By Olabode Emmanuel Olawumi
For some reasons best known to me,I would have remained silent on the recent deaths of Corp members in the ongoing National Youth Service Orientation (NYSC) programme, however I can’t keep mute as I am a Corp member as well.
I have heard several sides to the stories. However, the one that piques my interest and leaves me with utter irritation is that of Miss Ifedolapo Oladepo, a first-class graduate of Transport Management from Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Osogbo. I will rather not dwell on that story; instead, I will share a personal experience.
After so much anticipation and longing to be called to serve my fatherland, I got posted to Ebonyi state. Although, I had never been a fan ( I still am not a fan) of the scheme, I took it as a challenge – a rare opportunity to explore another side of life as I have always loved traveling, so i expected the worse and prepared for the worst.
NYSC would have been the best thing after “Indomie Instant noodles” if we lived in a saner community where the government and civil servants value the lives of the people they are called to serve.
Alas, “common sense” is farfetched from people we have placed in positions of leadership in our dear nation.
Upon my arrival at the camp in Afikpo local government in Ebonyi state, my first turnoff was the debilitated buildings. I’m sure those structures were put there by the colonial masters. When I checked into my hostel, I was more than disappointed, resentment wore me like a garment, it was a proof beyond doubt of irresponsibility; it was obvious I had wronged my country and the punishment was to spend 15 days in a prison a.k.a NYSC ORIENTATION CAMP. Or how would one describe being forced to live in a room full of over 30 boys packed together like fish in a can of sardine.
To make matters worse, there was no fan (ceiling or standing) in the room. However, irrespective of the debilitating situation, we had to adapt (in joy, which has always been the case in this nation) we always have a way to adapt to the hardest and harshest conditions.
Let us not go into the meals served; at first sight of it I thought there were dogs around to be served as they were actually meant for dogs. Or is it the NYSC KIT given to us? Oversized outfits, jungle boots you had to give to a cobbler to make fit your specification or the NYSC handout that was meant for 10 generations before us. It made me wonder, what happened to the budget they claimed to have disbursed for this project?
Don’t even go to the clinic, because it never existed. All I saw was a bunch of fresh ‘Doctors’ that were given the mandate to give every Tom, Dick and Harry paracetamol whenever they walked into the room, irrespective of individual ailment. I remember falling very sick at one point and had to go check in there. One of the guys said, “We don’t have drugs o. I will write down the drugs for you and you’ll find a way to buy it in town”. But wait a minute, how could I have walked out of the gates without being harassed by unruly soldiers all in the name of buying drugs? When I discovered that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for me to find a way to get drugs outside the camp, I turned spiritual. I took it spiritual. (Yes, I am a Christian and I believe in miraculous healing). My faith eventually made me whole.
Imagine it got worse. Imagine I really needed the doctor? Who would have attended to me? I cannot count the number of times some of my colleagues fainted on the parade ground.
Beyond NYSC, our health sector is in a lugubrious state. I trust the Nigeria Police than the Nigerian hospitals. Was it not in a particular hospital that I lost my younger cousin early this year? The only son of his parents. The poor boy who was attending a government owned secondary school at that time. He had complained to his teacher that he was feeling unwell. It’s always the familiar story. They didn’t believe him until they saw visible signs.
It was late before they got him to a hospital where he was misdiagnosed and given the wrong medication. We lost him due to the carelessness of the doctors, nurses and whoever was given the responsibility to manage that hospital. His loss has left a huge hole in our hearts. Or do I mention an author I met some months back? I found it hard to believe he was not born blind. We were having a private conversation when he shared with me that he lost his eyes due to the negligence of the doctors and the dead health system in our nation. He had gone to complain about his eyes in the hospital. He too was misdiagnosed and the wrong medication was prescribed. It wasn’t until things got worse that he was flown out of the country to South Africa. It was in South Africa they told him he wouldn’t be able to use those eyes anymore because the hospital here had damaged them. How about a close friend of mine, a female this time whose eyes had been itching for a while and she went to a hospital she considered reputable.
Instead of witnessing an improvement, it went the other way. It was at the University Teaching Hospital in Ibadan that she was told that they and been giving her the wrong treatment. She had to undergo an operation immediately. We are still praying for her and hoping the doctors at UCH, Ibadan too gets it right this time.
How many of these cases can we talk about?
Can it get any worse?
This article was first published on www.oyamag.com.ng