The average Nigerian should expect to live for 48 years if lucky but this is shortened even more if one decides to attend a political rally. The alarming trend of senseless deaths that occurs regularly at political rallies should be of concern to all public health professionals. The most recent of these events happened at an Akwa Ibom rally thrown by the State governor Godswill Akpabio just 8 days ago. Five students were killed and many others were injured while fighting for their share of N15 million that the governor promised to distribute to the unemployed students of the University of Uyo, Uyo City Polytechnic and Akwa Ibom State College of Education. Further, on February 13th in a PDP rally in Port Harcourt, a mad stampede resulted in the deaths of 12 people. Less than 3 months before this, 11 people died in another PDP rally stampede. This one in Kwara State was organized by Governor Saraki apparently to distribute rice to his supporters during a sallah party.
No one says politicians should not show kindness to their constituents. However when these ‘kind’ episodes routinely result in the deaths of so many then it becomes much more sinister. I am absolutely sure that I have not listed all of these weird orgies of wasteful spending and gratuitous deaths.
Who is to be blamed?
Is it the politician that most likely spent his tenure mismanaging public funds and then decides to show his desperate generosity by distributing what already belongs to the people in an ironic show of goodwill? Perhaps one should blame the people who keep showing up to these obvious death traps just so they can scrape some Naira or rice to keep body and soul together. One would think that Governor Godswill Akpabio would know better than to distribute N15 million to unemployed people in such a disorganized way which ultimately resulted in their deaths.
The question remains. What stopped him from sharing the money systematically by placing it in ATM cards and distributed to each individual in separate? He could have worked out a deal where the bank whose ATM is chosen is given the opportunity to match the governor’s donation. Everybody wins. The governor would have the goodwill of the students of his state and everyone gets to keep their lives. A death rally would have been avoided and 5 young promising Nigerians might still be alive today. Better yet what if he had used some of that money to pay the striking doctors of his state and assure that his citizens will continue to enjoy good health care when they need it? Or perhaps he could have used the money to create schemes that might help counter the kidnapping epidemic ravaging his state.
There has to be a time when we demand sane policies from our leader. When will enough truly be enough? It is ridiculous to attempt to distribute food, or cash to a large crowd without having some sort of crowd controlling mechanism in place. It is at best mismanagement of public money and at worse gross negligence resulting in the senseless slaughter of so many. It is time these politicians are forced to make better choices and this can only be achieved by holding one of them accountable for these deaths.