A Love-Hate Relationship with Noise

In secondary school, we were told in Physics class that “noise is unwanted sound”. While we half-heartedly memorised this definition and other physical concepts of sound like loudness, frequency, and quality, we may not have considered the philosophical side of noise. It now appears to me that properly describing noise could present the same quagmire like terrorism, where one’s freedom fighter is another person’s terrorist. But if that analogy is considered too extreme, we may make do with viewing noise as one’s food being another person’s poison.

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2023: A Defining Moment

“Happy New Year!”

If at 00:01am on January the First, someone had told me it would be three weeks before I get a chance to scribble my first article for the year, I would have said, “all things have become new”. But here I am, finally typing these words after a combination of several factors, ably captained by workplace orders, conspired to keep me on the defensive from the zero hour. So, let me start by saying welcome to a defining year for everyone.

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To Japa or Not to Japa

Life is a potpourri of numerous choices we make, of which some decisions are key because of their overreaching impact on how our lives shape up from that point. In today’s Nigeria, especially among people who fit certain criteria, one such decision is whether to leave Naija (“to japa”) or stay back within its territory. As social media continues to be regaled with a nouveau popular meme announcing a glassy welcome to a new dispensation, we may draw some wisdom from an adaptation of author Julie Kagawa’s writing that “there are no good choices …only those you can live with, and those you can work to change”.

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Change, Inspiration

The Lonely Road to Excellence

Almost six weeks have passed since I posted the introductory article for this year. In the intervening period, several writing ideas have crossed my mind, but as they say, until your fingers hit the keyboard, ideas are just wishful thinking. Technically, I was on leave, but work and family commitments ensured I always had an excuse not to write. Paradoxically, today’s article tries to encourage something that if done well, may infringe on your right to freedom to enjoy your leave.

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The Parents We Do Not Want

“As we grow, we’ll realise that pushing our kids to start learning how to code from a young age or pick interests in sports is not different from our parents wanting us to become doctors, lawyers, or engineers back then.”

~ T. O.

Seeing this view on a friend’s WhatsApp status, it resonated well with my thinking that I decided to share a screenshot with a simple caption: “Care (Concern) or Selfishness?” It would appear that limiting the conversation to WhatsApp just would not cut it, so here is a full article inspired by T. O.

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Father, Behold Thy Child

In an era of a myriad of re-definitions, where ancient landmarks are being removed, and the operating manual of humanity seems to be undergoing a major revision, it would seem that fathers are unnecessary vestiges of a world left behind; a time when humans thought it took two and a village to raise a child. But as a son who is father of a son, I look at the world around with a knowing that a father, if he truly be one, would always have a place in a child’s heart.

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Change, Inspiration

The Big Man in Us

Do you know any person who used to complain about an alcoholic father, but is now an alcoholic? Or, maybe it’s someone who complained about a terrible boss, but is now competing for that title? Maybe you know a woman who always complained about her mother-in-law, but is now doing to her daughter-in-law the very things she used to whine about. I have seen a quote that says “we become what we hate”. However, I disagree. Maybe it’s not that we become what we hate, but that what we hate might be the default “normal” for humans, and we ought to actively seek to be different rather than merely complain.

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He was Golden

“Jonah, daddy is dead”. With just four words on the phone, my younger brother informed me that our father had moved on. It had been a fast-paced day from collapsing in church in the morning, to resuscitation, admission in one hospital, referral to a teaching hospital, admission in the tertiary care hospital, and death just before 5pm. Lacking the emotional make-up of most humans, the only time I would shed tears would be as I fell to my knees to tell God He would be responsible for funding the burial and I had no intention of burying two parents in one year, as I worried about my mom. Less than thirty minutes after hearing my father was dead, my mind switched to burial planning mode, and I would come to realise that it takes a village to bury their child.

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Illegal Deaths: Saving Gunshot Victims in Nigeria

A popular social critic, Ayo Sogunro, has argued that “Everything in Nigeria is going to kill you”. Whereas we can debate whether this statement is valid, it is clear to me that many events that are routinely managed in saner climes are effectively death sentences in Nigeria. People die due to preventable causes, such as accident victims or gunshot victims, where speedy transfer to a hospital and immediate start of resuscitation can be the difference between a refurbished body and a formaldehyde-preserved one.

On Friday, 15 January 2021, a budding Nigerian, David Ntekim Rex lost his life in saddening circumstances. Although it is clear that the root cause of his death were the bullets of some mindless robbers, there is dispute as to the role of the Nigerian Police and healthcare facilities in facilitating David’s death. Regardless of whether some police officers refused to help David, or some hospitals denied him care, reading about his death made me realise that anyone in Nigeria could have been David. You go about your business trying to earn an honest keep; unfortunately, you find yourself at the other end of a gun barrel, and your staying alive suddenly depends on whether hospitals would agree to treat you. Why should this be so?

For several decades, many Nigerians lost their lives to gunshot injuries. Thanks to the feared propensity of police officers to ignore the concept of “right to life”, most healthcare facilities refused to treat gunshot victims except a police report was presented. Just think about your sibling bleeding outside a hospital while you run to the nearest police station to get a report from a police officer who may not be on seat, or may not have paper to print, or may not even have electricity to draft a report. You finally get a report authorised after a few hours and run back to the hospital to learn your sibling is dead. Gruesomely murdered not by the gun but by a dysfunctional system that could not care about his life and dreams.

To fix this anomaly, in 2017, the “Compulsory Treatment and Care for Victims of Gunshots Act” was passed by the National Assembly and assented by President Muhammadu Buhari. The very first section in this Act clearly stipulates that:

“As from the commencement of this Act, every hospital in Nigeria whether public or private shall accept or receive, for immediate and adequate treatment with or without police clearance, any person with a gunshot wound.”

Section 11 of the Act, if truly enforced, would have made this article unnecessary. It states that:

“Any Person or authority including any police officer, other security agent or hospital who stands by and fails to perform his duty under this Act which results in the unnecessary [illegal!] death of any person with gunshot wounds commits and offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of ₦500,000.00 or imprisonment for a term of five years or both.”

In my view, there are three reasons why after three years we still have gunshot victims being denied care. Firstly, there is ignorance by the police, healthcare personnel, and the general public. Many persons are unaware that there is actually a law banning any demand for police reports before treatment. Secondly, there is fear among healthcare personnel that they could be harassed by unruly police officers if they were to treat gunshot victims, or they may fall foul of the Act’s requirement to inform “the nearest police station within two hours of commencement of treatment”. Thirdly, there is unenforcement of the Act by the police establishment. If there had been any reports of police officers or hospitals being prosecuted and convicted for illegally killing a gunshot victim, maybe the status quo would have changed.

Lest we become the next David, there are two corrective measures that I believe would make the 2017 Act more relevant for preserving lives in Nigeria. The first measure is to revamp the Act, especially Section 3(1) that requires hospitals to report gunshot cases to the police within two hours. Unless otherwise stated, if we are dealing with a government institution in Nigeria, two hours is too small. Half of that time might even be spent in traffic. I would rather have that timeline increased to something like five hours, with a provision for more time in cases where the entire five hours are spent trying to stabilise a victim. Still on this section, rather than have a hospital try to find a police station, why not have the police setup a toll-free dedicated line (nationwide coverage) that can be reached via text message? A hospital that receives a gunshot victim would only need to send a text message stating that it has a gunshot victim in its facility; then it becomes the duty of the police establishment to identify the nearest police station and dispatch its officers if required. This way, hospitals can focus on what they are actually established for – saving lives!

The second measure concerns the National Orientation Agency (NOA) and the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC). I deem these two agencies responsible for public ignorance regarding the 2017 Act, and therefore guilty of facilitating the deaths of all who could have been saved from gunshot injuries since December 2017. While there is a place for well-meaning individuals and non-governmental organisations to help, if NOA and FCCPC are properly funded and do their jobs correctly, every Nigerian should be aware that police reports are not required before a gunshot victim is treated. This would also give the public confidence to approach hospitals for treatment, especially in cases where the gunshot victim has not committed any crime, and is therefore free of any fear that involving hospitals could lead to future arrest after treatment. The same way we have public campaigns via diverse media for polio eradication and COVID-19 response, there should be nothing keeping NOA and FCCPC from a grassroots drive to get every police officer, healthcare personnel, and the general public aware that hospitals can and should treat gunshot victims without any encumbrances whatsoever.

Image Credit: waent.org


2021: A New Beginning?

Without any concrete data, I am inclined to think that 2020 was a year most persons on earth desperately wanted to end as quickly as possible. Its 366 days seemed so intensely packed with events and a decimation of whatever was thought “normal”, totally upending life as many persons knew it, and forcing us to accept things that in “saner” years would have been deemed unacceptable. However, while we are likely to eye the world’s famous billionaires whose wealth increased in leaps, not everyone had a bad year. Just like any other arbitrary time periods defined by humanity, 2020 had a mix of the good, bad, and ugly.

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