On Saturday, June 23, 2018 when news broke out of 12 members of the Wild Boar soccer team and their coach who became trapped following a rainy season downpour that flooded the tunnels of a cave complex, they were exploring in the remote northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, not many had hope that the boys would either be seen or make it out alive.
In what became a global vigil for the boys, day after day, the world woke up to updates on the situation of the boys, before they were eventually rescued by a team of divers in a complex and dangerous rescue operation, that lasted eight days. The recovery mission however resulted in the death of retired Thai navy Seal diver, Saman Gunan.
The 10km limestone cave after the rescue has attracted global attention and Thai officials seem keen to capitalise on this.
In response to this, Thai authorities say the cave complex in Thailand where the schoolboys and their coach were trapped for more than two weeks will be turned into a museum to highlight the rescue operation and Hollywood producers are said to already be working on acquiring the rights for a film out of the entire incidence.
Beyond the global attention this attracted, what this implies is the value a nation place on the lives of every single individual who live in that state, if the length it went to secure the rescue of the boys is anything to go with. This partly explains why the world stood with them in their efforts to save the boys.
In contrast to a society like Nigeria, one wonders what the fate of the boys would have been?
In a country where there are daily reports of citizens slaughtered in hundreds for unjust causes and the best government have done so far is to offer messages of condolence and rebuttal of such attacks in the best of terms, one can safely conclude that the Thai boys would have become history.
In a country where a Presidential spokesman draws up a checklist to compare killings that happened under a previous administration and an incumbent one, the Thai boys would have been part of some figures put out to counter criticism on which administration experienced more killings.
In a country where the Inspector General of Police can ignore the order of the Commander-in-chief of the armed forces directing him to relocate to a crisis-ridden zone, the Thai boys would perhaps have perished in the cave, as the orders of a President might not have been sufficient to make emergency officials visit the scene.
One can almost be sure that at least one Minister would blame the previous administration for neglect of the cave, hence the incidence would be treated with kid gloves.
All of these points to the fact that successive Nigerian governments have demonstrated low value for the lives of its citizenry and the story of the Thai 13 provides a number of lessons for us as a country.
What really are the lessons for us in this story of the Thai 13?
Death as we know is common to all humans irrespective of race and gender, but a good percentage of deaths experienced in Nigeria occur from ‘avoidable circumstances’ including road crashes (bad roads), infant and maternal mortality, tanker explosions, herdsmen attack, kidnap, community clashes, fallen trucks/containers etc.
The most prominent lesson from this therefore , is that the government of this country must show value for the lives of its ciitzens by putting an end to avoidable deaths as well as putting a high premium on social infrastructure so as to improve the quality of living of its people.
A social media user is quoted to have said, “Have you noticed that the world no longer sends condolences to our country when tragedies like mass deaths and abductions happen?”
She got a response from another user who noted that the world must be suspended in amazement and intrigued at our humanity, since the lives of our own citizens appear not to matter to us.
While this is debatable, such a conclusion is justifiable going by the developments that play out in the country daily.
This should be a cause for worry for the Nigerian government and should motivate it to do the needful.
On the other hand, it reminds us of how we could earn more from tourist sites scattered around the country if they are better managed or maintained. But again, no tourist would visit a site where their security is not guaranteed.
There’s a lot to be done by the government.