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A fire-fighter must surrender himself for other peoples happiness

Published by The Nation on Sun, 23 Feb 2020


Former Director, Lagos State Fire Service, Razak Fadipe, shares some of his memorable moments, challenges and journey to the top with YETUNDE OLADEINDE.What inspired you to join the Fire Service'I was interested in touching lives. I wanted to serve humanity. Initially, I tried to get a job with the Nigerian Police Force but it didnt work out. So, when the opportunity came, I joined the Fire Service. Aside that, an outbreak of fire at Balogun market back when I was in primary school also inspired me.The firemen that came to battle the inferno that day could not gain access and they had to turn to another area within a twinkle of an eye. The driver manoeuvred in such a way that the people applauded him. That inspired me greatly.Tell us about the very first operation you participated in'I may not be able to remember vividly. There was an outbreak of fire that involved an insurance firm. I remember people shouting water, water. I ran quickly to the pump but one of the senior officers pulled me back, asking if the man with the hose was ready. I checked and saw that he was not. If the hose was not connected to the pump, the force would have affected him. Gradually, I started gaining experience, working with committed and hardworking officers. They reshaped me and directed my path. Each time we went to the fire scene, they were prepared. They never waited to go through the door. If the window was the first option, they went through determined to save lives.There was also a terrible incident. Then, I was Director of Fire Service. That day, I was sick and I went to the clinic, where they gave me some drugs.I went home, took the drugs and went to bed. I had given my phones to my wife and was about sleeping, when my wife came in telling me that they had been trying to reach me on phone because there was a fire outbreak. It was a high-rise building. I told her that I wasnt going, that the job was becoming problematic. The time was around 10.30pm; but she encouraged me to go and prayed for me.Its a job is full of criticism but when you do your work with dedication, success is sure. Even the number one citizens in Lagos State, Gov. Babatunde Fashola and Akinwunmi Ambode commended my service. For Fashola, the slogan was that the reward for hard work is more work. In the process, lots of plaques and commendation also came.Tell us about your journey to the top'I joined immediately after secondary school as a recruit of Level 04 and rise to number one position. I spent 35 years. I must tell you that I am the first person to rise to the peak of Level 17. And while I was there, I kept the state safe.I went to further my education five years after. I saw an advert that a particular school in Imo was offering a course in fires service. I travelled all the way to Aba. No other institution in Nigeria offered the course. Then I went to the university to further my education. I was on Level 8. People kept wondering what I was looking for. It was right after I finished that the government came up with the policy change that if you do not have a degree, you cannot rise. That was how I started having edges over others. From number thirty-something on the nominal roll, I was picked to be Assistant Director.What are some of the hazards on the job'There are lots of criticisms because people only remember the things you do wrong. Where there is an emergency, people would start packing their personal belongings before calling us and the fire would have gained impetus. The spirit behind the fire is that if it is burning a freezer, it is radiating the other things. And even when we get there, they would be stoning or fighting us. On several occasion, they have wounded our men. People also forget that no matter the amount of water you bring, it would get exhausted and you would have to go and get another. On several occasions, we got to the hospital with our injured men, and they refused to support us. Then I got a circular that any accident that happens, our men should be attended to immediately. You need to be dedicated on the job; and I used to tell my men to quickly dispatch, get to the scene and save lives. When you have dedicated officers, you can do your work well.Is there a synergy between the state and federal fire service'I would tell you the truth. There is no synergy. We have the same way of operations but many times when there is a call and they get to the scene before us; by the time they exhaust their water, rather than replenish, they just stand back and say, It is your state and leave. Sometimes, we quarrel at the scene of emergency. But with the new helmsman, things are better. However, I think there should be collaborative efforts. Our priority should be to save lives and properties.Whats your advice to young people who want to join the Fire Service'The interest to serve humanity must be there. It shouldnt be because you didnt get another job. It was during my time that I recruited graduates. I told them they must go out and not just sit in the office. Secondly, it is not a place that you want to come and make money. That should not be the motive. Peradventure, if God says doors would open; no problem. You must surrender yourself to make others happy. It is not a place for eye-service or lazy people. If you are lazy on emergency ground, anything can happen. But if you are dedicated, as you are saving lives, God will save you. Experience has shown that those who dodge responsibility get into danger. Besides, your superiors are watching you.
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