RECURRING FMC FEUD: MY TAKE – Kissinger Ikeokwu

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The crisis in FMC Owerri has become a political, selfish and egocentric battle between the various FMC Union Leaders drawn against the Chief Medical Director CMD of the Hospital Dr Mrs Angela Uwakwem. The struggle of the Union leaders have led to periodic strikes that are related to only FMC Owerri.

In all this strikes, many Imo citizens lost their lives because FMC Owerri is the highest referral for treatment in Imo State. For most extreme health cases, it is ether FMC Owerri or UNTH Enugu or UPTH Portharcout. You can imagine what happens where an emergency is referred that far. The person would die before getting to Enugu or PH.

I have taken time to listen to the two sides of the argument. I ave also been able to diagnose the problem of the two warring sides. I must say that the FMC Union leaders must realize that te battle is no longer between them and Dr Angela Uwakwem. Their battle is now against Imolites. This Union leaders, especially the Medical Doctors dont care if FMC is short down totally. They also do not care if Imolites are dying. As far as they are concerned their one single demand must be met. “Angel Must Go”.

The position of the Union leaders and their insistence has become silly and doesn’t hold any water any more. I have many fans, friends, brethren etc as FMC workers and I have debated with them for long. But there must be an end to every struggle.

I must say without equivocation that the battle to remove Dr Angela Uwakwem is not in any way related to poor conditions of service in the FMC. All stake holders I interviewed agree that FMC Owerri became better under Dr Angela Uwakwem. Under her FMC became efficient. Under her FMC attracted massive goodwill and improved infrastructure. Under her FMC Owerri generated more revenue. Under her FMC Owerri became one of the best in Nigeria.

What then is the grouse of he workers?
1. That Angela Uwakwen is corrupt.
2. That she is high-handed
3. That wants to introduce Public Private Partnership in many departments to make their members lose job.
4. That she eats alone.

With all due respect to the protesting FMC unions, none of the above and other bloated claims against this woman relates to the conditions of service of the workers. As long as their salaries are paid as at when due. As long as necessary tools and conducive environment is provided for the smooth discharge of their duties. Other and their several complaints are infinitesimal.

What should be paramount to these union members is the interest of Imolites and the quality of service being enjoyed. All other complaints are a family matter and we do not want to know how they resolve their issues. The minimum Imo people demand of these workers is that our FMC be open for the average Imolite. Once this is done, they can go on to fight their internal wars. But where they receive their salaries even during strikes, it would be wicked, stupid and senseless for them to continue to cajole Imo people into their personal battle with their CMD.

Down memory lane, these Union leaders claimed Dr Angela had Imo PDP leaders who were on her side. They assumed that she exploits her PDP contact to continue perpetuating herself in power. Immediately the new APC change administration came on board, they struck. Hoping to use the new change of guard would help dismantle her purported PDP. Upon their request and protest the woman was asked to step aside for investigations. Following intervention, the woman was asked to step aside. An Interim Management Committee was constituted. Even a top Imo APC Leader received commendation for helping use his contact to ensure his kinsman headed the IMC.

Strikingly, after investigation by her employer under the new APC regime, the woman was absolved by the Board of FMC and Ministry of Health. It is clear that this woman’s employer who also employed the protesting worker still wants her.

The protesting Unions and workers have fought a good fight. But they must also learn that changing leadership of a government agency is not within their powers. They must know that striking on this ground is contrary to the Nigerian labour laws. It is a principle of our labour laws that “the Courts cannot force a willing employee on an unwilling employer, neither will the Court force and unwilling employee on a willing worker. Conversely, our Courts cannot for out an employee on the whims and caprices of some protesting fellow employees.

Dr Uwakwem is occupying an office with statutory flavour. Her tenure ends next year. Why cant the Unions wait till when she is ousted? The workers must know that it is ultra vires their powers to insist that they must sack the CMD. They can only petition and protest to push relevant authorities to investigate. But where the FMC Board and finds her worthy to continue, our brethren Union members must and should realize that there is nothing more to do.

A typical example is Governor Okorocha and President Buhari. No matter how you hate them, it is only the Imo House of Assembly and NASS that can remove them. Where they fail to do so, we labour in vain seeking their removal, unless they resign or in death. The FMC Unions must learn that they can only persuade the Board and management to remove the CMD. Once they do not see merit in the petition, they should move on.

More than a decade ago, the NBA Owerri branch stoutly rejected the appointment of Justice Onanaeze Madu as High Court Judge. After spirited battle, the NJC, Imo JSC and Imo State Government swore her in. Once she was sworn in, only on retirement or NJC removing him or resignation can stop him. After many years of protest, she remains a High Court Judge till date and NBA Owerri moved on.

The Union members and workers must learn when to retreat. They must also learn that the battle is no longer between them and the CMD. It is now a battle between them and Imolites.

How many more women who registered and did ante-natal at FMC would be denied delivery there just because we want Angela out? How many people needing emergency casualty referrals would lose their lives because we want the CMD out? This ego battle must stop.

It is no longer a case of who is wrong or right. If Sherrif and Makarfi can be meeting and shifting ground. If Nigerian government can talk with Boko haram for the release of hostages. If USA can negotiate with Taliban for Prisoner swap. If Israel can shift grounds with Hamas. The FMC Union leaders cannot continue to holdout with a single demand, “removal of CMD or no peace”. The striking workers receive salaries even when on strike. The CMD also receives because in the eye of the law she remains the CMD. Most FMC workers have private hospitals, Lab, Pharmacy, etc and many have access to private consulting. Only Imoltes lose out irremediably for services they cant get elsewhere other than FMC or at a good and efficient rate.

We want FMC working for Ndi Imo. We are tired of the cock and bull stories. And if you ask why I have sounded out the doctors here. They invited us to what should be a family affair by coming to the media. Where there is a stand-off or impasse, Imo people must arise and the time is now. And now we have to lash them. We need service and not ego war. If you allege corruption against the woman, and her employer who owns the money says they still want her at the helm, it is senseless to continue this war.

Let them find a way of working with the CMD to see out his tenure in the interest of Ndi Imo. An armistice is needed here.

If this strike is not for us and about us……. Please stop the rubbish.

Kissinger Ikeokwu 24/10/2016

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