Africa

Where Have We Gone Wrong?

I have been on a month break in my village, a time for sober reflection, no doubt and actually an eye opener to the level of the ignorance of most of us. I really had time to reflect on lots of issues concerning our society because this is about the longest time I have spent in my village since leaving home for my secondary and university education.

What confounded me was the level of our ignorance in this day and age, so many youths dying like chicks (very preventable deaths for that matter)while friends and relations of the deceased are busy pointing accusing fingers at the next unfortunate old fellow nearby. Usually these bereaved relatives are quick to explain to you that the cause of such deaths are ‘attack or poison’ as against obvious medical deductions.

Then one finds it befuddling that our fathers who supposedly lived in the Dark Age are surprisingly healthier and seem to have a better shot at longevity despite our claims to better ways of living and doing things (Apologies to science and technology).

Otherwise, what kind of ignorance makes people take a very sick person to a prayer house first and then to the hospital when the sick one is almost at the point of death, couldn’t the prayers have been conducted while a medical attention is being sought? In any case, I strongly believe that not all ailments are spiritually inflicted.

In my observations, the issue of ‘whom’ this or that pastor or spiritualist implied to be the culprit, has severed lots of erstwhile cordial relationships that have existed between families since time immemorial for which Africans were known for. There’s no trust anymore, children point accusing fingers at their aged parents, grannies and aged neighbours without a second thought, forgetting that anyone who sees growing old as a taboo may not live to experience old age. Why are some of our actions towards the aged this despicable? Even the supposedly learned ones are allow themselves to be carried along by this tide.

I do not dispute the wickedness of man against another, my point is merely for us to draw the lines between rationality and ignorance, between feeding our fears and being realistic and informed about issues. Let’s not be quick to drag another to the slaughter house through our actions and utterances.

You may be dismayed that those who know who is ‘doing’ you have not actually seen who is ‘doing’ them too, you only need to look closely to deduce that it’s neither here nor there and the ultimate protection lies with the Almighty. Besides, the problems don’t seem to go away after the person who is ‘doing’ you has been revealed to you and the necessary ‘hot coals’ have been heaped on the unfortunate fellow’s head. So, what really gives? (As the Americans say), you gonna start looking for the next person that’s ‘doing’ you, until maybe it gets narrowed down to your immediate folks?

My point? Simple and that’s the fact that we should learn to look inwards and be realistic in our approach to issues before jumping to conclusions (usually the ones that suit us at any point in time) If for example we choose to look into the incessant deaths of the youths of our time, my humble approach will be to start looking into the life styles of the youths of nowadays. Even the ailments we once thought are common with old age now afflict the youths in numbers, someone dies from HIV/AIDS and you are told ‘it’s poison’, I can understand if it’s said to ‘save face’ but the accusations that follow are very disgusting. Are our communities now filled with those, whose favourite past time is to ‘do’ every Tom, Dick and Harry in their midst, those that can’t boast of any reasonable possession to their names inclusive? I remember when we were younger, there were kids whose only resolve were playing truancy, they would come to school and choose not to get into the classrooms, when they outgrew the stage of playing truancy, they graduate to something that’s in most cases a step daring such as going for neighbour’s fowls and fruits(all without the owners’ knowledge or permission),usually they keep going that way and of course the unfortunate parents would have given up on them, as some of them even beat their parents, there’s always a vice that’s a step bolder for them to graduate into, meanwhile their more sensible peers have long moved on with their academic pursuit, it’s needless to tell you how these kids usually end up at later stages in life. Still some get to the university to have their hands on all sorts of negative pies, ranging from prostitution to cultism while the more focused ones keep at their academic pursuit.

Mind you, these vices come with lots of harmful lifestyles such as drug and alcohol abuse, reckless sexual exploits and countless abortions that end up damaging one or two organs in the body and will only be detected years later, when it would’ve been absolutely too late to correct. Now when the day of reckoning comes and their more focused and hardworking peers happen to have something to show for years of academic excellence, hard work and great discipline. These unfortunate ones will start visiting spiritual houses, running from pillar to post to find out who is ‘doing’ them, why they are not measuring up to their fortunate peers, why things don’t work for them etc. I mean from the illustration above, it is only common sense to know where such people are headed if they fail to turn a new leaf early on, some of them can’t even boast of a primary school leaving certificate and you keep wondering how such an individual hopes to cope in this highly competitive age without some reasonable skills at least. Lot’s of harmful life styles people engage in always come home to roost at a later stage in life and we should be honest enough to acknowledge our parts in all these, do the best we can to remedy the situation instead of running from pillar to post, looking for who is ‘doing’ us i.e. the witches and wizards that are behind our woes in life(pluuuuuuueeaase)

There could be a few exceptions from the above scenario i.e. when one feels he’s done what he’s supposed to do, he has talked the talk and walked the walk and still not getting it right. My concern in this write up is merely pointing out the things that ignorance leads us to. For example, I do not see how a liver problem, cardiac arrest or diabetes in young people translates to a spiritual problem when we know certain lifestyle changes can be made to manage the latter and early detection and access to medical services can take care of whoever is prone to the others. There’s a small boy who is quite close to me, that may have stepped on a dangerous object, which wasn’t detected early enough by the guardian, until the leg got infected and swollen, he still wasn’t taken to the hospital until the leg started rotting away while the poor boy became excessively anaemic, of course I intervened and was told ‘the boy (about 4-5 years at that time) stepped on poison. I took him to an orthopaedic hospital and had firsthand experience of the consequences of such ignorant beliefs, which effect is usually merciless on helpless kids. It was another eye opener to the level of our ignorance in this part of the world, kids that have been made anaemic by decaying limbs and would not be taken to the hospital because it is believed they stepped on poison and poison can only be treated traditionally, eventually they will be taken to the hospital but only when the case is almost hopeless and the damage highly irreversible because it takes months of hospitalisation to get the wound healed properly and even at that, the limbs are permanently disfigured except there’s money for surgical intervention later on. This is something that could have ordinarily been taken care of at the initial stage via proper medical attention and appropriate antibiotic prescription by a qualified medical practitioner, ignorance is indeed expensive!

Am not unaware of the level of poverty, illiteracy in the land and the failure of the government to make basic but quality health and educational facilities available to the populace, otherwise some of these untimely deaths are preventable but the means are usually not there. For example, a life threatening ailment can kick off with a consistent head ache and an unenlightened folk who does not have the means for a proper medical intervention will continue popping panadol for months until the case becomes almost hopeless.

I believe our tough talking politician have more than enough jobs on their hands to prove their preparedness to occupy our public offices. Instead of gathering people to distribute rice and salt(that usually pale into a few cups after the sharing)they can put all that resources together and build a few health clinics for the rural dwellers to be visiting for free, get a few medical personnel from the near-by communities to be devoting a few hours of their time weekly for serious consultations, the place can be kept busy by a few paid workers(whose salaries are nothing compared to some people’s daily lunch money)and largely volunteer workers such as the medical students on holidays, youth corpers and other trained health officials with at least one constant consultant that is very qualified. If this is done with the needed commitment and transparency, it won’t be long before government and international aid organisations attention are attracted. I don’t know why the professionals amongst us don’t volunteer their time and expertise for charity, money is not everything and I strongly believe that helping others, being charitable to others in your own way is the surest means to leading a happy and fulfilled life, even abroad, celebrities and experts take some time off to give a few hours of their time for charity, you see people closing from work early to assist in soup kitchens, taking some weekends off to assist in shelters, orphanages and old people’s home. These are simple but life enriching ways of making another’s life matter to you.
Much, as am not making any excuse for the failure of the state, the few fortunate ones amongst us, whom success has smiled on should learn to come together and do something worthwhile, something that will even outlive them in their communities, you are not asked to do it alone but you can get your influential and rich friends to have their hands on the desk.

Let’s not always wait for the government to do it all. We should learn to contribute our own quota, so it should not always be about what the Nigerian state can do for us, but what we can do for Nigeria in our own individual capacities. Your efforts may seem like a drop in the ocean but you had be shocked how many lives it will change for good.

This also calls for more duties for our first ladies in various states and their local government counterparts on the education of the masses on various issues of life, including the basic health preservation tips, hygiene etc, there’s no reason for the joblessness of Nigerian youths when we have this level of ignorance in our midst, they could be trained and equipped to help out in various meaningful projects that will be aimed at enlightening the people on various health and social issues.

Also the ubiquitous non government al organisations (NGOs)should not be left behind in this massive enlightening of the people, teaching them that whoever takes ill should be taken to the hospital or the nearest health clinic first and the doctors advise heeded.

We must start asking ourselves where we have gone wrong. I think of the glories of the past (as told to me by my late grandmother and dad plus the few that I have witnessed) each time I see the aged still going strong and remember the youths dropping dead in their numbers, mostly due to the destructive life styles we must have ignorantly chosen. I also wonder why they were not ‘attacked or poisoned’ in their days or is it something to do with our time?

Chukwuneta Oby writes from Lagos, Nigeria. She is a member of Champions For Nigeria.

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