Hometruths By Adeola Akinremi, Email: adeola.akinremi@thisdaylive.com

While the Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, was having a splendiferous Saturday dinner with the National Leader of his political party and his benefactor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the latest The Sun Man of the Year award recipient, inside one of the dazzling ballroom of Eko Hotel and Suites last Saturday, the mothers and fathers of the more than two-dozen kids killed by measles in Otodo-Gbame community in Lekki area of the state had their faces covered in sorrow.

The fitting phrase for this kind of story among Nigerians would be “such is life.”
We all know where that comes from. That phrase you use when you’re talking about bad things that happen, which you cannot prevent and therefore must accept.

I find it surprising too that there has been no condolence messages from across the states, unlike when such circumstance is found with those who live in the highbrow areas.

People around the world respond to tragedy with sympathy by sending hundreds of thousands of notes, and many other expressions of sympathy that illustrate togetherness, but around here tragedies involving death of humans have become so common that we are deadpan, except it is the death of a politician or their children.

The outpouring of compassion by the Americans to their countrymen in Flint, a community in Michigan, the United States, where lead poisoned their water should tell us how to respond to tragedy.  From all over the country people donated trailer-load of bottled water to Flint residents, volunteers besieged the community for their healthcare and the governor is being challenged in court for his inaction and violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The water crisis has become a serious talking point in the ongoing presidential campaign to boot.

Sadly, since the Otodo-Gbame deaths happened in Lagos the government has been so unconcerned in its approach.

Amazingly, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris, who led a delegation on a fact finding mission to Otodo-Gbame community had no pity for the victims.

For Idris, those little kids deserved to die, because they lived in slum, an area not on the geographical map of Lagos for habitation. Did Idris really have an idea of what it means for the government to be accountable?

Whatever Idris meant by saying,“we heard that Otodo Gbame is a reclaimed area and sand filled for something else entirely.  A lot of people come into Lagos and just take over different places and since they don’t have adequate facilities for all the sanitation required, this (disease outbreak) is what will happen. If it was actually planned for people to live in, then it will have at least a primary health care centre in the minimum,” it must be clear to him that no serious government takes the death of citizens lightly, especially when it is totally preventable.

But Idris equally unwittingly passed a vote of no confidence in his own office as the manager of Lagos State’s health program, the office he has superintended even before this administration. Beyond the rhetoric of slum dwelling, Idris also blamed the death of the little saints on the lack of vaccination, making it clear that the community couldn’t be covered, because it was hard-to-reach. A lot of children in Lagos today are going through stress, because the government simply considers them as hard-to-reach.

It baffles me that a government that promised change will continue to use the phrase of the old regime. It points us to one thing: there’s no new politics. It’s a circle of deception and broken promises.

And why did Ambode think that visiting Otodo-Gbame community to empathize with the victims of the preventable disease was not an important thing to be on his schedule?  It must be for the same reason of hard-to-reach theory of his health manager.

Slumping popularity is bad news for any politician and that is where Ambode needs to be careful. His little recent gain of popularity has been on the strength of a few social policies he’s bringing into his work in Lagos, but the gains can plummet, if he fails to see issues of kids’ death like the one in Otodo-Gbame as a serious low point for his administration.

The Lagos State Government’s response to what happened in Otodo-Gbame is immoral. The two dozen children who died and the 34 others line-listed for impact are just as precious kids as the ones you can find in any part of Lagos, whether in Burdillon or Banana Island.

That was the clear message the revered columnist, Simon kolawole, made in his latest work,Making our Democracy Work for the Masses, when he opined that, “our leaders must determine to reconnect with the grassroots, to make this democracy work for the
underprivileged — yes, the same people who toiled day and night to vote them into office. The poor may not be able to travel to Germany for treatment, but they are human beings too.”  I simply stand with him.

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