… As young father escapes death
By Christian George
Just as every other weekend has always been, the one which ended February 2020 showed no sign of any mishappening from the onset. I, together with two other of not just my very close friends and church members but fellows in the choir and praise team in the church had made plans via telephone conversation to take a brief trip with the view to getting knowledge of a product we thought we could jointly purchase and then share.
Uwem Akpan and Saviour Essien, my paddy men, who hold prominent offices as elder and deacon in the church had unanimously agreed to embark on the tour and we chose the last Saturday of the month. Just as every man with wife and children would do, I had given my wife a departing hug (I guess the others had done same) and a peck to my six months old daughter on the forehead as usual before taking off from my residence, heading for Eleme Junction in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, where we had chosen as our meeting point so we could all board a single vehicle to our destination.
I had arrived much earlier and waited in a shade. In such a hot day, I ordered for a bottle of yoghurt to chill off while I waited and I removed my black face cap which I used not only to shade off the hot sun from heating my forehead but to show say I still be fine bobo jare. As I was trying to ascertain their locations via phone calls, at a point Saviour became angry because Uwem had called him to wait at Artillery Junction so that both of them could meet there and then come together to meet me at Eleme Junction, not knowing that Uwem, instead of coming out at the agreed time had chosen to go and shave first so that he would look good…well, that was a good choice after all, we always want to look good in our unique ways.
Finally, both arrived and we embarked on our journey which we arrived successfully in about an hour and took time for thorough inspection. Since it has been a long time we met, especially in a local setting, we unanimously decided to give ourselves a little beat of entertainment in a local place where everything served is natural and locally sourced. Before we knew it, the journey we planned to take off immediately after sanitation had taken us to about 4pm and the trio being choir members had to hurry so that we could get to church for rehearsals against Sunday , being the first day of a fresh month.
After a little time of cross-pollinating our ideas on what we went for and the cost involved, and to ascertain if it was worth investing as well as sampling other markets to see if we could get it at a lesser price, after checking our time once more, we decided to leave because with the three of us still sharing ideas on this same subject we might spend another couple of hours without getting to a conclusion.
Consciously, we sprang to our feet as if we were stung on our butts by a evil ant, and began to move out so we could meet our appointment in the Lord’s vineyard on time and, would I say luckily, a minibus, usually called keke-bus just drove by, heading to our direction and we hopped in happily. From Igbo Etche Junction where we had taken sometime to cool off to Eleme Junction where we would then disperse, would have taken us about 15 minutes. We had calculated our time perfectly so that we could get to church on time. I sat at the back seat and in the middle while Saviour was at my right hand. Uwem had taken a sit directly in front of Saviour on the middle row near the door.
As some of them operate without closing the door, but we were careful enough to have checked and be sure that before departure, the door could close properly and the journey back to town began. Just about nine minutes into our journey, we noticed a kind of careless driving and in our minds we thought the the driver was trying to dodge a porthole. We’ve just passed the bad spot along Igbo Etche Road that, as we were gisting, that we noticed that our vehicle was heading with speed, much closer to a moving motorcycle carrying a passenger and before we could tell the driver to take it easy, the next thing was kpoaah, a loud noise as he hit the motorcycle and I could see the passenger on the motorcycle, who was without helmet fling above the height of our bus. I could not see what happened next because our driver again steered to the left and, unlike hearing the screeching sound of tyres, as it is in some home videos to intimate us of accident and their efforts to automatically halt the vehicles to avoid a bang, the next thing was another kpoaa as our vehicle collided with an incoming jeep on the opposite lane.
All these happened just within nanoseconds. First thing I heard were voices shouting ahhh…ohhhh…Jesus, ekammi, my father and other languages I do not understand their meaning. I could remember was that while the passengers in the bus were shouting due to fear, the collision with the oncoming jeep was something else. The impact force was so strong that the middle seat pulled and jerked to the front and those who were there, with how tight it usualy is, could not help but had series of dislocations, bruises and the pains coupled with blood oozing from fresh cuts made it look horrible.
About a couple of minutes before the incidence, I had called my choirmaster to ascertain if there would still be rehearsal due to the series of events in the church during the week, who replied that he was not in church and I should confirm from the assistant to know if she had made any announcement to counter the usual Saturday practice but she was not reachable for the confirmation. I also called my friend Daniel who didn’t take his call and as I was dialing the secretary’s number that the incidence happened. My phone fell off my hand as our bus finally halted.
The interior was shattered with a broken windscreen. Passengers were languishing in their pains. Before I could know it, passersby had gathered and were helping the victims out. To God be the glory no one died and I could walk out of the vehicle on my own. As I came down the vehicle was empty because of my sitting position everyone had to vacate before I could step out then I remembered that my phone was neither in my hand nor pocket so I began to look for it in the shattered vehicle while shouting Uwem and Saviour to know their whereabouts. In just a jiffy, the scene was like a mini-market. Fortunately, I saw Uwem’s phone under the rumpled mat and I assumed mine was lost and I stepped out to look for where my friends were taken to. I can’t tell how hurt I was then but on one hand, I thank God that I did not hit any of my sensitive body parts or had any internal injury and on the other hand, I pitied my friends who were in unimaginable pains including others whom I perceived were calling on their gods or loved ones for help in a language I could not fathom. In the midst of the scenario, Uwem had carried my phone and held tightly to it thinking that it was his own until when I took his own to him that I saw two people trying to raise him up and put him to stand so that they could help reposition his dislocated waist bones while it was still fresh to avoid deformation. Then I went to see Saviour who was sitting on the ground with left hand up, trying to touch the right shoulder which tends not to have been on the same height with the other…posing a figure as if it was the legal monument for justice. Immediately, I ran to check on others, not knowing that the ones at the front seat were already rushed to the closest pharmacy for resuscitation. I could see others on the ground and were gathered by a crowd who were trying to proffer immediate first aid to their bruises.
Then I tried to put on my phone and luckily it came up and I decided to take some of these pictures to show my wife when I get home. I could not believe what I saw. Someone who just boarded a bus not quite long was carried away in a semi-lifeless body. The next thing that came into my mind was to see how to parade the other victims who were badly injured to hospital for immediate attention. Moving vehicles started slowing down to see what had happened. I could see women shrug their shoulders as they drive pass the scene. Immediately, I crossed to the other side of the road to pick a drop to convey Uwem to where he has his HMO domiciled. I could see myself waving at every vehicle for assistance not minding if it was private or commercial. I ran to a certain man I saw in a jeep nearby who stopped to have his tyres pumped and begged if he could help convey them to hospital and possibly Uwem to his hospital. To my greatest surprise, he declined but helped to source for another mini-bus whom he paid to evacuate all victims to hospital close to Eleme Junction and then convey Saviour, Uwem and I to Rainbow Town in Trans Amadi to have Uwem tended to. This man just appeared as a Good Samaritan at that very moment and I can only pray that God should bless him richly.
I finally got home just a few minutes to 9pm after I had made sure that all of them were in hospital. When I managed to change my cloths that is when I knew that I had bruises on my legs and had to go to a patent medicine dealer for tending. I had forgotten that I had my face cap on, not until I was watching the pictures on my device at home that I noticed it on the driver’s seat and cannot explain how it got there. Even up to this time I am narrating this ordeal, I can remember that I had bought gum for us to chew but can’t recall if I had swallowed my own or spat it out in the course of the accident. As a person, I sat down and thought of this and asked myself, what if I had ended up at that very moment, where would I have gone to? I can remember that the last thing I was trying to do was to call to find out if choir rehearsal would hold so that maybe I could go straight and the last recommendation from my choirmaster was to check the church. I still wonder if that was the end, would I have made heaven?
In my humble opinion, I would suggest that government should enforce the installment of speed limiting device on every commercial vehicle, be it inter or intra-state. Also, vehicles such as these mini-buses should only carry one passenger at the front seat and ensure that seat belts are compulsorily used. Since some of these vehicles may not have air bag in case of any strong collision, it could prevent sensitive body parts of the body like head and chest from being smashed against the dashboard. I have also learnt that vehicles with more extended bonnets could further reduce the impact force on the passenger or the driver as well as damages to those inside. Most likely, the damage would be more on the car with less extended bonnets which, when hit, the torn bonnets would be pulled inside thereby turning to an object capable of tearing human beings to pieces. This can be seen while comparing the damages on the jeep and that of the bus. The damages are incomparable. The passengers on the front seats were unconscious while the driver was badly injured. Another reason for the suggestion of a single passenger in the front seat is to accord enough space since these economic buses have limited space and in the case of any accident, it would reduce the rate of dislocation or fracture.
It is also worthy to point out that some of the interior of these commercial buses are so rough that in a bit to board, one’s dress or skin might get torn. Lastly, I would recommend drivers to carry out their duties carefully and defensively, knowing that their life and that of other passengers depend solely either in their carefulness or carelessness. Before I end, I just looked at the bruises on my legs three weeks after the accident and I still see the scars there, to remind me that before I leave the house any moment, I need to pray for safe journey and also do what is right at all times. I still wonder within myself, what if I had gone that very moment, where would my after-life be?