Today marks exactly one year since the fatal crash of the Dana Air flight 992 in Lagos, Nigeria. The fatal mishap claimed 153 lives. May the souls of the departed rest in peace.
In the aftermath of the double tragedy of Sunday 3rd June, notably the tragic air mishap of a Dana Air passenger plane which claimed over 160 lives and the Bauchi bomb blast, the whole of Nigeria is terribly saddened and outraged by these unfortunate events. President Goodluck Jonathan visited the crash site yesterday, and was apparently so overwhelmed with emotion that he shed tears. The picture below captured that iconic moment:
Whether you believe the President’s tears indicated a genuine outpouring of grief and empathy or otherwise, this is an iconic picture and is symbolic of the mood of the whole country. But then, as I noted earlier, this plane crash in itself is not unique in terms of the number of casualties or scale of devastation. Rather, it simply drove home the point that there is a needless loss of innocent lives in Nigeria today as a consequence of human (non)action: whether in plane crashes, road accidents, in hospitals, at the hands of criminals and murderers, as victims of bomb blasts, as victims of extrajudicial killings by trigger happy policemen and so on. The picture below, a “munched” (snapshot) of a friend’s Blackberry messenger status update, drives home this point clearly and forcefully, albeit with a touch of humour:
The message which is an instruction of sorts, reads thus:
“How to cross Road in Naija: look left and right for moto (car), look up for aeroplane, down for Bomb then walk zig zag to avoid straight Bullet!”
Its quite hilarious but then it is a sad reminder of the insecurity in the country. Hundreds have died this year alone.
As the plane crash has awakened all Nigerians to the grim reality, let it also be a wake up call to the authorities to be alive to their responsibilities: for regulators across a broad range of sectors to perform their mandated duties and ensure customers and consumers’ lives are not risked on the altar of stupendous profits and for all Nigerians to remain vigilant. So far, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has suspended the license of Dana Air. This is a welcome development and Nigerians await more stringent measures to clean up the sector. May the souls of the departed rest in peace.
As I struggle feebly, to pull myself together from my misery and muster the vestiges of strength to write this, Nigeria reels from grief and mourning as a result of the deadly bomb blast in Bauchi close to a church which claimed about a dozen lives and the plane crash in Lagos, of a passenger plane carrying 153 passengers who all perished. Perhaps it is the fact that these two avoidable and monumental tragedies occurred on the same day, Sunday 3rd June, which has heightened the sadness and grief felt by Nigerians or the subconscious depressing reminder of how no one is really spared as hundreds of innocent people die frequently and needlessly which makes it sting the more or that the fundamental right to life in Nigeria is rapidly becoming a mirage everyday.
As a human being with a beating heart and with a conscience, it would be incredibly difficult not to be thoroughly saddened by this double tragedy. Whether you knew the victims of the plane crash personally (such as Farida S. Kaikai and Amina Bugaje, with whom we shared mutual friends) and the bomb blast or not, or whether you spoke with friends and loved ones in person or over the phone, or just interacted with fellow Nigerians on social media, the atmosphere was unmistakably distressing and grim on Sunday. Death, despair and sheer helplessness hung in the air like the fumes of cheap cancer-inducing cigar in a poorly lit and ventilated shack, at once suffocating us and making our eyes water. What makes the double tragedy of this Black Sunday most gut-wrenching is its symbolism: the cold, hard, blinding affirmation of our inevitable mortality, how we are more likely to encounter it in Nigeria and a chilling reminder of how life is rapidly descending into a Hobbesian state with life for the ordinary Nigerian fast becoming “poor, nasty, brutish and short” as blood flows needlessly and ceaselessly.
Without dishonouring the memory of the victims, the bomb blast in Yelwa, Bauchi in itself would rate an average or below average on a scale measuring sheer terror, deadliness and carnage in Nigeria given that more than a dozen (suicide) bomb attacks and murders have happened within this year alone claiming hundreds of lives – the Kano attacks which claimed up to 250, the violent Thisday Newspaper attacks, the blasts at a church service in Bayero University Kano (BUK) claimed about 20, the Potiskum massacre claiming more than 60 and numerous others.
However, even before news of the plane crash filtered in, there was already a build up of misery and helplessness at how people are bombed, butchered and murdered with impunity, at how the victims and their families have little hope for justice, how perpetrators are not likely to be apprehended or successfully prosecuted and how ordinary Nigerians cannot shake off the feeling of being on a conveyor belt of sorts in a slaughter house assembly line headed towards a certain demise. Thus as the news of the tragic plane crash along with the gory pictures flowed in, the country was swiftly enveloped in nationwide horror, grief and sorrow such that President Goodluck Jonathan’s declaration of a 3-day national mourning period couldn’t have been more timely.
What makes this tragedy hit harder is not that it happened – accidents and crashes happen everywhere, especially if you can recall the Italian Cruise Ship, Costa Concordia mishap earlier this year – but that in Nigeria, it is happening with so much frequency. Furthermore, the reports that the crash was the result of criminal negligence on the part of Dana Air’s management, who allegedly insisted on flying a very faulty plane against better judgement, simply add salt to a fresh, festering and haemorrhaging wound. And all these in turn serve as depressing reminders of the consequence of the depths of decay which has eaten deep into our infrastructural fabric.
The blast and the crash have given us a crude and electrifying jolt to the reality of how lives are lost and wasted everyday on the pot-hole-ridden death-traps of our roads and highways; in our poorly equipped and collapsing medical centres; in the blood-soaked hands of armed robbers, kidnappers and psychotic terrorists; in the clutches of malaria, tuberculosis and other preventable diseases and most importantly as a consequence of the ravenous appetites of unconscionable, corrupt and kleptocratic bureaucrats. Certainly, death is inevitable to any living, breathing organism but it seems to have disturbingly nestled itself comfortably, within Nigeria’s bosom as it cruelly snatches away people at will in the most gory and gut-wrenching ways.
As we mourn and pray for the souls of the departed, we consciously or subconsciously are grieving over our helplessness as we watch our nation bleed from every orifice, thrashing and convulsing violently as her citizens’ lives waste away. As we gnash our teeth, bite our lower lips and wipe away our hot burning tears of searing pain from lives lost to very avoidable circumstances, and as blood of innocents continue to flow needlessly without justice or recompense, our humanity as a nation slowly ebbs as well. One sincerely hopes the authorities would make protection of lives and property their foremost priority, would fast track the prosecution of suspects apprehended and in custody over bomb blasts and that a full inquiry would be launched into this plane crash with anyone found culpable made to face the swift and full wrath of the law.
Finally, may the souls of the departed rest in perfect peace, ameen.