By Muyiwa Adetiba
The news of the gruesome murder of Abdulkareem, the son of Senator BalaNa’Allah went viral recently.
It was probably not so much because of the death itself or the manner of his death since brutal killings have become common in today’s Nigeria, but rather because of his status.
Abdulkareem’s father is a top politician. He is one of the longest serving Senators in the country. His son’s death became so newsy because he was not supposed to die like the rest of us.
The rich in Nigeria believe that their wealth and privilege somehow protect them and their families, from the kinds of deaths associated with the rest of us.
These, if we need reminding, are from insecurity on the roads, insecurity on the farms, insecurity in our homes and the poor healthcare system.
Those of us who survive in these places are eventually felled in our hospitals where people die from preventable diseases. However, the rich and the privileged think they have answers to these insecurities. They no longer travel long stretches by road.
They take to the sky – after all, there are airports dotted all over the country now – so they don’t have to face kidnappers on the road.
They don’t go to the farms either so they are removed from the constant herder/farmer clashes. Their homes which are now in the cities are so heavily fortified that they believe they can afford to sleep with their two eyes shut.
The state of our hospitals is of no concern to them either since they all have their favourite hospitals and special physicians abroad.
But incidents like the death of Abdulkareem remind them and us, that no one is completely safe until all are completely safe.My heart goes out to the Senator.
Nobody prays to lose a child or be around to see the graveside of their children. Let alone someone who had become a successful professional in his own right and therefore, a pride to the family. The manner of Abdulkareem’s death in the hands of heartless psychopaths, no matter his offence, is condemnable and will forever flash through the minds of his parents and loved ones.
They have my condolences. I probably would not have dwelled on this incident – preferring the family to grieve privately and left to wonder what could have been – but for the statement reportedly made by the father.
He said, according to reports, that ‘My son’s death is not more important than the other deaths in the country’. That, coming from a top politician in a country that has come to stratify life – and death – according to wealth and privileges, is to me deep and introspective.
I am not alone I hope, in wondering whether Leah Sharibu would have spent three days rather than these three plus years in the arms of her heartless captives if she had been the daughter of a President or a Governor or a Senator.
Or if the Chibok girls would have spent a week in captivity if they were children of the rich and privileged.
Yet they have the same hopes of loving and being loved; of marrying and being given out in marriage as the children of the rich.
Last month, we were shown the photograph of two friends, President Buhari and Senator Tinubu, in London. The latter was convalescing and the former had gone for a get well visit having concluded his own medical check-up.
Both have been long time beneficiaries of the medical facilities of the United Kingdom. Cumulatively, one has spent the equivalent of two terms as the President of Nigeria.
The other was a two term governor and an enduring Kingmaker of the richest State in Nigeria. That they do not have a befitting hospital in Nigeria to take care of their medical needs is to me, a matter of choice.
They both had the where-with-all-in men, materials and opportunity- to have built, equipped and ensured the sustenance of at least one first class medical facility in the country.
Only they and leaders like them will not be embarrassed at the idea of constantly availing themselves of foreign medical facilities.
There would have been an outrage had Boris Johnson flown to America or Germany for a medical check-up or even treatment.
The optics are bad no matter how one looks at it. The message it sends out speaks volumes. Especially because we have the human and capital resources to effect a positive change.
These leaders are unwittingly telling the world that they don’t really care about the welfare of their people or that some lives are more important than others.
If Yusuf, the lucky young man for whom the ancient city of Kano stood still a couple of weeks ago, had not been stabilised at home after his accident, he might not have been in a state to celebrate such an elaborate wedding. It is again a reminder that no one is completely safe until we are all safe.
None of our leaders can tell when an emergency will take them to the nearest hospital. Who knows whether Abba Kyari, the late powerful Chief of Staff would have been alive today if the National Hospital had lived up to what it was billed to be.
It is an unfortunate coincidence that the two powerful friends and allies were in the UK attending to their private medical needs at a time Nigerian doctors were on strike over poor pay and even poorer conditions of service among other things.
We don’t know how many people have died since the strike started. Or how many people will die before it is over. Even now, these two leaders can stem these needless deaths.
They can help to stem medical tourism and the scarce foreign exchange that is expended in the process. More importantly, they can stop our professionals from trooping abroad for jobs and fulfilment.
If our leaders seem unperturbed by the ongoing strike; if there is no sense of urgency in the negotiations; if the exodus of doctors means nothing to them, it is because their lives do not depend on it.
It is time we told them in whatever language they understand – apologies if I am quoting someone – that there would be no more medical trips for our elected officials under any circumstances.
If the existing hospitals are deemed good enough for over 200 million Nigerians, they should be good enough for the under two hundred thousand odd leaders who bequeathed them to us.
After all, no life should be more important than another.