Ebuka Obi-Uchendu: Will we learn from this? (YNaija FrontPage)

This is probably the only country where the ‘once bitten twice shy’ saying doesn’t apply.

We have been telling the government that we, the poor people, are suffering and dying but nobody likes to listen to us. Maybe now that the rich people have died too, they will do something.
That was a random Abuja resident speaking to an AIT News correspondent on Monday June 4, 2012 on her reaction to the Dana Air crash of Sunday June 3. She said all of that with a straight face not caring if she sounded selfish or insensitive and moved on, leaving me (and I guess many others who were watching), with a very serious point to think about.

A lot has been said about what is now officially Nigeria’s worst air disaster in about 2 decades. Tears have been shed and questions are still being asked. There is no doubt that the horror that hit the nation a week ago will not be forgotten in a hurry while many who were directly affected, have had their lives changed forever.

As expected, a lot of sad faces are being pulled by people in government including Mr. President and both the ministers of Aviation and Education, who all cried (whether you believe it or not) on television. Three days of mandatory national mourning were declared, and subsequently the inevitable panel has been set up to look into domestic airline regulation in the country and in the coming weeks, we shall move on with our lives and await the next big issue to rattle us again.

When the House of Representatives held a special session during the week in honor of the air crash victims, Hon. Samson Osagie, the minority whip of the House and my new favorite in the House since Hon. Patrick Obahiagbon left, spoke my mind. He wondered why we had to always wait for serious damage to be done to the entire nation before we decided to tackle an issue head on. He was worried that we were good at mourning and setting up panels to investigate wrong deeds instead of trying to be experts at prevention. Same questions every Nigerian keeps asking.

This is probably the only country where the ‘once bitten twice shy’ saying doesn’t apply. Considering how much we have gone through in our history, you would expect that we would have a government that is more proactive than reactive by now. How many times do we have to be taught the hard way before we learn?

The problems for me in all that happened on Sunday, go beyond the plane crashing because truth be told, no one knows exactly what happened. Forget all the speculations we keep hearing about bad planes and what not. All the witnesses to that crash are unfortunately no longer with us to tell us what happened and so until the contents of the black box are unveiled, commenting on what caused the crash is not in my place. But what is in my place is what I saw on television and the sort of pain the speaker on AIT News on Monday was talking about.

The planless nature of Lagos has never worked against us as it did on Sunday. The picture of houses built together like sardines with roads that even emergency trucks in the developed world would find tough to navigate, was not a pretty sight at all. The shock on the face of Vladimir Duthiers, CNN’s new correspondent in Lagos as he reported from the area, describing how difficult it was to get there, was clear enough even as he tried to mask it. Why do we live like this?

I looked at that community and it left a bitter taste in my mouth. I know for sure that Lagos cannot be fixed in a day. I also know that whatever is on ground today, is not a creation of whoever is in government right now. But I can’t help but wonder how we got here and what is being done to get us out of this mess. For a long time, the people of Iju-Ishaga lived in their little space with no one ever thinking that their neglect would one day have international implications.

If nothing else let this disaster be a reason for governments to work towards reforming a lot that is wrong with us; work on having a better emergency response service, do a better job of regulating housing as tough as it might be and most importantly, start seeing every Nigerian as a part of one entity. Asokoro is less than 10 kilometers away from Nyanya for example, yet the difference in both communities is unimaginable. Living in high fenced and gated homes thinking one is insulated from the problems next door is laughable, as we have seen with this incident. There’s no point having an efficient fire service in Victoria Island while the whole of Alagbado has one fire department with no water.

We have a chance at the moment to do things right. Unfortunate as it is that it would have to take such a dastardly act to make us sit up, it would be even worse if we learn nothing from the air crash a week ago. Let us do the souls of the 153+ victims of that crash some good by doing better. That is the least we can do to honor them …


Editor’s note: Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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Comments (4)

  1. Well said. Your last sentence which referred to the crash as "that crash" seemed a bit insensitive though. Cheers!

  2. True!

  3. But Tobi if the govt was responsible enough not to take bribes from town planners, we won't have these problems so its still their issue. Every time am at Lagos island and I see how people in idumota and isale eko live, am in shock. Our problem too plenty

  4. Well written and very true. Just want to comment regarding the housing issue in Lagos: truth is all the cluttered streets and areas in lagos was not just d fault of govt,even we as individuals have a role to play,when building houses do we bribe town planning officers so they approve our papers? It took decades of moral decay and corruption from both govt and d people to bring lagos' terrible housing situation to what it is today. Unfortunately the 2 major solutions would be to demolish some buildings so the masterplan(if there is one) is followed and have relocation plans for those affected…I'm sure you agree this will be very tough and expensive to achieve becuase of different factors(political,funding,etc)

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