Organ harvesting: Let’s empathize with David Ukpo ~ by Jude Eze
The phrase “Audi alteram partem” is a routine legal maxim which loosely translates to “listen to the other side.” This fair hearing advisory is even more pertinent in a country like ours which juridical process operate on the doctrine of “presumption of innocence of the accused, until proven guilty.”
For over eight months now, a lot have been heard of the indictment and final conviction of Nigeria’s former deputy senate president — Senator Ike Ekweremadu, 60, his wife Beatrice, 56, and Dr Obinna Obeta, 50, for conspiring to harvest Master David Ukpo’s kidney, without adequately informed consent, to save his daughter — Miss Sonia, who has kidney disease. Their actions contravened the UK modern slavery laws.
Some pundits have risen in his defense. Others in condemnation. The former were influenced by sentiments of his human-ness, the latter by appraising his ‘failure’ as a public office holder to influence the building of a reference hospital capable of offering the services he (illegally) sought abroad that landed him in trouble.
The common denominator of these two schools of thoughts is that they both speak from emotional standpoints. And Ekweremadu was the focus.
None of them considered the plight and fate of the victim — Mr. David Ukpo, who, as it were, was a ‘conscripted’ live-donor. There is an obvious reason for such deafening media apathy on the lad’s side of the story.
He is a poor soul with no social capital. A Street boy picked from the slums of Lagos. He doesn’t deserve a headline. Why waste time discussing someone who has no profile? Google knew nothing about him. But Senator Ekweremadu is a household name for his fame.
The centerpoint of all discourses around the crime of organ harvesting involving the rich and the poor will definitely mirror the rich. The poor hardly get the deserved attention. Not because he is less human. But because he is made to look as such. Without wealth, you’re nobody in a third world society.
Hence, since the scandal, the media had done the ‘noble’ thing — pivot the story around the big man, forget the small man.
Well, it’s understandable. News sells more when it is about the big fish. But journalism wasn’t made for pecuniary gains only. It was primarily established for humanity. Capitalism did its worst in devesting journalism of its essence. But it can’t succeed.
From the gutters, the voice of the neglected fraction of the society bypasses the xenophobic microphones of Newmen and reaches the Western hemisphere, where all are equal before the Law.
UK laws unlike Nigeria’s doesn’t discriminate between the rich and the poor. It holds all men accountable before its scale. And it came to the rescue of the lowly-rated, in Ekweremadu’s instance.
Kidney transplant is a complex medical procedure. Every live-donor is prepared thoroughly, with all the imperatives of the enterprise explained to him/her, in order to obtain informed consent. He will be made to understand the lifestyle changes he/she is meant to adopt to avert possible health disaster associated with having to manage life with one kidney for the rest of his/her life.
Nigeria’s healthcare system is so poor, that all those pre-surgical and post-surgical counselings are hardly made available. As simple as HIV test is, the standard procedure is that the subject must be given pre-test and post-test counseling.
But here, people do it with reckless abandon, and that’s why there is increasing rate of stigmatization among the people. Worse still is the self-stigmatization by the subjects themselves, which leads to depression and sometimes suicide.
Unlike here, the UK operates in accord with international best practices. So they don’t cut corners.
Ekweremadu’s medical middleman was supposed to educate Ukpo thoroughly on the procedure he is undergoing and secure his consent. The lapses were noticed immediately after the boy was brought in for the preliminary stages of the procedure to commence in the UK hospital.
Ukpo must have passed through excruciating trauma. His rights were infringed. An investigation launched after the young man ran away from London and slept rough for days before walking into a police station in Staines, in Surrey, crying and in distress confirmed this.
Relaying his fears, he told police: “The doctor said I was too young but the man said if you do not do it here, he would carry me back to Nigeria and do it there.” He deserves all the post-litigation compensations or damage restorations there are.
Why didn’t Senator Ekweremadu take any of the sons of his fellow Nigeria’s VIPs for the mission? For instance, why didn’t he drag Sen. Abubakar Saraki’s son, or any of Sen. David Mark’s wards?
The answer is simple — he can’t see them on the streets of Ajegunle. They’re all well placed in inaccessible planets. And that makes poor kids like Master Ukpo inescapable endangered species. He’s poor and would easily be enticed by utopic promise of a “better life” abroad.
Weaponization of poverty!
The Good book lamented this situation thus: “The rich buy up the weak for silver and the poor for a pair of sandals, and even get a price for the sweepings of the wheat. And thus says the Lord: I have made my decree and will not relent: because they have sold the upright for silver and the poor for a pair of sandals, because they have crushed the heads of the weak into the dust and thrust the rights of the oppressed to one side… thus profaning my holy name” (Amos 2:6-7. 8:6).
The other side of this whole story is the crude inhumanity of the black man. Over the course of centuries, Africans bemoaned the sins of slave trade. They had guilt-tripped Europe and America for the many crimes of slave trading. However, none faults the accomplices of Africans who sold their children, relatives, and natives to the slave traders.
As it stands, no African country has anti-slave trade legislation. But UK has strict modern slavery laws, which web caught Ekweremadu (a supposed descendant or relative of former victims of slave trade) trying to perpetuate, albeit in modern way, that which his generation has condemned for long.
It might interest you to note that all culprits of anti-human trafficking laws in Nigeria are all Nigerians, of which Ekweremadu can safely be enlisted in.
Yet, Nigerians became so emotional about their sympathy with the Ekweremadus when Sonia (his sick daughter), who had declined to give evidence, wept in court as she was cleared by the jury and tearfully hugged her father as he was remanded into custody with the other guilty defendants ahead of sentencing on 5 May.
A Medical Imaging Scientist and public affairs analyst — Mr. Uche Azubuine wrote on the scenario and his verdict will form the denouement of this discourse:
“Many people are already writing long epistles to show how much they are in touch with their emotions and how much a father can go to save his dying child, in line with Ekweremmadu’s conviction. UK laws that convicted Ekweremmadu was made by people who are interested in humanity.”
That a law created to protect humanity convicted someone who is going against such pro-human laws; and you throw your emotions out in the field and begin to guilt-trip anybody who says they are happy that a criminal was convicted is too low.
We can become better humans than that. If you are against a law made to protect humanity (both the rich and the poor), then you are a retrogressive and selfish mind.”
Nobody is talking about how the relatives of the boy will be feeling and how much they will be grateful to the UK laws.
Nigerians are funny people. That is why somebody will be saying that a Road Safety official is wicked for catching him without a seat belt and refusing to take bribe but gets him to pay fine.
It cannot be denied that Ekweremmadu by virtue of being a Nigerian politician who is not different from the rest of his colleagues has lost human sympathy from the Nigerian masses.
May daylight spare us!
✍️ Jude Eze; firstname.lastname@example.org