Victory in Edo: A Palliative for Horror and Furies

Irrespective of the sincerity or otherwise of President Jonathan in congratulating Comrade Governor, it is a moment of relief for the entire nation, gripped, as it were by crippling mortality and massive human wastage through all manner of death-bearing  agencies. President Goodluck Jonathan and his party are, to my mind, the greatest beneficiaries of the Oshiomhole victory, as I tried to say earlier, but they may as yet be oblivious of that fact, at this moment of their pining grief for the loss of Edo State, which most people of foresight have seen a long time ago. The party’s a successful rigging of that election, to my mind, would have been one of the last whips to crack the stubborn back the PDP’s camel. It is a sound trouncing that restored the vestige of credibility to the PDP government, in spite of themselves.

Just imagine another regime of lethal violence that would have erupted at the end of a week whose main feature is heightened furies, horror and gory apocalypse of human waste on our national landscape. The dust of the carnage in Jos had hardly settled when tragedy struck again from the belly of grab and greed through the agency of a fuel-carrying tanker in a titanic collision in Rivers.

Our media screamed. Over a hundred lay dead. 120 rushed to hospitals. Piles of burnt human beings, smouldering vehicles, balls of fire rent the sky from tanker explosion.  Calamity struck near an Oando Filling Station at Okogbe, a village in Ahoada West Local Government of Rivers State. The space is a busy stretch undergoing dualization.  Death ravaged the landscape, not just by a tanker which crashed into three other vehicles; a salon car, a Hiace Bus and a Mazda bus; but through the agency of rapacious greed, usually attributed to mass poverty.  The news report concluded that all dead victims of the tragedy were given mass burial on the scene!

The report   ended, by hinting that the fire was caused by one of the victims who telephoned others to come and scoop petrol! A plethora of causes has since been advanced. One of these alleged causations is the crass absence of disaster consciousness among Nigerians because, apart from those who died from desperately trying to scoop petrol from the about-to- explode tanker, those fleeing  from death by running into  the bush also fell victim of the disaster; they too were burnt to death. Why would, after numerous experiences, would people blind themselves to the fact that tanker carrying petrol is simply death skulking in veritable ambush—an imminent tragedy awaiting explosion. Yet, people, in real and ostensible hunger and poverty rushed to the site, to scoop their death. No question. Poverty is a major cause of our lethal insecurity in this country, but poverty alone cannot explain the mad rush of people to fetch money from the molten belly of death—exploding tanker. A witness of the scene, one Nwogu was a brimful of contempt and disgust in her comment, captured by The Nation, on Saturday; ‘what level of poverty will make people to scoop fuel from a tanker carrying 33,000 litres of petrol?’ Our people will never learn… This is not the first time, but the magnitude is very high. Our people are not safety conscious. They play with their lives’.

Still, the greatest culprits who must face instant reprisals are the sacred cows who own the tankers. They hire illiterate drivers because it is cheaper to do so than to employ educated ones who have both skill and value—the value of human lives. The crude capitalist owners of these tankers want to maximize profit. Most of the tanker drivers are stark illiterates, guilty of three deadly sins; drugging, drunkenness and  brothels-parading. Drunk, they sleep overnight with prostitutes, wake up in the wee hours of the morning with sunken eyes and foul breaths to drive tankers at dawn for long distances. Many of them have no clues of traffic signs. Thoughtless, they set no value at human lives.

To return to causality. Is it just poverty that drives people to conscious death? Is there no death- wish in all of these? Some nihilism? I say this because there are too many incidents of death incurred through fuel-scooping from burst pipeline sites and tanker-accident spots that it is difficult not to conclude that there is more to this than poverty. Reuters watch, monitored by The Nation last Saturday, provided a graphic statistical data of death by pipeline or tanker scenes. From July 10, 2000, when a pipeline explosion killed 250 villages in Jesse, Delta State, to May 15,2008, when fuel from a pipeline ruptured by earthmover exploded in a village near Lagos, killing at least 100 people, overv1,500 Nigerians were reported killed by fuel-connected disasters. Most of them as a result of people who, moved by the urge to grab some bloody fuel—take their share of the disproportionately distributed national cake, rush to scoop fuel at disaster scenes.

Another high rate of death came from the pipeline explosion at Inagbe Beach on the outskirts of Lagos taking 250 lives away on May 12, 2006. Yet, another, on December, 26, several hundreds of people were burnt alive as a result of the explosion of vandalized pipeline at the Abule- Egba district of Lagos. 269 lives were retrieved.

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