Saturday, 12 February 2011

Nigeria: At a Presidential Rally Stampedes should not become of humanity

Gauging the situation

I saw this status on Facebook and I felt I had to comment but the longer the comment became it looked like it was best fleshed out on a blog.

“Wow. People died. Yes. But why the gross exaggeration? #fuckingstorytellers”

This was in reaction to a story that appeared on Sahara Reporters which I must say I am not particularly a fan of but there goes.

They published the headline “Blood Bath At Jonathan's Presidential Rally In Port Harcourt: Scores Crushed To Death | Sahara Reporters.”

Any death is already too many

In my humble opinion, if anyone died at what was supposed to be a presidential rally; that is one death too many especially if the death was a result of a number of factors that appeared in the news story.

1. The over-crowding of a stadium.

2. The lack of effective crowd control. This probably created the chaotic situation that made the police shoot in the air.

3. The stampede that resulted from the first two factors.

Stampedes are characteristics of the wild in the animal world, human-beings should not be found in stampedes if we are properly organised.

It is unfortunate that the matter of security and policing in Nigeria is usually slanted towards the protection of dignitaries rather than a broad strategy for the public safety of the populace at large.

Cause, prevention & reaction

That all said, the numbers issue and the exaggeration is neither here nor there - my reading here is the lack of empathy and value for human life on the one hand and tendency to sensationalism on the other hand.

If the official figure is 2 in an accident on Aba Road and 12 at the stadium, that does not amount to scores, however, if you are fitting 250,000 people in a 100,000 capacity stadium and a stampede occurs where the surging crowd is being kept back by bad judgement of shooting in the air even objective assessment would suggest a higher than lower figure would be injured and probably killed - but we have no evidence to that effect.

This might well mean luck kept the number lower than expected but it does not absolve the planners of this event from culpability and we need to be spared the crocodile tears that are now shed in sympathy for the victims of this mishap. [The President has since through his spokesperson expressed regret]

The cynical twist to this debacle is the president would have preferred to see an over-crowded stadium that speaks of his popularity than a half-filled one which would have made this tragedy avoidable, but that would be sentimental.

"Wow! People died. Yes", is an unfortunate comment on a tragic situation that happened because people gathered to hail the president, in the quest to appear objective this comes across sadly as clinical, unfeeling and apathetic – much more was desired of both the reporting and the reaction.

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