Tuesday, September 12, 2006
I will not take a single thing away from the way people feel about the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Indeed that day and those that followed have been marked indelibly in our minds.
My quarrel with this date has to do with Nigerians. We remember to celebrate other people’s tragedies and make a lot of noise about it, but I do not recall anyone every saying anything about the carnage that took place in our very own Lagos, Nigeria on the 27th of January 2002.
To read a brief account of what happened that day, please read here and here. Pictures are available here. My own account is that I was home when the ground started shaking…tremors? an earthquake? Planes throwing down bombs? We had absolutely no idea what was going on. Bear in mind that I live at least 20 minutes drive away from where this was occurring and yet, we could feel a lot of what was going on. My mom was already reaching for the bags of salt that she keeps in case of war times (a throwback from her experience in the Biafran war).
We closely monitored the news channels for any clue as to what was going on. Finally, Channels TV came through and explained that for an unknown reason, high grade munitions and explosives stored at the army cantonment in Ikeja had somehow started exploding. I am not sure the root cause was ever communicated.
Obasanjo who happened to be in Lagos at the time, turned up and in the face of an angry mob demanding answers, said something along the lines of " You should be lucky that I am even here". Yes siree! Your charisma was really came shining through and you showed how much of a people's person you are. (in case you missed it, this was dripping with sacarsm)
At least 3,000 people were displaced or died. Loads of people drowned in a canal at Isolo. A situation that occured because of the lack of knowledge about what was going on. People just wanted to escape and ended up drowning instead. A lot of them were children.
Till date, children are missing. Families are hopping from house to house seeking shelter as they attempt to rebuild their lives. Families are no longer whole. They have been ripped apart and have had no chance of being put together again. They cannot even end up in therapy. Our society simply does not condone such tomfoolery. And you can trust that the displaced people have not all received compensation. Those that received something got a pittance. The saddest thing is that no visible lessons have been learnt. Till date, Lagos lacks any sort of emergency response to disasters.
So, my people, that is the story of how our very own Lagos scattered not long after Sept. 11. Not even in Lagos is it really mentioned. Certainly I have never read any blog that remembered this day.
Why did I go through all this trouble? To raise awareness and also so that we can "celebrate" our own tragedies as well. This is important so that lessons can be learned from the disaster and mitigating factors put in place to avoid re-occurence. If no-one is talking about it, the government and other bodies that are involved will feel no pressure to ensure that it does not occur again. I am sure no-one wants a situation where there will be no Nigeria to come back to.