Saturday, May 8, 2010

Of Corpses of Men, and Women Too !.

I have been traveling from Lagos to Abuja, I always enjoy these long trips, the reverie is soothing, I get to do some serious thinking,don't ask me how, when I am on the road.

As usual,one could not help but notice the poor state of the roads, there are futile attempts at fixing them, but we all know they would not last, very few of them have proper drainage: the consequence is that water pools on the roads, and degrades them.

But that is not the issue at hand, I witnessed an accident yesterday at Gbongon Exit, along Ibadan-Ife Road, I saw the huge crowd before seeing the woman who was evidently dead, she was lying on her back,like a boxer who was out for the count: I knew she was not waking up, ever. 

The photographer in me wanted to stop, and take a photograph, but I heard my head telling me it was approaching Six pm, I do not drive on Nigerian roads after Six pm,I almost died in an accident last year.

In the morning, I continued my trip, everywhere bad roads, bad bad roads ! I had just left Okene, a Town in Kogi state, when I saw it, it was a corpse, this time it looked like a man, but it barely looked human, it was in it's final stage of decomposition. I was subdued again.

I am not afraid of death, I know that one day it would be my turn, what angers me is how people who die in public places in Nigeria are treated.
In the woman's case nobody had thought it right to dignify her in death, by covering her, she was left there for all to stare at. No one could spare a wrapper, or even cut branches to cover her. In this man's case, he could have been the victim of a hit and run accident, a robbery attack, ritual killing, or whatever. No one dignified him in death by removing the corpse from the side of the road. He was allowed to decompose like an animal.

The woman, I am sure was someone's wife, or sister, and definitely daughter, she could have been a traveling trader who came to her end at Gbongon, I hope she had some form of identification on her. The man was certainly someone's son, probably a brother, maybe he even had a wife, and children. In his case I am certain that none of his loved ones were aware of unflattering end.

The two cases I have mentioned, were probably replicated in at least ten different places in Nigeria, and the end would always be the same, the loved ones would not know how these people died, they would kindle tiny sparks of hope that one day they would come home.Alas! All to no avail. I keep wondering  if there are there no local governments in these areas where people die everyday, and are left to rot ,like common animals.

It is common knowledge that very few Nigerians go about with any form of identification. There is no central database for dental records, fingerprints ,or DNA. Many Nigerians are one step away from just vanishing into nothingness. 

The other day I posted on my wall on Facebook, India's biometric census exercise. That is an example of a government that understands the power of technology. There are very few things we can achieve until we get the basics right. I am exasperated each time someone refers to Nigeria's population figure: it used to be One hundred and forty million people, now we hear people saying, 'about One hundred and fifty million, are they interpolating or extrapolating, I am shocked that we do not know how many we are.

I have always known that it was dangerous to be ill in Nigeria, now I have just discovered that it is also undignified to die in public too.   

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