Uncle Emeka died by 2.30am on the 23rd of June 2020, barely three days after his 67th birthday. He died while seated behind a car that was taking him to yet another hospital in Abuja.
But Uncle Emeka’s march to Calvary began around 11am on that particular day. He complained of a chest pain and weakness and asked to be taken to the hospital. His friend who had come to visit was luckily there and offered to drive him the few kilometers to Garki Hospital. So Uncle Emeka and his wife came downstairs, sat behind the car and were driven to the hospital.
But Garki Hospital rejected them and even when Uncle Emeka complained that he was getting weaker, they asked him to go and do a Convid-19 test. He called the FCT Hotlines which were either switched off or not answered. Several relatives spread out in different states kept calling these numbers without luck. At the International Conference Center which housed the Covid Test Center, Uncle Emeka was told that the staff had gone on strike because the government refused to pay them. He was directed to Asokoro General Hospital. There again he was turned away.
Uncle Emeka decided to brave the 60 kilometers from Asokoro to Gwagwalada Teaching Hospital. His breathing was becoming shallow but he held on. At Gwagwalada he was informed that there was no bed space. It happens that lack of bed space is another way of saying, we will not treat you. We will not save you.
Now scared about the dwindling state of Uncle Emeka, his friend sped back another 50 kilometers to the National Hospital. There they checked his temperature and remarked that he needed to be put on oxygen. However, they could not treat him because ( again) there was no space. Uncle Emeka was driven to Gwarimpa, to Federal Medical Center, to the Turkish Hospital, to Nisa Premier. In all these hospitals, there were doctors. In all these hospitals he was refused treatment.
By 12 am Uncle Emeka was already tired. His eyes closed, his breathing shallower. His wife had started crying, her voice hoarse from begging for her husband’s life at each hospital they went. She could not understand the sheer callousness, the way medical professionals would shrug and turn away a patient who needed immediate help.
Perhaps they were afraid that Uncle Emeka had Convid-19. But have we not been regaled by news of how Nigeria is spending its billions on Covid treatment and healthcare? But the reality, as Uncle Emeka was to find out that day, fighting for his life behind that car; was far from what was advertised. Where are the billions of Naira budgeted for Covid 19 treatment actually going?
As Uncle Emeka made his painful journey to Calvary, his chest tightened and his breathing laboured, he found out that the FCT numbers rang out without answers. He realized that the FCT at some point would switch off their so called hotlines. It must have been painful to realize that everything touted about government’s readiness was a big fraud.
You see, the hospitals were not sure whether he had Convid-19. His history of hypertension could mean that he was having a heart attack. But these hospitals did not give him a chance. They were all a part of the culture of callousness and impunity that murdered a man who should not have died.
You may ask dear reader, how this concerns you. After all, you have never met Uncle Emeka or his family who have been treated so unjustly. But Uncle Emeka is all of us. Or he will be soon enough. For when you eventually fall sick in Nigeria, and at these times, you will receive the same treatment he got. I hope that your Calvary does not end as his did. He breathed his last tired and knowing that there was no hope.
For you, for us, there may still be hope. Can we for once shake off this docility and ask where the money budgeted for COVID-19 is going? Can we ask all the medical professionals on duty at these hospitals why Uncle Emeka was not treated? Can someone pay for the murder of a man who gave his skills and imagination to the upliftment of his fellow man? Can we for once rise up and speak so that Uncle Emeka’s sacrifice is not in vain.