It has been an interesting couple of weeks since the lift of the UIMSA electoral ban. This has led to a myriad of campaigns in so many forms than has ever been seen before in UIMSA. Many may attribute this feat to the two presidential aspirants. To say that these two ladies, Ms. Jaachimma Nwagbara and Ms. Eniola Akinnuoye , are overqualified for these post will be an understatement. However, it is only natural that the more worthy you consider your opponent, the higher the likelihood of you increasing your hardwork, your plans and your creativity towards campaigning for the election and strategizing on the next brilliant content to release to public to endear them towards you. This peculiar though not so peculiar situation has led to different modes of election campaigns ranging from posters to class conversations, Tweet chats, videos and even documentaries. Just like an infectious disease, this practice has spread to the aspirants of the election of the hall that houses us all-ABH.
However, many may not notice that apart from the presidential position, most of the candidates for the other seats in UIMSA are running unopposed. One may wonder why it is difficult to get more than one aspirant for a position in an association that consists of more than 600 people. Similarly, the outgoing administration had all of the candidates running unopposed apart from the positions of the Assistant General Secretary and Special Duties Officer (pre-clinicals). In fact, it may interest you to remember that 5 of the 10 positions in the last UIMSA general elections were not contested for. The vacant positions were basically filled with people appointed by the senate. This growing trend of political apathy in UIMSA may be due to several reasons: a preference for academic success over political success; a perception of weakness of the UIMSA leadership bodies especially against the school management; the perception of no obvious positive change despite long hours of meetings and plannings; the desire to just obtain the MB;BS certificate and disappear from the visual field of forces like COMUI and ASUU etc.
Although some may argue that some of these reasons are valid, this apathy is disadvantageous in various ways. To start with, one candidate contesting for one position gives the candidate a level of laxity that may not be seen if the person had an opponent. Little wonder that some candidates wait for the campaigning process to go on, hunt for positions that have no aspirants and jump for those positions because he is aware that with or without plans, he will be successful. Afterall, nobody else wants to contest. This then leaves that office at the mercy of that person because whether effective or ineffective, he has served in UIMSA. The result of this mono-candidate elections and ‘fill-in-the-gap’ method of appointments is repeated sanctioning, excuses as well as overburdening of some executives as they try to cover up for others. If we as UIMSAites get unlucky, the person may even return in the next tenure for a higher position, running unopposed ofcourse. You probably do not need to have spent up to 3 years in UIMSA for some names to come to mind. This then leads the question on the quality of leaders we produce for the society and the type of label we want to give ourselves as present and future members of UIMSA.
As students of community medicine, we can tackle these problems primordially, primarily, secondarily and tertiary. To start with, UIMSA should invest more in organising programs that discuss leadership and its importance in building character and society. This will help people view leadership as something more than a CV booster. Also, for people that have friends that are passionate about leadership, politics and UIMSA and display capability, but refuse to contest for one reason or another, we can help to encourage them individually to take up these posts. UIMSA electoral committee as a body should bring up stringent measures for candidates that run unopposed such as giving a higher cut-off for screening, press nights and manifesto nights such that those that are unable to meet up, will not be allowed to contest. Conversely, they may be allowed to proceed but put on probation for about 3 months under strict scrutiny, after which their appointments will be confirmed or rejected. This will help filter out candidates that contest for ulterior motives . Furthermore, for erring executives that are repeated offenders, they can be subjected to higher financial sanctions, suspensions, impeachment, inability to run for further posts in UIMSA and punishments of not being regarded as executives that have served in UIMSA in the future.
In conclusion, in order to get the UIMSA we want, we have to start taking actions. A Chinese proverb says,
‘The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones’.
It is time for us to act.
Written by: Jummai Sadiku