This essay was inspired by Bunmi Ijaware, an engineer turned financial strategist, who had challenged our university group ealier in the day on the very dangerous and wild escapades of many among us in our growing-up days that could have ended in harrowing disasters but for providence. His was in reaction to a trending sad piece of news regarding a University of Abuja undergraduate, by the name Emmanuel Balogun, whose unfortunate death from a swimming pool misadventure had elicited gripping sympathy and angry reactions from Nigerians.
As a young lad, I remember that Jide Odeyemi and I once sneaked out and went swimming one day like that when teachers were on strike. We spent a whole day at the pool (actually, an open river in Isikan that fascinated us at the time). Other kids were there. We were all ecstatic – wading, jumping in and out and probably catching many diseases as well. We were less than ten years old. The interesting part was that none of us could swim. Had the unexpected happened, each would most likely have had fast dialogue with his feet and irresponsibly keep quiet at home for fear of being discovered to have gone swimming in the first instance! In my adolescent universe, I would most likely have concluded that being found out to have gone swimming in some dingy community brook would attract capital punishment because lesser offenses attracted severe corporal punishment in my home. Yes, my father would flog the devil out of you for lesser domestic infractions!
It also reminds me of an incidence I read in the account of the youthful days of Edson Arantes do Nascimento where one of his street football gang members died and they never reported it – until Edson became the globally celebrated soccer legend, Pele, and had it penned down in his biography. Nothing was ever known of what happened to the body of the victim and the agony his parents passed through trying to understand his disappearance or last moments. The eye witnesses simply ran away (little Pele was one of them).
That said however, these examples do not vitiate nor excuse the glaring evil of envy in this present account of a UNIABUJA student that drowned in a hotel swimming pool. For the victim might never have died if his ‘friends’ raised immediate alarm. And this does not excuse a hotel that did not put qualified lifeguards on duty at all times as it is done in civilised countries (due apology if this sounds offensive).
In fact, if anyone is primarily culpable in this instance, it is the hotel and its management.
We cannot continue to be a nation that learns nothing from mishaps. Similar hotel negligence caused the death of my first cousin Sina Olukareh in a hotel swimming pool in Abuja in 2017. I only got to know after his death that this brilliant banker and generous young man whose birthday I attended a year before his death, in the company of Akin Babalola and Gbenro Adeladun, was actually my first cousin! Sina drowned whilst the lifeguard looked on unperturbed – unconcerned. The news of his painful exit was broken to me first by my brother, Dare Daramola, who was planning to introduce us as family, and then by Akin who had earlier introduced Sina and I as friends, at the latter’s birthday.
Anyone, particularly science and engineering students, that attended or experienced a postgraduate education in a place like the United Kingdom would be familiar with a course or course module known as Disaster or Disaster Studies. That course is designed to appraise cause, effect and useful lessons learnt by policymakers in the process. The goal is to gauge society’s reaction through the instrument of law and order to prevent future re-occurrence of disastrous incidences from relatively isolated event such as a drowning hazard to mega disasters like the Chernobyl nuclear plant explosion.
The overall objective of Disaster response from authorities is prevention – prevention of future occurrence. Often, new policies emerge. New laws are crafted and enacted in response. Gaps observed in the implementation of policies are plugged with new stringent checks introduced to mitigate old loopholes. Had the unfortunate death in a swimming pool of Sina occurred in a hotel in the UK, the British government would have evolved new ‘Hotel Swimming Pool Safety Standards’ or some form of amendments. Were the death the result of failure of compliance, they would out the culprits and enact new rules or regulations to inhibit such failures from reoccurring. They may have even named such new policy or amendment after Sina Olukareh. Had we done that after the death of Sina Olukareh in a hotel in Abuja in 2017, this new death of a young student in similar circumstance in 2019 could have been averted.
The black race must up its standard of existence. We must be deliberate in aspiring to be at par with civilization.
My sympathy and condolence to the parents of this promising youth. May God comfort them.