I am closer to 30 now more than ever and I have decades of eerie stories to tell already. From the gory tales of the Warri crisis of the nineties to the Niger-delta militancy scourge which claimed thousands of lives, witnessing betrayals and outright massacre – I even almost lost a friend, Timi Dakolo (first West-African idol winner) to the recurring invasion of Port Harcourt city by militants in January, 2008 when stray bullets scraped his head; then the kidnap season with the sordid history of my area culminating in a twelve-year period of the worst case of poor leadership but excellent example of corruption in my state – Delta.
I guess to a foreigner or better put, someone from a well developed and structured society, it would sound unbelievable but unfortunately a fellow African youth, born within the last thirty years would find my experiences, status quo.
The recent El Rufai/SSS/GEJ saga fanned a short but instructive discourse between me and about three other ‘tweeps’ online a few days ago; a fellow posited that El Rufai should have just criticized without using figures, I argued that figures help us to comparatively analyze the situation. Imagine talking about maternal deaths without figures or statistics? Who will take you serious?
I woke up Wednesday morning 6th of July 2011, to the sound of my hosts preparing for work, suddenly recalling I had to go submit a proposal at a services company along the Lekki expressway, I hurriedly took my bath and joined my cousin and her husband who were regular 5-9ers (not 9-5ers). As is generally the usual, talk about our beloved nation surfaced when we heard Prof. Pat Utomi’s take on the El Rufai saga on Smooth FM. I remember saying over and over after a lot of back and forth, “‘we are not ready for a change’”.
It just kept on bewildering me how Nigerians expect the best from a situation they clearly refused to make the best decision on. I have constant pain in my heart and I am forced to intermittently express it when I see debilitating situations around me. Shortly, the conversation veered into the situation of our health care and how a car dealer in the Ikeja area lost his life after he was rushed to the hospital as a result of gun-shot wounds from armed robbers. The story revealed that 2million naira was requested before treatment and while haggling was going on, he was bleeding. Ultimately, that they settled for 700,000naira but he died before the younger brother could get to the hospital with the money. He died right in front of medical personnel and family members. Man, that was hard for me to swallow, I cursed, insulted and berated those who had no heart and sympathy for human life, I questioned our value system – value for life, time, health, security, future, etc. I questioned everything.
When I thought the pain was over for the day, it was just beginning!
I got to Lekki and came down at the elf bus stop, crossed over and began walking down the west side of the road towards my destination. From about a distance of 300metres I saw a little crowd with a van of the Lekki Concession Company (LCC) packed; my heart began to race and I became curios, scared and pained that someone may have died again from an accident. I got close and saw a young man by the side of the road lying motionless with torn clothes and blood stains all over him, a few metres from broken glass. I immediately assumed he was dead and started weeping inside my heart, asking God why. I got to the office, finished my business shortly and mentioned to the admin head what I had seen, she said “so is he now dead?” I asked her whether he was alive when she went past and she said “yes”. Time was about 8:00am. I was outraged and having no plan exactly about what to do, I stormed down to meet the LCC personnel why they stood there and allowed him die, only to find to my amazement that the young man was still alive. I immediately started asking why he couldn’t be moved to the hospital. Why would you just stand and watch life seep out of him? Why?
I must confess that this was a new experience for me. It rearranged my paradigm!
The situation was basically that, LCC could not use their van because it was carrying equipment and they were not professionals. They said they discovered the body very early Wednesday morning and as at the time I was asking, they had been calling the Lagos State Ambulance Service (LASAM) for over four hours and were getting a “we will be there shortly” message. Also, no one was ready to stop and use their private cars to help the young man. I was becoming apprehensive and at the same time energized by the victims desire to live having survived the past seven hours or more lying at the side of the road. I decided to quit quarrelling with the LCC workers who were obviously protecting their jobs and decided to call LASAM myself, it was the most frustrating experience. I was told exactly the same thing about two other people had been told “we will be there shortly”. I ran into a rage the third time I was calling at about 9:00am and plainly lambasted the operator I spoke with.
The social infrastructure of Africa is definitely in shambles; anyway I am not saying what is not new. Nigeria’s social infrastructure is basically non-existent!
Seeing the situation on ground, I decided to send a message to THE BEAT FM and TOSYN BUCKNOR of TOP RADIO to see what could be done through their media. I soon realized that the man whose phone I used in speaking with LASAM was a police officer, soon two more on uniform came about and my eyes lit up in hope – hope which was soon dashed through the realization that they were as helpless as we were. They tried getting some form of transportation from their office but none was available, they made several calls to LASAM, nothing came out of it and here began the lamentations of the police officers.
“We are not equipped”
“The police is not capable because of inadequate funding”
“Every police station should have an ambulance attached to it”
“The police is not well funded, yet people keep blaming the policemen” etc
These are a few of their complaints right on the injured man.
We had landed at another quagmire, it was at this point I decided to call Mr. Fela Durotoye who I have never met in person but had tried getting an appointment with three years back. I remembered he had a strong passion for a sustainable Nigeria and told him the situation by text, he shortly after, replied that he had spoken with the FRSC state administrator who had instructed the Lekki unit. Shortly before his text message came in, a gentleman stopped, came out of his SUV and made a call. He later told us that he had just called the health commissioner and LASAM would be there soon.
At this time, the morning sun was up at about 10:00am and my fear increased; if he was still unattended to and the sun came up strong, it would quicken his death. Soon enough anyway, LASAM came and sorted him out. Shortly before they moved, FRSC was on the scene and then I heaved a sigh of relief. I started walking towards elf junction, crashed unto a ledge there and began brooding, searching deep inside me, trying to find answers to the situation that was me – Nigerian.
- Why does a civilian trying to save an accident victim get arrested when the victim dies before they get to the hospital?
- Why doesn’t LCC which is making elaborate and detailed plans on tolls have any ambulance to save the lives of those they are building the road for?
- Why is LASAM called emergency if they need ten hours before rescuing a victim?
- How come ACN spent 22billion on elections in Lagos state where they were clear leaders yet have just one ambulance (according to their officials) for transporting the dead in a city of 18million people?
- If it would take ten hours for a wounded man to receive treatment in the “centre of excellence”, how long then would it take in those “centres of shame” spread across the country?
- HOW VALUABLE IS LIFE IN LAGOS nay NIGERIA?
I didn’t need anyone to tell me about the millions of people who voted in the last elections, who have no insurance cover, who get involved in accidents all over the country, loosing life, limbs, homes, properties etc with no rescue vans to save their lives.
If there was no passer-by with a direct link to the health commissioner what would have happened?
If I didn’t have Fela Durotoye’s phone number, what would have become of this young man?
I call him “the 10-hour miracle man”. What a fighting spirit to live!
That is the true spirit of the Nigerian but we need it now more than ever in the corridors of power!
El Rufai needs to come out with much more statistics – schools, hospitals, roads etc have been politicized. How much of our health/education fund is used for mundane emoluments? How many people have we killed so that ‘legislooters’ and government officials can senselessly have lavish life styles? El Rufai please we need more figures!