Posts tagged ‘Nigerian Guardian’

The Ore school pupils’ tragic excursion

The Ore school pupils’ tragic excursion

WRITTEN BY Luke Onyekakeyah

(For the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper Tuesday March 23rd 2010)

ONE day one trouble! That is what Nigeria has become in recent times. There is unceasing flow of ugly incidents traumatising the citizenry almost on daily basis. The deaths, last Wednesday, of 42 persons from Aricent Nursery and Primary School, Olupitan New Site, Ore is shocking. The incident has devastated families whose loved children perished in the ghastly crash on the Ondo-Ore federal road. It has added to the litany of bad news that has become the lot of Nigeria. The grief-stricken parents would never be the same again. In a twinkle of an eye, their loved kids were gone and they have been thrown into unending anguish for the rest of their lives. That is the story of today’s Nigeria; otherwise the accident was avoidable if things had been done the proper way. That is in addition to the deplorable road condition. As it were, no day passes without people dying on the roads.

The pupils and their teachers including the proprietor of the school, Mr. Tairu Ariyo, who also died in the accident went to Idanre hills on an excursion and were returning when the accident occurred. The 18-seater bus in which they were travelling had a head-on collision with a trailer. Ten of the pupils died on the spot. The rest of the seriously injured pupils were reportedly rushed to the General Hospital Ore where they died due to poor health facilities and inadequate attention.

Only one medical doctor was reportedly on hand to attend to the more than 30 pupils brought to the hospital in critical condition. Besides, the workers at the hospital were said to be uncooperative amid calls by desperate parents to have attention given to their dying kids. The abject state of affairs at the hospital obviously contributed to the mass deaths of the pupils. A better-equipped hospital with well-trained medical personnel could have saved the lives of many of the pupils. One distraught mother who lost her daughter in the accident described the Ore General Hospital as “a glorified health centre with no basic equipment”. That, in truth, is the condition of general hospitals throughout the country, where hapless citizens die owing to poor facilities to attend to the sick.

The Ore incident has brought to the fore the issue of standards in the running of public and private schools throughout the country. The decay in virtually every facet of the country’s life has created a culture of impunity whereby people do what they like knowing fully well that nothing would happen. For instance, in Nigeria’s school system, there are no laid down standards for conveying or transporting students from one place to another like you have in developed societies. Throughout the country, school children are ferried in horrible buses to and from school and for field excursions.

Schools use any type of buses to transport students and pupils to events over dangerous roads. It is well known that majority of the schools don’t have school bus of their own. What these schools do is to hire rickety commercial buses whose drivers are known to be reckless on the road. So many students/pupils are packed like sardines in such unhealthy buses. It is common in Lagos, for example, to see students packed like sardines in decrepit chartered commercial buses going on one trip or the other. This practice has resulted in the death of many students/pupils in the course of excursion trips. The Ore school incident is certainly not the first of such incidents. It is un-imaginable how over 64 pupils were packed like sardines in an 18-seater bus for an excursion. There is no doubt that the bus was overloaded and that could have contributed to the accident.

If field excursion is part and parcel of school curriculum, why are the schools not required to provide a standard school bus before the Ministry of Education gives approval. Why does the Ministry of Education overlook something as important that endangers the lives of innocent pupils who get excited whenever their schools organised excursion but only to meet their untimely deaths? Such incidents, which keep occurring without intervention from the appropriate quarters only go to prove that many things are wrong with this system that need to be addressed.

With the collapse of standards in the education sector, anything goes for the schools. The public universities are in worse shape. How many universities have standard buses for conveying students? The Ministry of Education is not living up to its responsibility to prevent this kind of deaths by ensuring that the right things are done in the schools. The blight affects both the public and private schools. Few private schools have school bus of their own choice. But there is hardly any public school with school bus. There is no talk of creating the right environment for learning or providing the right equipment. The Ore school incident happened to be one of the latest of such mishaps. There is no school bus system in Nigerian schools and yet students/pupils are transported to and from the schools in whatever could be chartered by the school.

The other factor that contributed to the accident is the appalling state of the road. The Ondo-Ore federal road is a death trap like the dilapidated Benin-Ore highway. The road is narrow and is bordered by thick forest on both sides. This makes it difficult for drivers to see on-coming vehicles even during the day. Night driving on the road is most dangerous. Unfortunately, the dead pupils were returning at night around 8p.m. when the accident occurred. The poor state of the road coupled with the recklessness of the drivers must have contributed to the crash. And so it was that healthy pupils who left their homes in the morning in high spirits perished on the road leaving their families devastated.

These days, hardly any day passes without one ugly incident or the other occurring that shocks everyone. The newspapers are awash with shocking headlines on daily basis. They range from mayhem, ethno-religious attacks, armed robbery, kidnappings, accidents, fire outbreaks, building collapse, strikes, demonstrations and such ugly incidents. All these incidents result in horrible deaths of hapless citizens. Many families in Jos have since the beginning of the year been devastated not by earthquakes like in Haiti or cyclone like in Fiji but by man induced inhumanity to man.

The average Nigerian is daily bombarded with hearth-rending news stories and you begin to ask where the country is heading? Cheery news is scarce to come by. The country is not officially fighting any war like you have in Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. But the charged atmosphere in the country has made living irritable. The average person on the street is tensed up as he or she faces the hurdles of the day. It is this state of affairs, the way and manner Nigeria is carrying herself that has given room to speculations of a possible break-up of the country. It is high time the country’s leaders showed commitment to issues that affect the citizenry. The way things are going is not in the interest of the country.

Regarding the school, it is high time that government made it mandatory for schools to have standard school bus for conveying students/pupils and for field excursions. A school bus is as important as a school building. If a community could afford to build classroom blocks, that community should be able to buy a standard school bus. Similarly, any private person who could afford to build classroom blocks should have a budget to buy a standard school bus. This is needed to create standards. And the creation of standards would start from somewhere. Except this matter is addressed by the Ministry of Education at the federal and state levels, students/pupils will continue to die in unclassified chartered buses.

Segun Odegbami on Nigerian U-17 Age Cheats (a must read by FIFA and NFF)

Written By Segun Odegbami

It is Wednesday night. I am sitting and wondering what to write about this week. The eye of the world is riveted on the World Cup Draws event. I may be there for the show and shall report my experiences on this page.

From next week those of us in the business of football analysis will have a field day peering into our crystal balls and predicting how games will go, how players will play, and how far Nigeria can get from the opposing teams that will be thrown up by the draws. Until that happens I am checking my mailbox for anything interesting.

I open my box and find one amongst tons of letters that attracts my full attention. It accuses me of complicity in the matter of the recently-concluded under-17 FIFA championship and wonders why I have not commented since the conclusion of the event either about the ‘successful’ organisation of the event or the exhilarating performances of the Golden Eaglets, a performance that seems to have soothed the nerves of Nigerians and lifted their spirit in contrast to the Super Eagles’ World Cup qualifying matches that kept people’s blood-pressure soaring high through most of the months of the campaign.

The writer wonders if Adokie Amiasimaka has not now been vindicated by the silence that has now followed his explosive revelation during the championship that the Nigerian captain is a twenty-something year old man and not the teenager he claims to be.

The majority point of view is that even if Adokie had the evidence his timing was wrong and that he should have waited until the end of the championship, allowed the visitors to go, and then raised the matter! Well, it has been weeks since the championship ended. Nothing has happened. No one is saying or doing anything. Is the issue raised by Adokie not of significance any more? Has time diminished the relevance of inquiry and verification of the issue? Has the matter been overtaken by events? Should it be forgotten and swept under the carpet?

I am thinking. Obviously my silence has not escaped the attention of some observant public. I owe it to my readers to express an opinion one way or the other. My first reaction is a reminder of an article I wrote ahead of the championship. In that piece I promised I shall only celebrate Nigeria’s victory or performance if it is achieved with integrity.

The greatest gift I give myself all the time is the right to choose who I want to be and how I want my every action and word to reflect the greatest version of myself. I’d rather be silent than embrace standards and values that diminish who I am. It has been with great difficulty that I have resisted the temptation to ventilate my feelings on the under-17 championship and damn the consequences. But common sense has held me back, and, so, my deafening silence.

I guess I am waiting, like many others, for the ‘appropriate’ time, when no one shall be accused of being unpatriotic; when no one shall be accused of taking cheap shots at those in NFF today because they want to discredit them so as to remove them and take over their positions; when the international community will not be around and no one can be accused of washing dirty linens in public; when my words would not be seen as a stain on my country’s image and reputation; and when it will not be considered ‘sinful’ to keep silent in the face of tyranny!

Unfortunately, the more I think of it the more it dawns on me how bad our situation really is. Such time will never come! As far as most Nigerians are concerned the Under-17 championship has come and gone; Adokie’s ‘wrong’ is making his allegation during the championship; the FIFA President has made his own pronouncement on the matter and insisted indirectly that it was not FIFA’s business to question the integrity of a country’s documentation to determine the age of its players; and the matter is dead and buried and over! Next chapter!

Unfortunately for some of us the fundamental issues in the matter cannot be swept under the carpet because they impact on the future of our children, on the development of our cherished game, on the image and reputation of our country and on our individual and collective values as Nigerians. When, therefore, will be the ‘right’ time to speak up and do something?

For the sake of the reader whose mail has precipitated my present thought process permit me to reproduce excerpts from an article I wrote a few weeks before the championship. It provides the answer for my present silence and why I did not join in celebrating the Eaglets.

The Golden Eaglets Must Win With Integrity!

In 1988, after the 1987 World Youth championship, in my naivety and with the purest of intentions I did not have to do more than a cursory logical computation, peeling the skin from the information that was in the public domain, to scream out loud that some of the players we used in the championship could not be the ages they claimed.

Those who were in charge of Nigerian football at the time were enraged. It was such a ‘heinous’ crime that I became victim of unwritten ostracisation from football administration for many years after that. It was such a serious charge, with potentials for massive international scandal that, were there no elements of some truth, I would have been sued for treason!

The shock is that there was not even a whimper from the football authorities. Against a lack of evidence to ‘convict’ anyone it became a matter of time before everyone went silent and became part of the complicity!

The most annoying defence put up by some people is that other countries (mostly from Africa) must be guilty of the same offence. A few years after the 1987 incident the country was caught in a documentation malpractice and was suspended by FIFA for a few years suffering international humiliation.

After that, rather than create better ways of verifying documents, the country ‘invested’ in perfecting documents submitted on the players to FIFA.

So, the initial cancer ate deeper into the fabric! The rewards for success at that level became too alluring that many Nigerians joined in the racket. It became such a lucrative business that hordes of academies sprung up all over the country marketing supposedly young players and as a result parents and agents in the country would do almost anything to get their wards into the under-17 category of the national team!

Cheating became an acceptable practice with parents and some football institutions as willing agents. Sports greatest values were abandoned on the altar of lucre. Hard work, morals, discipline, and fair play lost their place as the means to success!

Everyone in sport knew what was going on but was helpless against the practise, silenced by the overwhelming celebrations of ‘successes’ that left a hollow feeling in the pits! It was great to be part of a national celebration of ‘success’ but it was such a moral burden that many people had to live with, accepting unashamedly that cheating was okay for as long as others were probably also doing it. (I then wrote about a Nigerian lad who played at the NUGA games two years ago, was in 300 level when he did, had left the country for two years after NUGA and was a member of the under-17 team in camp!)

The arithmetic is easy to work out! No matter the computation one comes up with, no matter the allowances one makes up for early schooling, ingenuity and academic excellence, no matter the parameters used in measuring rapid acceleration through the classes, there is no way such a player that left secondary school 7 years ago would be less than 17 years old by October 2009!

There would have been many Nigerians that know this young man, starting from his parents, his teachers in primary and secondary school, his mates in the neighbourhood he grew up in, his class and school mates through Primary, secondary and university.

In October 2009, we all would have sat and watched this young man outplay children 7 or 8 years his junior, ‘excelled’ and brought ‘victory’ to Nigeria. We would have feted him, celebrated him and made him a hero. We would have rewarded him with gifts and honours along with his co-conspirators in this racket, made him a model for the next generation and perpetuated falsehood and cheating!

Yet, we would have known all the time that this is a moral baggage; that the victory, the glory, the honours, the accolades, all was fraudulently achieved and undeserved.

This country is in darkness. Even in sport that brings us so much joy, and draws from us the best in our talent and potentials as human beings so abundantly blessed by God, knowing fully well that we can win cleanly, with dignity and integrity, we choose instead the short cut and selling our souls in the end!

Nigeria does not have to win the FIFA under-17 championship by all means. But who says the country cannot win it with its best students under-17? Even if they don’t NOW the country would have started the process of developing authentic talents, the ones that represent the values we want to stand for as a nation that would go ahead into the future with experiences and exposure from the 2009 event to become winners of bigger trophies in the years to come! That I can truly celebrate!

So that’s it. That’s why I did not celebrate. Let me take the argument one step further than Adokie. Let me put my foot in it properly, after all there can be no more international sanctions following confirmation by the FIFA President himself that all the players that took part in the championship were of the correct age. So, that’s settled. I have no problem with one player being over-aged in the Nigerian team. What I actually have problem with is the challenge of identifying just one in the entire team that is actually under-17.

Just as the lord told his prophet that if he finds only one person righteous in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah he would spare both cities from destruction, so am I thinking that if I can find just one player in the entire Golden Eaglets team, still in secondary school, and below the age of 17 at the time of the last tournament I shall never write a line about cheating again in Nigerian football and shall apologise to all Nigerians. It is that bad!

(Culled from the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper 5th dec 2009)

Death of Nigerian immigrants in the Mediterranean Sea (The Nigerian Guardian Editorial)

Culled from the Nigerian Guardian Monday 4th August 2008.

THE shocking news of the death of two Nigerian children travelling with their father aboard a boat ferrying immigrants across the Mediterranean sea en-route Italy once again brings to the fore the harrowing experience of many Nigerians who are desperate to escape the hardship in the country. The depressing economic condition in the country is taking a toll on the population. How to address this problem and check the flight of Nigerians from their own country for largely economic reasons remains a major challenge for the country’s leaders.

The two children reportedly died at sea of starvation and were thrown overboard by their father who was travelling along with 74 other illegal migrants before the Italian coastguard in the Mediterranean Sea picked up their boat. The migrants had set off from Libya. This is happening at a time the Italian authorities have declared a state of emergency on illegal immigration.

A fortnight ago also, 14 Nigerians perished in the same Mediterranean Sea off the Spanish coast. A small open boat, presumably not seaworthy, carrying over 37 Nigerians, capsized in rough seas with waves of up to six metres on July 8. A Spanish maritime rescue ship reportedly managed to rescue 23 of the illegal immigrants while 14 were unaccounted for. The dead included two pregnant women.

This is not the first time that Nigerian illegal immigrants have perished in the Mediterranean waters in a bid to enter Europe. The Organisation for Human Rights in Andalusia (APDH-A), a Spanish human rights group says more than 921 illegal immigrants died at sea trying to reach Spain in 2007. Out of this number, 732 perished close to the western coast of North Africa at the start of their journey while another 189 died near the coast of Spain. The majority of the immigrants were from sub-Saharan Africa of which Nigerians constituted the largest percentage.

These incidents should compel a sober reflection on the worsening state of the nation’s economy that has made the country hostile and uncomfortable for many people thereby forcing thousands of citizens to flee the country even at great risk to their lives. The death of these unfortunate Nigerians in search of better opportunities in Europe, even through illegal routes, is a sad comment on the Nigerian situation. It is sadder still that reports of tragedies such as these do not discourage other would-be illegal immigrants.

The embassies are besieged daily by thousands of Nigerians who are seeking visas and hoping to remain abroad illegally. The presumption is that the streets of Western countries are paved with gold and that life outside Nigeria would necessarily be better. Many have lost their lives and hopes in the process.

The harsh economic situation in the country is to blame. There is mass unemployment, social infrastructure is decaying, there is insecurity in the land, poverty stalks the land as virtually every sector of the economy is depressed. The list of woes is unending and nothing could be more scary. Since the 1980s when the economy took a plunge for the worse, large numbers of Nigerians have sought refuge abroad to escape the hardship at home. Many believe that doing odd jobs abroad is better than languishing at home. This is the driving force.

Consequently, thousands of Nigerians queue up daily, at the gates of foreign embassies in the country seeking visas. The embassies have devised stringent conditions to prevent many from obtaining visas. As a result, only a handful of visa applicants succeed. In utter desperation, therefore, those denied visas seek alternative means to accomplish their desire. To worsen the matter, a syndicate of unscrupulous Nigerians has capitalised on the ugly situation to defraud unsuspecting would-be immigrants with promises of visas and jobs abroad on payment of fees running into thousands of dollars.

It is these crooks that organise such hazardous and illegal trips across the Mediterranean Sea after the victims have paid the agreed fees and have, in most cases, been issued fake visas. In the case of immigrants whose destination is Europe, the syndicate would first transport them to any of the North African countries from where they are ferried by rickety boats across the sea. It is in the course of such ill-conceived trips that accidents occur.

This has smeared the image of Nigerians across the globe. Consequently, on arrival at foreign entry points, security operatives subject our citizens to untold harassment and inhuman treatment. Unfortunately, Nigerian government officials at home and in foreign missions have not helped matters. In a way, the maltreatment of Nigerians abroad is a reflection of how Nigerians are treated by their own government.

To discourage more Nigerians from fleeing abroad as illegal immigrants, governments across the federation would have to improve conditions at home, and make the governance process more citizen-friendly

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