Politics of blood donation

After the bomb incident of 14th April that took scores of lives and maimed many, the government let out a plea asking kind-hearted Nigerians to come donate blood to victims of that attack. No sooner had that plea been made than some kind-hearted Nigerians indeed ventured out of their homes to hospitals designated for the purpose. Some of us who did not participate have been in the line of fire for reasons that would be obvious soon, and most of the punches we have received, and fingers pointed at us have been well pointed and delivered. I cannot render an apology for those whose religions forbid transfusion of blood, or for some of us who live in places far flung from the centres where the donations were taking place, and importantly on behalf of most of us who were afraid henceforth to go out subsequently for fear for our safety in the aftermath of a replication of that attack.

But for those who braved the odds to go out to donate, we must all commend them for being their brothers’ keepers. We all realise that the life of a man is in his blood and the blood of a man is his life, and giving even a pint of it to help save another’s life is no ordinary matter. It is a private and personal matter that is rarely seen on the pages of newspapers. It is something that occurs with people that are intimately related, husband giving blood to save a wife or a brother offering a kidney to a brother and in most cases, blood given is screened to be sure the donator is in good health. The moment is sombre and private I tell you. Most of the prominent people who realise the sacredness of the moment quietly drove to the hospital or centre, gave their blood quietly and slinked off. In fact, I heard of one important politician who threatened to sue a certain newspaper house if the photos they took of him donating blood ever went public. His excuse even though curious made a lot of sense. ‘How many world leaders, big business men and women not to talk of presidents have you seen donating their blood? There are security issues to be considered as well,’ he was said to have told the journalist who talked with him.

But for some politicians who donated their blood, this was a big political moment to savour and shore up their political fortunes. The first was the British ambassador to Nigeria. Others whose photos were all over the internet donating blood were Mr Bukola Saraki, former governor of Kwara State and APC chieftain, and Mr Aminu Tambuwal, Speaker of the House of Representatives. As soon as those silly and incongruous photos of the one smiling and the other fiddling with his phone while donating blood hit the net, they went viral. A few Nigerians who I thought would be a little bit more discerning and circumspect started gloating and behaving like the Roman mob in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. They began to hail these cheap attempts to polish images long battered by personal instances of idiosyncrasy unbecoming of people in the public eyes. And before long as well, the spin doctors and amateur propagandists in the camp of the opposition juxtaposed the photos of the blood-giving politicians against that of the president visiting Kano and visiting a revered traditional ruler of Yoruba land, apparently to establish the president as wanton and insensitive to the plight of the families of those who lost their loved ones and of those still writhing in pain in hospital.

Well, I am not on the payroll of Mr President and I have said this for the benefit of any simple-minded person around me who accuses me of ‘supporting’ mediocrity. In 2008 when John McCain and Barack Obama were slugging it out in their presidential campaign, a disaster akin to the one we have now took place. While McCain shut his campaign office and relocated to the scene of the disaster to score political points, Obama continued to campaign after he did the needful in commiserating with the victims of that disaster. His critics took him to task, but an Obama was to respond thus: ‘a true leader must be able to do as many things at once in more than one place’. And that shut up everyone. What the British Ambassador, the Speaker and Mr. Bukola did in giving blood to save lives is commendable but they did it in the most reprehensive and irritating manner possible. Before we examine the hypocrisy behind the blood donation of the British ambassador to Nigeria, perhaps we might like to consider another picture taken of the British Prime Minister, David Cameron himself last year. The bloke was photographed taking a ride in a train. As soon as the photo hit facebook, our gullible people started going giddy with praising a man whose public ratings then were at an all time low, and the photo was just a PR stunt by his handlers to present him as a simple man. And now to put the hypocrisy of the blood donation by the British ambassador in its proper perspective – most of the people who manufacture and supply the arms used by terrorists are British, American or Russian. They are registered with their governments. And so what use is it to donate your blood to our people if the blood spill was spilled from guns sold to our disgruntled supremacists, and the bomb in question on April 14th allegedly was delivered by a Briton aka the black widow?

And so, looking at the manner in which our politicians donated blood – with paid paparazzi and image launderers lounging by – I wouldn’t be surprised that in the build up to the elections next year these photos would appear on campaign posters and newspaper advertorials either as a comparative analysis against those who did not donate or as epitaphs to the supposed ‘humanness’ or ‘humanity’ of the politicians in question. The politicians who gave their blood are not in any way intimately politically related to Nigerians. Daily they scheme, strategise and plot how to be relevant in a political environment saturated with unctuous people. Whether or not they achieve their aims, our prayer in this country is that the blood of our people being shed and used for political image making would speak out soon and fight against these vampires and vultures in our midst.

Written by
MajiriOghene Bob Etemiku
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