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Opinion

Nigeria and our Dead Pope, Where is Hope? -By Loretta Oduware Ogboro-Okor

It is often said that “leaders” are dealers in hope. So, by extension, what do “rulers” deal in? Society is deserving of the kind of “rulers or leaders” they get. It therefore means that as societies, the constructs we build, become conventional wisdom by which we live daily, or they become the noose that snuffs out our oxygen. Having successive leadership that adds value to human life will over time enable societies to deconstruct non-progressive constructs whereas, a continuum of rulership that does not care about the followers and the people, will reinforce a societal tapestry of woe that weaves and perpetuates a culture which promotes a country that eats itself. These have been my reflections over the past few days when I heard how Nigeria lost 5 persons in a boat mishap – a country eating up her own.

I got the shock of my life when I watched a man recounting with all the confidence in the world on social media, how he midwifed the resuscitation of a man who drowned. I watched him declaring that a man who drowned and was rescued was first taken to the mortuary post retrieval without being certified dead by any doctor. In his words, as soon as the mortuary personnel declared that the corpse was still moving, he took the lead, supported by the teaming crowd “to sit the man up and next they carried him on their heads” while an amateur army of mobile phone paparazzies made themselves escorts and took him to a native medicine man or should we say herbalist or better still an oracle. This divinity and giver of life, promptly went to work, to ensure that some smoke with divine ingredients, was made available to the man from the morgue. The simple logic is that once he inhales the smoke, he would sneeze, then sneeze again, as many times as deemed necessary by the gods, then he would come back to life.

It was when the divine servant of the oracle and bridge to the spirit world could not get the sneeze out of the man from the morgue, that he then suggested they try the hospital. The self-made narrator on social media went on to say that when the divinator’s smoke therapy did not work, they had to take the last resort and get the man to the hospital for “oxygen as a last resort”. We hear how they went round three hospitals, looking for “oxygen as a last resort”. Alas, Nigerians made the first intervention with oxygen, the last resort and in the end, our Pope died, with four other persons! Pray, could it also be said, that it was in the beginning that the seeds of their deaths were sown? Oh yes – we hear how in the beginning; some people wore life vests and others did not. Others did not wear these lifesaving jackets despite the fact they cannot swim for reasons that ranged from the fact that they were dirty but available to the story that whether clean or dirty, there were no life vests available. Furthermore, the person at the helm of steering the boat was said to have been wearing headphones something I find quite interesting.

Now, before the beginning, what safety standards have the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN) put in place for filmmakers to meet before they are approved to shoot a film? Are locations inspected by the institution prior to filming? What awareness do the filmmakers themselves have about catering for their own safety as well as that of the crew working with them and adding value to human life? What awareness for safety and knowledge to manage adverse events do we have as a society? What is the societal construct in Nigeria for value of life? To preserve lives? To save lives and manage mishaps? How about our culture and beliefs as well as the social determinants of development and healthcare that impact us? I watched on social media how one of the occupants of the boat involved in the mishap almost brag about the fact that he made it out alive because he sacrificed Ten Thousand Naira to the river gods and goddesses prior to him crossing the river. I find this quite interesting as I ponder about how many of the people I see in their droves in the United Kingdom, America, Canada, Japan, China, or South Africa, crossing rivers and seas make Pounds, Dollars, Yen, Yuan renminbi or Rand sacrifices prior to crossing in their boats, yachts, cruise liners or even sub-marines?

Could it be that because there are institutional safety standards and a societal construct of value for human life, people in resource rich and well managed nations now have beliefs and traditions that transcends spirits and the enemies of their father’s houses? I can hop on the train at midnight in London, England, for a six-hour journey to Edinburgh in Scotland without giving the journey a second thought. However, when the average Nigerian is going to travel from Benin City to Lagos in Nigeria, next month, many of us will start prayers and fasting from today. Making sure that we inform our Daddy General Overseer (GO) to join us in prayers so that he can oversee the Holy Ghost department, ensuring that the enemies of our mothers’ and fathers’ houses are cast into the bottomless pit. Mummy GOs are not left out of this assemblage of prayer warriors because the more men and women of God on our case, the better the likelihood that no mishap will befall us on the journey. Those of us who are Muslims will make our way to our Imams while those who believe in the ancestors and spirits of the oracles, will run to their messengers on earth. Could our deep religiousness and our running from pillar to post for prayers of all kinds be due to the fact that our roads are bad, and we do not trust the safety state of our aircrafts, boats, or ships?

Whatever version of the narratives emanating about the Asaba in Delta State boat mishap one decides to lean towards, the salient truth remains that our Pope and many like him die daily because our government officials do not understand how governance is all about providing the highest value for human lives. Nigeria is eating her own – on a self-destruct mode as we lose our best minds to our own “auto-cannibalism”. Culturally, we trivialise what matters most – which is our lives, on the altar of trivialities and mediocrity. Is there hope? We will need to deconstruct and un-weave the current fabric of our socio-cultural pitfalls to reconstruct more progressive minded awareness. Immediate management and Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) as well as the ABCD of emergency care is shrouded in secrecy in Nigeria. Our National Orientation Agency is ornamental, decorating our news and having a nice chunk of budgetary allocation while it has little or no action in our communities.

Our Local Governments are flaccid without the trust to push value for human lives. Our spirits and the enemies of our parental houses remain hyperactive, claiming the lives of our people because we have rulership of inaction leading followers to whom demanding accountability is alien. Our institutions fail woefully; roads are untarred, riverine transport are not regulated, healthcare facilities are left to rot, power supply is epileptic, houses of faith out number our schools while poverty is the weapon used to install the emergence of government by a few, for the few. Now that our Pope is dead alongside four others, are we prepared to learn the lessons embellished in these events? Will we work hard at individual, community, local government, state, and federal government levels to avoid recurrences? My dear Nigerians, our foremost actor popularly called Junior Pope Odonwodo is dead, along with four other souls. Is there hope for the living or are we all living on the ticking time-bomb phenomenon?

Dr Loretta is Author of the Book, My Father`s Daughter.

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