BETWEEN THE PRO AND THE ANTI JOHESU NURSES: a state of dilemma for Nigerian Nurses and Midwives

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BETWEEN THE PRO AND THE ANTI JOHESU NURSES: a state of dilemma for Nigerian Nurses and Midwives

By Abu Sofiyyah.

Recent happenings in the joint health sector union (JOHESU) led many nurses and midwives in Nigeria to call for withdrawal of NANNM from this marriage of necessity. There was nothing like JOHESU until the government of Nigeria decided to openly and consciously hand over the health sector to one of the stakeholders in the heath sector – The medical doctors. The government treat one out of many like a king among slaves!!! Since then, these group of professionals that formed JOHESU have always fought a “collective ” battle to press home their demands. Through out these periods of collective struggle by JOHESU, there use to be mutual suspicion and mistrust which can’t be ruled out in any organization or group. The heterogeneous nature of these organization -JOHESU has raised serious concerns and critical observations as to it’s effectiveness, justice and fairness in representation and addressing members’ needs.

This has consequently led to calls from some members of one of the most significant component of JOHESU -that is NANNM , to withdraw her membership from JOHESU. They opined that JOHESU is just relying on nurses’ number, being the largest workforce in the hospital, to press home their individual demands. They see little or no benefit to the union or marriage. Also, they said nurses have not gained anything significant that will warrant our continuous stay in JOHESU. They cite instances to buttress their points. While on the other hands, some disagree strongly for their own reasons too. For example the last strike embarked upon by JOHESU has further strengthen the resolve of those who want NANNM out of the marriage. According to them, NANNM should stand alone! Some however differed on standing alone though they agree to exiting JOHESU, hence suggesting that we align with NMA that doesn’t seems to SINCERELY need us.

Available options for NANNM

With JOHESU, there are problems, and without JOHESU also, definitely there will be problems; if not more. I am not sounding pessimistic but factual. But there are no problems without solutions.
After leaving JOHESU, NANNM will be left with two major options. Firstly, stand alone and fight our course. Secondly, stylishly lobby to join the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA ) because it’s obvious NMA is not in all honesty, missing us. Yes there are calls from few NMA members – some sincerely and some with derision , asking nurses to leave JOHESU.
Either of the above options will come with it’s own challenges. I want us to strongly agree that as it stand today, our marriage with JOHESU should come to an end. Then next, we weigh the merits and demerits of the two options stated above.
JOHESU members too know that NANNM is the soul of JOHESU. The collapse of JOHESU may not be far if we exited as a component.

Possible fears in each options

I don’t know if it’s a universal fact but I do believe that the greatest fear for a man is THE FEAR OF UNKNOWN.
In either of the options, there is the fear of unknown which has made us indecisive. For instance, questions like these do come to minds of those for JOHESU: Can nurses stand alone to fight a battle? Are nurses bold enough to face management of their institutions or even government of their states or nation? When the heat is becoming unbearable in a struggle (April / May salary in my mind), are they ready to remain steadfast or even damn the consequences?
Are nurses as united as other professional bodies when it comes to fighting for a course? Won’t the intra professional bickering serve as a major hurdle?
These are some of the questions begging for answers.

On the other hand, if we stylishly join hand with Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), would they honestly accept us with every sense of altruism? Can we have equal stake in a relationship we are begging to establish? Can we pose same threat to NMA in case of any foul play suspected as we’re currently posing to JOHESU? If the marriage between us and doctors collapse, can we shamelessly go back to our vomit, making us a laughing stock at the end?

The time to employ the critical thinking concept in nursing is now!!!

Delay is dangerous and procrastination they say, is the thief of time. We don’t need to spend years thinking whether to do this or that. Sadly, the other component members of JOHESU have started seeing or suspecting NANNM as a actual or potential saboteur. The fact that NANNM is considering the exit route from JOHESU is an open secret. They are also planning a JOHESU without NANNM. Are we going to miss JOHESU or JOHESU will be the one to miss NANNM? Only time will tell.

The earlier we took the lesser evil out of many, the better. The earlier we saw ourselves as indispensable stakeholders in the health sector, the better. This COVID -19 pandemic has further confirmed the natural fact that nurses are indispensable. Nurses can move mountains if they’re resolute. Nurses can perform wonders if they discard the fear of unknown. The media can be made to change their often ridiculous headlines like ” DOCTORS and other health workers” to “Doctors , Nurses and other health workers or ” Nurses and doctors ” as it’s the case in saner climes. Nurses in Nigeria will come out of their perpetual hopelessness, inferiority complex, frustration, lack of motivation. The media in Nigeria will stop describing nurses as “allied ” health workers or paramedics!!! The public will stop defining nurses or midwives by the activities of quacks or auxiliaries that have proliferated most private hospitals/clinics.

I want to use this medium to call on our decision makers at the top and stakeholders to make quick decisions. We need to stand alone. We shall be the lobby point for both NMA and JOHESU if it still exists . We need to sit with the government side by side with NMA to put up our demands. Let’s discard the fear of unknown. Nurses and midwives are internationally recognized professionals. We suffer the most in cases of pandemics, epidemics but unfortunately we are not compensated expectedly.
Nurses and midwives can stand alone with efficient, courageous, selfless leadership . We can make it. We can win our battles for ourselves. The first thing to lose in a fight before losing the fight itself is self confidence. Once you lack self confidence, you have lost the fight ab initio. You have emboldened your ordinarily weak enemy. Today, we are not trusted in JOHESU as before. Look at the issue of hazard allowance, JOHESU is not advocating that nurses should have the highest hazard allowance even though they all know that nurses and midwives are the most exposed to any form of hospital or work related hazard. Is it the deaths of nurses or midwives from Ebola, Lassa Or COVID-19 we want to talk about or the beating of nurses by mentally unstable patients and/or their relatives??? The hazard is just too much.

In conclusion, I want to reiterate the fact that standing alone is the best option . We have a lot to gain in this. We shall reposition ourselves, we shall find our lost glory, we shall be a force to reckon with, we shall be a rally point for the NMA, and JOHESU -Without- Nurses in any struggle. We shall have time to take our destinies to our hands, we shall be able to focus on the factors responsible for our intra professional bickering and look for ways out. Those against our exit should stop imagining and predicting doom. No perfect professional body, group or individual. Everyone has his/her own challenges they’re contending with, including the so-called NMA. We Nurses and midwives should reason along to save the profession from needless distractions.

5 thoughts on “BETWEEN THE PRO AND THE ANTI JOHESU NURSES: a state of dilemma for Nigerian Nurses and Midwives”

  1. Thanks for throwing more light into this issue ,the insight is second to none .I hope this article reached to the decision makers as proposed .

  2. Yes, I see a need of moving forward, even some doctors feel the pains as we do. But will not want to equate themselves especially to other known least members of the health sector.
    Therefore,NANNM deciding to pull out from JOHESU is a great decision & must be pursued at all cost. And this is the right time to act, speak up & I know we will be heard because JOHESU is quiet a large body to be attended to at the moment. therefore, standing alone or joining NMA will facilitate our goals as a professional body. The masses know this too, our government are aware of our request & know how important it is as well, but who will fight for us when we seemed comfortable at our present situation? The Corona virus pandemic has shown to the world & NANNM & other health workers how important the Nurses and Midwives are to their Nations. Therefore, our law makers should act fast & not be scared of intimidation as we all know a fight to freedom is challenging.
    Nrs Andrew Mary.

  3. Please permit me to contribute to the discourse above Referred:
    I have been a Nurse with over 30 years of cognate clinical practice, both in public, and the private sector.
    Out of this years, over 25 has been spent in Professional Nursing politics ( NANNM), that is from, 1988 till date.
    Holding different positions from both the private and public sectors.

    My contributions on the above subject matter is not really going to be about whether Nurses should pull out or continues to be part of the conglomerate, known as JOHESU.

    I want to further provides some salient information, particularly to the younger colleagues, so that whenever the final decision is going to be taking, most of us can have sufficient information for our decision.

    Prior to the formation of JOHESU, what are the issues?

    – In the beginning, in the trade Union movement in a typical health institution, the dominant Unions are the NANNM, the MHWUN, and the NMA.

    – Even though the NMA was not statutorily a registered labour Union. They have continued to over powered the law and have continued to operate as one.

    – These three Unions were acting individually, pursing their individual members welfare matters with the employer, mostly the government.

    – The NMA in many instances became a blocking agent against the demands and the interest of other workers and unions in the health sector in particular

    -They became so powerful, as they constituted themselves into the accuser, the persecutors, and the judges of any welfare issue of other health care workers in Nigeria.

    – They gleefully go on strike, even when their status did not give them that right, hold government to ransom, and most times comes out successful in all their demands.


    – Collectively, we became a victim of conspiracy of the status of NMA, that have worked themselves into the hearts, and minds of government at both state, and federal level.

    – most of the demands of these other unions were treated with levity and in most cases not approved

    – These attitude of the government brought about the proliferation of other pressure groups into the health sector, as we know them today ( Sauthria, nasu, nuhab, etc).

    And equally resulted in the need for other professional Associations, not registered trade Unions to spring up. Such as the MLS, PSN, Radiographers, medical record, physiologist etc.

    The joint health sector unions (JOHESU) was a child of circumstances to function as an ADHOC organization, it was a successor of the JAC( joint action committee). Jac was usually the coming together of NANNM, MHWUN, PSN, and other smaller professional groups to confront NMA,(Government).

    JAC was performing the role JOHESU is performing today, because of the proliferation of trade Unions, professional Associations and other sundry interest that sprang up in the hospital, particularly @ the federal tertiary institutions.


    1) Most of the members are females
    2) Most of the Nurses, male and female alike, married early, just after the RN/RM and begins to raise family
    3) Most of our married female colleagues are the bread winners of the family
    4) Majority of Nurses and Midwives in Nigeria depends fully only on their salary
    5)Majority of Nurses and Midwives does not give importance to the relevance of the Union, outside salary agitation. They hardly attend Union meetings
    6) Due to the poor attitude to the Union affairs, we hardly attract the best of us, into the trade Union leadership.
    7) And many more issues

    The NMA on the other side, have more males as majority, and these majority of their members don’t raise family after MBBS.
    Most of them, after their improvement in their professional educational Carrier
    Equally verifiable is the fact that even some of them that are married, they do so to Nurses, and Midwives, it is these wives that support the family, while they are away on studies.

    Also, during their own strike actions, some of them are engaged by their colleagues in the private as locum for extra pay.

    In Nigeria, the only time the government of Nigeria listen to workers agitation is, when the workers down tools ( industrial action, strike)

    Prior to formation of JOHESU, each time the NANNM goes on strike, the NMA, using their status both financially, and politically, mount a consistent blackmail against the Nurses.

    They use the media to berate our educational qualification, they make the public to believe, Nurses are just mere tools in their hands., and that we want to equate our status with them

    They ensure, they block all our demands, no matter how genuine they are.
    And collaborate with the government to ensure, they threatened our salary with the popular ” no work, no pay”

    And considering the Nurses weak financial base with huge responsilities, it was obvious, NANNM alone cannot survived a prolonged industrial action.

    Before now, the Association, NMA, have never envisaged of any conglomerate that would bring all workers in the hospital, particularly in the tertiary hospitals together as we have it now in JOHESU

    The NMA through the federal ministry of health has deliberately brought into the tertiary hospitals sundry lower cadres of staff, ranging from dental nurses, even the chew that were primarily trained for community are now loaded in tertiary hospitals.

    The intention of this policy is simple.

    Whenever the nurses and Midwives alone goes on strike, these lower cadres would be mobilized into the wards to Mimic the role of the Nurse, even when they know it won’t click.

    And of course, when this happened, and their propaganda machine is mounted in the media of no work, no pay, NANNM will have no option, but call off it’s strike prematurely.

    This was obvious in the past, when only NANNM was going on her own strike.

    If such strike, lasted more than 2 days, most nurses begins to sneak to work with their uniform in a leather bag.

    Important here also to note, is the attitude of the state Governors, and the state general hospitals.

    In most of the states of the federation, it is nurses and Midwives that are the backbone of the key skilled personnel.

    In many states hospitals, GOPD, the theaters, and other essential service areas are mounted by the nurses.
    And in many occasions, these general hospitals have no drugs, no consumables as it is the Nurses and Midwives in these facilities that provides these items from their private pockets, and invariably, using the state government hospitals to make personal money.

    This practice, in most instances, make Nurses in these facilities not to be able to observe even their annual leave of up to five years, on the pretence, that they are short of staff.

    The implications of this, is that, NANNM only industrial action that would last up to one month can’t be successful. And in Nigeria, labour practice, it’s only industrial action that yeild fruit


    Very simple! If leadership positions in a group of health care workers is expected to be by election. Why should NANNM not produced the President of JOHESU?…
    The President of any organization is the spokesman, he or she would speak for his or her interest before the interest of others

    . Pardon me to leave this area for the readers to add

    Is it to abandoned JOHESU and marry NMA? Or simply don’t belongs to any group?… Again?
    Again, let listen to other contributors.

    What impact did JOHESU made in dismantling the ego of NMA in the politics of clinical governance?

    The coming together of all other health workers in the hospital, particularly in the tertiary hospitals to demands for their rights has exposed the NMA fallacy that, they are the Alfa, and Omega of the healthcare system.

    For example, during JOHESU strike, every other health worker are safely, and comfortably @ home. Even, the fear, fear Nurse is confident that, no black leg would ondo her.

    Her husband that depends on her salary for running the home is no longer on her neck to resume duty against the directive of her Union.

    And the medical doctors under their overrated NMA became a bone without flesh, as the hospitals became a ghost, silent grave yard, that even the public begins to know, that medical doctors strength lies in the services of the other health care workers.

    And if NMA allowed JOHESU to continue, surely, the little respect the public have for them be completely eroded, and their utopian status severely deflated.

    Finally, and truthfully, JOHESU is supposed to be an ad hoc arrangement to take on issues that have general workers application.

    JOHESU is not, and it should not absorb the statutory responsilities of other registered trade Unions, particularly in the tertiary hospitals.

    NANNM should not die because of JOHESU

    NANNM should not play a second fiddle to any trade group in Nigeria

    NANNM should always corporate, collaborate, with any other trade, and interest group in Nigeria, with a mindset of what is good and beneficiary for her own members, and the profession.

    Thank you all for your patience, and attention

    Let the discourse continue
    Nrs. A. D. Yahaya
    ENAN national chairman

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