We are the ones we have been waiting for: An appeal to my Alumni

We are the ones we have been looking for“. The origin of this quote is debatable but President Obama has used it in his> speech. The feminist movement has used it in their fight for equality. In the apartheid days in South Africa the freedom fighters used it to rally the troops.
I think it is appropriate in the University of Nigeria College of Medicine Alumni Association, North America (UNCOMAA-NA) executive committee campaign for help from the alumni.
• Graduates from the College of Medicine, University of Nigeria have been deemed ineligible to take PLAB because of substandard training.
• The College was also suspended by the accreditation board in Nigeria for the same reason.
• Transition of UNTH from Enugu to Ituku, Ozalla remains incomplete after the plan was started more than 30 years ago.
• More than 99% of grants for research and training from the US and other governments go through other Universities especially University of Ibadan and Lagos. At the recent ANPA convention in Chicago the College provost was present and was not aware of a research grant presented at the conference. University of Ibadan was listed as the agent for the grant which had already been implemented.
• The University of Nigeria continues to play an insignificant role as part of the Nigerian Higher Education Foundation and unlikely to benefit from the matching grant from the McArthur foundation.

As at January 1, 2012, most of the consultants and leaders at the College of Medicine and UNTH graduated in the past 30 years. Majority are Alumni of the College. We are responsible for the present status of the College. We are in a position to make things better. Is the College better off now than 30 years ago? The answer is a resounding no. I was asked to write a message on behalf of the 1989 class for the funeral brochure of Professor GC Ezeilo who passed away recently. I quoted the prof’s farewell message to the graduating class:

“My dear finalists, as you arrive at the end of a long journey, I wish you all complete success in your final MB.BS examination. You deserve it and God will be with you. I use this opportunity to offer some advice on your future careers as doctors.
Enjoy the fun of waking up as doctors and no more as medical students. The harsh realities of life in Nigeria of today will next hit you. You may not have a car; afford a decent hi fi system, shoes or clothing because your income will be a disappointment. Take solace from the knowledge that you are not alone and no doctor has yet died from poverty. Manage to dress like doctor; it inspires confidence. The learning process has just begun and the public does not expect you to know all. They expect you to know when to ask for a second opinion. As future professors and specialists, I expect you to perform better than we did. Finally, I sincerely wish all of you happy memories of your stay at the college of Medicine. You have had good training. Be our flag bearers

I took my PLAB examination without any hassles because the British General Medical Council believed I received good training from the College. Same as the USMLE and other examinations that has been the gateway for all the College graduates in the UK, USA and Canada. We have since moved on to become consultants, Professors and attending Physicians in our various fields. Unlike most of our American colleagues we have no college loans to repay. Believe it or not you received free education from the Nigerian government.
The Time magazine person of the year 2011 was the protester ranging from the Arab spring to occupy Wall Street. Occupy Wall Street was about the 99%. They are sick and tired of the 1% taking from them and never giving back or giving them the opportunity to get their share of the pie.
We are the 1%. We received good education that allowed us to take PLAB and USMLE examination. We received free education from the Nigerian government. We are the brain drain.

I am asking the Alumni to help revive UNCOMAA-NA and support the College of Medicine by doing the following:
• $200 dues to UNCOMAA-NA: PO Box 1280, Matthews, NC 28106.
• Donations to UNCOMMA-NA
• Starting a positive dialogue on how to make things better.
• Attending the next UNCOMAA-NA during the next ANPA convention in Las Vegas.
• Join the visiting lecturer series to interact with the students, Residents and Lecturers at the College.

I will like to thank those who paid their dues for 2011. It is now 2012 and I will ask you to make the same sacrifice and pay again for the year. I especially want to thank Dr. Ngozi Nwaneri (honorary alumni) for $1000 donation at the last UNCOMAA convention.
I apologize if I sound angry. I am not. I am tired of the apathy from the alumni and arm chair punditry about how bad things are in Nigeria and how it can be fixed.

This is the year 2012. No Knight in shining armor is coming to save us. We are the ones we have been waiting for.

Tagbo Ekwonu, MD
Treasurer, UNCOMAA-NA
Class of 1989

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