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UNTIMELY DEATH: WHO WILL RESCUE EKITI JOURNALISTS?

PHOTO: THE MURDERED SENIOR JUDICIAL CORRESPONDENT OF THE NATION, MR EDO SULE UGBUAGWU.
PHOTO: THE MURDERED SENIOR JUDICIAL CORRESPONDENT OF THE NATION, MR EDO SULE UGBUAGWU.


A stitch in time, they say, saves nine but in Ekiti reverse seems to be the case. A member of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) at Information Chapel, Sam Olaleye attached to the deputy governor lost his life early this year after a scuffle with a yet-to-be arraigned assailant who hit him on the head on the very day Ekiti State government organized a programme in Ado Ekiti. We all mourned, lamented and prayed that such a sad incident would not repeat itself again. In short, the NUJ invited the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to our uncompleted Press Centre for a special prayer on journalists in the State.

Alas! Another calamity befell journalists in form of a motor accident which claimed the life of one of us, Mr Dipo Okunmuyide, the National Life correspondent in Ekiti. His death is painful because, like Sam Olaleye, it was an avoidable death if necessary precaution had been put in place at the glorified Health Centre being erroneously rated by the owners as a World Class University Teaching Hospital. This is why the "Basket Mouth" must open his mouth again so as to guide against future occurrence by calling the attention of the State government to the unspeakable things happening at the Specialist Hospital in Ado Ekiti.

If not that it affected a colleague, I would not have bothered to personally challenge the standard of the newly upgraded University of Ado College Teaching Hospital (UNACTH) to avoid another name calling or being referred to as an agent of the opposition because the Yorubas will say; "Ai je ki oniro paro ija niida sile" – meaning" argument with a liar leads to controversy". However, now that this so called World Class Teaching Hospital is fast becoming, a Word Class Killing Hospital, it is a crime for us to keep quite in the face of serial deaths. It was a government Press Officer yesterday, National Life Correspondent today, who knows who is next tomorrow? God forbid!

This question of who will rescue Ekiti journalists is neither a rhetoric question nor an attempt to blackmail the government as it may appear but a question that needs an urgent answer from the appropriate quarters following the shocking news we received from State Commissioner for Health, Dr Femi Thomas, that the State government was not under any obligation to provide ambulance for a dying patient when we complained to him over the death of our dear colleague.

We are crying out now over these journalists that died in active service without any insurance scheme for their families because if they were assassinated Nigerians will pay lip-service and thereafter forget them but now that it came in form of negligence by those paid to save life, something must be done quickly to arrest this urgly situation. The Deputy Governor’s press officer who was hit on the head with a touch-light could not be saved at the specialist hospital here but was transferred to UCH in Ibadan where he eventually gave up. In another pathetic manner, Surplus (as I will prefer to call Dipo in this piece) who had an accident within Ado Ekiti was brought to the same hospital alive on Saturday night where the Commissioner for Health and the Chief Medical Director attended to him and assured us that they would manage the situation.

Without any fear of bias, I would not like to bother you with unnecessary detail of the motor accident that eventually led to Dipo Okunmuyide’s death on his way from an assignment of former Governor Bamidele Olumilua’s birthday. My major concern here is the carelessness with which his treatment was handled. He was brought here alive and handed over to us dead! Few hours before his death, he called me in the presence of his wife and son and said; "Akogun please help me to inform Lagbaja and Tamedu because I don’t really fancy the way things are being handled here." At a stage in the hospital, he had to support the licking cylinder nub tied round his mouth with his palm after being put on a ramshackle wheel chair.

This 47-year old colleague was put on oxygen intermittently between Saturday and Monday but could not be taken to the X-ray section because of his unstable state of health. When I could not bear it any longer, I wept over the irritating disrepair condition of the facilities at the hospital especially the broken down Wheel Chair on which our own "Surplus" was to be taken to the X-ray section; a stick was used as the step the patient would rest his leg. Worse still, some of the bed sheets at the hospital still carried the inscription "ODSG" meaning that some of these brownish white bed sheets were inherited from the old Ondo State in 1996! What a shame!

After the third day when no particular doctor was really attached to him, we cried out and they referred him to UCH but none of the ambulance vans at the world class rated hospital was functional as the CMD later told the Commissioner for Health in our presence that the ambulance’s brain box had problem. We had to hire an ambulance for N28,000 to take our friend to UCH with a deposit of N20,000 and a promise to pay the balance in Ibadan but the driver breached the agreement by dumping the patient at Ile-Ife and returning to Ado Ekiti same day.

On their way to Ibadan, the ambulance’s tyre got deflated and the extra tyre in the boot was already flat, so the patient was kept on the highway with the licking oxygen in his mouth under the scorching sun. Before they could repair the tyres, it was dark so they decided to have a stop-over at the OAUTH, Ile-Ife but it is still a mystery why the Doctor and Matron who took the patient to Ile-Ife from their hospital in Ekiti withdrew the oxygen and returned to Ado Ekiti with the ambulance driver who was expected to take the patient to Ibadan the following day. The man died barely few hours these people left for Ado Ekiti, a journey of one and a half hour to Ile-Ife with the same tyre which they complained could not reach Ibadan, a 45 minutes drive to Ile-Ife.

This is a clear case of man’s inhumanity to man because when we complained to the commissioner for health, he further told us that "there is no way the doctor and matron who went with him could have stayed over-night because they were not provided with night allowances." Some of the unanswered questions asked by the enrage journalists were; who ought to have provided them with night allowance? If the State government is not under obligation to provide ambulance to carry the patient, whose duty was it? If the medical personnel who dumped the patient and returned to Ado were not duty bond to follow him then who should have done so? Another official hypocrisy or do I call it pettiness of the highest order was when the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Wale Ojo-Lanre went to visit the patient at the hospital in Ado but had to leave in annoyance simply because the former governor, Ayo Fayose, his (Wale’s) former mentor visited Surplus who served Fayose’s deputy as Press Secretary.

Even at the funeral service in Okemesi, neither the governor nor the CPS was present probably because they had the premonition that Fayose would come to commiserate with the family which he actually did. Now the question is; who will rescue us from this Kose-kose, ko je k’Olure se? I wish to however commend the former deputy governor, Mrs Abiodun Olujimi whom deceased served as Press Secretary and few others in government for coming to the funeral service at St Michael Anglican Church, Okemesi Ekiti. We also appreciate the PDP’s director of media and strategy in Osun State, Prince Adeolu Adeyemo who did not only come with friends, but joined us in carrying the corpse throughout at the service – may you never get that in return.

In view of the unresolved murder of journalists in recent time, such as; Edo Sule Ugbuagwu, Senior Judicial Correspondent of The Nation, Bayo Ohu, Assistant News Editor of The Guardian, Paul Abayomi Ogundeji, Editorial Board member of This Day newspapers and Omololu Falobi former Features Editor of The Punch, we need to cry out against sudden death of journalists under any pretext now. The best way someone saddled with the responsibility of projecting a governor is not by gallivanting around in a cow-boy gangster’s manner and propagating sheer blackmail against the same people whose welfare should be his concern. Image laundering business is not all about Red Label and carousing women of easy virtues but of sound reasoning and diplomacy.

Adieu, Oluwafemi Oladipo Okunmuyide, Omo Ile Asao l’odobi l’Okemesi omo Afagan ja, may your soul rest in perfect peace. Our great union which you served loyally prays that God will take care of your dearest wife, Oyinade the princess of Agunlejika and the two boys you left behind; Tayo and Seun. Our own Surplus, you have gone too soon to rest but who will stop the tears on our cheeks? When shall we see you crack joke as you used to do at the old governor’s office; our one-room press centre apartment? Ah! Our own dear Surplus, Good night!

Tai Oguntayo is NUJ Chairman in Ekiti State.

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