by Chi Ibe
The #SaveMayowa campaign will be talked about for months at least, for a dramatic unveiling of the character of the Nigerian as well as the denouement into scandal that has many either sad or angry.
Unfortunately, after over N100m raised, we lost 31-year-old Mayowa Ahmed who passed away from Ovarian cancer in its 4th stage – in a hospital in South Africa today.
We mourn the loss of such a brave, beautiful young woman, who fought until the very end, and we share the lessons that we have learnt from this tragic passing
- We are fundamentally a good, decent people with an incredible heart
They said there is no money in Nigeria, so how did Nigerians manage to raise millions of dollars within 48 hours for a young woman whose name we didn’t know 24 hours before someone told us her story? We didn’t ask for papers, we didn’t sit and doubt, we didn’t complain about the economy, we just got up and acted.
Oh, it was such a glorious moment to be Nigerian, as we saw the best reflection of humanity in each other’s eyes and reminded ourselves, that even though we are the people who burn down thieves with tires, and whose army chiefs probably stole the monies that could have saved the lives of soldiers, we are not the aberration of our mistakes. We are a wholesome, decent, fundamentally good people – and when it counts, we stand up to be counted.
- Because you call something a scam, you better be f**king sure
Forgive me for cursing, but that’s exactly how many of us have feel and have felt. Linda Ikeji rushed to judgement, declaring an entire family scammers because of misinformation. She has done well to apologise, but its not the one case that’s important, it’s the mindset of cynicism that’s worrisome.
One of our worst habits is how quick we are to judge and condemn each other – the mechanic is a thief, even though all he did was mark up his prices as any businessman does; our house girl is a witch when all you saw was her sleeping with both legs on the wall; you look at a woman who has earned her wealth and assume she must have slept around – just because she is a woman.
We have allowed ourselves become cynical and bitter and reflexively doubtful of our own innate goodness. Because of years of corruption and military aberration and an erosion of our sense of identity. But there is no excuse. Before we accused the family of a woman who was at the final stage of her cancer, we should have had pause, we should have shown restraint, we should have held back. We should have chosen first to believe better of ourselves.
And those who did choose the lowest road need to promise themselves that they must do better next time.
- Toyin Aimakhu is all of us, when we act before we think
The actress Toyin Aimakhu could have, should have been the heroine of this story. A woman buffeted by the most slimy domestic scandal – and whose talent is one of the industry’s most underrated – had a chance to build a new narrative for herself.
She was there at the hospital putting her name and incredible social media following on the line to save the life of a young woman who was clearly, and terminally ill. Nigerians saw another side of her, and she became the face of a national effort to save a life.
Then she got news from a hasty non-governmental organization that the thing was a hoax. Rushing to judgement, she denounced the young woman’s family and the joined the race to call the fundraising a ‘scam’. She was being true to her emotions and to her feelings and meant no harm – but she was in too much of a hurry. In doing that, she sadly played into the hands of the worst critics of her temperament and her character.
And that was both a shame, and a cautionary tale for those of who would rush to judgement even when the stakes are high. Some things are too important to speak about before one is sure.
- Nigeria’s health system is messed up, beyond recognition
Her family has told a very complicated story about Ahmed’s journey to the place where she had to ask the public for help. It was a truly tragic tale.
A few things stand out – including the family’s misunderstanding of how the health insurance systems works, and perhaps there has been a rush to apportion blame to an already reputation-damaged public health system.
Still, there is enough in the chain of mis-diagnosis and delay from the Lagos University Teaching Hospital to Reddington to make one deeply concerned as to how safe a life is in the hands of our local health care. Ahmed suffered too many gaps, got too little information and had at least hospital too quick to wash its hands off her matter that we honestly need to have a conversation about.
There is a pungent lack of empathy in the reactions, and in the report from the family of the reactions from healthcare professionals that is all too familiar for people who have dealth with Nigerian hospitals, even when they are private – a lack of empathy, a reluctance to share information, even an arrogance no matter how dire a situation. How do we get away from this tunnel of darkness?
- Journalism is still crucial
It took social media to raise the calls, and it shows the power of a communal platform, driven by technology. And it took a blog to dampen all hope and spoil a beautiful thing with the tar of hasty accusations, and it shows the weakness of a communal platform, driven by technology.
The problem is not technology or social media. The problem is the disappearance of journalism as a gatekeeper, as an arbiter. The fact that several blogs jumped to report the matter before any confirmation reminded us of why journalism is important in and of itself, regardless of its faults. The ability to report only after restraint, to hear both sides before presenting a story; those are crucial services that only journalists can offer – whether in a new or traditional media context.
Blogging is not enough. We need sorters, arrangers, and curators of the news and of the insights we need. Pulse did it when the news broke, getting the side of the family and recording the evidence. YNaija did it when the news broke, visiting the hospital and extensively reporting from the family, the campaigning NGO and Aimakhu. They shaped the conversation, putting it in context and driving all sides of an important story. The world will always need that precious service.
And a bonus number 6: Anyone has a right to hope, even if the doctors say it’s all over
Yes, Ahmed was in Stage IV of her cancer, with less than a 20 percent chance of survival. But this is how humanity operates – the only thing that cannot be exhausted is hope. Miracles happen – whether medical, verifiable miracles or religious unverifiable miracles. As long as a person has breath, that person has the right to hope. Ahmed’s family chose to hope, and even though that hope didn’t pan out this time, we have the memory of a beautiful young woman, who brought Nigerians together in a powerful moment of shared humanity, and who reminded us all, at the least, of our frailty, of our mortality, and of the communion of shared possibilities
God rest your soul, Mayowa Ahmed. Rest in the heavens, alongside all the other angels.