Many of us have been gripped by the story of the remarkable escape of three young ladies in America from 10 years of abduction and assault. Accolades have been paid to Charles Ramsey who heard one of the ladies, Amanda Berry, screaming for help and decided to do the right thing. According to him during his interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, he was tempted not to help because “… I don’t want to get in nobody’s business.”
I wonder how many times the fear of ‘rocking the boat’, or “it’s not my business” has made us insensitive to many hurting people all around us. I am sure that was not the first time Amanda Berry had screamed for help. Neighbours must have noticed odd events around the house, they must have heard screams, but I guess they were too busy or like we say in Nigeria, e no concern them.
Like those unconcerned neighbours, many of us in Nigeria are too busy to care about the hurting people around us. We hear stories that should shock us into action but we lamely say things like “it’s God’s will” or “it’s not my portion”, as if those it happened to had begged God for it. We have become very good at telling ourselves that we cannot help anyone who is not a relative. We expect the activists, the government, the religious leaders… everyone but us to do the right thing. We give reasons why we cannot help, why another person should do the right thing. And so we do nothing, at best we pray.
Recently we heard of the horrific accident involving a Dangote truck, a fuel tanker and a commercial bus along Benin-Lagos expressway. Over thirty innocent souls were burnt beyond recognition. Among them a mother travelling with her kids after a church convention and a husband and wife who had only being reunited the day before after his 10 year sojourn in Austria. Some children in a mechanic shop close by were also killed in that fire, they were probably waiting for their dad to repair his car, probably still in their school uniforms.
These men, women and children had families and loved ones, they had dreams and hopes, and they certainly did not want to die in such an agonizing way. Overnight children became orphans and families were devastated. Their loss further worsened because they could not identify the charred bodies of their relatives to give them a decent burial.
What makes this incident even more painful is that this is not an isolated incident. A day before that accident, another heavy duty vehicle had rammed into a bus in Anambra State crushing about twenty people to death. In just one month, at least seven such accidents have occurred, about a hundred people have died and nothing, absolutely nothing has been done about it. No prosecutions, no jail terms, no suspension of licenses, nothing has been done. As though the people who died were flies!
As sad and tragic as plane crashes are, we all demand investigations into such accidents to prevent a repeat. Airline operators are made to carry out several safety tests to restore confidence in passengers. And that is the right thing to do. Yet road accidents that kill more Nigerians get scant attention. It is another statistic in the records of the FRSC. No one is ever made to face the law for their irresponsibility. There are companies whose drivers are notorious for recklessness and who have sent many of our fellow citizens to untimely graves. Yet these companies are never disciplined, their drivers are never jailed, and they continue to cause untold sorrow. It is no wonder then that Nigeria is the second country with the highest number of road accident fatalities worldwide!
In just three years (2007 to 2010) fuel tankers and articulated trucks (aka trailers) killed at least 4,076 people and injured almost 13,000! That is not all. In their latest report, published in 2011, the FRSC notes that the number of road fatalities increased by a whopping 50% between 2010 and 2011. That is unacceptable and a disaster! In other countries there would be an outcry, there would be a demand for change, the FRSC Corps Marshall and transport minister would be made to answer questions. But in Nigeria, we cannot be bothered, “e no concern me”!
It is no wonder drivers continue to drive with worn out tires, faulty brakes and badly maintained vehicles. It is no wonder that a highly combustible substance like petrol is moved about in poorly designed tankers. It is no wonder that heavy duty vehicle drivers continue to terrorize Nigerians by their recklessness and narcotics- and alcohol-induced rage.
For some of us who live overseas, we know all too well the consequences of causing death by dangerous driving. There is no option of fines; it is usually a jail sentence and a suspended license for a number of years. Someone is always held responsible.
Perhaps you are wondering what the FRSC is doing about this. The same thing they have been doing: all bark and no bite. They say they will prosecute, yet I haven’t heard of any prosecutions, they say they will demand compensations, still nothing. They say this, they say that, yet the accidents and the death figures keep rising.
I think of the story of the Holocaust and like many people I wonder why no German did anything to stop Hitler. The reason is simple, it did not concern them. As long as their families were safe they just didn’t care about the Jews. Millions of Jews were killed and yet not one German made any significant effort to stop the carnage. Will you continue to watch as thousands are killed on our roads yearly? Will you do nothing to stop the carnage going on, just because your family is safe? Or will you like Charles Ramsey the hero, make an effort to do the right thing?
You don’t have to wait till it happens to you before it concerns you. It could be anyone, stuck in a traffic jam with a fuel tanker driven by a reckless driver. It could be anyone driving from their child’s school, it could be anyone in the market, from the church or mosque… It could be anyone.
Perhaps as a Christian or Muslim, you feel it’s best to just pray and leave it to God. You are mistaken! Do not use God as an excuse for your laziness! Even the Bible says faith without works is death. The carnage on our roads is man-made, it is not God’s will. We can put an end to it. We can make noise about it and demand for safer roads just like we do about airlines.
Perhaps you are saying “I would love to help but I don’t know how”. Remember ‘my oga at the top’ saga? Ordinary Nigerians made a big deal out of it, causing the NSCDC so much embarrassment that they had to re-deploy the officer in question. We, ordinary Nigerians who bear the brunt of road accidents can make a huge deal of it. Social media is not only for sending funny pictures or posting the blunders of others, but it can be a tool for change like the Arab Spring. We are all very inter-connected now, more than ever before and all it takes is people who will resend the same message to make it go viral.
I’m tired of saying R.I.P, I am tired of blaming the leaders, and I want to DO something. I have started a Facebook page, a Twitter account and an online petition to the Corps Marshall of FRSC calling for the ban of fuel tankers and trailers during daytime hours since that is when most of these accidents happen.
To be honest with you, I had my fears about even doing anything. I have never even written an article before, I have no influential friends. But as a Christian, I refuse to let the fear of failure stop me from doing the right thing. Throughout the Bible we read of God using ordinary people, who stepped in faith, to do extraordinary exploits. You might be like me, very ordinary, but you never know what you can do in partnership with God. Will you step out in faith and join this campaign for safer roads?
Photo Credit: nannewsngr.com
Theresa Omoronyia is a trained business analyst and has degrees in Management Science and Computer Science. She lives in Glasgow, UK with her husband and son. Theresa enjoys being with people and her passion is to help those who are hurting. She has worked as a volunteer in orphanages, and as a peer educator and music tutor to secondary school students in Nigeria.