By Adebusayo Arobieke
One basic identifier of a society desirable of advancement is how it treats its most vulnerable, the very old and the very young. Over the years, Nigeria has proved beyond any form of doubt, that it is not ready for such responsibility. That is why as a people, we have learnt nothing from some of the unavoidable tragedies we have experienced in recent times. And there is no evidence that things are likely to change, at least from the way we have handled the most recent tragic events.
Throughout history, most of the cutting edge safety measures were developed as responses to fatal accidents, that is how societies have been forced to learn as it becomes hard to predict with certainty where the next accident is going to happen. That is why in more organized societies, leaders have open minds with accidents and other related mishaps so they can learn how to prevent such in future.
The recent death of 12 year old Whitney Adeniran in circumstances that can be described as both unfortunate and regrettable has added yet another blot on how careless we are in managing emergencies. While we were still analyzing that of Whitney, another incident which led to the death of a 16 year old student in another school has been trending. What all these points to is our chronic incapacitation in managing health emergencies, or emergencies of any type, made worse by our lack of basic access to healthcare, and a culture of “it is not my portion”.
However, many are of the persuasion that after a series of incidents involving either its teachers or students, Chrisland School, should as a matter of urgency take a second look at its processes and systems. There is a need to reevaluate its internal mechanism vis-à-vis its responses to incidents and reputational management. In the minds of the public, it is becoming one incident too many, and if the name of the school keep popping up from time to time, it will get to a situation, like it is presently, where incidents involving the school would be decided on the altar of public opinion by people whose take on serious issues are dented by sentiments.
The management of Chrisland Group of Schools seems oblivious of the fact that the organization has grown beyond the small establishment set up by the founder over 45 years ago. It has grown into an educational behemoth thus the need for a total and drastic change of management strategy and processes in line with the principles enunciated by Marshall Goldsmith in his classic book titled “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.” Chrisland needs a kaizen approach in engaging with stakeholders, Public, Media, Parents, students and the communities of her locations.
But in all of these, there is need for the Lagos State government to take a second look at the ways and manners its officials react and handle issues of this magnitude. Going for the usual people pleasing knee-jerk shutting down of the school leaves far more than desired. Shutting down the Chrisland School at Opebi when the incident did not happen at the school premises shows an appeal to populism instead of handling the issues professionally.
It is interesting to note that the said accident happened at a Lagos state owned facility; shouldn’t the management of the stadium be held responsible for the absence of a mini clinic at the facility? How come the Lagos State Sports Commission or whatever agency in charge of sporting facilities in the State does not have an ambulance point at all its facilities across the State? Moreso, if the government agency that manages the mini stadium had safety officers that were up to their game, the outcome might be different. It is my hope that as we await the full autopsy report, that it won’t be a case of electrocution because that would be quite unfortunate that the life of the young lady was cut short in that manner.
Sometime last year, a viral video of an event centre where children were having a picnic went viral showing uncovered live electric wires carelessly zigzagging across the place with children running around oblivious of the dangers lurking around such facilities. Such may have been the case with the unfortunate incident that led to the death of Whitney Adeniran. In a more organized society, the Lagos State government should be held responsible for failing to ensure safety measures were put in place before an event takes place there. Also, they ought to have properly ensured that vendors at the facility maintained relative safety standards. But they failed.
That is why many are at a loss with the way and manner the Lagos State Attorney General and his office has been going about this case as if they have a bone to grind with Chrisland School that has nothing to do with the incident. What justification does the State government have for shutting down the school while leaving the facility where the incident took place open till date, without as much as carrying out an assessment of the facility to ascertain the real and remote causes of the accident? It shows that the government and its agencies are at a loss on issues of safety management.
The Lagos State Attorney General ordered a coroner inquest into the incident but went ahead to hurl the school before the courts for criminal charges while in-depth investigations are yet to commence. From where then did the charges of manslaughter come from because investigators claim they are still working on compiling their reports? It is in the interest of Lagos State government to carry out the process in ways that won’t give the impression that it had a predetermined position on the case before embarking on the legal process.
Equally shocking is the brazenness with which the Attorney General has been conducting himself over this unfortunate incident as if it is a booster for his popularity in the State. Many professional colleagues within the legal profession were at a loss that he even attended the court proceeding, he did not stop there; he went further to grant an interview on live television, an act that could be prejudicial to the case.
If the Attorney General is sincere that his suit is aimed at ensuring that organizations put safety in place when they’re hosting events, then his first port of call should have been the Lagos State Sports Commission and the managers of such facilities across the State. Is such action by the AG not likely to lead to a bias as it could shape the tone of the litigation? How many safety safeguards have Lagos State put into her public schools?
How many have they put into their various stadia, how many safeguards on our roads with beleaguered people in traffic every day? I do not want to agree that the actions of the Attorney General are politically motivated as some are suggesting in some quarters but it has become imperative for the State Government to call its officers to order so as not to drag the name of the State governor in their personal issues. Coming to that Court on the day that school was arraigned was suspicious of self-seeking showmanship which puts a question mark on the Attorney General’s claims to partiality in the case.
It is disturbing the way the Attorney General is strutting all over the place, granting interviews and pushing his face into public consciousness all of a sudden, a development some have expressed discomfort with as it smells of a personal campaign to give impression of hard work and commitment as lobbying for the next state government’s cabinet is now on top gear. A just cause should not ride on the back of injustice
I have no dog in this fight and I am not a fan of Chrisland School’s sloppiness. If children are in your care, you have a duty of care to ensure they return home safe. Chrisland also ought to have a waiting emergency vehicle in place with paramedics to take that child to the hospital as soon as they found out that the State Government has nothing of such. The story from the girl’s mother that none of this was done is unfortunate. You owe that woman an explanation.
Adebusayo Arobieke writes from Lagos