By EMMANUEL AZIKEN
WHen 11,000 air traffic controllers in the United States initiated a strike action sometime in 1981 it was a development that remarkably united the majority of Americans against the air traffic controllers who were already among the highest earning in the country at that time.
Also among the demands of the air traffic controllers was a reduced work load that would see them work for four days in a week.
Remarkably with that their demand for less work was the demand for increased salaries! Prior to the entrenchment of Silicon Valley, the air traffic control profession was at that time among the highest paying professions in the United States.
So when the air traffic controllers decided to walk out on their job, President Ronald Reagan was understandably annoyed. Besides, the strike action by the air traffic controllers was illegal according to federal laws. A large majority of Americans felt the same with him as also the courts.
The president did not waste time in dismissing all the strikers who failed to heed an ultimatum to return to the job.
The situation in America reminds one of Nigeria’s medical doctors in Lagos.
Seen by some as the epitome of the sciences, the medical profession has since time immemorial been also regarded for its humane dispositions. The fact that doctors are trained to save lives and do so with humane care is especially remarkable.
However, the action of the doctors in Lagos State to walk out on their patients arguably leading to the death of many patients was shocking. The response of the governor of the State after a series of negotiations was to sack the errant doctors.
Like President Reagan, Governor Babatunde Fashola did not receive much criticism for his action from members of the public who were at the receiving end of the shocking action of the doctors.
Like Reagan before him, Fashola had the backing of the Lagos public who were as indignant as Americans in 1981 over why people who were already well paid should be dragging their luck further.
The least paid doctor including the one just exiting medical school according to reports was receiving more than N170,000 as monthly compensation. That is an amount far above what many people who have worked for decades or even their parents in other professions were receiving.
Given the diligence and drudge expected of medical students before they qualify to practice, doctors have for a long time been placed on a special compensation package. Nobody has until now complained. But their action in holding the state hostage was especially appalling. That a doctor who is trained to save lives, who has taken the Hippocratic Oath to save lives, would walk out on a dying patient is to say the least not just callous, but ungodly.
As the crisis evolved it was remarkable that some section of the medical community rallied round to seek a common ground in the interest of the masses. Such efforts as led by the likes of Dr. Olu Falomo should be commended.
But what is especially interesting was the seeming backing that the governor of Lagos State received from the citizens. The hard approach of the governor underlined the fact that he was believed to have carried out the interest of the state in his approach to the crisis.
An attempt by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP to make capital out of the issue did not make any headway.
It was expected that after the doctors were sacked that they would have gone on to other shores where they could have gotten better compensation. But alas, with Nigerian doctors already saturated in the Caribbeans, Asia and the Americas, they were boxed into a corner. And perhaps their resort to a political solution that involved Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
As the doctors resume duties today, they should well know that Tinubu may have saved the faces of all parties involved in the dispute, but not the lives of the many who perished through the senseless strike!