Whether it's one dead or 20 dead, the rate and the number of deaths on our roads provides a sense of magnitude to the latest tragedy.
The death of six medical doctors of Ekiti State and a driver describes the funeral of a state. Before the tragedy, Ekiti State oscillates between death and destruction with life seeming to come apart at the seams due to poverty, disease, unemployment. Now compounded by the tragic death of the six – the very best of the best – it is a tear-stained portrait of a once proud state now reduced to empty shell.
As I pen this obituary, I watch helplessly the calamity that envelops my state. I can almost wring out the pages, so soaked are they with the tears of the families, friends, and colleagues of the departed six medical doctors and their driver. Darkest days for my Ekiti people, to be sure.
Sunday, April 24, 2016, the six doctors and a driver were killed in a ghastly auto accident on their way to Sokoto for the annual conference of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA). The deceased : Dr. Alex Akinyele – Secretary NMA Ekiti, Federal Teaching Hospital (FTH), Ido Ekiti, Dr. Tunde Aladesanmi – General Surgeon, FTH, Ido Ekiti, Dr. O.J. Taiwo – Anatomic Pathologist, Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital (EKSUTH), Ado-Ekiti, Dr. J. B. Ogunseye – National Association of General and Government medical and Dental Practitioners (NAGGMDP) National Secretary, Hospital Management Board (HMB), Ekiti, Dr. O. Olajide – Association of Resident Doctors (ARD), EKSUTH President, Dr. Atolani Adenine – Secretary NAGGMDP, Ekiti State, and Mr. Ajibola – NMA Ekiti Driver.
Whether it's one dead or 20 dead, the rate and the number of deaths on our roads provides a sense of magnitude to the latest tragedy. As a native son of Ekiti State, the tragedy hits close to home. The loss is personal, excruciating, and paralyzing. It personalizes and heightens an awareness of both the fragility and preciousness of life. I experienced such emotions intensely some years ago when my mom passed. The death of a loved one is hard to bear. We grieve with the families, friends, and colleagues of the deceased and we pray for comfort and solace during these unimaginable circumstance.
When it comes to dying on our roads, fortune favors the ruling elites who looted our treasury. New, safer cars are more expensive and only the thieves in the Senate can afford hem. Majority of Nigerians are poor and own older, less mechanically sound vehicles. The death of the six doctors and the driver brings into sharper focus such dramatic emergency events like auto crashes on our roads why the government should make road safety a pressing priority issue. In a split second not only were lives lost, but the lives of families and friends of the victims were altered forever. Sudden losses are not unusual. They occur with regularity whether taking place in war zones or in car accidents, or in natural disasters. But the difference in auto accidents is that they are cheap deaths that could be prevented or minimized.
The death of the deceased evoke rawness of the pain and loss so evident. Their death was unutterably sad. We're reminded how precarious is Ekiti State's intellectual heritage. The doctors were members of the NMA. They unselfishly shared their knowledge with the world. Needless to say, their services were vital and indispensable to my people in Ekiti. They gave their best for the sick, the crippled, the maimed, and for the troubled in mind and spirit. They were there for the people – day and night, rough and tough times, even when their salaries were not paid. Certainly the sun had set over our jewels in Ekiti land. Our healers were snuffed out prematurely. They carried their touches bravely and selflessly for the benefits of my people.
In the words of Confucius, “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best best time to plant a tree is right now.” What's the ex-danfo driver and star of Ekitigate, the noisy and boisterous diarrhea mouth Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State doing to plant a tree of knowledge and scholarship in the state's higher institutions? What's the thug governor doing to make life easier, bearable, and create conducive environment for doctors, nurses, and para medical staff in our hospitals by way of ensuring payment of salaries as at due, adequate supply of medical materials and equipment in our hospitals, and training of medical personnel in our university? What's the plan of Buhari basher to resuscitate the comatose EKSUTH?
Over the years, our governments take little or no initiative when it comes to reducing auto congestion and auto accidents on our roads. Bad roads, poorly maintained road networks and a lack of enforcement of road safety laws, and non-existent of medical emergence services are major factors. In Nigeria, public transport vehicles are believed to be among the main causes of vehicular deaths. For example public transport providers are known to fill up their cabins well past safe capacities while exceeding speed limits along their routes with open contempt for the rules of the road, while operating vehicles that are far from adequately suited for their passengers' uses.
Some years ago in Lagos, I saw “molue” with overflowing passengers going at a neck breaking speed with one head lamp while a Tilley lamp was dangerously tied to the right head light to serve as substitute for head light that was out. Majority of vehicles used in Nigeria are not able to meet basic road safety standards that are the norm in civilized countries. Regulations in Nigeria for road worthy vehicles are lax and in most cases non-existent, making it possible to serve as a dumping ground for old, rickety, ramshackle boxes on four wheels.
Road safety in Nigeria is a particularly acute problem. Pedestrians and commercial bikes (okada) populate the roads that are increasingly crowded with cars. Nigeria has no comprehensive set of laws to prevent drunk driving, set speed limits in urban areas and increase use of seat belts, child restraint, and motorcycle helmets. In 2013, only 264 people died in road crashes in Sweden, a record low. A story published by the influential Economist February 26, 2014 about Sweden's safe roads says “The number of cars in circulation and the number of miles driven have both doubled since 1970, the number of road deaths has fallen by four-fifths during the same period. “With only three of every 10,000 Swedes dying on the roads each year,” continues the Economist, “Sweden's roads have become the world's safest.” In contrast, Nigerian roads are killing fields.
While the thieves in the senate are perfecting their looting skills and strategies, and debating on beer-parlor gossip issues like why we should marry made in Nigeria women by the crack head Dino Melaye, and bills and amendments to wipe out the social media and cripple the anti graft agencies like EFCC and CCB, the Swedish parliament in 1977 wrote into law a “Vision Zero” plan, promising to eliminate road fatalities and injuries altogether. “We simply do not accept any deaths or injurie on our roads,” says Hans Berg of the National Transport Agency. “Swedish believe and are proving,” writes the Economist, “that they can have mobility and safety at the same time.”
Nigerian drivers are willing to kill through reckless driving because they expect to escape murder charges. They are confident they can either bribe local officials, the police, the judge, or hire one of the Senior Advocates of Nigerian Lunatics as an attorney to evade murder charges. Look at the numbers – six medical doctors and a driver dead – the trend we are seeing on our roadways is like a flashing red light – danger lies ahead. We need to build new generation of roads for humans. Enforcement of traffic rules,speed limits, adequate road signs and directions, emission testing and certification of vehicles as being mechanically healthy to be operated, and prosecution of traffic violators and speeders to the full extent of the law will help to reduce the carnage on our roads. Also, the government must take a hard look on the state of our dilapidated hospitals. Nigeria in the 21st century still operates like animal farm. No hospitals, no emergency medical service. The nonchalant and wicked attitude of doctors and nurses in our hospitals add to the tragedy of accident victims on our roads.
One of the survivors, Dr. Stephen Ayosanmi of EKSUTH, spoke on his hospital bed exclusively to Vanguard on the accident: “When the accident happened, some of us came out and people came and tried to help in the rescue effort. I came and I found out that I did not have any fracture or serious injury. By the time the members of the Road Safety Corps came, some doctors that were severely injured had died. Five of them! But, we have two who could still survive. So we rushed them to the nearby hospital (Doka General Hospital, about 70 km to Kaduna). “At the hospital, I was surprised when they said that there was no doctor there. I was even telling the nurses ok give me a pain reliever and let me put you through on how to resuscitate that man that was lying near me. But none of them attended to us. They were just running around, saying there was no this, no that. They were running around looking for this and that. Then I pleaded with the Road Safety to take us to the nearest hospital away from the one we were. I said they should take us to Suleja, Kaduna, wherever, but the Road Safety said that they didn’t even have fuel. I told them that it was ok, that I would pay for fuel. So we left the place in search for fuel and bought the fuel on the road. But, before we got to the hospital (St. Gerard, Kaduna) the other person had died. That made the number of deaths six. The other very injured person, who was in the other bus also died, making the casualty seven”, he said.
The statement of Dr. Ayosanmi is the graphic picture of what poor Nigerians go through every day in our hospitals. Isn't time we move this reluctant country forward?
To the parents, wives, children, friends, and colleagues of the deceased, as you go through the deep waters and rivers of difficulties at this time, may God strengthens you to bear the burden. And to the departed, you're safe from hell on earth – for eternity. Safe trip home!