As the tenure on incumbent Chief Medical Director (CMD) of the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital (UCTH), Professor Thomas Agan gradually comes to an end, the tussle regarding who succeeds him has effectively moved to Abuja.
A total of 13 candidates applied for the CMD’s job in which two were screened out and nine went through to the interview stage of the selection processes, which took place on January 16, 2019.
After the interview exercise, five names were shortlisted as “appointable” and sent to the Presidency from where the next CMD is to be picked from.
The Guardian’s investigation revealed that five names in order of performance at the interview stage are Prof Ikpeme Ikpeme, who took first position after scoring 87.8 per cent. He was followed by a former Commissioner for Health in Cross River State, and acting Chairman Medical Advisory Committee (CMAC) of the UCTH, Prof Edet Ikpi, who carded 78.1per cent.
Prof. Ngim Ngim was in third place with the score of 72.6 per cent; Dr. Ofem Enang came fourth with 70.2 per cent, while Dr. Queeneth Kalu took the fifth position with 69.5 per cent. Profs Ikpeme and Ngim are from the South Senatorial District of the state, while Ikpi and Enang are from the Central Senatorial District.
Reliable sources said one of the main things that shot Ikpeme to the zenith remains the fact that he was the only contender that submitted his plans and vision for the hospital with timelines. He also had the highest number of publications, 54 of which he presented. He attracted orthopedic instruments grants to the hospital valued at N2.5m and a desktop analyser to the laboratory.
As has been the practice in the past, the exercise has now been enmeshed in intrigues, high-wire politics, as well as ethnic sentiments even up to the Presidency. Prof Ikpeme was said to have come first in 2011 selection, but was dropped due to ethnic and secular politics that favoured Prof. Agan, whose Northern Senatorial District never produced a CMD before.
Despite all that happened in the past, an official from the Federal Character Commission (FCC) reminded everyone at the interview session that the UCTH is a federal establishment hence merit plays a major role in the appointment of the CMD, a top job that is open to any qualified Nigerian.
There are allegations that the outgoing CMD has an interest in a particular candidate. But at a recent press briefing, Agan denied favouring any candidate over the others, saying to appoint Ikpi as CMAC was the decision of the board and the Presidency.
On insistence by some persons that any contender to the office of CMD must be a professor, a source said that “the Act setting up teaching hospitals does not require you to be a professor. It only requires that you should be a medical doctor of 12 years experience and a consultant for five years.”
As groups articulate the interest of their favoured candidates, the people of Central Senatorial District are of the opinion that the next CMD should come from their area, while some of their counterparts from the South are insisting that the best performer in the interview should be given the job. They are also quick to point out that both President Muhammadu Buhari’s Special Assistant on Prosecution, Okoi Obono-Obla, and Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Usani Uguru Usani are both from the Central Senatorial District.
A medical doctor in Calabar, the state capital, who simply gave his name as Bassey said, “it is wrong for the position of the CMD to be politicised or be subjected to ethnic considerations. This is not fair for medical practice and to the patients. Today we can see the rot in most of our public institutions because of ethnicity and politics.
“I totally subscribe to merit. Consequently, only the right and the most competent person should be appointed irrespective of where he comes from. The people of the Central Senatorial District after all, are well favoured in President Buhari’s government, yet no one is complaining,” Bassey said.
He added: “Those who argue about zoning in this appointment have a flawed argument. Such a concept has never existed in the hospital. If it did, the Late Dr. A.R. Iwatt would not have been CMD from 1991 until his death in 1992, and Prof. Obiora Onuba would not have been CMD from 1992 to 1994. Dr. Iwatt was from Akwa Ibom State, while Prof Onuba is from Abia State.
However, a group, Cross River State Network for Good Governance and Justice, which says it stands for merit and equity said as a federal establishment, they expect that merit and federal character would be brought to bear in “the appointment of some key officers, as well as recruitment, especially as it concerns the three senatorial zones that make up the state. But it seems all that have been thrown to the wind as there have been complaints of marginalisation. But what is disturbing is the intrigues and machinations adopted in the selection processes, which has raised the alarm over the issue of rotation of the CMD’s position.”
In a statement jointly signed by its coordinator, Comrade Edet Asuquo; Secretary, Comrade Bassey Bassey Ibor, and Publicity Secretary, Austine Achunekan, the group added, “We have it on good record that since the era of Prof. Rowland Ndoma-Egba, there has been a common understanding that the CMD seat be rotated among the senatorial zones.
While Ndoma-Egba (Central) handed over to Prof. Etetim Asuquo (South) and then the incumbent, Prof. Agan (North), we had expected that the incumbent should have handed over to somebody from the Central. Though we are not jettisoning merit in any way, we only insist that equity should be allowed to reign.”
They further argued that, “over the past 35 years of its existence, the Southern Senatorial District of Cross River State has provided the headship of the hospital for 18 years.
The Central Senatorial District has provided headship for only eight years and by April 2019, the Northern Senatorial District will be completing eight years of headship. It should be noted that for fairness, equity, justice and to encourage a sense of inclusiveness, the headship rotated from the South to the North for the first time in 2011. It will further encourage fair play and harmony if upon completion of the present tenure, the headship passes through the Central Senatorial District before returning to the Southern Senatorial District.”
Another interest group, the Southern Senatorial District Forum is advocating that the next CMD should come from the Central Senatorial District in the interest of equity, fairness and justice.
A statement signed by its President, Mr. Peter Duke said: “Following recent political zoning, which is practical in our dear state, it is the turn of a qualified candidate from the Central Senatorial District. For the purpose of equity, justice and fairness, it should go to the central senatorial district because it has been over 15 years since the Central Senatorial District produced a CMD.”
They argued that a new CMD has been appointed for the Neuro- Psychiatric Hospital, Calabar, who is from the Southern Senatorial District, and at the expiration of the tenure of the current Vice Chancellor of the University of Calabar in 2020, his successor will come from the Southern Senatorial District, “so the issue of CMD of UCTH from other two zones (South and North), should not have been in contention after it has been proved that the Southern Senatorial District has benefited immensely.”