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Funmi Iyanda
Lagos, Nigeria
Funmi Iyanda is a multi award-winning producer and broadcast journalist. She is the CEO of Ignite Media and Executive Director of Creation Television
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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

My mother died on the road


My mother died on the road, in an accident, a fire. At least that’s what l think. We never found her body you see and we don’t know for sure if she ever got on that ill-fated bus. But she left home that day, mother of eight children, last of whom was four month old to go to work. Like 80% of women in Nigeria, she supports the family but of course, you must not say that out loud. My theory is this, she got on (nay most likely ran after, jumped into or rushed into with perverts trying to fondle her and pick pockets trying to rob her) one of those notorious legitimized guillotine in Lagos called Molue. An interesting contraption, mostly locally assembled from cannibalized truck parts, the bright yellow colour always seem to belie the dank darkness inside where sweating humanity swears, dreams, sleeps, fight, preach and sell all forms of remedies for every form of infirmity. When a molue approaches me with that death grin on its face l always wonder if this is my last moment. But then l fortunately or unfortunately no longer have to ride in the molue.


Back to my mother, her name was Yetunde; she must have been on that bus as it raced from Palm grove bus stop on Ikorodu road towards yaba bus stop a few kilometres away. She may have been thinking about her children or how to start the restaurant of her dreams for which she already acquired land in Ilupeju and furniture. She was going to buy fish at Ibru fisheries as part of her job as a catering officer in Vono. Typically, she would be either amused or irritated by the many scenarios that play out in the yellow gullotin. The driver playing loud Fuji music to deepen his paraga (local gin and herbs concoction) high whilst riding (driving the molue is a physical act of strength and will akin to breaking a wild horse) the molue, and struggling to balance the cigarette at the corner of his mouth. There is of course the little insignificant point to be made that he straddles a 50 litre keg of fuel as fuel scarcity no be today for oil rich Nigeria. As the bus ascends the small unnecessary bridge at Jibowu, perhaps his break failed and the slow motion death dance of fuel keg tipping and spilling and the fumes connecting to the evil red blinking eye of the cigarette as the bus explodes and the fire engulfs the unfortunate souls in that bus, my mother yetunde included. No body survived not from the Molue or the four other cars immediately behind it. All died, most unidentified forever, as there are no such things as forensics. That was 27 years ago.


Where sanity prevails, one would think that lessons of such incidents would be learnt and the amalgamation of errors, neglect and ignorant behaviours that led to such incidents all those years ago would have been taken care of such that they become a rarity. Yes? No! Naija l’owa, crase na our middle name. These things happen all the time and the few that stick in my mind are those where the sheer magnitude is just astounding such has the one in the late 80s where over 50 vehicles stuck in one of those bumper to bumper Lagos traffic jams burnt to cinders when a petrol tanker exploded on impact with a truck. Hundreds died including pedestrians.


All of these came to mind recently as l read a blasé news report about yet another bus run into tanker, explodes and kills people story in the weekday papers. My friend Jide had travelled the Lagos lbadan road route of the accident one day, l repeat one whole day later and the carcasses (human and machine) where still there, giving a gory account of events. Apparently, the skeletons, all cindered, were packed at the back of the bus where the desperate stampede to escape the fire must have ended still smoking. No one stopped the accident, no one stopped the fire and no one was moving over sixty smouldering skeletons to a place of rest. Why did it happen? The roads are bad and pock marked, there are huge trailers double packed on narrow eroded road, the vehicles are in a sorry state and the drivers have all bought their licences from peddlers. That was two weeks ago. Last week l personally witnessed four accidents in Lagos; one was a tanker, which exploded on the lbadan express, the most telling being the molue that ran out of control crashing into a sidebar at Gbagada. l saw the injured dazedly stagger out of the guillotine, dripping blood as incompetent rescuers yank others out. I drove past and three-hour later l drove back that same way and all signs of the death and destructions had been removed. All the lives that has been shattered a few hours earlier swept away under our putrid carpet of denial.

Now l don’t go out or travel around Nigeria much, so for me to witness that many ghastly accidents in one week? Imagine the true national statistics. These are just on the roads, lets not go near the air, in collapsed buildings, pipeline explosions and as happened last week, collapsed dams.

When l began writing this article JT Tom West, one of Nigeria’s leading actors was alive and shooting a new film that was two days ago. Yesterday, his star dimmed and his light went out, yet another victim of our collective tragedy. He died on the Lekki Ajah road. A rapidly deteriorating narrow lone access into the exploding Lekki residential area, a tragedy waiting to happen and an environmental eyesore if there ever was one. How many more will have to die, how many more lives shattered? More importantly, how many have just died in the second it took to type this word.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Funmi,
What an article that was.
hope the stakeholders in this issue will get a look at this masterpiece.
So sorry about your mother.
What a blessing you are!
Solapat
Abuja

Toni Payne said...

Wow!.. that is so sad and the unfortunate thing is 27 years later, noting has changed. It has probably gotten worse. What amazes me on every visit to Nigeria is how carefree everyone is about things that are not right. People sitting on trucks with no seat belts, jumping off moving buses, crossing major highways, mothers with babies on their backs riding Okadas, and not to talk of how packed these molues that are half dead get. I always wonder if they are immune to their surroundings because I do not understand how you can get used to living that way. It is almost uncivilised. One day we were driving along some express road and I saw a decomposing dead body along the way, out of everyone in the car,I seemed to have been the only one bothered by the graphic scene, not being able to sleep properly for days. My aunt said to me, we see things like this all the time. Im thinking, where I live, seeing a dead dog or cat on the road can be traumatic talk less of a dead human. I pray Nig gets better but I doubt it will our lifetime. :(

Cyberlord said...

I really can't believe it happened. The slow painful death; it's so sad. My condolences dear Aunt Funmi. I must say, it's such a well prepared article. The other person wrote "What a Blessing you are"........From me, thats an obvious understatement.
Have a Splendid Day..

Babs said...

HI Funmi,
Accept my condolence Funmi.

Good article. Flawless thought pattern.

Its so good to know you started bloggin. Now some pple that are @ work when you are on air can have a read from your rich mind.

You doing a great work. Toni said she doubts nigeria will get better in our lifetime. I disagree. it might not become one of the best, but it certainly will get better. With people like Funmi and other witty post independence Nigerian contributing their quotas, its a sure movement to our dream country. Viva Larasa!

YOUTH AFRICANA said...

Hi, Aunty Funmi this is an innovation on part.
Please accept my pity.
You are doing us a great deed,please how can i get the contact of that lady dancer you brought on your Moday edition of NEW DAWN.
Thanks
Mayowa Adeniran
YOUTH AFRICANA MAGAZINE
youthafricana_ng@yahoo.com

amynewt said...

As someone once told me a while back...life in Nigeria is cheap. At least that's what she'd like to believe. It seems almost common sense to remove/ban/stop all those death traps and contraptions in the name of transportation. To enforce drivers to do the right thing-get a proper driver's licence, obey the driving code. For government to upgrade the rescue delivery system in Nigeria. IT IS OUR RIGHT for crying out loud! One thing I've learnt over the years.....common sense is Usually not Common.

But, I belong to the school of thought that fervently believes in challenging my friend's assumptions of life being cheap or of things not working out here. I believe it would happen in MY LIFETIME and I intend to do all I can (however little)to ensure it does - dare i ask WHO is WITH ME?

'Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has' - Margaret Mead.

E-gobetta said...

hello fummi
i have been watching u since the days of new dawn on ten i recently watched you again today when u talked about weight and all . one of the IBRU ladies was on the show and it was a beautiful show like all others u have done
i hope oneday i'll be on your show too and talk
no matter what u're BEAUTIFUL!!!

E-gobetta said...

hello funmi
this is really a story!
well i watched you today again (i wish i could daily) and the quest elvina Ibru
it was guite a show !
i thoroughly enjoyed
no matter what people say i think u are simply FANTASTIC !

E-gobetta said...

hello fummi
thsi a quite a piece!
i thank God for ur life
i watched you on the show today with elvina Ibru and it was REAL SHOW!
I HOPE ONE DAY U'LL BE LIKE OPERA AND WE'LL BE ABLE TO WATCH YOU DAILY .
I THINK U ARE SIMPLY FANTASTIC!!!

ugochi from abuja said...

Hi aunty Funmi,its a pity that happened.The only thing we can do about this is to pray 4 ourselves,and pray all the time,no matter where and the distance you are going.
A friend of mine was standing on the road waitin for a bus(that was when we were much younger)he thought the bus wanted to stop for him,b4 we knew what was happening,the bus hit him off the road and he died instantly.

We need to pray fervently.
Aunty Funmi,i admire you a lot,and i love tour show and everything about you.And do you know what?you share the same birthdate with my father.....july 27.........i love that.Take care!

Anonymous said...

Hey am so sorry but lets hope thet ur mum didnt die in vain atleast the claim things are being done now.
least i forget greet the old witches for mind tell them nice job

The Pseudo-Independent said...

all the best