The casualties are not only those who are dead. They are well out of it. ~ JP Clark, The Casualties.
While helping a lady who was shot by the Area C police to the hospital, Oladele Obashola was shot in the lower abdomen and spent more than a month in the hospital, eventually using a colostomy bag. He needs N750,000 for a corrective surgery.
A long tube like a scar connects Oladele Obashola’s stomach to a colostomy bag plastered to his body which collects his faeces. This is his second clinic visit. The first time I met him, he was suspicious of my interest in his story I learned about Dele from another victim who was shot by the police on October 21, 2020, a day after the Lekki Massacre.
A COSTLY HELP
It was on Thursday, October 22, 2020, around 10 am. Dele, a commercial bus driver, could not find passengers and decided park his bus at Ojuelegba under-bridge. As he speaks, his wife who is seated beside him whispers to him to “soro so ke”, gesturing with her hand for him to raise his voice. He was reading a newspaper under the Ojuelegba bridge when some ladies rushed to him for help. A young lady who sold sachet whiskey and other types of drinks had been shot and needed to be rushed to the hospital.
But while helping the young lady get to the hospital, Dele was also hit by a bullet. He didn’t realise a bullet had hit him, until he came back to Ojuelegba to pick some of the lady’s clothes. As he got down from a motorcycle, he fell; he thought he had tripped and tried to stand up but couldn’t. At that point, he realised he had been shot and blood was flowing out of him. He was rushed to Randle General Hospital, a private secondary level health care service in Surulere. His condition was however critical, forcing the hospital to refer him to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH).
On arriving at LUTH, the doctors were shocked when they saw him. Wasn’t this the same man who had brought in a gunshot victim barely an hour ago? Had he also been shot?
Dele was rushed to the operating theatre where they tried to resuscitate him as he’d lost consciousness. The doctors removed two bullets that had hit his lower abdomen but he didn’t seem to regain consciousness. The doctors had given up on him and were already making preparations to transfer him to the mortuary, he told FIJ.
It was the intervention of one doctor who asked that they leave him for a while, that saved him. Three other victims who were shot by the Nigeria Police and brought to LUTH were already declared dead. Dele regained consciousness around 6pm the next day, October 23, 2020.
DEAD OR ALIVE — NOBODY KNOWS
“What happened? What brought me here?”
These were Dele’s first questions. His wound had been bandaged and he had spent over N750,000 on the first operation. With the help of family members and an NGO that had paid the N50,000 initially spent, Dele and his wife were left in debt. Unable to first pay the full hospital bill, he was kept in hospital. He was discharged on November 28, 2020 spending more than a month in hospital.
I went back to Ojuelegba to ask about Dele and the lady he had helped to the hospital but I was told she had not been seen since the day she was shot. No one knew if she died or survived. A bookseller under the bridge told FIJ that after the #EndSARS protests, bullets were fired by the police as if it was a war zone. Dele also didn’t know if the lady he had helped survived. He took her to LUTH and left, before he also fell victim to a bullet by a policeman from Area C Command, Surulere. As I continued searching for Dele, under the Ojuelegba Bridge, a bus driver directed me to some officials of the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN). This was the union under which Dele was working as commercial bus driver.
Two men were playing a game of draught as traffic moved and cars blared their horns. I watched the men who didn’t seem to notice me. After they finished playing two rounds, I asked if they knew of any man who had been shot at Ojuelegba under-bridge some days after the Lekki Massacre. They looked at each other.
“He’s asking about Dele,” one of them said before asking if I was a policeman and what my mission was. After I identified myself as a journalist, they gave me Dele’s number.
The RTEAN chairman of that particular chapter had visited him in the hospital and contributed some money to offset his bills. Three weeks in hospital unable to work, the bus Dele used to drive was taken back by the owner since he could no longer work and was not remitting money to the owner of the bus. He had gotten the bus on hire purchase.
N1,000 PER POO
On the day I go to LUTH to meet with Dele, he is waiting to be attended to for his clinic appointment. It’s his daughter I speak with over the phone. She is around 12 or 13. Dele’s older son attends Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) and is currently preparing to start a new session, which would require money his parents don’t have at the moment. This is one of the sources of worry at the back of Dele’s wife Bukola Obashola, who has been dealing with high blood pressure and takes medication to suppress it. She says it’s been a struggle for her dealing with what her husband has been going through.
“The anus was brought out beside the place he was operated. Now, what they want to do is a corrective operation where the anus will be returned to where it belongs so that he can go to toilet normally but now he is on colostomy bag,” Bukky told FIJ.
The colostomy bag is changed every day. The colostomy bag they were initially given at LUTH was going for N1,000 per bag. The bag can’t be reused. This took a financial toll on the family and added more stress on Bukky.
“If he poos two times in a day we are spending two thousand naira,” she said. “We really need people to come to our rescue.”
FAECES ALL OVER THE BODY OF AN ADULT
If the colostomy bag is not well fixed the faeces will pour on Dele’s body. His wife tells me of an instance in which he had gone to use the toilet to ease himself (they share an outdoor bathroom and toilet with several other neighbours). By the time he got to the room he had messed up himself. Luckily there were no neighbours around. It would have been a monumental embarrassment for Dele to whom shame comes very easily. While the neighbours know something happened to him, they have no idea of the extent to which he suffers. His wife makes sure he is well dressed and that his clothes are well ironed. She also makes sure the colostomy bag is well placed and plastered. Dele’s appearance doesn’t give a hint that he’s using a colostomy bag.
HELPER DESERVES TO HELP, TOO
“He is bittered about it. In fact, he feels as if they should do this corrective surgery now,” Bukky says.
Dele wants to get back to work so that he can cater to his family and children. He hates to see his wife solely work to fend for the entire family.
“It was the help that I offered to the lady that has gotten me to this situation,” Dele said, asking Nigerians to help him offset the medical bill he’d be required to pay for his surgery in April.
The cost of buying colostomy bags and plasters has eaten deep into the little financial resources left. At LUTH, after the clinic, they share a gala. As we walk to where Bukky works in the hospital, husband and wife discuss what they need to buy, what is running out and how they will get money to do all these. The injustice in Nigeria invariably goes round. Their only hope to raise money for the next surgery is on ordinary Nigerians, who they pray will contribute to helping them.
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