Igbo people say the death that will kill a man will find him no matter what…read the story of Ajani and what happened to him on Otedola bridge. Peju’s story will make you weep…
I woke up that morning feeling that same restlessness I had been feeling for the last few days; I didn’t want to get up to go to work or even get up to do anything at all. I just wanted to lie in bed and sleep, you know, rest from all this wahala of life because Lagos is really stressful.
It would just be nice to take time off to chill somewhere…but my mobile phone alarm kept singing that irritating song. Ranti, my wife, a school teacher at a school in Berger, had got up about an hour earlier, to prepare our three kids for school, so I had to get up as I would be dropping her and the kids off at Berger bus stop. This is the life I signed up for.
At work, I couldn’t concentrate, that restlessness was ”one kind” feeling. I called my wife, at 11.45am – long break period at her school, so I knew she would either be in class checking students’ notes or in the Teachers’ room. The phone rang out twice, she didn’t pick as I half expected.
Women! Her phone would be in her bag, ringing. I have quarreled with her several times, insisting she keeps her phone close by, it’s why we call it a mobile phone, isn’t it?
I tried to focus on my work; I just had a few things to get done. As procurement manager of a pharmaceutical company, it’s my job to follow up on the print job from suppliers. This supplier had promised to deliver sales brochures to us at 2pm; I hoped he would get here early but I figured, give or take, he would get to me at about 3pm and worst case scenario, I would leave the office an hour earlier.
At about 3.05 pm, the supplier came; I took time to check the items delivered; the quality, the quantity, the agreed payment date and all. As usual, he came with over a hundred copies short of 2,000.
The supplier, Osai, was sweaty from the mad traffic from Shomolu to Adeniyi Jones. He told me he would have come earlier but was stopped by ‘Traffic police’. I sympathised but I needed to hurry him out.
He thanked me and left. I went back into my office to shut down my system and announce to my line supervisor that I wasn’t feeling well and needed to get home early. He sent me home.
As soon as I hit the road, that noise under the bonnet began again, I decided to make a quick dash inside Agidingbi to my mechanic’s shop. I wanted him to check the noise under the bonnet.
I called Ranti again; she had replied with a text to my earlier calls. Told me she didn’t hear it ring, said my phone wasn’t connecting back but hoped I was fine. I figured she ought to be done at school by then. So I called, I wanted to know if I could pick her on my way, since I was leaving early. The phone rang and rang and my wife didn’t pick.
What is wrong with this woman!
Oye, my mechanic soon found the source of the noise, he said something about the fan belt, he asked me for N1,500 for bike and a replacement fan belt. I gave him the money, in some 25 minutes, he was done. I quickly hit the road.
I turned on the radio still trying to shake off the feeling. You see, at this time, I was beginning to get worried. If only my wife would pick the phone. I would be ok, so I called again…finally, she picks.
She is home she says. She was about to call me she says. The kids are fine she says. That at least put my mind to rest. I rounded off the Abiola Gardens area and climbed the Otedola Bridge to connect to Berger, thankfully, traffic was still smooth, I would be home in 8 minutes, I reasoned.
Ahead, I saw a few cars slowing down; there was a tanker on the side, just ahead as well…
Then I saw people running, an accident? I assumed.
Cars were reversing… there was sudden commotion, I didn’t really get to see what was going on, accident? Armed robbery attack? What is going on?
While still mulling, I heard a loud noise, it rocked my car.
This is serious. I saw people running scared. From my rear view mirror, cars began to reverse as clouds of thick smoke and the smell of petrol was heavy.
I reached for the door as I saw a ball of fire come straight at me but fear paralysed me. I fumbled with the door handle but my seat belt was still secured. I struggled with the door; I struggled with the seat belt. I heard myself screaming…I heard glass shatter… I struggled harder to open my door as searing pain enveloped me.
Ina re! (this is fire)
But my seat belt wouldn’t budge. I felt the fire lick my face, my legs, my head, my hands…it enveloped me…fire, fire my body was burning like tinder, I smelt my own flesh cooking.
I remember screaming…
I was screaming…I saw myself rise up from bed, me walk about, me graduate, me…isn’t this my life flashing before me?
Then I was out of the car, like something sucked me out through the roof of the car.
I soon joined the other people running and crying. I looked back and couldn’t even identify my car, it was already engulfed in flames like the 50 or more other cars. I checked to see if I had got burned. Thankfully not.
I was shouting, I was screaming, asking questions.
What happened? A tanker caught fire?
Oh my God, there are people trapped in their cars. I had escaped; I had finally got out of the car though I could still feel my body burning. Perhaps it was a result of the intense heat. After what seemed like hours, the traffic, the people, the burnt cars, I knew I would have to walk home. I was anxious to call my wife, to tell her about my lucky escape but I couldn’t find my phone. I must have lost it somehow.
I got close to our home, tired and saw a crowd in front of our house. They looked sad…I became scared. What happened to my family?
I rushed in, there was my wife on the floor, surrounded by some women. My wife…but I saw her on the floor crying. ‘Who died?’ I asked the people around the house. Nobody responded. They just kept wailing.
Finally, I made my way towards my wife, ‘Ranti! Ranti! Kilode?’
Then I heard her wail a song.
‘Ajani! Ajani! (that’s the her pet name for me) Why didn’t you tell me you were going today? Why did you not warn me? Ajani ooooo! You have gone to the land of our ancestors without warning me…’
I can’t be dead na, abi am I dead?
(Editor’s note: May their souls rest in peace.)