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“When beggars die, there are no comets seen; heaven themselves blaze forth the death of princes” – Williams Shakespeare, in Julius Caesar.
These days, a Nigerian life is worth very little; it has suffered a steep depreciation in value far worse than that experienced by the Naira under the Muhammadu Buhari administration. Hell is let loose when a citizen is lost to disasters in countries where premium is placed on life but here in Nigeria, multitudes perish and no eyebrows are raised. It is both ironic and comical that the same government that feels unconcerned with the death of hordes of Nigerians is quick to issue statements commiserating with foreign countries that lose one or two persons to disasters!
Is it that the occurrence of disasters here are nowadaysa so commonplace that they have become habitual? The agents of death stalking the land are too many to be numbered: Armed robbers; ritual killers; kidnappers; rapists; vehicular accidents; fire disasters; homicides; suicides; suicide bombers; ethnic clashes; Fulani herdsmen; Boko Haram insurgents; Police and other armed men’s brutality as well as accidental discharge of bullets; name them. Innocent lives are lost at an alarming rate on a daily basis. It may be that government has become overwhelmed. If they are to commiserate on every occasion, they will have to issue multiple condolence messages on a daily basis!
The number of deaths caused by Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen alone is mind-boggling. While government is fighting the former, it appears to have given the latter a free rein. They are not only sacred cows which must not be touched; the joke now is that a cow’s life has more value than a non-Hausa/Fulani human life! Mind you, a cow costs hundreds of thousands of Naira; what is the cost of a human being? We have heard stories of parents selling their babies for a bag of rice or even less! This could be the economic justification for the obvious partisanship of the Federal Government in favour of the herdsmen and their cows!
The Federal Government’s scanty regard for life has also been demonstrated in the way it has treated the “Fanta” and “Sprite” issue. Not only the two beverages mentioned here but also all beverages should be investigated to determine their level of harmfulness to the human body. Our laws must be reviewed regularly to bring them abreast of new medical discoveries. Regulatory authorities should also note that life is involved and the cankerworm of corruption should be kept at bay. Officials who compromise should be severely dealt with.
Thanks to social media, we now have the list of malaria drugs which have been banned elsewhere as a result of new medical discoveries but which are still on the shelves here. I was alarmed to see the name of a malaria drug I recently purchased off the counter on the list. We are now also aware that virtually all the so-called “soft” drinks contain substances injurious to health. The sugar content in them is alarming; for a society with an increasing rate of diabetes, we should not ignore this danger. In other countries where control is rigorous and conscious effort is made to protect public health, “soft” drinks are not as sweetened as the ones we consume here. Even the malt drinks are not spared; apart from the advertised presence of fake malt drinks, the chemical composition of these drinks should constantly be examined and they should be kept within safe limits.
One expert after another has pooh-poohed the Federal Government’s “clearance” on the raging “soft” drinks issue. Is it true that the “soft” drinks in question contain Vitamin C? Is this in itself harmful to health? How about the other chemicals that are said to be in higher proportions than those approved by authorities in the UK and even in neighbouring Ghana? If the “soft” drinks produced in Nigeria are deemed unfit for human consumption in the UK and Ghana; if they are injurious to health in those countries, how come they are fit for human consumption here? It is better to err on the side of caution and apply the most rigorous of health safety standards than take chances and ruin the health of our people. The more health issues we have, the more budget we run on health as a nation and as individuals.
The authorities must also act on the indiscriminate way Nigerians consume herbal mixtures and so-called energy drinks. These drinks contain chemicals that cause gradual but certain damage to people’s health. Nigerians must note that the best drink available to man is water; not only is it cheaper than all those other drinks, it is also safer. Two considerations that drive the “drinks” industry are profit and entertainment. The producers are driven by profit and what guarantees them higher profit, even if it damages people’s health, is to be preferred. The consumers, on the other hand, have the erroneous impression that they are “enjoying” themselves and deriving benefits when they gulp those damaging and disastrous liquids.
Selfish motives is the same reason why people will insist on citing petrol stations in residential areas, not minding the hazards involved and the dangers that accidents can cause to inhabitants. There is one such petrol station in my neighbourhood of Fagbola Street, Oke-Koto, Agege, Lagos state. A few months’ ago, an accident at a petrol station in Ado-Ekiti, the capital of Ekiti state, nearly wiped out a whole street; had it not been that they were lucky that the tanker was loaded with diesel and not petrol, hundreds, if not thousands, would have lost their lives as well as means of livelihood. Yet, when Gov. Ayo Fayose moved last week to demolish such petrol stations, otherwise sensible people, who should have buried their heads in shame for their atrocious activities, rose to challenge him, declaring a strike to the bargain! It is time Nigerians began to place premium on human life.