Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

Crocodile Tears’ For Victims Of Preventable Accidents, By Andrew A. Erakhrumen

Coat of arm and people raising flags (Image: LegitNG)

What used to be unexpected tragedies in the past gradually became clearly regularly expected, unpreventable, acceptable and accepted “disaster-in-waiting” because of past and present governments’ non-responsiveness and irresponsibility coupled with the followers’ complacency, unseriousness, inability, and/or refusal, to confront collective challenges; and when these ‘expected’ disasters occur, all that is done is the predictable, regular, short-lived, mostly valueless, unproductive, mechanical public uproar that dies almost immediately as it starts! This has always been the pattern and those in government are perfectly aware of it! After all, they are supposed to be from amongst Nigerians! Then, are we – as Nigerians – a serious people? This informed our opinion, concerning the 12-year-old Sylvester Oromoni Jnr., whose death occurred on 30th November, 2021, that “… was as if the ‘unusual’ happened. True to type of a pretentious, deceptive, reality-denying and lying society such as the current Nigeria, there was an insincere hullabaloo that appears to have died down, today…..until another disaster happens to another victim! We will shout, as usual, and everybody will later be quietened, consoled and lulled to sleep with the usual ‘it is one of those things’…..” Deaths, from many preventable causes, has currently become commonplace in Nigeria! ‘News’ on occurrences of these deaths is delivered and received as ‘statistics’!

Inhumanity is increasing! Nevertheless, the person wearing the shoe knows where it pinches! Even so, Nigerians are a people that always expect solution to their problem from anywhere other than themselves! Again, not unexpectedly, we are back to that same place to listen to the familiar dirge alluded to earlier. This sad song is necessitated this time around by the death, on 1st August, 2023, of Vwaere Diaso who was said to be undergoing her mandatory one-year internship programme, as a medical doctor, at the Lagos General Hospital, Odan, Lagos. Reports have it that Diaso, who was living on the 9th floor of the Hospital’s building, serving as the staff quarters, got trapped in a faulty elevator that finally encountered an accident at the facility. Punch newspaper of 6th August, 2023, reported that Lagos State Government, through a statement signed and released by the Permanent Secretary (PS) of the Ministry of Information and Strategy, provided some details on the elevator accident that eventually led to Diaso’s death. The details were contained in the outcome of a panel of enquiry set up to look into the possible causes of the incident. The panel, according to the PS, disclosed that the elevator plunged down the building at exactly 6:50 pm, adding that the impact damaged its doors which needed to be forced open. He revealed that the deceased victim was extracted an hour later [7:50 pm] while resuscitation commenced immediately…..”

According to the PS, the efforts at saving Diaso’s life went on until 8.59 pm when she was pronounced dead. He went further by informing that “…..It is also important to state that the elevator that crashed was installed brand new in 2021. Elevator experts working with the Lagos Safety Commission have carried out an initial inspection and will be removing the elevator for further mechanical examination to determine why the safety features that should prevent this kind of accident did not work. Their findings will determine if we have a case with the elevator installer…..” The bottom-line of the whole story is that someone died; just like that! What do we tell Ms Diaso’s family and other loved ones? What of all the investments on her? What about the extinguished hope? This could have happened to anybody! How can the institutional failure resonating all over the country be explained? Human life is now cheap in Nigeria! Alas, this disaster may possibly be as a result of some unnecessary loose ends that may be traced to human error or laxity! Yes, elevator is a mechanical device powered by electrical energy – so, faults do occur! We agree! However, according to Premium Times of 5th August, 2023, “…..The colleagues of the deceased…..protested the unfortunate incident [of Ms Diaso’s death], accusing the hospital management of ignoring earlier complaints about the faulty elevator which they claimed had been faulty for over three years…..” Anyway, we await, with scepticism, the report of further investigations into this sad occurrence.

We will not be jumping into any conclusion without facts. However, if the accumulated and growing experience in Nigeria will serve us well, it is clear that public facilities are not important to those calling themselves Nigerian political leaders especially those among them that get into power! Obviously, we are not saying anything new here! Let us ask a harmless question: how many of those in government in Lagos State patronise the above-mentioned hospital for their health needs? Like their counterparts from other part of the country, they always jet out to be taken care of, mostly, by Nigerian-trained health personnel overseas! Coincidentally, Diaso’s death happened on a day that fell within a period of total and indefinite strike action embarked upon by members of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors from 25th July, 2023! We are talking about the resident doctors that have not gone out of the country! In response to the strike, the federal government directed the Chief Medical Directors and Medical Directors in the federal tertiary hospitals to implement the “no work, no pay” policy on the striking members of the association. Has government’s strategies changed from what we had in the past? Certainly, no! Well, the then-striking doctors were/are entitled to agitate for their welfare ONLY; a strategy some lecturers want Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to adopt even if the facilities in public universities collapse – totally!

Do not misunderstand us, agitations for workers’ welfare by unions and associations is good but the ones centred on “self-alone” may, on the long-run, become counter-productive and unable to forestall the possibility of the kind of disaster encountered by Vwaere Diaso in a faulty elevator! This may not be a popular opinion but is has to be pointed out! We will not make any unsubstantiated claim but we are sure that leaving funding and revitalisation of public facilities at the discretion of irresponsive and irresponsible people – as we have them in abundance today – in government will always yield catastrophic outcomes such as the elevator accident we just talked about! This is just one of such many sad happenings all over the country, almost daily! These losses are unquantifiable but do not matter to those in government since they are not affected! We know that Nigeria is all about them in government; once they are good, Nigeria is alright! So, every other person can go to hell! That is their mindset but you may choose to disagree with us; although, we know that the people Nigeria has happened to, through these characters, will agree with us! On a final note, we are calling on those always urging ASUU to adopt other means of engaging governments; we want their assistance in deploying the skills ASUU lacked towards making federal government to effect payment of lecturers’ eight months withheld salaries!

Erakhrumen, PhD, currently teaches at the Department of Forest Resources and Wildlife Management, University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria.

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