Chrisland School: Between Sanwo-Olu, Justice and Propaganda


Gov. Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State

By Adams Yahaya Atata

According to William Cullen Bryant, “truth crushed to the earth, shall rise again.” This truism credited to the great hero is apposite for all time and to every situation of life without exception, it may only take a little long. For some time now, I have watched and read with an unusual keen interest, the sad occurrence that took away the life of a promising girl and student of Chrisland School, Opebi, Lagos, during an inter house sports competition at Agege Stadium, Lagos, on 9th February, 2023.

Expectedly, the government of Lagos State sprang to action and closed down the school in swift reaction to the sad event but it is highly disheartening that since that time, the school had been under lock and key to the detriment of other innocent students who are victims of circumstances.

As a father myself, I feel the pain and anguish of the parents of the late student. However, closing the school for an upward of two months now and still counting, leaves much to be desired. I have searched in vain as an educationist or educator, a name or appellation I can conveniently call myself, having been in academic for two decades, if such can be justified but alas, no sane society will allow students especially under 18 years to be sleeping at home for the loss of their dear one. Although it is disheartening and painful, the sad reality is that life continues, more so that such action will never wake the dead. Why then can’t the government lessen the harm to the students and society at large by not locking the school ad infinitum?

In all of these, I observed that the way the whole thing is going, it would appear that the government is only using the case of Whitney to flog or punish the school to score a cheap political point. The reason for this perception is not far fetched because looking at the whole thing as an impartial observer, one will notice an element of propaganda by the government of the day which has graduated to the level of deliberate punishment or scape goating the school.

Before I go further to make my points, a few empirical examples will do. First, the incident occurred on 9th February, 2023, which was exactly 30 days before the general election, or for this purpose, the governorship election of Lagos State, in which Sanwo-Olu was seeking re-election. Secondly, the mother of the girl, who is a social media person, used the opportunity to launch a virulent attack on the school. Thirdly, the school was unusually silent or docile, thinking this was a way to placate the parents of Whitney and, by extension, escape the barrage of criticisms from the parents, especially some members of the public, who can believe anything on the social media, and more especially, in this era where everybody is a reporter or journalist. (This is a subject for another day).

Having made the above preliminaries, I must hasten to add that Sanwo-Olu who wanted re-election bought into this as a propaganda to prove to the people of Lagos State that he is a proactive and no nonsense leader to tolerate any indiscipline on the part of any institution, whether private or public. To be candid, if there was any negligence, who was more negligent in the circumstances of this incident? To me, I respectfully answer that it is the government. This is because the only reasons offered for placing negligence on the school is the fact that the school ought to have a standby ambulance or that why should there be a naked wire anywhere on the pitch? Well, as for naked wire, I would not know but as to ambulance, I believe this is a proof of systemic failure on the part of our governments at all levels, especially the most revered government of Lagos State. With all we have read in various newspapers, how can there be a government stadium in Lagos without a standby ambulance? This is a great failure of government to my mind. To cover this lapses and avoid the negative effect of it on his re-election, he closed down the school till date.

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Furthermore, another thing that makes the whole thing look like a drama to me is the fact that Lagos State Government set up a coroner inquest to determine the cause of Whitney’s death, but before the coroner inquest could finish, the same government charged the school to court for negligence and unintentional manslaughter. I submit most respectfully that this is highly preposterous to commonsensical reasoning because one is the cause while the other is the effect. Thus, to charge the matter to court before the conclusion of the coroner inquest leaves one in doubt if the government is not working to an answer or being vindictive and playing to the gallery. I think it is a wrong step because the procedure is flawed as the government ought to await the outcome of the coroner inquest before charging the school to court and thereby take away the carpet off the court’s feet.This is what people will expect in the circumstances.

Furthermore, I fervently believe that since the incident never took place in the school but at the stadium owned by Lagos State government, it is the stadium that needs to be locked up, and not the school. Assuming the school is to be locked up at all, it should not be more than few days or weeks but now it is almost two months. I believe the students have been unnecessarily subjected to unwarranted pains here by government policies. I dare suggest that in future occurrences, government should not lock up a school more than a week because the dead cannot rise again even if the school is shut down forever.

Again, looking at the whole situation, once the school and its staffers had been charged to court, keeping the school under lock and key is double jeopardy – serving two types of punishment for the same offence and the government should have ordered the re-opening immediately the school was arraigned. I think our people should stop clapping for the government for it’s failure and infliction of pain on innocent children. What happens if my child is in Chrisland? Would I have preferred the school to be locked for ever? What about you?

Before I end this piece, I need to state clearly that the school shares some blames in the negative comments from many quarters in respect of this case not for anything at all but for being over silent.. This is not to say that one is happy for the death of the girl but the school should have quickly informed the public that the sad event occurred at a government facility and that it took all reasonable pre cautions to prevent such an unfortunate incident. Although, I commend the school for living up to expectation as a veritable citadel of learning by not engaging critics in an unprofitable trade of words, however, in situations like this, silence is not golden. The school should have blown its own trumpet.

One last word before I am done, I cannot but commend Whitney’s mother about the way she cried out in fighting the death of her daughter but I think too much cook spoils the broth. She will do pretty well by moving on with the sad reality of life without coming to the social media with those heavy make ups and calling for justice. I know for a fact that many of those goading her to continue in such manner are already beginning to think that she is using the unfortunate incident to cash in or get more followers. In essence, Nigerians are quick to leave a man to his fate. A word is enough for the wise.

-Yahaya Atata, a Senior Lecturer at Federal Polytechnic Damaturu, Yobe State, writes in from Damaturu.

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