by Amma Ogan
Being in Lagos at the time of the Dana Airlines plane crash was like looking on at the filming of a movie based on a true story. Casting, directing, screenplay, absolutely seamless.
There was not a single component missing, horror, grief, trauma, shocked disbelief, managerial and administrative dysfunction. The media did not miss a beat, doing their homework and backtracking to past tragedies, giving breath to those suddenly gone on their pages and websites, evoking the natural pathos that follows such an event, painting enduring pictures of those lives cut short: lives that had barely begun, lives that were on the threshold of new dreams, lives that had reached the desired pinnacles, fresh smiles dewy eyed couples, cherubic baby faces, and roll calls of ‘power’ names who visited the crash site …
Everyone knew somebody, who knew somebody.
But there is no news here.
The Sunday afternoon airplane crash was just another event in Nigeria in which lives were lost. Okay it was a bit more dramatic than the conflagration of fuel tankers on the expressway, a quarterly or maybe even monthly event in Nigeria. There was a similar such fire the last time I was in town, some 18 months ago on the same infamous highway. And you can see when you drive by, because the evidence of failures past is always there pushed to the side of the expressway, dumped somewhere in the garden, rusting by the generator shed, or overgrown by weeds, so that we can continue without change until the fire next time and then maybe one new burnt vehicle can be piled on top of an older one so that we can squeeze by. Notin spoil. We dey here. Full ground. Na Nigeria.
Bomb explosions, we have three of those a week do we not? In fact we have been getting them for some time. It’s old now, so there is no need to make any moves to acquire our own DNA detection systems is there?
Car accidents where the victims can only bleed to death, who’s keeping count?
Instant burials, where buildings give way over unnamed and unidentifiable inhabitants -we hear about those every season.
Collapsed billboards on Third Mainland warn us of the new wahala to come. Just as the victims who were quietly enjoying a Sunday afternoon’s rest in their homes (what was their own with buying tickets to fly on Nigerian planes?) show us, until we start making things better the disaster next time will be worse.
We have had instances, where the victims could not be recovered because the plane could not be dragged out of the body of water into which it had crash landed: No equipment. We have had plane tragedies where the children, screaming to their deaths, could not be saved because there was no available fire rescue mechanism, and this was coming decades after burning high rises on the Marina could not be doused because the fire engine hoses were not long enough to cross the highway to access the lagoon water. Don’t ask about tankers.
So when the plans were approved, nothing was noted about access to water, or building bylaws?
When the word dysfunction is used to refer to so much that happens in Nigeria it is because there is just no other explanation.
Accidents happen everywhere. There are no people immune to error on this planet. But when we do not implement and monitor the regulation of those measures that are necessary to prevent the repeat of past mistakes then we are just going round in circles and laying the ground for more deaths to come. We are killing each other just so a few people who look to all the world like human beings, can make money. This runs the gamut from keeping our roads in good condition, clamping down on the ‘importation’ of expired and adulterated medicines, to ensuring that those who seek to make a profit out of owning airlines maintain safety regulations governing air travel.
One is almost afraid to ask the question what is your vision of a future Nigeria, what do you think it will require to get there? The capacity for taking whatever gets thrown our way and rolling with it is not normal and I am fairly certain now that it is not God sent either.
Somehow we have passed shame.
So what will it take? Two generations or three? We have gone from expecting everything of government to relying on Julius Berger in almost that same time span. The future is not a concept that we appear to pay any attention to. Chop today die tomorrow underlies the way we practice politics and commerce. You cannot seriously be planning a longtime career in the flying business if you think plane maintenance is an issue you can just side skip or ‘settle’ your way out of.
A friend sent me an sms of a joke currently doing the rounds in Nigeria:
‘HOW TO CROSS THE ROAD IN NAIJA
Look left, look right. Look left again for moto. Look round for okada,look up for aeroplane, look down for bomb. If nothing coming walk zigzag across the road to avoid ‘straight’ bullet, not too fast and not too slow, while looking round for kidnappers and praying well!!’
(Read No Safe Way to Travel, by Adaobi Nwaubani HERE)
Unless we agree that we are all on one crazy suicide mission together we need to focus on putting our country in order. We can begin by enforcing and policing those laws that protect our most valuable asset- the people of Nigeria.