Last week, we were greeted with the terrible news of a fuel tanker explosion on Otedola bridge, Lagos. Our phone screens were inundated with pictures and videos of a fire raging out of control, ashes of cars stretching into the distance, black smoke pouring into the sky like bad spirits leaving the earth. We saw burnt bodies too. We saw death.
Prior to that, we were dealing with (we are actually still dealing with) reports of Fulani herdsmen on a genocidal frenzy on the Plateau. We stared at gory pictures of men, women and children slaughtered like animals, soaked in their own blood, lying in piles like refuse to be swept away. They were things happening far away. Those of us in Lagos and Abuja and cities where the only problem we had were electricity, roads and good jobs, those of us who didn’t have families there, we didn’t worry too much. We were used to bad news from far away.
But last week, we were reminded that wherever you are, Nigeria will get you.
It doesn’t have to be a Boko Haram bomb. It doesn’t have to be a Fulani herdsman machete lodged in your skull. It doesn’t have to be something as basic and treatable as malaria. It doesn’t have to be fake or expired drugs. It doesn’t have to be the lagoon screaming ‘hi!’ at your depression like a maniac. It doesn’t have to be a leaking fuel tanker or a truck with faulty brakes allowed onto the road. It doesn’t have to be by an armed robber’s bullet or a policeman’s bullet. It doesn’t have to be bad roads, ill-equipped hospitals, poverty.
It doesn’t have to be all the usual suspects.
There’s always something in Nigeria looking to kill you. There will always be something on the brink of an explosion. Something preventable. Something like the Otedola bridge tragedy that happened because fuel tankers and heavy duty trucks are allowed to ply the road with other vehicles during the day. Whatever happened to restricting their movements to nightfall?
They said the tanker’s brakes failed. The truth is, most of those tankers and trucks are not fit to be on the road. But who is checking? Who is making sure lives are not endangered on the road? It is bad enough that most of our roads are not even car worthy, but combined with the fact that most vehicles are not road worthy? That’s an explosion waiting to happen.3
The tragedy of the Otedola bridge is not that many lives were lost. Yes, it is bad enough that people died horribly. The real tragedy is that we will learn nothing from their deaths. No lasting changes will happen. No stricter vehicle regulation laws will come into place. The Otedola bridge disaster isn’t the first and won’t be the last. Because dem forbid our learning from mistakes in this country. Dem forbid ‘never again!’.