In Nigeria we die cheap. We die so easily that death itself must feel overworked or perhaps bored because we have made things too easy for it. Beyond being inevitable, death is now a culture…a way of life, a symbol of our helplessness as a people and perhaps a joyous escape for many who have in many sense not led a life that was worth living.
We die, not of plagues or strange ailments but of preventable diseases. Diseases so simple that our having them is an embarrassment. Diseases the rest of the world has since stamped out. Ailments taught in med school more for historical relevance. We suffer of them and die of them simply because primary health care is in shambles. The local health center is manned by a retired midwife who doesn’t know enough to even save her own self. The river water is polluted and the LGA Chairman is not bothered. There is enough land area for use as grave site.
We die of some undocumented disease known as brief illness. You drive yourself to a hospital and you come out in a casket. The simplest ailments overwhelm our health system. Headache kills. Labour kills. We die of very wrong diagnosis by doctors using our lives to play dice. Doctors so handicapped that they now resort to guess work and poly pharmacy. Doctors are now so used to death that losing patients is simply acceptable. Doctors who spend more time carrying placards than their stethoscope.
But it is not entirely their fault that we die. No it’s the systems. A system that has made their remuneration seem like hand outs to school boys. A system where local government councilors earn more than consultants. A system that has chased the best brains away to the two SA’s; Saudi Arabia and South Africa while the rest of them stuck here down tools in endless salary brawls with the government. A system that kills us.
We die because those who should speak for us, those who should make it right have the ticket and the visa. They are out there is their droves in India exploiting cheap and quality care. They disappear and come home well to give thanksgiving in church to God for divine health. The pastor hypes the fact that God is a rich God. Yes..he gives health to those who have stolen our common wealth and allowed the hospitals rot while the rest of us die. Apparently, our own God is poor. Our own God is dead.
So if you want to know sorrow, visit not the prison but a Nigerian Hospital public or private. There you shall see pain and agony in its truest form. Patients clearly resting on hope, not in any faith in the treatment, to get well. The air so stale and humid you almost feel sick yourself. The workers overworked and impatient that they are simply incapable to offer the requisite care needed for healing.
So we die, victims of our own selves, our own inadequacies, our own system. We die cheap, haunted by the ghosts of the miserable life we led here and uncertain of what the hereafter portends. We die and promptly claim our own portion of the earth as our only possessions. We die deaths we have no business dying and the rest of us console ourselves and carry on, waiting for our own hour. In Nigeria we die cheap.
Sylva Nze Ifedigbo, a novelist and public commentator lives in Lagos, Nigeria.