June 3 2012, now known as Black Sunday is a day that will forever live in infamy. An airplane fell out of the sky and crashed into homesteads in a busy Lagos suburb killing all the travelers as well as people on ground; on the other side of the border, another aircraft crashed in Ghana; and the Boko Haram blew another church into the sky in Yelwa, Bauchi, murdering 12 members of the congregation.
Murder and mayhem at every turn, Nigeria is fast turning into a country of blood, sweat and tears. The Dana air crash in particular was very painful, and for days I felt a deep sense of loss. With anguish I tried to imagine the hysteria and panic on the aircraft just before it hit ground zero. No one deserves to go in that manner. I was once on a plane to Houston, Texas and just as we approached George Bush Inter-continental, the plane landing gear refused to activate. I noticed that the pilot kept circling the huge BOEING 747 around and around, and I could sense that something was wrong. I swallowed, and I started sweating. Even the passengers next to me started looking anxious. There was an oyibo lady with her 4 year old son sitting in the middle aisle. She looked at me like “What is going on?”
I nor answer her o. Dey there, dey blow grammar. I was thinking, please God, let this plane just land jeje. I don’t want to die in Texas. Besides who would fry puff puff at my wake? The plane circled 3 more times, and then we heard a loud cranking noise “FOOOKPA!!!”
Then the pilot’s weary voice came through as an announcement was made on the prompter. “Captain Relieved” joyfully announced “We had been unable to deploy the aircraft’s landing apparatus, and had radioed the airport authorities to get emergency landing procedures in place. However, it has now been successfully deployed, and we are getting ready to land. We are presently at an altitude of 10,000 feet. Thank you for flying with……the weather in Houston is slightly humid with an average temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit….”
Men, I didn’t not listen to rest of the announcement as I breathed a huge sigh of relief. The next 15 minutes were the longest ones in my life. I would not rest until the plane’s Dunlop Elite tires touched terra firma successfully. Immediately the plane hit the ground, and started taxiing on the runway, I turned around to answer the oyibo who had asked me that question like less than 30 minutes ago: “The plane’s tires had refused to come out, but the pilot repaired it.” Like say no be God o, like say no be God o; my life done kpeme…
The lady smiled, and started talking to me about how her trip had gone, about how she had been to Africa before…..I looked out of the airplane window, and saw that there had been about 6 fire-trucks on standby on the tarmac, just in case. There were also police squad cars and emergency services too. We had to wait in the plane for an extra 15 minutes before we could disembark, as the airline needed clearance. And I sat there smiling, like here is a country that is organized to a tee. Emergency services are deployed to the scene to avert as well as deal with mishaps. They want to give accident victims every chance to survive. Your aircraft may crash, but you will not burn. Not like Naija, where it is always medicine after death. No sir, why form expensive government investigative committees after bomb attacks and mishaps. What about trying to nip the problem in the bud?
When the manifest and pictures of the passengers were released in the days following the Dana crash, it really hit close to home. These were decent ordinary beautiful people like you and me. It is clear that Nigeria has lost a generation of talented people, some of whom have had their lives cut short because anything goes in this country. Heck, maybe I should start my own airline. I would get a Molue bus, fit it with wings and a rudder, and call it Air-Esco. If people protest too much, I would claim that it is an Air Bus model, as I prefer them to Boeing.
Among the names on the manifest, was a friend of mine who I had briefly gone to A-level school with ages ago. Here was a stand-up dude in the prime of his life. His parents had invested a fortune in his upbringing and education, only for him to get wiped out like that. It is so hard to take. This dude was a financial analyst with a UK degree, who had returned to Nigeria to practice his profession. I remember us exchanging rap tapes and CDs at A-level school. I also ran into him at a society wedding at TBS, Lagos some years ago. He had just returned to the country and was full of zest for the future.
Sometimes, one gets the impression that in Nigeria, we are paying the price for being too many. Yes, 200 million of us. Every day on the news, it is one mishap or bombing or incident or accident or the other. We are getting dis-sensitized to violence. Think of the worst incident that happened last year, and see if you can remember it. What did the government do after it occurred? Did roads get fixed after the accident. Were our cops better paid or equipped. Did that senator go to jail?
And the people on the ground do not fare better. You could be lounging at home on a Sunday watching the Nollywood movies “Died wretched and buried in 10 million naira casket” or “Last flight to Abuja”, only to have a Jumbo jet belly flop on your living room.
Oh 400 people died in that Bokom Haram banzai attack 3 months ago? Sad, but we have 199,999,999,600 people left, so it is all good.
Our government seems lax and merely reactive. Corruption and greed have crept into every facet of our national life. Nigeria is now officially one of the most dangerous and treacherous places in the world to live. It is like there are 6 million ways to die, choose one. An average Nigerian is prone to many life-ending dangers on a given day. And by “I”, I mean the average Nigerian.
I could die because a trigger happy olopa wants a 20 naira bribe for ground-nut
Die because the airline company put a rickety aircraft in the sky
Die because I mistook a NEPA cable on the floor for a skipping rope
Die because a bad bele person in my village shook my hand with jazz.
Die because my BRT bus scuba-dived into the lagoon under 3rd Mainland bridge while trying to overtake a sport’s car like at the GET Arena
Die because I bought and ate expired Gala in Lekki traffic.
Die because my houseboy bought Boko Haram beans in the market
Die because my car was blocking a Senator’s convoy
Die because LASTMA used a chuku-chuku rod to intercept my car at full speed
Die for daring to contest political office so that I can effect change and reform
Die for being at the wrong place at the wrong time (being Igbo in the North usually works)
Die because the carbon and smoke fumes from my generator asphyxiated me in my sleep.
Die because my mai-guard security guard was instructed to blow me up by Boko Haram
Die because I was robbed and attacked just after I had used a bank Bureau De Change
Die because my house got submerged in a flood after a heavy storm. Sea shells, sea shells..
Die because I fell into a broken soak away pit
Die because I was ill and no hospital would admit me until I made a N50,000 security deposit.
Die because my neighbor’s kerosene stove exploded and caused a fire
Die because the bus I was travelling in was carrying jerry-cans of petrol which exploded
Die because Egbesu Boys, OPC and MASSOB clashed in my area.
Finally I want to commensurate with families and friends of those we lost on Black Sunday. May those who passed away rest in peace. I also want to dedicate this poem to my friend who was on the plane which crashed. It is an excerpt from Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet”, and it was the same poem Robert Kennedy had dedicated to JFK at his wake:
When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he shall make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night,
And pay no worship to the garish sun.’”