When you live outside the country, one of the things you dread is a phone call in the middle of the night. Calls in the middle of the night are not always good. Very good things happen in the middle of the night. Bad news has ways of sneaking into your reality under the cover of darkness. So, when my phone rang in the twilight hours over a week ago, I ignored it.
I should have remained asleep all day and all week because on the other side of sleep was a nightmare, a living one. My old boss, Dimgba Igwe was gone – murdered by a senseless coward behind the wheels. The shocking news freezes you. You want to scream, you want to cry. But you can’t. Then you feel this dull, searing pain in the pit of your stomach.
You sit there staring at the computer screen and all you see are images from the past, of the first day you met. It was the moments before he became my boss. Two friends and I had trekked from the University of Lagos with a note from our beloved lecturer, the late Dr. Delu Oguande. His plea was simple – he wanted the editor of Weekend Concord, Mike Awoyinfa to give us a shot at internships. Now, Oga Mike does not make a call without his deputy who happened to be his “twin”, Oga Dimgba.
The past morphs into the present and you start reading the eulogies for Oga Dimgba and sadness flood your heart like a furious stream of water from the ocean in Victoria Island during the rainy season. You read messages from the president and the governors, the king and princes of Nigeria. You read of iron-cast vows from the chief of police to catch the fleeing murderer and you feel a cloud of gloom enveloping you.
And, soon the tears come and threaten to drown you. And, they’re not just tears for the man we all call “Oga Dimgba”. They are tears for him and for Nigeria. You can be mad at the cowardly hit and run driver but he alone didn’t murder my old boss. Nigeria did. Our leaders did. The very men mourning him and singing his praise paved the path to the road to an early heaven for the man of pen and God.
Oga Dimgba didn’t have to die. He won’t have died if there was an ambulance within minutes or even an hour of the accident. He won’t have died if our clinics are not death traps. He won’t have died if we have hospitals worth the name instead of the gateway to the graveyard that they are. He won’t have died if our leaders patronize our hospitals and discover how bad they are, instead of running overseas for treatment every time they have a headache.
Your brain transports you back to the past when “Oga Dimgba” molded what we taught was talent into real talent. In the Weekend Concord newsroom, Oga Mike was like the father and Oga Dimgba was the mother. People say I got a lot of my influence and tutorship from Oga Mike. That is true. Without the mentorship of Oga Mike, my life would certainly have taken a different course. But, it was Oga Dimgba that gave me the steel that made me a more dedicated professional and a man.
Now, that voice of reason is lost, to many generations who it would have shaped and who would have gone on to shape their neighborhoods and the country. Isn’t it a sad testimony to our lives that Oga Dimgba would have lived if this sad incident had happened a mere thirty-five years ago? And, not because we had drivers who didn’t sit on their brains. But, because we had hospitals that actually worked back then, governments that cared a little more about the welfare of the people they claim to serve and doctors who still thought life was more valuable than they do today.
In the last two years, I’ve done some production in Nigeria and it’s always sad when you’re on your way home for work and your representatives jump through the hoops trying to work out emergency evacuation plans for you and your crew should they fall sick or need urgent health care. It breaks your heart when you see them checking out hospitals from London to South Africa and trying to coordinate flights.
And, you remember when you were a kid yesterday, how you would fall sick, go to the hospital and know that you would be healed. You remember crushing accidents and recall that the victims often come to church a few weeks later for thanksgiving or you got bean balls and goat meat after they’ve gone to offer thanks in the mosque.
Now, as hard as you want to think we’re moving forward, this happens and you realize you’re just dreaming. It’s a sad testament that the best days of our nation are behind us. And, you can’t blame the president for that. You gotta blame our leaders. All of them.They, who rule the nation, they who rule the states, they who are supposed to provide us with security, they who are supposed to take care of us. They failed Dimgba. They failed us. Sleep well, Oga Dimgba.
Oyamendan-Eimakhu,a Los Angeles-based film maker and writer, worked as a young reporter under the late Dimgba Igwe at the defunct Concord Group in Lagos. He tweets @iam_ose