President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday congratulated Innocent Ujah who was elected as the new President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) in an unprecedented virtual election, which held on May 30.
The president also congratulated all the new executive members of the NMA for the zeal and diligence brought into the organisation within a short period.
Mr Ujah, a former director-general of the Nigerian Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), polled 347 votes to beat his closest rival, Oguzie ‘Jerry-the-First’, who got 19 votes in the association’s first-ever Zoom election necessitated by restrictions and social distancing measures against the coronavirus pandemic.
A Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Ekpe Philips Uche, emerged Secretary-General of NMA, scoring 264 votes, while his closest rival, Galadinma Usman, got 113 votes.
Lagos’ immediate past NMA Chairman, Saliu Oseni, emerged Deputy Secretary-General of the association scoring 98 per cent to beat his closest rival.
Mr Ujah and his executives were inaugurated shortly after the election, Emeka Akpa, the NMA spokesperson, told PREMIUM TIMES Wednesday morning. “They resumed immediately and effectively,” he said.
In Tuesday’s congratulatory message, President Buhari said the elected officers have admirable profiles that will take the organisation to greater heights.
He particularly acknowledged that Mr Ujah, a professor, has worked extensively with national and international institutions, and progressively contributed to the shaping of national policies on health in the country in different capacities.
Currently the Vice-Chancellor of the newly created Federal University of Medical Science, Otukpo, Benue State, Mr Ujah’s emergence has raised concerns on how the new president will balance working for a government institution and furthering the agenda of the NMA.
As a VC of a federal government institution, the role of the association as a pressure group may weaken overtime under Mr Ujah, critics say.
“The NMA is a major pressure group in the health sector and some even argued it is a quasi-trade Union. But having a VC of a government institution as President will weaken the body, as he has a bigger job with the government to protect” a Lagos NMA member and columnist, Goke Akinrogunde, told ThisDay Newspaper.
But President Buhari believes he is the right man for the job, assuring him and his executive members of the government’s full cooperation to help them succeed in their leadership positions, and improve health services in the country.
A Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Consultant Obstetrician and Gynecological Surgeon, Mr Ujah, who will turn 66 in November 6, is said to have the right qualification and knowledge to captain the NMA ship.
As a detailed medical researcher at the NIMR, his first move as a president elected during a pandemic era is to call for a review of the country’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak by a team of researchers.
He said the evaluation was necessary to ascertain if measures taken so far are appropriate and correct.
Earlier in his acceptance speech, the professor said the welfare of doctors will be his priority for the next two years as president of the association.
A Benue indigene, Mr Ujah is married with four kids. He attended Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria.
He is coming in with 31 years of experience in National Maternal Health policy development in Nigeria Including national integrated planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation activities in 36 states of the Federation and the FCT.
Once a chairman of Safe Motherhood Committee in Nigeria and a member, Society of Gynecology and Obstetrics of Nigeria (SOGON), the professor has participated actively in the development, policy formulation, field-testing of certification criteria and implementation of Women and Children friendly health services.
He acquired high-level Senior Executive Course in policy formulation and strategy at the National Institute for policy and strategic studies (NIPSS), Kuru-Jos.
Mr Ujah took over from Francis Faduyile, who has been the president of the association since May 2018.
NMA, a professional association for registered Nigerian doctors and dentists, elects its leaders biennially.
The association has thousands of members across Nigeria’s 36 states and capital, including those registered in the diaspora.
The NMA was established in 1951.