Sunday, July 30, 2017

Ife Accident , Youth Frustrations and Nigeria's leadership imbroglio By Sodiq Lawal

I was taking my breakfast at Mayfair area of Ile-Ife on Sunday 23rd July, 2017 at exactly 11:58am when I received a call from Alhaji Isiaka Olatunbosun, the Chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW in Ile-Ife of the occurrence of an accident along Ibadan Road, in front of Energy Filling station.

The accident claimed several lives as not less than 10 people burnt to death.

As a journalist, I left my food and boarded a motorcycle to the scene of the accident. On getting there, I met a burning bus with 12 passengers still wailing inside. The door was locked and the windows were not wide enough for passenger to escape through. As the fire kept burning, Alhaji Isiaka Also phoned the police for help. The police did arrive ten minutes after the call,

Meanwhile, the garage boys, otherwise known as Area Boys from Sabo and Iremo quarters besieged the bus with axes and water, trying to save the lives of the passengers before the arrival of the Police.

After about 15 minutes, the Area Boys and the police were able to put out the fire but unfortunately, nine passengers, including the driver had been burnt to death. Out of the three that sustained several broken legs and hands, one of them died before getting to the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital OAUTHC. The deceased were taken to the morgue of the Seventh Day Adventist Hospital.

The saddest part of the incident was that despite the calls of the sympathisers to the FRSC, they only arrived an hour later.

Eye witness accounts say the accident which occurred around 11:58am involved an 18-seater commercial bus which had a head-on collision with a diesel tanker while trying to overtake from the lanes. The collision immediately sparked off an inferno and the passengers got trapped, burning beyond recognition.

The Areas Boys alleged that the tanker driver, who had fled the scene, was the architect of the carnage.

Out of anger, they wasted (pure away) the entire diesel in the tanker and attempted to burn the tanker. It was the combined effort of the elders and Alhaji Isiaka who pleaded with the mob for over an hour that prevented another tragedy. Interestingly as the negotiation and the appeal were going on, several sympathisers had fled for their lives, fearing the negotiation could fail.

Youth lamentation

But come to think of it, how on earth will anyone, youth or aged, contemplate burning a tanker-load of diesel, if not out of frustration. I don't actually know how to describe this kind of 'monumental mess.' I doubt if there is any serious youth today who will do such.

But casting a second look at the matter gives a grim picture of the pathetic and hopeless situation of our youths. It is no news in Ile-Ife that our army of youths are groaning and moaning. They are stubbornly lamenting like the biblical Jeremiah with no end in sight..' The reason is not farfetched. They are simply unemployed and unproductive to themselves, let alone their community.

We seem to have lamented so much about everything around us and it seems there is no hope in sight. This subject matter affects all at different stages of progression and developments. I have reasoned at supersonic speed and I concluded that I should register my mental dissatisfactions to know if there is a similar perception out there, just as I wish this piece serves as a springboard to developing a workable rolling plan for our disillusioned youths.

Nigeria is our beloved country. It is sometimes called a land of possibilities by some. This is a country where governments at various tiers are managing nothing but embezzlement and corruption. They are rather devouring everything, including our future. Nothing thrives with them except the business of stealing and connection. Politics is the surest road to instant success, they often say.

But what does an average Nigerian do. Lucifer must be blamed for every situation. We attribute wrong influence to unseen power which is often not the case. The truth is, those forces exist but we have our separate paths to follow. This is why when great countries of the world got independence, they all went to work while Nigeria went praying and fasting. Instead for us to invest in infrastructure, research and human capital developments, we keep spending blindly on churches, mosques and BBnaija!

Our country got independence from the colonial masters in 1960. The joy in the land knew no bounds and the world congratulated us profusely. This freedom travelled with so much aspirations and expectations. No one could guess that the feat would only turn to be the beginning of another Israelites journey. As it is today, our life is not better than it was under the colonialists. There is no clear direction in our national life. Everything looks like a bad dream, a nightmare in reality. It is a common saying that if you want to know the real identity of someone, just give him power. Our leaders have failed the test of trust and betrayed the test of power.

The only success story they are able to tell is corruption. The dividend of democracy they could hand over to the masses are poverty and hopelessness. Not too long ago, someone wrote that "if you weren't in Minna yesterday for Ibraheem Badamosi Babangida's daughter's wedding, you are just a tenant in Nigeria. The landlords gathered to wine and dine. private jets were flown into the city as the Abuja Minna road wasn't motorable." Shame!

There appears to be no hope in sight for the less privileged. Appointments and employments are made based on class and status. Many have told sordid tales about our unbearable living condition. It appears the trend is fast becoming natural without the slightest sign of paradigm shift. Our parents suffered, we are suffering and our children may soon join us. Do we ever take time to ponder over this generational failure? Who will pay the price for others to walk free? How can we turn around this dangerous slide?

As a Nigerian youth, the greatest challenge I have faced in life is hopelessness. I had been dazed and dazzled many times to take hard decisions. There are restrictions and frustrations everywhere. Everywhere you turn to, you will be told you are not fit. This is the horrible reality we are grappling with. I have refused to see despair out of faith not by conviction. As youths, we don't know where we are going, we only know where we are. Everyone is carrying his/her dreams around without any definite means of accomplishing them. The level of uncertainty among the youths is quite deeply rooted - the reason some are proposing 'mass burial' for all our leaders.

Call this the Lamentation of a Nigerian Youth, and you won't be wrong. If you truly want to get real pulse of our youths, don't just look at their borrowed jeans and shirts. Ask them: what do they really want? And you will understand better. Go to our campuses across the country, conduct a survey among only the final year students and ask them few questions like; "what do you want to pursue after graduation?" "Where do you see yourself in ten year's time?" You will get as many incoherent and funny responses as possible. We shouldn't write them off. The system that produces them is just a scam. They deserve our understanding and sympathy. This is what I call the dilemma of the Nigerian youths.

One certain thing I am sure of, is that, should a referendum be conducted in Nigeria today and our youths are offered to reside in Nigeria or live abroad, I don't think anybody will settle down to 'toil' in Nigeria! This is the signpost of their aversion to the system and the height of their revulsion for their fatherland. It is the same reason we have lost and donated our super talents to foreign lands. Many are still running today in all crazy manners to taste honeycake abroad. They will rather prefer to take menial jobs abroad than a blue cheap appointment at home.

This indeed is an acute frustration and a painful dilemma. This situation is not an exception. It is the rule. The unfortunate stories of Anthony Joshua from Ogun state - the current World Heavyweight boxing champion, Jelani Aliyu from Sokoto state; the designer of the famous car; Chevrolet Volt and numerous others drive home my point here.

My dear colleagues, something needs to give way. Life shouldn't be as harsh as it is in our dear country. We need serious interventions to get out of this doldrum. It is time to wrestle power from the wicked 'leaders' who have frittered the past, wasting our present and mortgaging our future. It is time we decided for ourselves what we want. Nobody does it better and faster than the youths!

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