratulated Prof Ujah in August 2020, referring to him as a man with a pedigree to turn things around for the better. Mr. President’s euphoria lived out in concrete terms as the new NMA President hit the ground running and has continued to demonstrate dexterity, achieving modest but very indelible marks even at the most turbulent times.
The covid 19 pandemic experience turned out to be the first and most enduring problem faced by the new NMA executive led by Prof Ujah. In the face of utter confusion, resulting from crass ignorance and disbelief by Nigerians, the NMA deployed the twin policy strategy of continuous sensitization and high level advocacy to deal with the covid pandemic. High level advocacy and engagement seem to occupy a special place in the heart of Prof Ujah. The effectiveness of this strategic engagement has had the new NMA leadership being invited to an unprecedented meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, who was so impressed with the presentation by Prof Ujah that he demanded for a copy to be put in his private library.
High level advocacy also saw the Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, attending the 2021 NMA Annual General Meeting in Jos with the full compliments of the State Executive Council. In another meeting of NMA in Sokoto, at the tail end of last year, nine members of the House of Representatives, as well as the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, and Governor Okowa of Delta State, all graced the occasion.
In recognition of the modest achievements recorded by the Prof Innocent Ujah led NMA, Governor Nyesom Wike played host to the NMA President as he was specially invited to perform the ground breaking ceremony of the Rivers State University College of Health Sciences recently.
Mention must be made of the employment of advocacy and dialogue to resolve the intractable Resident Doctors strike amidst the covid 19 pandemic era.
Perhaps the greatest achievement of the new NMA headed by Prof Ujah is the successful inauguration of the Nigeria Medical Association House project which had been in limbo for over three decades. Work is presently on-going on the multi billion naira House in Maitama, Abuja.
The synergy between Government and NMA has also led to some giant strides in the health sector. From example, Nigeria had only two covid testing machines before 2020 but now there are over one hundred, the result of NMA advice accepted and implemented by Government.
But, it is not yet the promised land for the NMA and Nigeria medical care as Prof Innocent Ujah averred that the closest medical care facilities to the people, the Public Health Centers (PHC), all over the country are presently in need of urgent attention to bring them up to some minimal level to cater for the health of especially rural Nigerians.
In his parting words on Radio Nigeria, Prof Innocent Achanya Ujah, NMA President and Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Health Sciences, Otukpo (FUHSO), advised Nigerians to continue adhering to the prescribed covid protocols of using facemasks; maintaining physical distancing; washing hands regularly under running water; avoiding crowded areas as much as possible; and using hand sanitizers, in order to curtail the spread of covid. He stressed that Medical Doctors owe it a duty to keep up the sensitization of the populace. In his words “God is a Nigerian”, otherwise we would all have been wiped out by the pandemic as even the advanced countries are still confused.