The Lagos killer lift

On Tuesday afternoon, Nigerians were jolted by the news of the death of a young female medical doctor who lost her life following an elevator tragedy at a Lagos hospital. The victim named Dr. Vwaere Diaso, was on the last lap of her housemanship when death sneaked in on her at the General Hospital, Odan, Lagos Island.

According to multiple sources that included her colleagues, the young medic had ordered a meal online from the 10th floor where she worked. When the food vendor came with her order, she decided to come down for it since she was free. She thumbed the button. The elevated yawned for her to step in. She did.

Her encounter with the elevator did not portend any danger, even though the messenger of death had been known to be faulty for a very long time. Money was allocated for the replacement of the elevator. But when the fund was released, corruption was readily available to swallow it up. Instead, those saddled with the task of replacing the elevator merely released peanuts to patch it up. By so doing, they were postponing the evil day that finally arrived last Tuesday. The monster executed the tragedy through the instrumentality of the priests that worship in its shrine… the crooks that cornered the money meant to replace the equipment.

So, it was not the lift per se that killed Dr. Diaso. Corruption did. This is just as the monster has been responsible for the slow pace of the socioeconomic development of the country since Independence. Anytime I heard the declaration during the Buhari era that “if we do not kill corruption, corruption will kill us”, I laughed. The monster has been killing us since… the latest casualty being Dr. Diaso.

The food vendor who was waiting by the entrance of the elevator on the ground floor was frightened off as the elevator hit the ground, rocking the foundation of the building. He must have thought the building was collapsing as it has been the case in the Lagos environment in recent times. Dr. Diaso was trapped in the elevator for 40 minutes after the free fall with no help coming to her immediately. She was heard agonising and pleading for her life to be saved.

When she was eventually rescued and rushed to the Emergency Unit of the hospital, the worst happened: No blood! She must have lost plenty of the vital liquid of life through the disaster. Imagine a hospital with an empty blood bank. It is an irony that a hospital that exists to save lives could not save the life of one of their own.

One of her colleagues alleged that on multiple occasions, the elevator stopped while they were inside due to poor maintenance. They said that the hospital management was aware of the poor state of the elevator but simply failed to act.

My heart bleeds for the parents of the deceased doctor. They must have spent fortunes to train their beautiful daughter at the Babcock University, a faith-based tertiary institution located at Ilishan-Remo, Ogun state, for a period of six years, only to have her life immolated on the altar of corruption… and in her prime!

Pissed off by the avoidable calamity, the Lagos State Branch of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) declared indefinite strike in three hospitals in the Lagos Island over the tragedy until investigations are concluded and justice served. The NMA must stand its ground and ensure that those who authored the tragedy pay dearly for their crime.

Dr. Diaso’s sad exit reminds me of my own experience in the late 70s in Jos when I was the Chief Sub-Editor of The Nigeria Standard Newspaper in Jos. I had gone to see my Editor, Mr. Joel Pwol, who was attending a management meeting at the 9th floor of the 10-storey Joseph Gomwalk House. It was customary for me to meet with the editor to discuss the placements of cover page stories for the next day’s edition of the paper.

The editor excused himself and we retired to an adjoining office. After we were done with the placements, I left for my office with the file containing the stories tucked under my armpit. I jabbed the ‘G’ button of the elevator with my thumb. It responded with the usual yawn. I stepped into its belly and the descent to the ground floor began. I was a lone descender. The downward journey was smooth until I got to the 5th floor and the machine rocked to a halt. NEPA had struck. I looked at my wristwatch; it was 7pm.

I relaxed in the belief that the standby generator would be switched on. After 10 or so minutes, no light came on. After 20 minutes of waiting, I began to wonder if it was a technological incarceration or something. What was my offence? When was I tried? Tired of standing up, I decided to sit on the floor of the lift. There was no cell phone at the time. So, there was no way I could send an SMS or Save My Soul to any of my colleagues informing them of my illegal detention by technology.

As I reflected on my arrest, I regretted not using the staircase since I was still active on the field. Pounding the staircase while descending would not have been as strenuous as ascending. When 30 minutes rolled by and there was still no movement, I began to wonder what my boss would be thinking. I was beginning to use up the oxygen in the elevator and was scared of getting choked up.

Then, I amused myself with this possible headline on the cover of the paper the next morning: “Chief Sub-Editor vanishes with cover page stories”. I had my heart in my mouth and I did not like the taste one bit!

Exactly 40 minutes after, NEPA restored power. I sprang to my feet as the elevator resumed its descent. When the elevator hit ground zero and let out a yawn, I bolted away, almost knocking down some folks at the reception.

The next day, I searched out a lawyer friend to discuss the possibility of suing NEPA for the illegal detention. He laughed it off and told me I should know better. I joined him in the laughter. And that was how I suffered for nothing.

After that nasty experience, I began to avoid elevators like a plague so that I would not be elevated to an early grave. I still do, even here in Abuja where lifts are provided even in three-storey buildings. I trust the NMA folks will hold their ground. They should not buy into any moonshine like spiritual attacks as the cause of Diaso’s demise. We should not blame her death on the handiwork of some witches from her village as it is being bandied in some quarters in Lagos. The folks that cornered the money meant for the elevator replacement are accomplices in the cause of her painful passing.