After this pandemic is over, we must evaluate our value systems

Saturday April 18 2020

This is a season where we need to reboot, rethink and refocus and one thing we really need to rethink is the concept of what is really important to us as a people. Some things that we considered important before the pandemic will no longer hold the same clout after it’s over.

So, what is important to our society? We seem to value politicians more than any other group of people. We pay them ridiculous amounts of money and allowances. This may explain why the scramble for political office is always so vicious.

My main focus is for those we don’t pay well and have actually showed a lot of disdain for. I am referring to health workers.

It is at times like these that nations will reap the harvest of how they have treated their health workers. Nations will reap the harvest of their investments or lack of in their health sectors. We have also come to realise the importance of courses like public health and microbiology.

Suddenly across the globe, the importance of health care workers has been pushed to the forefront and they are now in the frontlines.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in his speech after leaving hospital thanked them for saving his life and went into great detail about the specific healthcare workers who took care of him.


It is noteworthy to remind African leaders that the British Prime Minister was at St Thomas’ hospital, which is a government hospital. In contrast, how many African leaders have invested enough in public healthcare infrastructure to have the confidence to go there if they fell sick?

In Africa, we treated healthcare workers like they did not matter. There was the perennial tussle between them and governments over their low pay. Legislators on the other hand keep increasing their salaries and allowances.

This crisis should force us to rethink our priorities. In a place like Nigeria a doctor’s annual income is less than the newspaper allowance for a legislator, with other allowances including hardship allowance, constituency allowance, wardrobe allowance, recess allowance, entertainment allowance, personal assistants allowance, vehicle maintenance allowance, leave allowance, car allowance and severance gratuity. Yet we have poorly paid doctors and nurses giving their lives each day to protect us.

I don’t know if I am the only one who has noticed the loud silence of many politicians during this period.

In Nigeria, the powerful and loud political ‘Ogas’ who were always making noise pre-Covid19 have suddenly gone quiet. This is happening in many parts of the continent.

They have not even come out to give at least even words of encouragement.
Martin Luther King Jr said that “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

It does seem that a lot of politicians across the continent have nothing to contribute if there is no politicking to do. As long as there is no fighting to be done and no rallies to be held, they stop being relevant.

Should we not now begin to rethink our government models across the continent? Why should a person who disappears in time of trouble be paid more than the people who risk their lives to save our lives? Why should they be paid more than the teachers who literally build society by teaching us?

It might be time to rethink what is really important to us as a people.

Wale Akinyermi is the chief transformation officer, PowerTalks