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A dysfunctional system makes no exceptions, It respects no one



by Yemi Adamolekun

Farewell ceremonies ended last Thursday for another one of us. Deji Falae was the son of a former Minister of Finance, Secretary to the Federal Government and Presidential Aspirant. He got actively involved in Ondo State politics in 2009 and his final role was as the state’s Commissioner for Culture & Tourism. He was happily married with three children.

Deji died on October 3 on the Associated Airlines flight that crashed shortly after take-off in Lagos. A lot has been said about the state of the airline and the aircraft, but what is clear is that Deji’s death was probably needless; unnecessary; avoidable. He didn’t like to fly domestically and travelled by road commuting between Akure and Lagos. He went by road to his meetings in Abuja. This time, he was on official duty to accompany the body of the late Governor of Ondo State, Olusegun Agagu, to Akure for his funeral.

In the Dana Airline crash last year, we lost Ehime Aikhomu, Innocent Okoye, Tosin Anibaba (nee Odujirin), Dunni Doherty, and Ayoola Somolu to name a few. Before then, we had lost Olukemi, who was shot by car jackers in Ibadan and the closest hospital had no blood, oxygen or ambulance. We had also lost Imole. He was involved in a car crash in Igbinedion University, Okada, and the school didn’t have a functional ambulance. He was taken to the hospital in a taxi – lost time, lost blood, went into coma, and then died. After Dana, we’ve lost Adeola Randolph who died from an asthma attack because the nearest hospital didn’t have oxygen. It was said the first hospital Agagu was taken to in Yaba was unable to stabilise him. He died enroute St. Nicholas Hospital, Ikoyi. And, just last week, Prof. Festus Iyayi died in an accident involving the Kogi State Governor’s convoy.

Sons and daughters; fathers and mothers; cousins, nieces and nephews; friends, peers and colleagues – die daily because we refuse to get involved in the system that shapes our very existence. Instead, we are concerned about our ability to give birth to our children abroad; get them into the best schools outside the country and make obscene amounts of money from the same inefficient system to sustain this lifestyle. We are consumed by our ability to stay relevant with the requisite toys (cars, homes and trips to exotic lands) in a system that has no value for human life. We’ve turned being able to send our children abroad into a status symbol forgetting that there was a time in Nigeria where students went abroad because they couldn’t get into Nigerian universities. It is NOT a thing of pride that you can’t stay in Nigeria for more than six weeks and you have to “get out for civilisation”. It’s madness!

However, we forget that as long as we are within the shores of this great nation of ours, our financial resources and our connections can become so worthless. If you have an accident on the Abuja – Lokoja Road, the Third Mainland Bridge or the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway today, if there’s no ambulance with the necessary equipment to stabilise you and get you to a functional hospital, you WILL die. That you could have afforded an air ambulance to get you to the best doctor in Germany, the US or anywhere in the world becomes irrelevant. Yet, we keep thinking we are immune to the madness that engulfs the land. A dysfunctional system makes no exceptions. It respects no one. Why have we not learnt this?

Mrs. Goodluck Jonathan’s mum was in Germany earlier this year for a medical checkup. She died a few months later in a car accident on a bad road in Port Harcourt. Ironically, the same road that killed her was then repaired for her funeral.

Over the course of this year alone, Sullivan Chime, Bola Tinubu, Timipre Sylva, Rochas Okorocha, Liyel Imoke, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, wounded Nigerian soldiers, Danbaba Suntai (Governor of Taraba) and three subsidy marketers being investigated for fraud have all travelled out of the country for medical care.  Nigerians travel to India, Germany, England, Dubai, the US and many other countries to get medical care that was available in Nigeria 20 years ago. Mrs. Josephine Okoye, mother of popular music duo P-Square, died in India last year. The medical tourism industry is conservatively estimated at N250bn naira (approximately 1 billion pounds) annually. That’s almost twice the budget of the National Assembly that’s leaving Nigeria.

There’s at least one person you know who you are sure beyond a reasonable doubt died because our system is dysfunctional. They either had the money and it was too late to travel or they couldn’t afford to travel. Again, senseless and unnecessary deaths. We’ve lost Josephine, Ehime, Tosin and Deji. Which one of us is next? This is not about government, this is about us; each and every one of us. It’s about the loss of our humanity and the paralysis that has overcome us that prevent us from getting involved. I strongly believe in the theory of six degrees of separation – there are only six people between you and any one you are trying to reach. We all know someone who knows someone who knows someone who is in government, but we need to begin to hold them accountable! Beyond this, we also need to get involved ourselves; get our hands dirty. But those who come to equity must come with clean hands. Are we ready for the sacrifices? Are we ready for the discomfort? Because if we are not, we all just need to shut up and deal with it! Accept that planes will continue to drop; cars will continue to crash; patients in hospitals will continue to die; our children will have to go outside of the country to maximise their potential and NO ONE will be held accountable for any of this! As our loved ones continue to die for absolutely no reason, we’ll continue to gather together, pray and say “God knows best”; sing and praise; cry, bury and move on … until the next death.

As long as we are ready to play that game, then let us stop complaining about what Nigeria has become because we are ALL responsible for the rot in the system – moral decay; impunity and a complete lack of respect for human lives and law and order – every single one of us, especially you – Nigeria’s educated elite. We know and understand; but we choose daily this Nigeria that we have – an addiction of some sort – this Nigeria that continues to stifle the best of the best. Unless we are ready to make the changes that are required, then this is the Nigeria we’ll bequeath to our children, much worse than we met it.

Yes, there are pockets of excellence and despite these challenges, some of us do manage to succeed – innovating and excelling. But the numbers are TOO SMALL!!! Furthermore, there’s no reason for it. We deserve better, we can do better and we can truly be the Giant of Africa.

I believe I deserve better. Do you? And if you do, what are you willing to do about it?

The sacrifices can be simple or hard. From supporting initiatives you believe in to actively engaging in the political process – funding, holding officials to account; complaining and not ignoring shortcomings in service delivery; telling off government officials instead of lobbying for contracts. Sacrificing your time and not buying your way through processes and challenges. We should be vocal and take different arms of government, including the judiciary, at the federal, state and local levels to task. When someone you know dies from neglect, you have to be willing to demand accountability from institutions and individuals not just say “God knows best”. Yes, we’ll all die, but we need to curb these needless deaths!

I believe I deserve better. Do you? And if you do, what are you willing to do about it?

(For Olukemi, Ese and the hundreds of thousands who have died or who have lost loved ones because Nigeria is dysfunctional.)

– Ms. Adamolekun is the National Coordinator of Enough is Enough Nigeria.

Article read in Punch

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