RECENTLY, A NEW 24-year old graduate of Medicine came to bid me farewell. “Where are you going?” I asked. “I am ‘shipping’ out to England,” he answered in the local slang. “Why? And what are you going to do over there?” I asked again, knowing all the challenges of getting a job abroad. “Since I completed my training about a year ago, I have been unable to get an accredited hospital for my internship. Without the internship, I cannot get registered to practice Medicine. That makes my degree worthless,” he explained.

    He was not alone! There are many medical graduates roaming the streets in search of a place for internship. He had his plans he told me. A football scout, fishing for talents, had observed his great footballing skills when he came to Nigeria and had assured him a place in a local club in London with the promise that he would help him get the attention of big clubs within a year. I looked at him and shook my head. “Why is this country, flowing with milk and honey not able to get its arithmetic right! We spend a fortune to train graduates of all kinds because we need them, yet when it comes to going the extra mile to keep them occupied and productive to meet the needs of our nation, we lack the will.

    “Young man,” I asked again, “What informed that decision to abandon Medicine for professional football?” His face lightens up; he beamed a smile as if he had been waiting for the question. Without any hesitation, he poured out his heart. “Sir, I am encouraged by this story which I read on the internet. He went on to recite the story word for word. I had read the story too and it drew tears from my eyes.  

 “Miss World Manushi Chillar on being asked the question as to why she, an intellectual sacrificed her professional career of pursuing a sought after lucrative field like Medicine to take part in a Beauty Pageant, she replied, “Respected judges, I stay in a country where Beauty is given more importance than Brains. I sacrifice 10 to12 prime years of my youth and all the fun that comes with it and in the bargain not taking proper care of my health and appearance thereby even getting dark circles under my baggy eyes. The government would then decide in which village I have to compulsorily offer my services, though there are no facilities there to put my knowledge to use and if I refuse, will ask me to pay a hefty amount as bond. Surprisingly, it’s only there for doctors but not for engineers, lawyers, teachers etc. Don’t we need infrastructure in villages, free legal consultation for villagers who cannot afford their fees and education?

  “Once I do agree to pay the hefty bond, the government would decide the fees I can charge for my knowledge. In case of an unforeseen error in judgment leading to something going wrong with my patient, I am likely to be physically abused and my hospital, which I have built by taking a hefty loan, ransacked. The govt. will not be able to arrest or take action against anyone as it is a case of Mob Violence and no particular person can be held responsible.

“If I win this contest then I will get a superstar status overnight which I can never get on treating the most challenging cases and saving lives. The government would award me a Padma Award and a cash prize. Not only that they will be obliged to provide me special treatment & security wherever I go. Nobody will question me when I charge thousands of dollars for a commercial (whether the product is good or not) or a movie (even if it flops miserably). Why alone India even in the world the total amount one earns from the PRIZE MONEY in a BEAUTY PAGEANT and the endorsements, movie offers etc which follow is much more than what is awarded to a NOBEL LAUREATE in MEDICINE. Thus I rest my case that BEAUTY is more rewarding than BRAINS”

Sir, he concluded, “I pity you. I know how hard you have been trying to complete the Cancer centre started by Dr. Awojobi in Eruwa. I know how much you have worked with others to establish health institutions that would bring succour to many Nigerians. How far have you gone? If I attain the status of Ronaldo or Messi, I would earn enough and attract greater publicity to help complete these projects within a year! I can assure you that my voice as a great professional footballer, would carry more than that of a poor doctor like you! My apology sir, no offense is meant. This is the reality of our times.”

The response of the judges at the pageant to the young lady echoed in my ears, “Enough! Enough! Don’t make us cry anymore. Here the crown is all yours but don’t forget to dedicate it to the BEAUTIFUL SELFLESS PROFESSION called MEDICINE.”

I faced the young doctor. Why don’t you go into politics, perhaps you might just be able to get a better deal for Medicine and allied professions.  “Sir,” he replied, “Our Senate President is a Medical Doctor.” In Yoruba, they will say, “Öro ti pesi je.” Is there any need to say more? 


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