Teamwork, Rivalry Between Nigerian Professionals and My Experience in Academia

I reported to the Department of Electric Power Engineering for my postdoc on the 1st of October 2013. After the reception, I was taken to the office I will be using for the 2 years I will spend in Norway. It has a brand-new Dell laptop and a Dock to connect to a monitor supplied with it. Before I can step into the lab, I must do a safety course. One is an online test which I have to pass before the physical safety lecture with the head of technical staff. They got my foot size and ordered a brand-new safety boot. The rule is that I can't step into the lab or workshop without the boot. Safety first.

A few days later, I was taken to the lab. And Lars Lundgaard, my supervisor, said, Abdel, this is where you will spend your 2 years. We all laughed. So, I began to set up the lab. After a few weeks on it and I thought I was done, I called my Professor to have a look. He checked all the connections and he said the setup was ok. I was happy and looking forward to switching it on. My thought was that his "ok" was all I needed to start work but he said there was one more step to cross before I could turn the setup on.

He said a designated senior technical staff needs to check that the experiment is well set up, all safety requirements satisfied, and safe for me to use. It's high voltage and you can't make any mistakes. The technical staff will then sign an approval form in which a copy is hung on the setup.

The senior technical staff in the department at NTNU was out of the office and he contacted an authorised technical staff from SINTEF who came for the assessment. He made some observations on the grounding of a part and asked me to correct it. My Professor told him that he would ensure I get that done and so he signed the form.

The process pushed me into deep thinking about our system in Nigeria. While most of us, including their just employed academics, are Mr. Know-it-All in our system and think we can run a lab without technical staff, a technical staff needs to assess and approve a setup in a Norwegian University lab before a researcher and research students can use it. Not a professor can bypass that process. The assessment is in the interest of the user, the facilities, and the research output. I experienced strong teamwork.

There is a trending memo on a directive from NMA that reminds me of this internal rivalry among professionals within the Nigerian systems that is dragging us back. The politics among the academics. The rivalry between the academics and non-academics. The Abuja civil servants' hatred for university lecturers, especially if they happen to be in charge of a button to press against the academics.The rivalry between medical doctors and other health workers.

We have the artificial barrier between engineering and physical sciences in the universities. You can't lecture engineering students if you don't have an engineering degree and COREN-registered Engineer. The mounted artificial barrier between medical and life sciences. Medical students were taught biochemistry by the biochemists in Life science for years. They ain't qualified to teach medical students any longer. Medical students must be taught by only lecturers with a medical degree. etc. 

The NMA directive was that the medical and dental practitioners engaged in teaching pharmacy students on clinical rotation/clerkship should discontinue such engagement with immediate effect. I saw the memo as another internal wrangling that I thought could have been sorted without affecting the system. The memo generated an interesting discussion on my Facebook wall. So I decided to read a bit about clinical clerkship and clinical pharmacy.

The narrow knowledge I got was that Clinical Pharmacists played an important role in ensuring that the medicines prescribed to patients are suitable. Clinical rotation/Clerkship is a medical term used in medical education to describe training to provide students with a practical and stimulating learning experience.

The clinical students are allowed to participate in ward rounds along with the healthcare team and provide a wide variety of clinical services. Clinical rotation/Clerkship for pharmacy students is a similar practical training to improve the quality of clinical pharmacy. It is designed to provide the opportunity for the student to have direct patient contact, apply knowledge in real-time, and other associated pharmacy experiences.

Universities around the world do this as a collaboration between the College of Medicine and the School of Pharmacy. During ward visits, pharmacists assessed drug charts to ensure that prescriptions were safe, effective, economical, etc. The inclusion of clinical pharmacists in ward rounds was reported to have had a tremendous impact on the healthcare delivery system. It can reduce adverse drug events, improve communication, and enable collaborative decision-making.

The few hours of reading have just improved my knowledge of the role of clinical pharmacy in quality healthcare delivery. I saw one similarity in the role that the technical staff was mandated to play to ensure that I had safe lab work during my postdoctoral research work; the role of the Clinical Pharmacist to ensure that the medicines prescribed to patients were suitable. The role was for my safety, the safety of the equipment, and the anticipated result. A THIRD EYE SUPPORTING partner that I can't FORGET or IGNORE in my career.

When we have different professionals in a system, every professional has a clear role to play in making that system work. So why the rivalry among us instead of healthy competition to bring benefits to the system? Why can't we sit down to discuss our differences and come to an understanding? Why the mounted artificial barriers? What are we protecting? What role are professional bodies and Associations playing in bridging this gap? Or are they widening the gap?

I got a PhD from an Engineering Department where the 3 professors in the department who supervised me got their PhD in Engineering, Physics, and Chemistry. I always consider myself lucky to have worked with these great minds that injected different flavours (engineering, physics, and chemistry) into my PhD work and experience. Why can't we copy this? We have societies like IEEE, the largest engineering institution, that admit relevant members without barriers. Why ain't we copying this? We have some Nigerian professors in the US who are beneficiaries of the world of academics without borders but encouraging the barriers in the Nigerian system.

We need to sit down to reflect on the gains of these ridiculous rivalries within our systems. We need to ask ourselves with all honesty if the so-called gains from the barriers are personal gains or a gain for the system. Let's reflect on the power of teamwork and collaborative decision-making. We need to put an end to these unnecessary rivalries and begin to dismantle these artificial barriers for effective teamwork toward repositioning our system, especially the university system.

Dear colleagues, despite the low pay,  people think you are earning more than your salary because they truly feel your value is that high. These people are looking up to us, academics, as the torch bearer of the nation. You are their brainbox. We must be seen playing that role instead of all these in-house fighting.

We can do it. We can work together to make our system work. We can make Nigeria great. We just need to keep our ego and selfish interests aside and work for the system.


Prof. Abdelghaffar Amoka Abdelmalik, PhD.
Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

Copyright © Amoka 2024


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