How much is a Nigerian life worth?

April 2, 2019 Nigeria , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

aluko ayomiposi photo



Prince Charles Dickson



My friend’s family is grieving. Their beloved golden retriever, Scout, has died. It’s hard to describe this loss, because you would have to have known Scout and what he meant to the family to understand. Their boys grew up with Scout. He was a part of the family. Not merely because of the affection for him — affection can raise the status of a stuffed rabbit to something special. Scout was special. He had a huge heart and a sensitive spirit. He was loyal and true. Always happy to see you, always game for whatever was afoot. He slept in the boys’ bedroom. He took walks with Stasi every morning as she said her prayers. He always was at the door when we got home from the day, barking hello, tail wagging.


Scout loved to run through the snow with his nose down in it. He loved to chase birds. And the ATVs. He’d sometimes come up to S’mores [the horse], and when S’mores would bend his tall head down to inspect him, Scout would give him a lick on his nose. He’d want to play ball with you, but he’d never want to give you the ball. And if you were sad, he’d come up to you, gently, lovingly, tail wagging. He’d nuzzle his face close to yours and comfort you. He could tell. This is more than the passing of a pet


They were sad last Monday night. Really sad. The cancer that had shown up last summer had returned, with a vengeance. The vet gave Scout a month at best. But one could tell he was fading fast. And no one wanted him to suffer. He was having a tough time getting up to go outside to relieve himself. He was yelping in pain in the night. So we talked with the boys Monday night about putting Scout down before the cancer got to the point that no one could no longer manage his pain. Everyone wept. And Scout — who had been unable to get up the entire day on Sunday because of the cancer in his shoulder — got up and came into the family circle, began to come up to each one of us, tail wagging. It was as if he were saying, “It’s okay. It’s going to be all right.” Here he was, comforting his family right to the end.


I cannot tell you how much I wanted to be able to pray and heal Scout. But Scout passed on.


Some years back I was in Paris, and one a free weekend, a friend of me, I would simply call him Shaxx asked that I be his companion on a train trip to Brussels the Belgium capital, on a condolence visit. So we headed to Brussels, an almost two hour trip.


Fast forward like we say in local parlance, we arrived at the house, a little late. Prayers had been done I noticed. And everyone there had something nice to say about Catherine, Cathy they all called her. In some form of natural order, the microphone was passed along and we all had to say something about Cathy.


I was relying on whatever my friend Shaxx said, to build upon. And so Shaxx like every other person before spoke glowing. But there was a problem, I did not know if Cathy was a daughter or mother or sister, all or none.


After I spoke about Cathy in third person singular (abi how English people dey call am). I took my seat, and an aged woman came and hugged me, she thanked me for taking the short trip from Paris and that the family appreciated.


And at this point, the aged woman, who I will just call Mama Cathy, then burst into tears again, and I heard clearly “or Cathy you were a beautiful cat”. At this point I pinched Shaxx, furiously glancing at him, and with a criminal smile, he whispered, “if I told you say na cat we dey come the funeral you for no follow me”


Yes, Scout was a dog, and Cathy a cat. And here in Nigeria my family lost two might dogs, one a Caucasian, other an Alsatian, Mustapha, and Felicia. I would never forget, it was our son’s birthday. It was not just dogs; they were part of the family. We did not have a funeral like Cathy, and no, both dogs did not give us notice like Scout. However it hurt!


And here is where I ask the question, how much is a Nigerian life worth, and in so doing I share this last story…


The family of 17-year-old Paul Akpala a 200 level University student are accusing the management of the National Hospital in Abuja of killing their son.


On Wednesday, January 23, Akpala was crossing the road when a car knocked him down. The driver rushed him to the hospital, paid his initial bills, reported to the police and stayed with him until the next day when his parents were notified.


When the parents surfaced, they paid 200,000 and four tests to be carried out but none was done. They were told the CT scan machine was not working and the X-ray machine was also not working. One morning, the mother noticed the boy gasping for breath. The air pressure machine he was placed was showing red. She asked the nurse what could be done? The nurse in response shouted at her telling her, ‘ don’t teach me my job’. She also said the boy had brain damage even when no CT scan was carried out.


The family requested their son be referred elsewhere but he was on life support machine and the machine’s battery was weak. The father asked how much the battery cost and they said ten million. They finally took him to another facility for test and it was discovered he had no brain damage but fractures to bones, which was blocking his lungs.


When they returned to the hospital, according to the family, instead of taking him to the theater for surgery, he was taken back to the ICU. The hospital however said in that circumstance, the patient doesn’t need surgery.


Five minutes later, the alarm on the machine sounded, an indication that his heart had stopped. According to the mother, instead of using the machine for a counter shock to resuscitate Akpala, they just neglected him until he finally gave up the ghost. The mother is also furious that aside neglecting them, the hospital also gave a death certificate reading brain damage as the cause of death, when the scan read a different thing.


In the words of Bello Lukman a social commentator, my prayer is, I pray we don’t experience serious accidents that warrant us needing sophisticated health machines. If the CT scan and X-ray machine at the National Hospital were barely working, then, where else would they work? I recall the alarm that was raised by the Nigerian first lady on the state of the Aso Rock clinic, no one has checked to see if anything has changed.


Did you see the viral news on the state of fire service trucks in Abuja, really how much is a Nigerian life worth, in climes where animals get better access to health and are treated better? Is there hope for Nigeria—Only time will tell.






Prince Charles Dickson

Currently Prince Charles, is based out of Jos, Plateau State, and conducts field research and investigations in the Middle Belt Region of Nigeria with an extensive reach out to the entire North and other parts. Prince Charles worked on projects for UN Women, Search for Common Ground, and International Crisis Group, among others. He is an alumnus of the University of Jos and the prestigious Humanitarian Academy at Harvard and Knight Center For Journalism, University of Texas at Austin. A doctoral candidate of Georgetown University

Born in Lagos State (South West Nigeria), Prince Charles is proud of his Nigerian roots. He is a Henry Luce Fellow, Ford Foundation grantee and is proficient in English, French, Yoruba Ibo and Hausa. Married with two boys, and a few dogs and birds.

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