Thursday, February 22, 2024

Kelechi Udeogu: Nigeria happened to him

“How much more can Nigerians endure? For how long will we let Nigeria keep happening to us? We cannot continue like this is normal.”

• February 4, 2024

A friend recently lost a relative, and when I asked how his relative died, he replied, “Nigeria happened to him”. I was perplexed because that was the first time I ever heard anyone use that phrase to describe a death out of a social media context. When I asked him to please explain what he meant, he told me a sad story of his young relative, who suddenly lost consciousness due to a terrible migraine caused by high blood pressure. 

The sick man was carried around from one hospital to another, and none could cater to him or were adequately equipped to handle his situation.  After being rejected from hospital to hospital, he was finally accepted at a government hospital but had to share a bed because no one was available, even in an emergency. 

This is the third of such stories I have heard recently, where patients are rejected at different hospitals. The other two died: my friend’s relative who had a migraine, and the second was a knife stab victim of armed robbery; he died on his way to the fifth hospital and was dumped on the road by the keke driver who had helped carry him to all those hospitals to avoid getting into trouble. The third one, a gunshot, was lucky to find a hospital, the sixth hospital they had gone to, that was willing to accept him and save his life.

Nigeria happened to them; every day, Nigeria fails us, and every day, Nigeria fails millions of its citizens. 

In 2017, the Nigerian Senate passed the Compulsory Treatment and Care of Victims of Gunshots Bill to save Nigerians who were denied medical treatment after being shot or attacked and to ensure their assistance from security agents. The bill encourages health workers and security agents to save a life first and ask questions later. Unfortunately, this is Nigeria, and every other day, you are made aware of victims of violence who died after being rejected by different hospitals for not having a police report. The hospitals claim they still get queried by security agents for treating these victims without a police report. There is a total disregard for the lives of Nigerians, a lack of implementation of bills made to save Nigerians and no one gets punished; we just continue like it’s normal; it’s not normal.

The rapid loss of value of the naira and its effect on the cost of living and businesses is another way Nigeria is happening to Nigerians. I honestly do not understand how we manage to cope as a people and how long we will manage to cope before we run mad. I had thought Buhari was the lowest we could possibly go to as Nigerians, but then Tinubu happened.

From the ill-advised and hasty inauguration declaration of fuel subsidy removal that saw fuel moving from less than N250 to N600 and above to the lack of economic policy direction that has seen the naira lose half of its value in a country that depends on importation for almost everything essential, including the refined petrol that has had its subsidy removed.

Nigerians are being financially strangled in real time, and the government seems completely clueless as to how to solve these problems. Businesses are closing down, people are losing their wealth, and more Nigerians are falling into poverty; how much more can we take? 

The insecurity in the country is another way Nigeria happens to Nigerians. Nigeria has been happening to Christian communities in Northern Nigeria and the Middle Belt for as long as I can remember. With the current spate of kidnappings for ransom going on in the country, almost everyone knows someone or has heard of someone who has been kidnapped and is begging for funds to pay for ransom. Travelling by road across the country is now a case of “God abeg”, and the cost of flight tickets keeps getting higher and higher; everything that could go wrong is currently going wrong. 

How much more can Nigerians endure? For how long will we let Nigeria keep happening to us? We cannot continue like this is normal; this is a completely abnormal way to live as a people. Until we live in a country where there is respect for the rule of law, where the citizens have faith in its justice system, and where its elected government feels a sense of responsibility to its citizens, Nigeria will continue to happen to us.

Kelechi Belinda Udeogu has a PhD in development and political communication.

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