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What Is The Value Attached To Life In Today’s Nigeria?

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By Bolanle BOLAWOLE

[email protected] 0705 263 1058

In journalism parlance, we say facts are sacred and opinion, free; some prefer to say “opinion is cheap”. Writing the manifesto for the Guardian newspaper in 1921, its editor, CP Scott, said: “Comment is free but facts are sacred” Comments, or opinions, are like wishes which an old English proverb says beggars would ride were they to be horses. Facts, however, are empirical and verifiable truths, devoid of the likes or dislikes of its purveyor. Facts are news and must be reported contemporaneously; so that we do not lose any of its essence. Opinion, on the other hand, allows for the idiosyncrasies of the purveyor. While time lag may affect the effectiveness of news, it does no damage to opinion. The liberties that a writer enjoys with opinion is denied in news writing. Talk is another thing that is said to be cheap. It is easy to talk animatedly or flamboyantly about so many things but do nothing afterwards. So, we are advised to walk the talk if we mean to be taken seriously.

I began to think about how cheap life has become – or, better still, how difficult living is – in this country. How easily life ebbs out of people without our knowing or feeling it – until it is too late! Has living always been like this but we never knew it? Or is it a new phenomenon chanced upon us? Is life, like news, sacred or is it, like opinion, free or cheap?

The most sacred of all rights and liberties is the right to life. The 1776 American Declaration of Independence lists the right to life as the first of the “unalienable rights” man is endowed with by the Creator. Section 33 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) provides that “every person has a right to life” which no one may take away from him or her unlawfully.

The law guarantees the right to life; yet, there are factors that take life away all the same. Poverty is one of them. Scripture says that money is a defence (Ecclesiastes 12:7) and that money answereth all things (Ecclesiastes 10: 19). Many are dying in this country today because they lack the means to feed well or receive prompt and adequate medical attention.

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It is highly embarrassing that in a country with an expanse of arable land, people still die of starvation and hunger. Some, for lack of money, do not even bother to visit the hospital but recourse to self-help and die in the process.

For those who have the money, the obstacles become finding competent and qualified hands to handle cases in the hospitals. Many competent and qualified hands have “japa” abroad. Equipment is obsolete and facilities are run down. The few medical staff available are overworked with the attendant law of diminishing marginal returns setting in.

“Mistakes” are thus rampant in our hospitals these days; many of them fatal. With its state-of-the-art facilities and excellent workforce, 9.5% of all deaths each year in the United States of America is as a result of medical error. Imagine what the percentage is here with our lousy facilities and threadbare workforce!

A major cause of death these days is that cases that should have been treated promptly cannot be treated because of shortage of qualified staff. So, patients needing immediate attention line up on a queue for months-on-end. In the interval, they die! Where one is lucky by any means to get attention and he/she also escapes wrong diagnosis and (willful!) prescription, the next hurdle becomes escaping the dragnet of fake drugs. Were we to find a way to compute the statistics, the number of Nigerians dying as a result of fake drugs administered on them will be staggering.

The theft of human internal organs is a new but alarming trend ravaging some of our hospitals. They steal kidneys. They steal small intestines. If you must undergo surgery in some of these hospitals, kindly have trusted family members watch over the doctors, nurses and other medical staff! These medical personnel have become like panel beaters: You take your car for them to mend the leaking exhaust and they steal the catalysts! Doctors have become like mechanics that fix one small problem in your car but create three bigger ones so you can keep coming back!

Your car is not safe at the mechanic’s unless you keep vigil. When the mechanic bends down, you, too, must bend down to see what he is doing. Some doctors have descended that low. We used to know of the swapping or even outright theft of new-born babies. We also got familiar with the body parts of corpses or the whole corpse itself developing wings and vamoosing from the morgue into thin air!

Dead bodi go just waka! Na wa o! But now they have graduated to stealing the internal organs of the living right before our korokoro eyes! They call it “harvesting”! Harvesting where they did not sow! Harvesting what did not belong to them! Are we ok? What has become of their Hippocratic oath!

What has become of all oaths, anyway, including the ones sworn to by presidents, governors, legislators, judicial officers and even spiritual leaders? Can you not see the all-time low that the judiciary has fallen? I sought answers from those who should know: Senior and respected lawyers, retired eminent jurists say the roots of the malaise are to be found in the recruitment process.

Federal character in the appointment of judges has done its worst. Political patronage in appointments, where the best is shunted aside and the incompetent but politically well-connected is put on the Bench, completes the rout. Cleansing the Augean stable becomes Herculean when those expected to preside over the house-cleansing exercise are themselves the culprits!

If the right to life is the most sacred of all rights, then, this is where the reconstruction of our society, ruined by successive governments, ought to start. An emergency must be declared in the health sector. We need to recruit more medical personnel. We need to woo those running away back into the system. Where we need to urgently refurbish and equip are not the chambers of the National Assembly but the hospitals. Something must be done about the influx of fake drugs into the country. The penalty for the importers and manufacturers of fake and adulterated drugs should be death or, at the very least, life imprisonment.

Nigerians are familiar with the “japa” syndrome in which the country’s professionals are emptying themselves into Europe, America and Asia in search of the proverbial greener pastures. Doctors, nurses, engineers and other professionals are leaving the country in droves. Teachers have joined the “japa” train.

In many schools in Lagos State as we speak, shortage of teachers has become the headache of principals and head teachers. There are schools where there is not a single Mathematics and English teacher and where as many as eight subjects have no subject teacher! Yet, there are thousands of unemployed graduates pounding the streets in search of a job. Are we ok?

Why is the Lagos State Government not filling the vacancies in its schools? Why is the future of our children being so mindlessly mortgaged? Is this the right way to mould and prepare the future generations for the task of nation-building? How can our children compete in a world that is becoming more and more competitive with the criminal neglect that our leaders give the education sector here?

I must confess that discussing Nigeria day-in, day-out takes a toll. Last week, however, I got rudely awakened to a phenomenon hitherto unknown to me. But I should have known! I look out of my window every morning to a sprawling cemetery nearby. The traffic there increases by the day. As I write this, the loud speakers blare the funeral rites of a woman.

By now we are all very familiar with the “japa” syndrome of Nigerians in search of greener pastures abroad. There is another “japa” of Nigerians – and this is to the great beyond. Nigerians are dying in droves. Diseases and ailments that should not kill anyone are killing Nigerians. Not only poor folks are succumbing but also the well-to-do and highly-needed skilled men and women. The rate of “japa” to the grave is alarming. It is like they have had enough and are angrily leaving our country for us to do with as we please!

We all know death is a price that everyone will pay but leaving before old age – with loved ones left behind to weep, wail, and mourn – tries the soul. What with dreams unfulfilled and destinies truncated? It should grieve any heart to see avoidable deaths claim lives. Men and women that still have a lot to offejr – and live for – should not die in their prime!

And when they do, they deserve to be allowed to rest in peace. Scripture says the dead rest from their labours – but not so in Nigeria where they are trailed to the grave, haunted and hunted by ritualists, cultists, those who must get rich quick, and those seeking power and position by any means. Cemetery attendants paid to watch over the dead are the worst culprits here! Are we ok?

So, in burying your dead, you must also be careful which cemetery to take your loved ones. With one hand you wipe your tears, with another you seek the way to safe and secure cemetery. And they do not come cheap! Living is expensive; dying no less so! Again, I ask, are we ok? Is it a crime to be born – and to live and die – in these climes!

Goodnight, Pastor ‘Lanre ADENUGA

Goodnight, Pastor Timothy Olanrewaju Adeyemi ADENUGA (7 February, 1958 – 6 November, 2023)! Our paths first crossed when you were a manager at IGI and I was a media consultant to the boss, Executive Vice-Chairman, Mr. Remi Olowude (Bless his soul, O Lord!). Lanre Adenuga was honest, forthright, and down-to-earth. He offered pieces of advice that helped me to successfully execute the assignment of collating, editing and producing a special publication for the Insurance giant. When our paths crossed again many years after at the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Lagos Province 36, I found Lanre Adenuga as constant as the Northern Stars – saying it as it is, without fear or favour, not minding whose ox is gored! I wish all pastors were like him! Then would this world have been a better place! This child of God came, saw and conquered. He ran his race well and finished at the feet of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Testimonies after his transition testify to that. Lanre Adenuga left in a blaze of glory! Light perpetual shine upon him, O Lord!

PDP vs Labour Party: Back-stabbing or realpolitik?

The Atiku Abubakar/Peoples Democratic Party that is accusing the ruling All Progressives Congress and President Bola Ahmed Tinubu of “snatching, grabbing and running”, has snatched, grabbed and run away with all the opposition party leadership positions in the Senate without conceding a single slot to their friend, Peter Obi/Labour Party! If we must quote the late Chief MKO Abiola, with friends like these, no one needs an enemy! But they were warned; only they won’t take heed! Dine with the devil with a very long spoon! When in bed with people who preach this but act that, sleep with only one eye closed!

* Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director/ Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper on Wednesdays. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.

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