Opinion: What’s a life worth in Nigeria? | By: Biodun Ogungbo

Somewhere in Nigeria.

A trailer fell on a woman.

It crushed her legs.

She was still alive.

But in severe pains and begging.

Begging for help.

For someone to save her! 

There on the scene.

Men and women.

Including law enforcement.

Walking around her.

Taking photographs and video.

Capturing her misery.

Her impending death from blood loss.

For all to see! 

Oh, what a life? 

This was the distressing picture I saw on my phone from a Whatsapp page first thing in the morning and it brought me to tears. This is however not the first such distressing picture or video you would see on social media. Or even hear about from patients and relatives. The question and the tragedy is this. How can we be so without care, without soul and without a shred of humanity? How can we be so detached as to see fun in the misery of others? How is it possible that NO ONE thought about or remembered something simple called FIRST-AID?
A law enforcement officer was in the picture! If the people have no clue what to do, should a law enforcement officer be clueless as well? There was a law enforcement officer in the picture and he was as useless as a lamp-post. There have been many posts on Facebook and in Whatsapp showing people standing by, contaminating crime scenes, accident scenes, taking pictures while someone was being assaulted, killed or dying respectively; as in the case above.
These are then posted online highlighting our collective shame in gory pictures and horrifying videos! So, what is a life worth in Nigeria? A picture for a thousand likes? A video shared to friends and family and seen by three hundred people? A story in Linda Ikeji’s blog? Or perhaps N2000 for recharge card!
What happened to first aid in Nigeria?
Cardiac arrest 
Sometime ago, I wrote about a man who collapsed at the airport presumably from a cardiac arrest. He collapsed and lay dying on the floor in the departure lounge. Suddenly, people gathered around him and then some started praying. Oh, God of Nazareth! Oh, Jesus! This carried on for minutes until a trained nurse happened on the scene. She immediately took over and started to resuscitate the man with a cardiac massage and mouth to mouth resuscitation. Within a few minutes, the chap came back to life and was subsequently taken to hospital. Left to the prayer squad, he would surely have died. This idea of waiting for God to come and solve every little problem is baffling.
In Lagos, a baby was having a seizure (convulsion) and someone asked that the mother should quickly go and urinate. That the mother’s urine should be poured down the throat of the baby as a solution to stop the convulsion. Others have suggested cow urine and such other concoctions. The level of ignorance, stupidity, the myths, misconceptions and old wives’ tales in Nigeria are at an all-time high. Fueled by near fanatic spirituality, poverty and perhaps defective genome.
Another young girl was having a seizure in Abuja. She was thrashing around on the floor and foaming from the mouth. People quickly gathered round and no one went close to help her. In the crowd, someone said, ‘She is a Muslim’. ‘You cannot touch a Muslim woman’. Another shouted, ‘Get water’, ‘Pour water on her’.
A man collapsed in the street with weakness of the left side of the body and slurring of speech. He was in distress and unable to help himself. Obviously, suffering a stroke. Many people walked by, some calling him a drunk and abusing him for obstructing their path.
My shame 
I see all this from a very different perspective. I feel ashamed as a medical practitioner. I am distressed not from the images or the videos really as I see and have seen worse than these. I cry not because of the woman in the picture but for us all as a failing generation. We as a people! Collectively, we appear doomed, driving with speed to our mutual demise in the sea of deep ignorance. You see, our communal survival depends on being able to care for each other.
Our shame
We as doctors and other healthcare practitioners have perhaps not done enough in the communities to empower people with the information and knowledge to respond appropriately to situations requiring first aid. We should do more. We should do more within the family, in churches and mosques and in our place of work. We should start in our own homes and then go into schools to teach and train and perhaps change attitudes to pain and distress. We should teach how to be humane so we can resuscitate our humanity. We should also be ready to use the media to carry these training to all Nigerians.
Finally, the Government should train its law enforcement officers to be skilled in responding to situations like this. Even civil servants in our ministries and youth-corpers must be knowledgeable in first-aid to preserve life before our non-existent emergency ambulance arrives.
But, that is another story!

Ogungbo is a medical practitioner in Abuja

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