Thursday, 7 June 2012

Our land- riding to extinction

Returning from a seemingly wasted journey was not what irked me that day, No. I had accepted it as something which I could not change, therefore which needed no more probe, lest I finger its rancid entrails and exhume self pity. My anger that morning stemmed from the fact that as I sat in the Lagos bound bus, backpack on my legs, contemplating sleep- yet knowing I did not want to journey that road again, having just awoken barely six hours earlier- information reached me that another church had  been bombed in Northern Nigeria. Again another church, another suicide mission executed on the engine of another Honda driven by yet another Islamist militant, yet more Christians dead!
Noon gradually came upon us as we drove past Shagamu, and memories of the day before overwhelmed me. Again I was reminded of death and ruin, by the sweltering heat that rose as the bus drove past the residue of burnt tankers and cars, I thanked the Lord for His endless Mercy; my first deep- seated gratitude that day.
In truth, my day really started when, at 2.45 pm I dared open facebook as I sat at my computer to write. To think tat I had rained invectives on the President to resign after the morning church blast! The picture of the Abuja-Lagos bound, Dana Plane, not quite whole, smoke emitting from one corner was a tell tale sign of what doom lay ahead. I hoped however that there would be survivors; if wishes were horses…
Within minutes of navigating between fb and twitter, more updates and pictures emerged. A body burning on the ground next to the wreckage, smoke billowing from buildings, gore after gore. No one had survived! More specific details of the wreckage site emerged; the crash happened in Balogun area of Iju, Ishaga. I experienced another fear; Jazz lived in that neighbourhood!
As I dialed her number unsuccessfully for the ninth time, I remembered how a few days ago she had told me on the phone that she was really tired and was in need of a domestic help, especially with the boys and Ella to contend with.
Sympathizing with her Ioffered to help her find one, and I said ‘And you go soon born, na now wey you need maid pass’
In her usual manner she had retorted ‘Wetin you mean, na you give me di belle? How you take sabi say I go soon born?’
Surely that was not going to be our last banter?
153 dead flashed before my eyes that afternoon and I could not help wondering what we did to deserve this kind of lack-luster governance in Nigeria. This country’s leaders seem hell-bent on steering Nigeria to extinction. If all our manpower perish steadily in bomb blasts, avoidable road accidents and plane crashes over a time, who will remain to build this nation from the ruins that will obviously be what is left of  Nigeria?
They sit there in their plush offices, siphoning our monies into foreign accounts, ordering the newest, classiest vehicles for their official use, while lives waste on the thread mill of  bureaucracy in a comatose civil service and our collective futures burn away in the cauldron of corruption. This uncaring government that dares open its mouth in myriad condolences more often than it implements useful well thought out policies.
Why else would a faulty aircraft find its way to our airspace? I can’t help wondering if the Indian executives of Dana Air would try that in their homeland. When will we ever have an emergency management plan that actually works; is well equipped and timely beyond the emptiness of the name NEMA? How many times do we hear of planes crashing in the West? If they ever crash due to malfunction and not bombs, do they never have ANY survivors? Only in Nigeria. If our people had better education in these things, will rescue operations not be more effective? Why would a plane crash land in a crowded residential area like Iju Ishaga and the residents stand aside and video record the screaming victims, banging on the plane’s windows for help? Scary! This is all I will think of, next time I take a local flight in Nigeria.
If like my daughter’s dorm mates, Munachi Ojugbana and Ruth Kennedy, you lost family, friend or acquaintance in that crash, do take heart. Only The Almighty’s Grace and time ultimately heals that sort of grief.
Jazz and her family may have escaped the ill fated plane by a hair’s breath; it finally crashed a stone throw from her house. But what will be said to the remainder of the Anyene family who stood by, impotent, as Nigeria and her many incompetences denied a mother, three children, a grandmother and father another day on earth? What will be said of Oluwakemi Somolu, whose wedding dress remains hanging in a wardrobe, never to be worn;  September wedding plans gone up in fumes. Thanks to a plane that we now hear has had several technical faults in the past three weeks!
We must raise our voices and take action where we can to stop this menace from consuming us. Our government must realise that they owe us service; that is what true leadership really is! Making Nigeria work again is not nuclear physics, if other African countries can do it, so can we.
First of all, every one with a duty- any duty at all- must be held accountable for that duty with which he is entrusted. Our people must not die in vain anymore! For this to happen we should demand more than just a revoking of the airline’s license and a shallow probe. Yes. We should demand justice and a change in the uncaring attitude of the Nigerian Government! That is the only way.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012


The first person approached with a stack of earthen ware plates, and then another approached with a plastic bag seemingly overflowing with bulging bottles. Yet another stack of earthen ware plates passed and this time I noticed that the plates had soot on them. Surely these were not among the opportunistic traders taking advantage of the gridlock to sell the odd bottled water, snack and bottled drinks as we endured a four hour standstill on the expressway.
The yellow-lace clad young men in the backseat of the taxi suddenly exclaimed as another person approached carrying a small plastic bag filled with blue and red wine bottles.
‘Wine lo wa ni nu trailer yen!’ said the first
‘Aah! Ooto ni’ rejoined the second
‘Je ka pada lo sibe!’ said the one with the “jan-ba-la-la” phone ring tone
This was when the disgruntled driver threatened that if they left the taxi one more time, he would not wait to pick them up especially as vehicles had finally started moving. ‘What are you going to do with wine now anyway?’
A totally useless question I thought to myself. How difficult can it possibly be to think up uses for sparkling wine after a five hour drive originally meant to take an hour and a half? I sat through their grumbling, the venomous words forming in the pit of my stomach calcifying on my unslaked tongued. This soul sistah was too tired to speak; thirsty, yet too pressed for a leak to dare buy water (or steal some wine) and douse the near parched yearning.
Eventually driving past the cause of our delay, I could not help but wonder(and be grateful) at the intensity of the accident if two tankers still raged furiously in a fire that started the night before - almost twenty hours before we got there. Yet people were looting the other upturned trailers of their unfortunate goods- wine, earthenware plates and more. To say I felt sorry for my fellow country men does not begin to milk this cow. Young men dared their safety; their lives, just to get as many bottles of wine as they could shove into armpits, hands and arms.
I wanted to take pictures but felt too saddened and disgusted to even bring out my phone. I was late for my performance, in fact the reading was about to end if, as my hostess informed me, they actually started at 4pm.
My taxi finally broke down just before Ibadan, a miracle actually. We had driven in near darkness after we left Sagamu at 6.30pm. Unable to turn on the headlamps lest the battery choke on us, we rode quietly, my heart jumped cowadly in my mouth each time we slid dangerously past a lorry, trailer or other monstrous vehicle.
The taxi may have erupted its final pox right after Guru Maharaji, but my celestial guardians were on full alert as my phone buzzed and the taxi slowed to a battery dead halt.  It was a fellow wordsmith who wanted to find out how the readings went; he was still on the way to Ibadan. I nearly screamed. ‘I am still on my way too! My taxi just broke down after that Maharaji place!’  Interestingly, they had also just driven past the Maharaji spot three minutes ago. ‘We passed there like five minutes ago! It’s a red taxi’ I yelped
That perfect moment when faith meets an outstretched hand and fear falls to the background, was me saying ‘red taxi’ and him saying ‘oh, I think I can see u guys! Driver, please clear. Please’.
As I said bye-bye to the guys and ran down the expressway to where my friend’s taxi was parked, I tasted heaven in unmeasured steps.
My performance dreams may have shattered like earthenware on concrete walls but my spirit remained undoused as I squeezed into the Toyota Camry front seat with a babe in the full stink of day old sweat. Life is Sweet!