Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

The Lagos elevator tragedy, By Alex Enemanna

The tragic and avoidable death of a young Nigerian doctor, Vwaere Diaso under vexatious and provocative circumstances in General Hospital, Odan, Lagos Island recently has again exposed cans of worm on how we thrive in lethargic indifference, utter carelessness and zero commitment to duty at various levels. Multiple accounts have it that doctor Diaso who had just two weeks to complete her housemanship in the hospital tumbled from the 9th floor of the structure after an obvious death trap packaged as an elevator did what was actually expected of it, following a prolonged neglect by whoever the maintenance officers are. It eventually crashed and sadly another young and promising Nigerian became the guinea pig to pay the price of a cruelly abandoned duty post.

This contributor is critical of the death of any young Nigerian under circumstances that invoke emotions, stemming from the inability of authorities to create the right environment to make our system work. The reason is, anyone could just be a victim of these environment-induced deaths. It is someone else today, it could be you or anyone close to you the next day. A danger to your neighbour equally portends a threat to you and your household. Youth corps members serving their fatherland for instance should not be whisked away from their camp and killed by gun-wielding bandits because adequate security measures were not put in place. A young doctor like Diaso should not die because somebody somewhere saw the breeding danger with the killer elevator and turned a deaf ear. Dozens of job-seekers should not die in a stampede just because they want to contribute their own quota towards making their fatherland better, the way we saw in the ill-fated Immigration recruitment in Abuja for which no one has been held to account. Young men and women embarking on a peaceful demonstration against the age-long police brutality should not be mauled down mindlessly and in cold blood, a memory that flashes the mind at the mention of #EndSARS. Football enthusiasts should not be evacuated like some log of charcoal because a high voltage electricity wire fell on the roof of the hall where they are enjoying Premier League matches and roasted them like wild animals, secondary school children attacked while attending an excursion should not be allowed to die of gunshot wounds because no police report was provided. The list is just endless.

Incidentally, doctor Diaso’s death happened at a time the global community is marking the annual International Youth Day and customarily, the President reeled out rhetorical and sugar-coated press release, which he may not have read anyway through his media aide, promising young Nigerians a better future where they would live in safety, where they would be meaningfully engaged and where their security would be an utmost priority. They sound good on the surface but how often are these clichés backed with action? Sleeping on duty has so permeated into the fabrics of our system that we see it as an integral part of our cultural heritage. People do opposite what they are employed to do, yet get away with it, more emboldened, audacious and in some cases more lethal to the generality of our society. This is exactly what played out with the avoidable death of doctor Diaso.The death trap called elevator is supposed to be managed, maintained and manned by someone. Why did they feign ignorance when the time-bomb was ticking? Why was the needed repairs and maintenance not effected when it was time? Why were they out of reach even after they were informed that someone was about to die there? Why was the fellow who should be the operator not anywhere around the facility and why was a helpline not pasted to at least guide users, in cases of emergency. Someone slept on duty.

We are largely being defined by such lackadaisical attitude to work, not only in public service, even in our small corners. Those entrusted with public office will neglect and callously pay a deaf ear to what they are employed to do, not minding the trickle-down effect on the collective interest of the society. In the city of Abuja for instance, it took uncountable number of lives, involving someone’s brother, sister, mother, father uncle, breadwinner, and what have you, before authorities could thought it wise to sluggishly erect pedestrian bridges in few strategic locations across the city centre, which has ameliorated the harvest of deaths hitherto recorded when residents attempt to cross the busy expressways, with many cars at the peak of their speed. The unabated killings and forceful abductions that have lingered across the country is equally a by-product of someone, somewhere sleeping on duty. Once a peaceful country, where the people moved freely day and night in search of livelihood is now a domain of fear, tension and apprehension, the people cannot sleep with their eyes closed, cannot travel when they wish to, cannot go on their business trips and cannot engage in farming activities, which is the bastion of our very existence as humans who need food to answer the natural call of hunger. Why has the situation appeared complex for our intelligence and security agencies, including the armed forces to synergise and proffer a lasting solution despite the humongous chunk of our budget that goes to security annually? Someone is definitely sleeping on duty. The uncontrolled drop in value of our local currency, Naira according experts is as a result of what our economic planners have done or refused to do and not anything extra-ordinary. It is not any power in the Presidential Villa, Ministry of Finance, Central Bank of Nigeria or anywhere that put Naira in a free-fall mode. It is bad policy, garnished with a flavour of misgovernance. At the moment, it is plummeting to a thousand Naira per dollar amidst inflation that is all-time high at 22.79% even as food prices soar. Someone is sleeping on duty.

Instructively, legion of instances abound where the government at various levels failed to do what is right, for which the people have paid a costly price. Why do we have to wait until the social media goes abuzz with “RIP” before authorities could fix a crack and collapsing bridge linking communities? How long do we have to wait before putting regulatory measures in place to prevent our people from dying in our fragile waterways transport system? Why do we have to sit and watch as our people are being dispatched to their early graves each time a petrol tanker spills its content along busy roads without taking proactive measures to forestall such? Why have we continued to allow unlatched containers cause pains and agony to families each time they fall on moving vehicles along our roads? These are all indices that someone is not only sleeping, but snoring on duty.

It is not limited to the affairs of governance. In our small endeavours, how much are we committed with serving those who patronise us with minimal compromise to standards? How often are people eager to patronise us the second time, or refer others to us? Negative attitude to work is not always considered a thing in this part of the world, rather we would be busy blaming one old woman in the village as the cause of our misfortunes. A DJ invited to play at a marriage anniversary that showed up with dead equipment is not likely to get a second patronage. A barber who resumes any time he likes will soon lose patronage irrespective of how good he is. Sleeping on duty is cancerous and is at the very heart of our inability to move forward most times. A mechanic who causes more damage to you vehicle than he was asked to fix has low chances of getting patronage next time.

Doctor Diaso would probably have been alive if the management of the hospital where she works was alive to its responsibilities. That is just the paradox. A hospital that failed woefully to save its own official give no damn about shipping out other people’s corpses at any slight opportunity. There were reports that the late doctor needed immediate blood transfusion, having lost a high volume of blood during her over 40-minute battle for her life in the elevator, behold there was none available. It didn’t stop there, newspaper reports also have it that other equipment that would have assisted her to live, were themselves not alive. They were there as mere decorations and not functional. What a tragic situation!

As I bring this piece to a close, it is my wish that we do not continue engaging in window-dressing reactions and releasing hypocritical press statements each time an avoidable death of a young Nigerian occurs. Beyond getting to the root of the saddening death of doctor Diaso, Lagos state government should follow immortalising her with adequate reparation to the family.

Enemanna, an Abuja-based journalist, can be reached via [email protected]

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