In response to the recent deaths and series of unfortunate occurrences that have plagued the Nigerian state in recent times, ranging from the killings from the so-called herdsmen to accidents and explosions and terrorist mishaps.
After a series of thoughts and contemplations, I have arrived at the following conclusions: This is our country and we must do everything within our power to salvage the country. The responsibility of salvaging the country does not reside only in the hands of our leaders but more importantly in the citizenry.
The decadence and decay of systems and infrastructure that Nigeria is experiencing at the moment is a culmination of years of rot and decay, that is either worsened by each succeeding administration or some attempt is made at remedying some part of the rot.
The biggest question that confronts us, as citizens of this great country are: what are we doing about it? What am I doing about the situation?
It is always very easy to point fingers at the executive, judiciary, and legislative arm of government over the series of unfortunate incidents occurring in the country but what about the citizenry, what responsibility are we taking? For the sake of this write-up, I will use the recent tanker explosion as a case study to attempt to drive home my points.
Does it mean that we do not have highway codes in Nigeria? Does it mean that we do not have systems in place that guide the operation of tankers and heavy-duty trucks in Nigeria?” It was with heavy heart that I wrote the above think-piece, which was published on July 4, 2018.
Eight months after that disaster, another heart- wrenching calamity has gripped the nation. The nation is still recovering from the utter and wanton destruction of lives that followed the just concluded 2019 elections. The nation has not recovered from such a collective and colossal loss of lives when this calamity struck.
The building that collapsed housed a school and other conglomerates. When quality is compromised, the nation suffers.
Sadly enough as always, it is always the masses who suffer the most and the worst scenario is that the masses themselves do not know that they are the worst hit, because they have ceased to demand accountability from the those in offices.
Before any building is erected, there are procedures put into place to ensure that industry standards are met. But because of the endemic corruption in the system, we have all compromised quality and this is the price we pay for compromising industry standards.
To begin with, the industry standards are out there for a reason. These standards are constantly revised to meet the demands of the age.
These are thoroughly tried and tested procedures that are put in place to ensure that health and safety conditions are met and the lives of those working on these structures and those who will occupy these structures are met.
There are different professionals and public officers put in place to monitor and ensure that a building is built to the highest standards and after it has duly competed, somebody has to sign it off as having met the standards and fit for human habitation.
However because we are used to cutting corners and bending rules to fit the purpose of corruption, it may seem like we get away with so many things, and at the end of the day, when a calamity like this befalls a nation, we all cry and moan. Who caused it? We all did.
How? By participating in the trade-off, by cutting corners, by not insisting that the right thing is done. When we give a brown envelope to the officer in charge of signing off that, the building has met industry standards, we are selling off our lives and children’s lives.
When the civil/ structural engineer supervising the building project decides to use quarter inch rods instead of half-inch rods, this is what happens. If the foundation was to be of a certain structural configuration and it was compromised to save money and costs, this is how we pay for it.
When we cannot trust professionals to carry out what they were trained to do diligently and professionally, when we cannot trust those in the ministry of works, department of urban planning and municipalities to do their jobs, this is what happens. Death, shock, horror and never learning from the numerous accidents are the end results.
Just imagine for a moment, a parent, enrolling their children into that school that was housed in the ill-fated building – nine months of pregnancy, months of toil and care, numerous visits to hospitals, loans and hard work to put food on the table for the kids, purchase of clothes, the joy it brought to parents and families, dreams that these little ones dreamed of, the list is endless. Now, these dreams have been squashed, all the hard work and hopes for that child sequel.
The mourning, the grief, the emotional toil, and trauma, is harrowing. Perhaps due to a medical condition, the mother won’t be able to conceive anymore, in some cases, an entire family was wiped out. I am a parent. I know the emotional toil and resources involved in raising a child and children, only for it to go down what I call an avoidable situation.
The sorrow that has befallen the family, bigger family, society and nation as a whole cannot be defined.
Our leaders should bury themselves in shame. We as a people should bury our heads in shame and disgrace for aiding and abetting these practices by not insisting on the right thing. It is a price we have to pay, to insist on the right thing. It is a war we must win if we want to avert such a future disaster.
Surely the people who signed off that building as being fit for habitation and what it was constructed for must be around somewhere, they should be made to face a panel of professional inquiry towards making sure that they face the consequences of their action.
For the parents who lost their children, for the family who lost family members, for friends who lost loved ones, take heart, may this event kick off a revolution in us to never compromise standards so that another horror, another sad tale will not be witnessed by us anymore.
To all who died, may your blood never be in vain, may it be a price to pay for the rot in the system to be fixed, if not, may your blood haunt all those who were responsible for such a mishap.
• Umana wrote from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirate-