“Toyeen, something bad has happened.”
These were the words I heard Dunni (note that all names here are pseudonyms) say when I picked up the phone. Immediately, I became apprehensive about hearing the rest of the news. Dunni told me our mutual friend, Gbemi, was involved in a terrible car accident. She was in the car with another friend who isn’t based in Lagos and who was doing the driving, and had to be rushed to the hospital where she had two eye surgeries. The friend didn’t realise construction was going on on the Eko bridge and she ran into a concrete barricade used to seal a portion of the road. Dunni didn’t have more details on the accident.
I immediately began to pray fervently as the thought of my friend’s eyes being permanently damaged filled my mind. I became overwhelmed praying alone so I reached out to a female Christian WhatsApp group I have been in for about a year to pray for her. A few people responded with prayers immediately and I felt much calmer knowing we were all praying. I remembered Gbemi’s out-of-town friend, Ayo, and called her to find out about what happened. It was she who narrated to me the details of their accident.
Ayo and Gbemi had been driving along the Eko bridge on Sunday night. There were no street lights on the road, everywhere was very dark, and she was driving at a much slower speed than usual. Suddenly, Gbemi, who was seated in the passenger’s side, screamed to alert her of a concrete barricade right in front of them but it was too late, and she rammed the car straight into the concrete barricade.
The airbags in the front seat popped out of the car as soon as impact was made with the concrete barricade and hit Ayo in the stomach so she didn’t sustain any injuries. Gbemi on the other hand suffered a worse fate. She had been leaning forward on her seat with her face close to the dashboard when the airbag popped out and burst on her face while her right arm hit the window and shattered the glass. Gbemi began screaming that her face was on fire, while Ayo helped her out of the car.
By this time, a little fire had also started on the car, so Ayo started to shout for help from motorists driving past but no one stopped. She eventually flagged an empty cab and the cab man stopped to help them. Another kind samaritan who turned out to be a doctor also stopped and drove behind them to the hospital.
They arrived at the hospital and Gbemi was wheeled to the accidents and emergency unit. The hospital did an MRI scan and other scans and promised to get an ophthalmologist and an orthopedic surgeon to check Gbemi’s eye and arm respectively the following day. However, by the following day, the hospital hadn’t brought in the specialists so Gbemi, fearing for her sight, suggested she be transferred to an eye hospital. An ambulance took them to the eye hospital where her retina was scanned to check if she could still see and, thankfully, she could still see. Gbemi was scheduled for two surgeries on her eyes the following day and both surgeries were successful. She was moved to Igbobi hospital days later where she had a successful surgery to fix the fracture on her right arm. Ayo told me Gbemi’s been discharged and is now recuperating in her house. Gbemi can only use her left arm as her right hand is in a cast, and she has to depend on Ayo to apply eye drops to her eyes every hour until the redness in her eyes becomes clear and her sight is no longer blurry.
I saw Gbemi a few days ago and it took everything in me not to react to her appearance. She had burn scars on her forehead and right cheek, her eyes were covered in dark shades, and her right arm was in a cast. Gbemi is in really high spirits though and I am sure her faith is holding her up at this time. She is going to recover fully very soon and return to her normal life by God’s grace but in the meantime, her life, as she knows it, has changed temporarily simply because of the negligence and incompetence of the Lagos State government and the contractor who was awarded the job of carrying out repairs on the Eko bridge. A doctor who saw Gbemi said she should be very thankful that the damage wasn’t worse as she could have broken her spinal cord and become bedridden for life or, even worse, died.
I shared her story with an older cousin who said he lost a friend to a similar accident last year. The friend was driving home around 9pm along the Oshodi Apapa expressway where a portion of the road had been sealed off with concrete. Just as in Gbemi’s accident, everywhere was dark and he ran into the concrete barricade and died on impact. He left behind three children who would grow up fatherless due to the negligence and lack of value for human life by the very government that should protect its citizens.
There have been too many accidents caused by concrete barricades used to close off roads during road constructions in Lagos. Construction is currently going on on many roads in Lagos, including the Gbagada expressway. My older cousin said every time he drives along concrete barricades that haven’t been fitted with any reflectors, he gets angry because he knows they are accidents waiting to happen especially for people who do not ply that route frequently and are not aware that the road is barricaded.
Dear Babajide Sanwolu, it’s really not too much to ask that concrete barricades used to seal off roads during road constructions are fitted with reflectors so they are visible to motorists driving at night and construction-related accidents on Lagos roads are minimised. It’s also not too much to ask that major roads in Lagos be well-lit at night.
Driving at night in Lagos is one of the scariest experiences ever, no thanks to the insecurity in the state, bad roads, and poor illumination. It’s good that the roads are being repaired but whatever is worth doing is worth doing well. Road repairs should not come with car accidents. In a sane society, Gbemi would have sued the Lagos State government and won. A person’s actions clearly show what he believes and any government that approves road constructions without light reflectors clearly shows that it considers human lives to be expendable.
I met the doctor who helped Gbemi when I went to see her alongside some of her other friends, and we all commended him for stopping to help her as we weren’t sure we would have done the same. We also concluded that we would be more willing to help those requesting help on the roads instead of driving off like we normally do seeing as our friend happened to be in such a situation, and it could be any one of our loved ones next time. We asked him why he stopped to help and he said he wasn’t going to but something just told him to do so. That a cabman and the doctor stopped to help is a testament of God’s goodness and I shudder to imagine what would have happened if no one stopped to help.
I believe we have all heard horror stories of people stopping to help those flagging down vehicles only to be robbed or people taking accident victims to the hospital only to be detained by the police, but that shouldn’t stop us from being kind, especially when we feel led to. Let’s not wait until a loved one is involved in such an accident before we decide to be empathetic towards others, as I and my friends have done. We shouldn’t allow our conscience, the very essence of our humanity, to become seared because of the stories of kind acts gone wrong that we have heard. Every life is valuable, not just the lives of those we hold dear to our hearts, and every seed of kindness sowed is always reaped one way or another.