Even in countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq that are in perpetual state of war, last weekend’s harvest of death from road crashes would still have sent some chilly sensations down people’s spines. In saner countries, the staggering fatalities would have been enough to instigate some days of national mourning, and, perhaps, some protests.
But in Nigeria, we have become so impervious to blood and death, we have become so used to broken limbs and lives that a casual observer would have inferred that perhaps tragedies are our second nature. Sad. The weekend of death started upper Friday at Ofosu town in Edo State, when an Enugu-bound luxury bus rammed into a petrol tanker, unleashing hell. The tanker, laden with fuel, exploded on impact and became a huge ball of fire that consumed the luxury bus, which originated from Lagos. Eighty people perished on the spot.
Most of them, youths, were sent to the land of the spirits before their prime and time. Barring any last minute change, the victims would have been given a mass burial yesterday at Ugbogui, Edo State. Very sad. Terrible as the Ofosu tragedy was, it would be replicated, later that same day, though at a lower scale, at Ihiala, a major town in Anambra State, when two commercial buses smashed into an articulated vehicle that was discharging some consignments of beer. Twenty passengers perished on the spot.
Last Monday, the same number was consumed in Potiskum, Yobe State, when an apparently overloaded and over-speeding commercial bus ran into a truck that had broken down by the roadside. One can go on and on reeling out the spiraling statistics emanating from carnage on our roads. Although the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, has persistently maintained that it has been able to achieve a 30 percent reduction in road crashes, the fatalities are still unsettling.
They are scary. In fact, the situation is now so terrible that hardly a day passes without reports of deaths from road accidents. I’m not contesting the FRSC’s claim please. That is not the focus of this column today. My main worry is that we are now so used to the sight of blood and death in this country that we have become impassive to the statistics even when they climb so sharply, so suddenly, like they did last weekend.
Elsewhere, the tragedies at Ofosu and Ihiala, and others, that claimed the lives of 120 Nigerians should be enough to either warrant some days of national mourning or a solemn assembly to beg the Almighty to stave the deadly trend. But what did we see? That bloody weekend passed as if nothing happened. After the initial alarm and immediate sorrowful expressions, occasioned by the gory front-page pictures, we all went back to our businesses; and life continues.
Like I said, we are now so unmoved and unaffected by the sight of blood and death that nothing jolts us any more. We don’t give such tragedies any serious thought until the next time. Yet, regular travellers have their hearts in their mouths as they crisscross the country by road. Most of them cannot afford to fly. They cannot commute by rail either because our railway system is still lying comatose. Despite the billions that the federal government votes for roads, year after year, Nigeria has one of the worst road accident records in Africa.
Despite the fact that the Federal Ministry of Works guzzles money like kalokalo gaming machines, our country’s road networks remain death traps. They are dilapidated. They are riddled with holes deep enough to swallow cars in whole. They are ever-present tragedies waiting to happen. Aside from the fatalities arising from the terrible state of our roads, the nation also loses many man-hours, daily, as people waste precious time on trips that should normally take one hour or less.
Regular travellers on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, or Shagamu-Benin Expressway, or the East-West Road, or similar other highways across the country can bear to the unnecessary sufferings they go through. Reports abound of travellers having to sleep on some these routes owing to their terrible state. As a result of the excruciating hassles people go through on Nigeria’s road networks, many people have suffered needless death while the health of many more has nosedived. Generally, the quality of life diminishes daily as a result of all this avoidable stress.
The economy suffers terrible shocks and our country remains the worst for it. And you just wonder what is the worth of life if citizens cannot enjoy something as fundamental as smooth, safe and motorable roads. Today, I’ve come not to confront authority. Rather, I’ve come to appeal to power.
I’ve come to plead with the Federal Ministry of Works, and other powers responsible for our roads, to save us from needless tragedies that we see every day. I’ve come to appeal for more commitments to be made for the rehabilitation of Nigeria’s road network, and for the faithful and speedy execution of contracts so we could live and operate like normal humans. This is my prayer.
Re: The last sad Easter for Little John
Must you ascribe every tragedy to Jonathan?
Shola, it is highly regrettable that a journalist of your mould and ranking failed woefully, to use the story of what befell citizen Johnson Snr. to appropriately educate other ignorant parents like Johnson and his wife. You needed only to inform and educate them that the Lagos State Government, in partnership with the Federal Government’s Roll Back Malaria Programme, treats vulnerable children and their mothers free of charge.
It’s unfortunate those parents after administering Paracetamol for three days without good result ignored the often repeated radio advert to contact any of the General Hospitals, Primary Health Centre, Women and Children’s Hospital all over Lagos, where junior would have been treated free and his precious life saved.
What was sadly topmost in your mind (Shola) was to use the story to continue the GEJ-bashing that has become an alluring attraction to opposition politicians and their Press Wing represented by people like you. Was it appropriate to have even exhibited Mr. President’s photograph on that page? People should learn to do their work, as that is also leadership in that little corner and stop ascribing every duty and responsibility to GEJ and Federal Government.
-Barth Okedu esq.
May God save the poor
The Last Sad Easter For Little John refers.
It is a pity, my brother, that what you exposed last Sunday, on your page, is the exact situation of most Nigerians. I am particularly happy that the President’s picture is splashed on that page. Of course, that would move him to read the portion. What else can one say than to wish you and Nigerians victory in this onerous battle to liberate the poor.
Do the Ogas read these things?
The article, The Last Sad Easter For Little John, is heart-breaking. The sad thing is that the so-called Ogas don’t even read such reports.
He’s a symbol of our decadence
I thank you for your concern over the plight of Citizen Johnson. I consider him a perfect symbolism of the failure of the Nigerian State.
Johnson should have done more for his baby
Johnson’s story was really pathetic but a lot more should have been done by him to save his baby; such as walking into some media houses to tell them about his problem. Surely, some compassionate Nigerians would have responded positively to his distress because most Nigerians are reasonably compassionate where child safety is concerned.
Corruption in Nigeria is like a household utensil. So, talking about it is like saying ‘Amen’ to the devil’s curse. And imagine a worker, with a family, being owed salary for three consecutive months by his employers; without legal sanction. What a country! You have said it all, that what our corrupt leadership class is sewing, it will reap. I pray they reap it bountifully too.
-Lai Ashadele, 0803007531
We mustn’t let them kill this country
With due respect to my dear country Nigeria, a country I love so much, I’m sorry to say that Nigeria, as it is, is like a broken down vehicle with no battery. No matter how hard we push it, no matter how many people are pushing it, it can never start. The way I’m seeing things, our ex-leaders can never allow our current leaders to take us to the Promised Land because they are all involved. Unfortunately, because they are involved, because they must ensure that the vicious cycle continues, poor people like Little John will continue to die. By their godless actions, they will continue to ensure that both our Little John and potentially great Johns will die. We must not let them kill this country. Nigeria belongs to all of us-both rich and poor.
Idi-Iroko, Ogun State.
Re: While I was away…
You are all hypocrites!
You are all hypocrites. A balanced commentary would have mentioned the sodomite Major and the fraudulent banker. In a multiethnic society, it is painful to see all the northern looters running free with over 20 exotic cars parked in their palaces. You met President John Kufuor (of Ghana) and you saw the simplicity of an ex-president. How did Tinubu make his money?
-Ray Adams, 08033410110
Do you support amnesty for BH?
Sir, do you support amnesty for Boko Haram? Do you support amnesty without condition or compensation for the affected families? Sorry to Ndigbo who lost more.
Satellite Town, Lagos.
In my estimation, negotiating with those who murder and maim without qualms to make a point offends the sensibility of peace-loving compatriots and runs against the grain of our collective sense of community. But if it is the price we need to pay to stop the mindless killings and restore peace, then, we should talk. The talk about amnesty to Boko Haram is a tricky one because how do you settle Boko Haram without giving serious thought to families whose loved ones were murdered for being at the right place at the wrong time? Like I said, it is a dicey situation.
Tears for Mrs. Funmilayo Olayinka
Please, give my condolence to Mrs. Funmilayo Olayinka’s family and the Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, on the death of such a well-talked about woman: his deputy. May her soul rest in perfect peace.
-Lai Ashadele, 0803007531
Death has lost its power
Death, where is thy sting? Cancer, where is thy power? Our beloved Mrs. Olufunmilayo Olayinka has done her best. She came, she saw, she conquered and, now, she has gone to meet her Maker. While we pray for the repose of her sweet and generous soul, we must not forget what she stood for: honesty, humility, hard work, unity, kindness and love for God and humanity. I pray God to comfort the husband and their children at this difficult time.
-Dr. Gabriel Oyediji, 08033021313
General Overseer, Christ Compassion Ministry,