13 June 2012
“Pls confirm that TREM utako Pastors Rev Ayodeji n Ngozi Cole are safe. Plsssss any1. Oh God,” one of my friends wrote on Facebook. It was Sunday, and I had logged online to look for news about the church bombing in Bauchi. Instead, I was assaulted by news of the day’s second tragedy: the Dana plane crash. Another friend posted a photo of Amina Idris Bugaje’s emoticon sprinkled last bb message. “Finally in abuja airport. will soon leave for lagos.”
As the hours and days wore on the news became more and more heartbreaking. Nine members of one family gone, Onyeka and Maimuna Anyene, their four children, Maimuna’s mother Birikisu Mijindadi, and two other cousins, Ogechi and Oluchi. The Nation lists nine other families who lost at least two family members. A friend texted me that she had lost her aunt and uncle on the flight and nine family friends.
Other friends spoke of those they lost. Ed Oribhabor wrote on Jos-ANA listserve of his late boss, Anthony Nwaokoagbara, a Safety/Environmental Engineer and former Abuja Zonal Operations Controller, Department of Petroleum Resources, “The whole drama will play out, roll on and roll away like other mishaps before this. But one thing is clear, if you have someone in that ill-fated aircraft, it’s a different matter. Just like me who lost my immediate boss Mr. Anthony Nwaokoagbara. One boss too many. A man of his words. Pragmatic and forward-looking. Practical, sincere and down to earth. Non-discriminatory and patriotic.”
Enene Elayo wrote: “I met Adaobi “Dobi” Mojekwu about one year ago...considering the impact she has had on my life in such a short space of time, it’s easy to get a feel for what kind of person she was. Adaobi was a professional interior designer—among her other talents, she was an entrepreneur pure and simple with the personality for it.
Professional, well spoken, focused and cheerful. A friend had asked me to accompany her to see someone she had purchased household fittings and sheets from...I went along and met Adaobi.
I still recall the first thing she said to me once we were there “So you, where do you work?”
I replied that my friend and I both worked at Diamond Bank as marketers. The next question threw me, ‘So what is it you like about that banking thing?!’
I was recovering from that when she carried on, ‘Is it the power skirt suits?!’ I was about to take offense when I really looked at her and saw the twinkle in her eye and felt her complete lack of guile or malice. Adaobi took no prisoners!
As it turned out I hated skirt suits, and I hated working as a banker even more.
‘What do you love?’ was the next sucker-punch, direct, question Adaobi asked me. I guess you can figure that was her style. She was a direct, focused, ‘cut out the crap and lets make things happen’ kinda gal!
Adaobi made me think about my life, made me stop griping about a job I hated that was consuming my life. She made me realize that what I actually loved was writing and baking. On her father’s 80th birthday in April, I supplied the birthday cake. (And yes! she paid me for it.) It’s been four months since I quit my job and employed myself as a dessert caterer...there is no way I would have done this without Adaobi “Dobi” Mojekwu. I will never forget.”
Emman Shehu of the International Institute of Journalism wrote of his student who was to go to Oxford in September: “Alvana Ojukwu came into the Post-Graduate Journalism Class two years ago, somewhat late due to some challenges. But the moment she came into that class, her frail and quiet countenance could not hide her brilliance. A lawyer by training, it was easy to see she had a bright future ahead of her. Supervising her project, we had a couple of tiffs, but like I told her, she had to produce what I knew she was capable of doing. Eventually she saw my point and turned out a good thesis.
I had no hesitation recommending her for the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) job and the academic programme she was looking forward to abroad.
At the Institute’s Matriculation Programme last Saturday, she showed up and we joked and took pictures. She mentioned off-handedly an official trip to Lagos on Sunday.
Last night, my eyes scanning the DANA MANIFEST closed in on...ALAVANA OJUKWU. This morning, I get a confirmation from her office. Nigeria has lost a gem in the making.”
The stories go on and on, but in the midst of grief regarding the over two-hundred people who lost their lives in Lagos, we must not lose sight of the continuing tragedy of terrorism and those lost in Sunday’s bomb attack on the Living Faith and Harvest Field churches in Bauchi.
A young man Joseph Femi wrote me a few months ago about how his brother, who was killed in the January attack on Kano, “called that he’ll be coming home on Saturday, not knowing it will be his corpse that will return home. He stayed at the police college, and he played soccer for the police team and he was a promising football player. Then came this tragic black Friday when he was murdered cold blooded. […] It was unbelievable when the news got home Saturday morning, the day he ought to have returned home to spend the weekend with his family but instead it was his corpse that was brought back. He’s the bread winner of the family. […] All we want is justice but it seems it’ll never come. This country has turned to a lawless country where the evil ones can get away with all their wrong doings. It has not been easy ever since he was killed, but thank God we’re coping. May his soul rest in peace.” On Wednesday morning, he wrote, “Carmen, I told you about my brother that was murdered in Kano last January. Now another has been murdered here in Bauchi in the bomb blast. Two of my brothers have been murdered…”
The stories are so heart breaking, that I have no words. I let others write for me today. On an online profile put together for the air crash victims on onlinenigeria.com, a friend of Kola Ayoola, a branch Manager at Sterling Bank Plc. Lagos, wrote: “This is what you post on FB last month: ‘death to most seems like it’s far, far away. On the day that it arrives it will have been too late to do what we can do today’. We never knew it was goodbye message […] May Almighty God make you among of inmates of paradise…”
For Kola Ayoola, and for those killed alongside him in Lagos in the air and on the ground, and for those killed by bombs and guns in churches and mosques, barracks and offices, and for those killed in crashes on the hungry roads and in understaffed hospitals, we say “Amen.”