The unselfish decision to father a child in his 70

By Muyiwa Adetiba

I cannot claim to know Dr Obadiah Mailafia, the man whose sudden death shook the nation a couple of weeks ago. 

I met him only once when I was introduced to him at a Vanguard function by Frank Aigbogun, the Publisher of Business Day Newspaper. Yet, I cannot truly claim not to be aware of him. We had been co-columnists at the Vanguard for years.

I was first made aware of him by Uncle Sam who urged me to read a particular article. Since then I had kept a fairly regular date with him. Even if I hadn’t read him, I would still have met him through his many public engagements. So I know what he stood for. I know what he was prepared to risk his life to fight for. I therefore have a better insight to him than many people I have interacted with over the years. Dr Mailafia was a social activist. An unlikely one given his conservative training and career. But an articulate and informed one due perhaps to the same reason of his background.

 But why would a man who reached the coveted position of the Deputy Governor of Nigeria’s apex bank become an activist and a strong critic of government? Perhaps he saw too much while in office. But then many at that level do. Just that they only talk in the closet of their bedrooms. Perhaps being a Middle-belter, he saw the injustice and marginalisation in the land.

Again many at that level do. But their attainment puts them above the fray and they only complain in muted voices to friends. Dr Mailafia was a different kind of elite. He had a deep conscience in a country bereft of people with conscience. He called himself the voice of the millions of voiceless poor Muslims and Christians in the country. He was right. He often spoke for and about them. He was adored and revered by them. But he was despised by people his class who saw him as an irritant. According to reports, he had recently cried out that some people were after his life. People who were perhaps uncomfortable with his message and his followership. There is no doubt that some people would sleep easier because of his death.  With his intellect, commitment and passion, there is also no doubt that the masses lost a defender and the country an oak of a man.

A statement was issued on the manner of his death and the tardiness of the doctors he came in contact with. There is some feeling that he might have survived or at least given a fighting chance to live if the concerned health care workers had shown more passion, more commitment and more professionalism. The hours wasted transiting form one hospital to another were critical hours for a man gasping for breath.

The fate that befell this ex-Deputy Governor of the Central bank almost befell me twenty years ago to the month when I was left for dead at LUTH with gunshot wounds. It can befall an ex-Senator, ex- Governor or even ex-President of the country. This highlights what some of us have been crying about over the years that no one is safe until all is safe.

It takes mere minutes to transit from very healthy to very sick sometimes and seconds to suffer an emergency that would need urgent medical help. At that point, the private jets at the airport and best medical professionals in Europe will mean nothing. It should therefore be an enlightened self-interest for those in high offices in Nigeria today to do something about the falling standards of our healthcare system because they might become victims when they leave office. Doctors who are clamouring for better conditions of service should be reminded of what they in return owe the society if not their profession. Many of our professionals dispense their services grudgingly as if they are doing a favour by just being available. Our Teaching Hospitals are full of preventable and avoidable deaths. In any case, they and their loved ones can also become victims of the system they have allowed to fall into disrepair. A Yoruba proverb says whoever throws a stone into the market risks it falling on the head of his kinsman. 

Secondly, had Dr Mailafia not spent the latter part of his life fighting for greater justice and equity in the land, had he lived those years in the luxury befitting a former Deputy Governor, had he buried his head in the proverbial sand, seeing no evil and hearing no evil like many of his peers, he could still have died as suddenly as he did a fortnight ago. But his death would have been private and of little grief to anyone outside his immediate family. Now millions who don’t know him personally mourn him. They mourn what he stood for. They mourn his fight for a better Nigeria that only his children can perhaps benefit from now. It is a further proof that a life that is preoccupied with self, a life that does not touch others positively, a life that does not affect humanity is an unevolved life. It is akin to a wasted life.                    

Thirdly, Dr Mailafia’s sudden death, and there are many sudden deaths in this era of Covid 19, should remind those who are angling for 2023 elections, that they need to see 2022 first. They should be reminded that their day of reckoning is close at hand. Closer than they think. What have they done with the positions they have held in the past? Why is there so much hunger and anger in the land? Why is there so much division? In what way have they put their self-interest above national interest? In what way have they served humanity and made their country and the world, a better place? These unfortunately are questions that mark the country’s 61years of nationhood.

Dr Obadiah Mailafia batted well in the game of life. We would have wanted more of him because the country needs more of him. But he had good innings as cricketers would say. May his blood and the blood of many like him water the seed that would grow a better Nigeria.

I hope the country – especially its leaders – had a reflective Independence Day Anniversary.

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