Just a few minutes ago, I ended a conversation with my father that took us down memory lane with comparisons of realities of life that left me in surprise and shock bordering on rage.
There were many stories but the one I never knew was about my half-brother who before he received a given name experienced the misfortune of being born into an avoidable situation exacerbated by systemic failures in Nigeria.
My half-brother and I were born over 40 years apart, in literally similar circumstances but in different lands. We were both prematurely born, he arrived at just over 7 months, I arrived in 6 and a half months, somehow, we were delivered in maternity homes without facilities to cater for the prematurely born that we had to be moved to better equipped hospitals and that is where our stories begin to diverge.
Our separate lives
On the cold morning in 1965, after I was born, arrangements were made to move me to a major city hospital where as my father recounted to me, I had all the hallmarks of royal treatment – spacious, well-ventilated room, with nurses and medical personnel at my beck and call, I did not lack for care, comfort or succour – I am 47.
My half-brother, let’s call him Ìrírí (Yoruba for experience) was born in Ibadan which at one time was famed to be the largest city in Africa along with many firsts.
He was rushed to University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan the premier teaching hospital in Nigeria where a philanthropist had previously donated 6 incubators to the Paediatric Unit to cater for premature birth.
Five of six, down
Ìrírí arrived to find that five of the incubators were out of commission but was fortunate for a few hours to have the only functioning incubator temporarily vacated for him to at least have a fighting chance to lay claim on a Nigeria of our dreams.
However, alternative arrangements had to be made for Ìrírí, so when he had stabilised, the decision was made to transfer him to an incubator installed in the private practice of one of the UCH consultants, also in Ibadan.
Ìrírí made it to that practice but at the same time, he became an everyday Nigerian at the mercy of too many things out his control. The incubator was vacant and available but the public electricity supply was down and as if fate had colluded to deprive Ìrírí of an inalienable right, the backup electricity supply could not be provided because the generators will not start.
So, Ìrírí mustered all the strength he had to survive, he wriggled and writhed, panted for breath, desperately hoped that his heart will hold out and many other organs that were not fully developed for earthly experience strained at the limits of their ability without the support they all needed – after trying so hard, they decided this earthly experience was not worth it.
There, Ìrírí drew his last breath bidding the earth farewell but leaving a most indelible mark on the lives he has touched for the short while of just about 36 hours that he was with us – over 40 years after Akin was born in England, Ìrírí could not survive similar circumstances in an independent Nigeria in its 6th decade.
Time, manner and place
Then my father drew comparisons between Ìrírí and myself; as a poor student just about to take up a job in a sorting office for Christmas, I was born just 2 days after they had moved house, my mother’s labour probably brought on by the stress of moving house, I had the best of facilities provided at no cost at the behest of the government and here I stand.
Back in our home country of Nigeria, everything had to be paid for and it made no difference to the outcome, the experience was harrowing, the prognosis was dire and either as a microcosm or snapshot of the Nigerian experience, the short life of Ìrírí exemplifies so many things that are just not right with Nigeria.
The premier teaching hospital in the country had 5 out of 6 donated incubators out of commission, this does touch the matter of pre-existing incubators or what might have caused a philanthropist to make those donations.
Murder by proxy
Then the matter of usage and maintenance that led to the failure of the incubators that none of the management thought it prudent to either seek new funding from the donor or go on a fund-raising drive which contributed to the murder-by-proxy of Ìrírí.
I do wonder what the philanthropist would have felt if he learnt that the equipment he donated to the hospital had fallen into disrepair that the purposes for which the incubators were acquired could no more be served.
Then think of the many like my dear Ìrírí whose experience of this world was truncated by a system that serves nothing but rank incompetence, mismanagement, corruption, malfeasance and worse.
It ought not to be so, but that is one of the realities of Nigeria today.
Dear Ìrírí, Rest in peace, my half-brother, Nigeria did not deserve you.