A Blast in my Backyard

Last week as I was driving through the town, I passed by a news paper vendor. He was trying to cross the road whilst I was trying very hard to cut off the car in the lane beside me who was trying to ‘chance’ me….Long story short? The vendor blocked me and the only way to prevent the other guy from usurping my birthright (as Lagosians believe the road to be) was to break the vendor’s leg, so I braked….Sharply As the vendor passed by, he had the nerve to ask me if I was blind and whether I wanted to kill ‘Person for early mo-mo’. I couldn’t come up with a quick retort…not because I was short on my arsenal of expletives but because I was looking at the headlines on one of the papers he was holding. A blast somewhere in the country. It was the third I’d read about in as many days. I resumed my commute after being jarred into reality by the blaring horns of drivers behind me.

I drove on musing on the significance of these events. It is very wrong! Are they animals? Why cant they reason like normal people? What justification can be offered for taking innocent human life? Why isn’t anything being done about it? or better still, can anything be done about it? Round and round my mind went like a carousel till I got to my destination. I must have been on auto pilot because I wasn’t quite conscious of my journey. One phone call, two emails, three ‘good mornings’ and all the thoughts that had previously occupied my mind seemed to fade into dreamland. My mind did swing  that way again at some point but that was about it. It had been tagged and filed in the cabinet of my consciousness, to be visited only when necessary. Perhaps over a drink with some friends, or an argument with my cousin about what was best for Nigeria or some other fitting occassion…or so I thought.

‘Gboooooooooooooom’….the sound literally threw me out of bed. Glass shattering, car alarms blaring like the vehicles were crying out for help…next it was gun shots….sporadic! It sounded nothing like what I was accustomed to hearing in the movies. I guess your senses respond differently in the face of clear and present danger. At this point, my primal survival instincts took over…jolting me out of my state of shock. I took cover and for once I was happy to be a bachelor.What would I be doing at the moment if I had a wife or even worse, kids? Then came the calm. that eerie silence that is deafening and so thick you can cut it. I stood up to look out the  window….the little police station across the road was clothed in robes of smoke…the next building, Mr Okeke’s house was also in flames. Cars parked on the street were remodelled with long streaks of bullet holes and finally the sight I had hoped not to see….The bodies…about 6 from my count…probably more given my narrow angle of vision. Then began wailing, a few courageous young men came out, looked this way and that and when they were satisfied that the worst was over, darted across to the street to mount some sort of rescue mission- if anything could be rescued at this point. And then, i saw it…a red Toyota Corolla…at least what part of it i could still see beyond the fire that had engulfed it. My car? my car?………My CAAAAAAARRRRRR! There right across the street 2.1 million Naira in flames….I had saved for the last three years to buy that car. Anger welled up inside me and then with as much ease as can only come naturally  the curses flowed.

And flow it did till out of the corner of my eye, I caught some movement…..A woman kneeling over a body and gently rocking…I couldn’t hear her but I could tell she was crying, a sort of deep mourning that was pure anguish of soul. All of a sudden, my car paled into insignificance. My sense of perspective returned…how could I complain about a car that was replaceable when I hadn’t suffered a loss of life?…My heart went out to the woman across the street…I didnt know her name but I recognized her as the lady who sold roasted plantain (Boli) at the junction. The small, now lifeless body must be her son…Olu. He used to be the home delivery guy. I’d pass by and drop money with his mum and 10 minutes later a knock on my door meant my order was ready. Olu is dead….what was rage, quickly became a dark mix of hatred and depression…I heaved and heaved until…..

I woke up! Sweat was pouring down my brow….my sheets were horridly out of place, my pillows- across the room. It was one terrible dream. I at once began to pray and to declare ‘God forbid’. Then I remebered the headlines from the day before. Had God permitted those blasts? Did He wish for all those innocents to lose their lives? Certainly not. Hollow platitudes and all the intellectual discourse in the world haven’t solved the problem and from the looks of it, never will. We need to stop being selfish and myopic. When fuel price was increased, we all took to the streets because it pinched, but as long as the blasts keep happening hundreds of kilometres from us, we are content to rave and rant and get back to our lives. And so we shall continue until a bomb goes off in our backyard.

God forbid…I hear you say. That is what the people in Kano, Bauchi, Kaduna, Yobe, Niger and Borno thought! Who knows? Maybe one will go off near the Sacred Rock…Perhaps then a hoplessly lethargic, nay! Lifeless government will rise up and act….Till then, I join you in that prayer……’God forbid’.

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