What’s the price of a human life in Nigeria?

“In the midst of a poor, wretched, homeless man, I learnt to be my brother’s keeper.”
Lagos road deserted during the 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections in Lagos on Saturday, February 23, 2019. (Photo by Adekunle Ajayi/NurPhoto)

It’s another Saturday morning and so I get along with my normal routine: got my sunglasses, face cap, headphones and running shoes. Today, I plan to run 20km listening to calm mediation music; not just to keep me at peace and in pace, but to lock out all these other people trying to make small talk. I need this alone time to drown all the usual city clutter and detox from the contamination I have to face driving to work daily. The stress levels, pollution, noise, traffic are enough to send you to an early grave, so today, as usual, I find a way to block it all out for my well being.

The first 30minutes passed by blissfully and then, a cyclist was almost brushed off the road by an on-coming car and in his maneuver to avoid a collision, obstructed my path and forced me to jump across a drainage. In landing, I sprained my ankle. Just a mild sprain, but it meant I had to walk, instead of run, walk. Minor inconvenience.

That walk home changed my life!

First, in crossing the drainage back to the road, I noticed it was filled and clogged with plastic and full of infected, algae filled water; it emitted a nauseating stench. How did I never notice before now? I thought the drainage was the worst sight to behold, but after my first few painful steps, I had to take off my sunglasses…a man was attempting to filter a bottle of water from this same gutter. I had to engage him in a conversation to find out what he wanted to do with it.

He had a small plastic bag with a comb, toothbrush and one t-shirt and apparently, that was everything he owned. He smiled at me and asked why I wasn’t wearing the red running shoes? I was shocked! How could he know? He saw my shock and added, “You wear the red one only on the first Saturdays, why not today?” I jog past this man every week, he knows my routine, what I wear, my pace and even what time I pass each way and I never, never, not once, took notice of him. I never felt so little. In the midst of a poor, wretched, homeless man, I learnt to be my brother’s keeper.

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I continued my walk but now, in deep contemplation, no sunglasses, no music – this time, I wanted to smell the air, feel the road, hear the noise and most important, I wanted to see more humans for I had already accepted, I was not one.

I walked past 2 men witch amputations sitting in the dirt next to a popular food joint and I watched them stretch their hand out to beg everyone that passed. It was early and they had both made N125 already and they said it was a good start coos they normally got about 4-500 per day. I asked if they had eaten and they both burst into laughter and said, “today no be chop day, na tomorrow we go chop”. It took me a few seconds to process what they said and when it hit me, it hit me hard. Abu and Abdulahi walked, very uncomfortably, into the food joint and we ordered food and ate together.

Honestly, I felt lighter after the meal and though I didn’t have much on me, I emptied my pockets to them.

On my street, I noticed that an abandoned car, which I had always seen but never took notice of, had its rear window down and I caught a glimpse of a tiny hand protruding,

I went close to find a lady and a baby that, based on size, couldn’t have been more than 18 months. What on earth is she doing in an abandoned car? I limped to her and again, started a conversation and first shock was that the little girl wasn’t 18 months but a very malnourished, under weight 4 year old. The lady had lost everything and this abandoned car was the only shelter she had and the dustbin across the road was her only source of food. She somehow, hadn’t been able to bring her self to beg and she said she prayed every night that death would come for her and her baby.

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In all this, I got a wild thought, “if all these people are in my path daily and I am too numbed by my own insignificant worries to even notice them, how about those in hospital?” I got home took a quick shower and rushed to the nearest government hospital. I honestly can’t say I knew what I was going to do there, but I went nonetheless.

As I looked for the ward, it started to rain, but I didn’t care because a man, in his late 30s, walked up to me, carrying a frail looking woman who looked 70 but who was his wife, aged 29. He needed money for a blood test before treatment could commence and he didn’t have. She looked gravely ill and I was about to say I didn’t have enough cash (I assumed she needed a lot of money for complicated tests) but he cut me short saying “I have N700, I need only N3,450). I froze. Under the rain. Life and death separated by less than the equivalent of $10…less than a shot of my favorite whiskey.

I left the hospital 3 hours later, after paying bills for half a dozen that I could find. I saved 6 lives today. 6 humans will live to die another day because of me. And it cost me less than that the tyre I replaced on my car yesterday. 6 lives.

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I blame the government for a lot of the ills in our society, like refusing to create a social safety net, refusing to plan and spend adequately on healthcare and education, abandoning the poor, homeless, maimed, old, widows, orphans; our government has a job and they are not living up to it. I don’t think government understand the plight of the people and I do not think they see that in between an epidemic, food crisis and poverty, we can be walking into a major disaster.

But today, I look at the man in the mirror and we have agreed that we will take more responsibility for our environment, our friends like Abu and Abdulahi, the homeless like Mary and baby Chinonso, the sick like Gbenga’s wife.

I frequent the hospital now and though I can never help everyone, I hope one day, I can get everyone I know to help someone

I woke up this Saturday morning for my normal routine; my sunglasses, face cap, headphones and running shoes.

I woke up this Saturday morning and in trying to lock out the world, thinking of just myself and my misfortune, a sprained ankle, opened my eyes, my mind and my heart.

I woke up this Saturday morning an ordinary man; I go to bed today, hopefully, as a human being!

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect News Central’s editorial stance.


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