By Muyiwa Adetiba
The news that accompanied the quarter final match between England’s Manchester United and Belgium’s Anderlecht Football Clubs was sad and shameful. It was a news of death in a place of fun, entertainment and—life. To the stoic, death will come when and where it must. I agree to that; but it should not be a ‘yeye die’ to quote an advert of the 80s. What happened in Nigeria on that literally and figuratively dark Thursday night two weeks ago could aptly be described as ‘yeye die’ because it was so avoidable.
To start with, I don’t know how many Nigerians—in the country or in the diaspora—that would have been proud of the ‘viewing centre’ that became a house of death. Stalls for horses are better and more decently constructed in other parts of the world. Yet, that was the picture that flashed in the news media all over the world and would be etched in the minds of people as the sort of ‘home’ the inhabitants of the world’s sixth largest oil producing country dwell in. Death occurred primarily because a transformer blew up.
According to an eye-witness report, it was a normal occurrence for transformers to blow up in their area. In other words, what should have been fixed by the power people was not fixed until it led to multiple deaths. Yet no electricity distributing company official has to the best of my knowledge, been arrested for homicide. This type of negligence has happened and will continue to happen in many aspects of our lives until people are held responsible for professional negligence.
Again, we learnt through eye witness accounts that some deaths occurred through the ensuing stampede. I hope relevant authorities will take a cue from this and ensure crowd control procedures in halls and shopping malls. We should not wait for another fire or stampede to do what is right. Then the time between a distress call and professional response is way too long in Nigeria. It needs to be addressed to prevent avoidable deaths. And finally, the hospital.
Some of those young people unfortunately died at the hospital where health care professionals were supposed to have taken over. I would not be surprised if the usual refrain became the cause—no light, no doctor on duty and no emergency equipment available. These youths died because the system failed them; pure and simple. The earlier we recognised this the earlier future occurrences could be averted.
About this time, a billionaire from Kaduna State was reported to have died on his way to the hospital. As expected, the elite was united in expressing its heart-felt sorrow at his passing. Then just last week, another billionaire, a flamboyant one from Osun State this time, died suddenly. Again, he died before medical help could reach him. As usual, the elite was united in expressing its heart-felt sorrow.
These expressions of sorrow and grief have become clichéd. And as far as I am concerned, the tears are crocodile tears. Nigeria has the capacity and resources—human and material—to at least minimise avoidable deaths if she truly wants to. In many countries, the waiting time between a distress call and professional help is often not more than 30 minutes. It is usually less. In Nigeria, it often not available and if you decide to self-help, you could be tossed from one hospital to the other in a callous and cavalier manner.
These two billionaires were Muslims which meant they had to be buried immediately and in simplicity. No jewellery followed them to the world beyond. They would not need foreign currency in their new homes. They didn’t even have the luxury of a casket of gold. Or of silver. Or even of wood. They were wrapped naked in a white shroud. Vanity upon vanity as they say. In other countries, very rich people use a considerable part of their estate to help humanity by funding the very things they fell victims of.
That is how world-wide cures are found. In the case of these two billionaires, building two world class hospitals in their respective states to research into and treat the ailments that killed them among other things would not be amiss. But it is not likely to happen. What will most likely happen is that extended families would descend on their estates—will or no will—like vultures. Humanity loses and death wins because any message passed on from the newly dead to the living about inordinate acquisition is fleeting at best. And so we keep acquiring and we keep accumulating.
And when the banks become uncomfortably limiting, we resort to farmlands; or septic tanks; or safe houses. And we explain these acquisitions which are far beyond our earnings as business gifts from generous patrons. The amount of money that has been recovered from airports, malls, bureau de change, decrepit homes and luxurious flats in the past year alone is simply mind boggling. What boggles the mind more is the fact that it is just a tip of the ice-berg. It is money on the surface.
Were we to dig deeper, the sheer volume of cash in different currencies trapped in the system doing nothing would be awesome. I am sure Nigeria would be a different country if only half of this money was to be employed in productive ventures. I am talking about hospitals, schools, research centres, skill-acquisition facilities or even business ventures. This is why Dangote is to be emulated because he has chosen to use money to create employment and opportunities for others.
Let’s not limit the trapped money to stolen funds alone. What about the religious organisations. I often wonder what the churches do with their tithes, daily collections, harvests and bazaars apart from building bigger churches and more outstations which the irreligious might irreverently call collection centres. I know the Catholic Church intervenes in war-torn areas and places where people are persecuted on account of their religion. But I believe the churches can do more with the money in their vaults; not just to provide fish, but to facilitate the catching of fish.
Just as I was concluding this article, news came of an ex-minister who died in a London hospital after being rushed abroad in an air ambulance. Without speaking ill of the dead, I wonder if he did anything to influence the setting up of an international hospital when he was in a position to influence decisions. People in power or great wealth today must realise that the road you refuse to tar; the boy you refuse to send to school who becomes an armed robber; the hospital you refuse to build might be your undoing on the day of reckoning.