Monthly Archives: May 2013

Good Night My Beloved Friend, Engr. Decency Ogonna Okike!

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In January 1995, we started seeing a new face in JSS 1B class. It was the second term of my first year in Government Secondary School, Afikpo. I had thought I was the last person to join the class having resumed by the sixth week of the first term. This new guy was somewhat reserved and very studious. Within a short while, his good academic performance started drawing our attention. Not many would have expected someone who missed an entire term to become one of the top three best students by the end of the session. Ogonna surprised many of us pleasantly.

Late Engr. Ogonna Okike

Late Engr. Ogonna Okike

It didn’t take long before we became friends. I usually consider myself as being lazy when it comes to studying even though my academic performance suggests the opposite. I felt being closer to Ogonna who studied diligently might be helpful. He had a very good handwriting and I looked forward to borrowing his notes in the event that I missed classes. For most part of our years in Afikpo, Ogonna and I were the two best students in our class in terms of academic performance. Unlike many who may consider themselves as rivals, Ogonna and I related more like brothers. He treated many of us from Ohaozara who were close to him as brothers and mentored many of our junior colleagues. I was too playful to mentor anyone then.

Ogonna did something I would never forget. After our JSS3 examination, I wanted to change school to Federal Government College, Okposi to compete with a friend who boasted that he would beat me academically if we found ourselves in same class. Due to financial constraints, I could not change to FGC but had to return to Afikpo the 8th week with only 2 weeks of classes remaining. I didn’t want to sit for the 1st term examination because I was afraid I would perform poorly and that it may adversely affect my cumulative average. Ogonna and Chidiebere Osuu encouraged me to sit for the examination. Chidiebere was also our classmate and friend, he died in November 2010. They provided their notes for me to copy and prepare for the examination. Ogonna helped to teach me a lot of things I missed. Not many in his position would have helped me given that I had an edge over him in our academic contest. Ogonna didn’t see my situation as an opportunity to overtake me academically. He supported me as if he was my guardian. He also provided similar support when I fell ill during our secondary certificate examination (SSCE). That is the kind of person he was.

Ogonna (middle row, 3rd from left) and I (next on his left) with other members of GSS, Afikpo Press Club in 2000.

Ogonna (middle row, 3rd from left) and I (next on his left) with other members of GSS, Afikpo Press Club in 2000.

More so, Ogonna and I ran the Press Club of Government Secondary School, Afikpo very successfully. I was the editor-in-chief and he held the post of the Associate Editor – the second highest position in the club. We also revitalized the Science Club; he was the Secretary while I was the president. He was a great team player and one of the most dedicated persons I’ve ever worked with. Our administration in the clubs was full of success stories and Ogonna played pivotal role in all we achieved. During our final year in GSS Afikpo, we both sat for the University Matriculation Examination and were the only students in our class that chose the University of Ibadan where we wanted to study medicine and surgery.

We both moved to Lagos after our secondary education. My application to UI was successful but Ogonna’s wasn’t. While I was getting support from my elder siblings in my education, Ogonna didn’t have older ones to do same. Our parents were poor. He was the only son. He took up the challenge of creating wealth for himself and the family. He struggled on the streets of Lagos. I usually visit him on Saturday nights and after fruitful discussions about life and our future plans, we would sleep on a mat in a video rental shop in Anthony Village. We would then visit Ndubuisi Igwe at Alapere (Ketu) on the Sunday and share the memories of our Afikpo days. Ndubuisi was also our classmate and friend. The pleasant stories of my 18 years friendship with Ogonna are too many to narrate.

L-R: Ogonna, I and Nwankwo Uzoma covering 1999 Old Boys homecoming as pressmen.

L-R: Ogonna, I and Nwankwo Uzoma covering 1999 Old Boys homecoming as pressmen.

Ogonna, very intelligent and diligent, progressed from being a street trader in Lagos to becoming one of the most successful young entrepreneurs in Ohaozara. While running his business in Onicha, he also obtained HND in Electrical Electronics Engineering and completed his NYSC program in 2011. At every stage of our struggle, we shared information on our progress and dreams. He was my close confidant. Though we operated largely from distant locations over the past decade, it didn’t count because we were always in regular communication with each other. How would I have known that my elder brother’s wedding which Ogonna attended in May 2011 would be my last eyeball-to-eyeball contact with him?

Chi jiri ehihie jie! April 24, 2013 was one of the saddest days of my life as I woke up to read Ndubuisis’s SMS that Ogonna died in a fatal road traffic accident. Death is so cruel. It has dealt another big blow on me. Ogonna’s death is an unquantifiable loss. I’ve lost a close associate who has contributed immensely to my success. Ogonna lived a very humble life and served as a role model to many of us. How would I have known that our phone conversation a couple of weeks before his demise would our last? Why would death deny his little baby the love and care of a father like Ogonna? Why would death make his beautiful wife a widow only one year after their marriage? Why would death take away such a great son of Onicha and Ohaozara at this time?

Who will console Ogonna’s lovely wife, mother and sisters? Who will console us – his friends? I can’t describe how devastated I am. As the wake-keep was going on in Onicha, I couldn’t sleep in United States. I kept remembering our years of fruitful friendship. I write this with tears and excruciating pain. I’m finding it difficult to believe he’s gone. Ogonna, I will always love you. I will keep your memory alive as long as I live. I know your soul is already resting with our creator, and your body would return to mother earth today (May 25, 2013). It is so painful to refer to you with past tenses. I will miss you Ogonna. I will miss you so much. My prayer is for God continue to bless your soul and console every one of us. Good night, my beloved friend.

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Uwom Eze: “Uncivilised Treatment of Female Suspects”: Bundled Editorial of a National Daily

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Dr Uwom Eze

The Editorial page of  May 7, 2013 in one of the front-line national newspapers in Nigeria focused on a very important issue on the subject of maltreatment of female detainees in police cell and prisons with regards to sexual abuse. We have inadvertently tolerated such gross violations of Human Rights at our police stations, detention centres and prisons as part of  some hopeless resignation to fate in the hands of people who are supposed to serve the citizenry and protect human dignity but have turned their staff of office against the people and constituted themselves maximum authorities.

Unfortunately, one of the factors fueling gender based violence is the pervasive female stereotypes in our community. It is this stereotype that portrays women as objects for possession and for pleasure, and it’s not surprising that most women unfortunate to be detained in police cells or prisons in Nigeria, and most of Africa, bear scars of sexual abuse(most of time silently).

 
Laudable as the effort of Punch Newspapers to bring this malady to the national discuss might be, it is nonetheless laced with a typical stereotype which tends to classify women as “vectors” of diseases and not rightly as humans who have been abused, often by men who are mindless and in actual sense are vectors of human failure, depravation and low life. The following statement in the Punch Editorial: But more frightening is the health hazards such sexually harassed female detainees pose to the wider society when freed. Certainly, they become agents for the spread of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS, gonorrhoea and syphilis. Other contagious ailments such as tuberculosis and cholera easily spread is ill informed and most unfortunate.
 
Punch Editorial should be educated that “more frightening” is the impunity of those in authority who abuse their power and violate the vulnerable; “more frightening” is a society which has become unsafe for everyone of us; “more frightening” is the savagery and inhumanity in our midst; “more frightening” is the complacency of the entire society which has failed to hold people to account and firmly demand for justice; “more frightening” is the lack of support services for survivors of sexual violence; and “more frightening”  is the absence of appropriate forensic medicine service for the management of the survivors, and for collection of forensic medical evidence for the justice system. These and more are the “more frightening” situations that an informed Punch Editorial should have been concerned about, rather than the apparent re-victimization of already traumatized women in that poorly conceived statement which is dripping from a poisonous gravy of female stereotype as sexual objects that are vectors of diseases following sexual assault. This has been responsible for the stigmatization and continuing violence that survivors of sexual assault experience in our society.
 
Punch Newspaper should withdraw that unfortunate statement and correct a wrong impression which has devalued a beautiful case the paper has tried to make for the respect of human dignity in their Editorial page of this day.
 
Dr Uwom Eze, a Consultant Pathologist and a Public Affairs Commentator writes from Ibadan, Nigeria. 

My Frustrations with the Nigerian Health System

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Hospital Ward

Hospital Ward


Kindly have a closer look at this photograph for a few seconds. What does it tell you? The photo was first posted on facebook by Mr Appolos Okafor on April 16, 2013. He wrote, “When can we learn to do the right thing at the right time? Can someone believe this is one of the federal teaching hospitals in the southeast undergoing repairs under the watch eyes of patients admitted in one of the wards who were suppose to be evacuated to a safer ward until the repairs are over? Please is this condition safe for patients battling between life and death?”

The subsequent day, Mr Okafor posted the photograph again with another statement, “Repairs are still ongoing in of the Federal Teaching Hospital in the south-east at the detriment of patients admitted and whose high blood pressures needs a quiet environment and not an environment where hammer and other iron materials are struggling on whose voice should be heard aloud.” He also followed it up with this, “A country about to celebrate its one hundred years in existence still admit a patient in an environment like this”.

Mr Okafor is my neighbour in my hometown – Okposi, Ebonyi State of Nigeria. I grew up knowing him and all members of his family. He’s a gentleman and a graduate professional. As I write, he and his family are mourning the death of his younger sister whom he had taken to a tertiary healthcare facility for medical care. The sister has only lived for about three decades. On April 26, 2013, Mr Okafor posted the above photograph yet again and wrote “Federal teaching hospitals in Nigeria are built to provide adequate medical services in well-built environments. Can someone believe that I took my beloved sister Uzomaka to one of the acclaimed best teaching hospitals in the southeast for medical treatment but all I got was uncaring attitude of people who swore to uphold the tenets guiding medical profession, worst still, I lost her under this condition”.

Obviously, Mr. Okafor was and is still very upset, who wouldn’t be? At this time I do not know her late sister’s medical history. Even if I do, I can’t disclose it. I sent a message to him to ascertain the exact hospital that this happened but yet to get a response, understandably. From his facebook posts since they got to the hospital, I could sense emotional stress which got exacerbated by Uzoamaka’s demise. Mr Okafor is not satisfied with the quality of health services the sister got. Whether the alleged poor healthcare services caused the death of his sister may be arguable. However, the fact that Uzoamaka and other patients in the hospital deserve the best possible quality of care in a good environment is unarguable.

Late Engr. Ogonna Okike

Late Engr. Ogonna Okike

The news of Uzoamaka’s death only worsened the emotional trauma and grief I was grappling with. I have been mourning the death Engr. Ogonna Okike, a bosom friend of mine of close to 20 years who died last week. Mr. Okike is also in his 3rd decade of life, marked one year anniversary of his marriage a couple of weeks ago and was preparing to present his daughter for church blessings on April 28th. Ogonna, the only son of his parents died in a fatal auto-crash close to Enugu, leaving behind his 3 month old daughter, young wife, widowed mother and sisters. His death came at a time I was mournfully remembering Engr. Ukpa Nwankwo, my childhood friend who died at the age of 28 years from severe head injury sustained after a road traffic accident two years ago. Ukpa would have been alive if there was a functional emergency management system in my state. He was my classmate in primary school and we were called twins while we were growing up.

Late Ngozi Nwozor-Agbo (L)

Late Ngozi Nwozor-Agbo (L)

Last year, I lost one of the most intelligent ladies I’ve ever known. Mrs Ngozi Nwozor-Agbo initiated the Campus Life page on The Nation newspaper and I was one of the pioneer campus writers. As the editor, she helped to make me a better writer and we formed an intimate relationship. She died in a process that should have brought joy and smiles on everyone’s face – childbirth. Like Ogonna’s wife, Ngozi’s beloved husband became a widower one year after his marriage. Ogonna and Ngozi provided immense emotional support to me while I was mourning Ukpa’s death. Some months before Ukpa left us, Ogonna and I had mourned the death of our friend and former high school classmate, Chidiebere Osuu. Chidiebere was an accountant and was one of those who died while participating in physical drills during a recruitment process of one of the federal parastatals. His family is yet to get over his death. Chidi’s death came about 6 months after a friend and professional colleague, Dr Gaby Ifewulu died from a fatal accident. Gaby was the best graduating doctor in 2008 at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He achieved this feat few months after I lost my cousin Chukwuma. Chukwuma died at the age of 25 in a fatal vehicular accident close to Benin.

Did I get you bored or confused with this narrative? Were you able to keep count of the number of people I’ve lost? Did you observe all of them were in their 20s or 30s? You can imagine my state of mind recounting this number of losses within a 5 year period. Is it not enough to get one confused, frustrated or even depressed? You may now understand why the narrative (possibly) got confusing at some point, please bear with me. It hurts me more because as a physician, I do know that some of them would have been saved had a well-equipped emergency ambulance arrive the scene of the accidents in good time. I’m very upset because no woman in this age and time is supposed to die from childbirth. I am mad at the situation because our country has both the human and material resources to make our health system strong enough to prevent these kinds of deaths. We don’t have a policy framework to regulate health services in Nigeria and both the National Assembly and the Presidency have refused to make the National Health Bill become law for more than 10 years.

I won’t be able to write everything in my mind because it’s enough to write a book and I have decided to write one in the near future. If you are upset with the deplorable situation like me, we need to act. We need to put more pressure particularly on the local and state governments most of whom are not serious about health system strengthening. I must acknowledge that good progress has been made in some areas of our health sector in the recent past but there is still a lot to do. We have lost too many productive young people already; our economy is in danger and the future of our country bleak if this trend is allowed to continue. The ball is in our court!

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