It should be against the law in Nigeria for a government official to seek medical attention abroad for any ailment whatsoever.
I just returned last week from a short visit to London. One of the major news-items there was the re-opening of an inquest into the Hillsborough disaster of 1989 when some spectators died during the F.A. Cup semi-final football-match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. When I heard this, I shook my head. These “oyinbos” are still concerned about deaths that took place 25 years ago. But here in Nigeria, there is no serious inquest into the deaths of job-applicants to the Nigerian Immigration Service in several cities just this year.
A Senate Committee spent a perfunctory two days paying lip-service to the disaster. The Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, refused to resign. His understanding of his responsibility did not go beyond mouthing vain platitudes. The government imposed no sanctions on those who turned our stadiums into death-traps simply in order to defraud the poor unemployed of 6 billion naira. A court-verdict ordered that 50 million naira compensation should be paid to the suspended Central Bank Governor for his unlawful detention for 24 hours. How much compensation should be paid for the senseless deaths of innocent job-seekers?
The government has passed legislation criminalising homosexuality in Nigeria without regard for the implication of this for fighting the scourge of HIV/AIDS. After South Africa, Nigeria has the highest number of HIV/AIDS patients in the world. Who cares if by criminalising homosexuality, homosexual patients are discouraged from seeking such medical treatment as are available locally? Let them die; and if they don’t, we can certainly stone them to death if we ever discover that they are homosexuals.
The Boko Haram go to churches to kill Christians. Christians go to church prayer-meetings to kill their enemies. Atheists go to babalawos to negotiate death-sentences for their rivals. It is no longer a big deal to hear of Fulani herdsmen killing the innocent, or of area-boys executing jungle-justice in our streets. It is now all par for the course.
Let us face it: there is no regard for human-life in Nigeria. In Nigeria, we love life, but promote and encourage death. We lavishly celebrate births, but disregard children after they are born. The Israelis would move heaven and earth to protect and defend the life of one Israeli. But governments in Nigeria don’t give a damn whether a Nigerian lives or dies. Over three million Nigerians were slaughtered in a three-year civil war; and yet there is no national memorial commemorating our loss. The victims are gone, what else is new.
How much is a human-being worth in Nigeria; not more than the cost of a hearty meal in a “mama-put.” If you want someone killed, you don’t have to break the bank. You can get a contract-killer for as little as 1,000 naira and the job will be done. The list of unresolved murders is so long, you begin to wonder what exactly the Nigerian police are doing. From Dele Giwa, to Alfred Rewane, to Anthony Ikhazoboh, to Bola Ige, to Harry Marshal, to Funso Willams; Nigerians continue to get slaughtered without any reprieve.
If someone were to kill you today, the only people who may blink an eye are members of your family. Even they may be more concerned with sharing your property than with prosecuting your killers. As people come ostensibly to commiserate with your relatives about your death; so would they be asking if they can have your spanking stereo system.
When I was living in a block of flats, our “maiguard” got drunk one night and was killed by a hit-and-run driver. His friends sent a delegation to the tenants, saying they needed money to send him home for burial. We contributed money and gave it to them. But as we watched from the window, they gathered round and shared the money among themselves. Who cares? The man is dead.
By the law of averages, if you are a Nigerian the chances are high that you will be dead before your 40th birthday. It is amazing how many people kick the bucket after proverbially “brief illnesses.” We have hospitals where doctors can go on strike for months, while the government dilly-dallies. Indeed, hospitals are places where Nigerians go to die: and not to be healed. If a relative of yours has to undergo surgery in Nigeria, it is time for fasting and prayer.
You can even go to a hospital for vaccination against a disease and end up dead from that very disease because of an overdose of the vaccine. That is what killed my only sister, Yemisi, at the tender age of eighteen. It should be against the law in Nigeria for government officials to seek medical treatment abroad for any ailment whatsoever. Let them improve the medical facilities here at home or face the music with everyone else.
We keep discovering new ways to send as many people as possible to early graves. We sell fake drugs, knowing they can either kill the sick or ensure that they die of neglected ailments. We live in unsanitary neighborhoods, where rubbish piles up high in the streets, not caring that this makes us prone to diseases. We pump oil out of the Niger Delta, without regard for the pollution of the environment. The oil companies know they can get away with murder in Nigeria, doing things in our country that would bankrupt them if they dared to do them at home.
In Nigeria, we produce children, without sparing a thought for how they would be cared for. You can have a messenger in an office, earning 18,000 naira a month; nevertheless he is the father of 12 children. How does he expect to take care of them? He does not! He expects them to take care of him. From an early age, he distributes some among his relatives. He sends out the “leftovers” as sellers of chewing-gum and groundnuts on the streets. They become street-urchins and beggars required to make daily returns to him. What does it matter if they grow up to be kidnappers and armed-robbers?
Because human life is disregarded, a whole segment of our population still cannot read and write; and yet we are in the 21st century. Because we have no regard for life, our policemen are as equally likely to shoot you and kill you as they are to protect you. If you are more fortunate, they might arrest you merely for walking on the streets and lock you up somewhere for 10 years without trial.
Let me ask you this: how many men have you ever heard of going to jail for raping women in Nigeria? It is not because Nigerians are not rapists like other people, but that in Nigeria rape is not that big a deal. Neither is marrying under-aged girls. That actually happens to be the preferred pastime of our distinguished Senators in the National Assembly.
University lecturers go on a strike for six months. Nobody seems to care that this is six wasted months in the life of hapless students. In serious countries, such neglect might be enough to bring down a government. Not in Nigeria. We all know our university education is largely useless anyway. Most graduates in Nigeria cannot write a sentence of English correctly without “firing bullets.” What does it matter if they waste six months while lecturers and the government stare each other down? Everyone knows when they graduate they will waste even more time looking for non-existent jobs.
In our cities, you can go to work in the morning and find a dead man lying on the street. When you come back in the evening, you are likely to find him still there. Nobody really cares.
Nobody cares that, as a result of being the highest users of generators in the world, we are killing ourselves with the fumes. Nobody cares that our women are dying by the tens of thousands from ingesting the smoke from cooking with firewood all day long. Nobody cares that our orthopedic hospitals now have glorified “okada wards,” full of people maimed and crippled by naira-drunk motorcyclists. Nobody cares that our flea-markets and supermarkets sell expired foods and our so-called pure water is responsible for the high incidence of typhoid.
When they discourage the smoking of cigarettes in the West because of medically-proven research that it causes a lorry-load of deadly diseases, the tobacco industry finds a high-growth market in Nigeria with every encouragement from our easily-bought legislators. Our mechanics put fake spare-parts in our cars, not caring a hoot if that makes us vulnerable to accidents. In Nigeria, if you are not killed while driving on the road, you can be killed while walking on the sidewalk because the okada-rider or the “Keke Marwa” driver does not believe the sidewalk is reserved for pedestrians.
Can you imagine it if the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 had been a Nigerian plane full of Nigerians? Would the Nigerian government be particularly bothered to spend money in search of the plane, after all, what are 239 missing Nigerians in a country of 170 million? There are so many Nigerians, we are easily expendable. Even if the government were to budget funds to search for the missing plane, it would not be amiss for some officials to chop the money.
In 1992, a Nigerian Air Force C-130 transport plane crashed in Ejigbo near Lagos, killing all 200 passengers including top military officers. A government-sponsored memorial service, coordinated by Vice-Admiral Babatunde Elegbede, was organised in Abuja, and the widows of the dead were specially invited. However, instead of spending the budgeted money on the widows, it was pocketed. Instead of housing them in hotels in Abuja, they were dumped en masse and made to spend the night in an airport hangar. While there, they cursed Admiral Elegbede with one voice and prayed that he should come to a bad end.
In June 1994, Admiral Elegbede was assassinated by unknown gunmen. Over 70 bullets were pumped into his body. His assailants have never been found.