Is this my story to tell?
I do not know. What I do know is that I witnessed a part of the story, heard some too and I just have to put it down so it is not lost in time and altered by memory. It all began with a pen and a notebook on Sunday 17th May, 2020.
I wanted to write something but I could not concentrate so I opted to sleep early. It was about past eight pm. There was nothing else to do anyway, with my phone dead, no electricity to charge it and the curfew stated by the Nigerian government was already here. Everyone had closed up their businesses and the police patrol cars were dancing around. The silence around me and the chaos inside me lulled me into a partial sleep. I don’t know how long before I heard her scream. I heard my mother’s scream and I was forced to wake up.
Half awake and half asleep, it’s a new habit that I’m working on dropping. A state were you are asleep but you still know a bit about what is going on around you, even making out conversations here and there. It is an unhealthy type of sleep but it’s also the reason I knew that whatever the issue was, it wasn’t from inside but outside on the streets. I had picked up some words in my sleep.
Jesus!……. How many people dey inside?…….terrible…..run go, run go!…..oya inside!…..you no hear am?
I had successfully ignored all until I heard the scream. That’s when I jumped up and looked out the window. It was dark since the streetlights were still under construction. The Pandemic had halted and slowed down a lot of things. I could barely make out anything so I did what I thought i had to do. I went out into the night, following all safety precautions of course.
All I had to do was stick to the sound of screaming women, shouting men, confused youth with phone torches piercing through the dark night. The area was crowded with people when I got there but they slowly began to disperse. Some mumbled prayers and thanked God for things that would have made me smile if not for the dire situation in front of me. A car was right there in the middle of the scattering crowd. I would later find out that it is a Toyota Camry. The wheels where in the air, they had just stopped rolling, and the roof was smashed into the ground. All this did not really get to my half awake mind until I saw the unconscious man on the floor being supported by another man. I lost all words, I have not seen many unconscious people in my life and one that was so close too.
The youth in the area had found a way to bring out the driver from the car, which is the unconscious man I saw. The man supporting his weight was his friend who sat in the passengers seat with him before the accident occurred.
How did this happen? Why is the man still here and not in the hospital? Not that I wish it but, why wasn’t the friend harmed? And where were the confounded patrol cars I had seen earlier?! Isn’t there someone to call?
As if sensing my last thought, a guy next to me dialed what I assume to be an emergency number and began giving descriptions. He was getting frustrated with the answers he was getting because his voice rose an octave higher in anger. I eased away from that angle and got closer to the car. It was completely ruined and the air bag was out, I could hear sniffles from the crowd and I wanted to remind them that their tears would do nothing but I decided against it. I continued my novice inspection without touching anything of course. The road was really smooth and you could see the screech marks of the car. Trailing it a bit farther I could see where the bumper had fallen off and where the windscreens had shattered. All this probably happened while the car was tumbling.
Ah! Den no collect am oo. Make the man no die oo!…..carry am go general hospital nah……wey those police wey dey that junction before? All of dem don japa abi…..hey stop!….stop!..
I looked around and walked towards the scene where i had wandered away from. I observed to understand what was going on when I saw the unconscious man again. I thought they had taken him to the hospital. My thoughts were not wrong, they did take him there but he was rejected. COVID-19 scare they say and it took a lot of self control to keep myself from face palming on the spot. They needed to get him to the general hospital while he was still breathing but it was so far away and there was no other car on the quiet expressway. They tried stopping a private car that drove by but their shouts of ‘stop!’ only scared the driver away. I don’t blame him though, we all looked like a bunch of night robbers. I know I did with my beanie that covered my head down to my eye brows and the baggy shirt and short I had thrown on. I passed for a young boy, just curious like the rest.
Someone suggested taking him to the Airforce base which was close by. Again I did not think any help would be gotten from there and someone else voiced out that thought. Civilians and the military just don’t mix, they say. Another lady called an emergency number, the first was still yet to arrive and we had no idea how much time the man had left with the gash on his head and his unconscious state. His friend looked ready to pass out from the piggyback ride he had given the former to the first hospital that rejected him and probably also from the shock of the whole situation. Those with light fingers had been quick to steal a phone and curses were being rained on the unknown person.
While waiting for help to come, the passenger from the accident was questioned by the good Samaritans or Nigerians in this case, that had helped to retrieve them both from the tumbled car. I got closer, not close enough to be noticed but enough to hear. I was useless to them anyway so there was no point in being seen. We were fewer now. The crowd of almost forty or more people had reduced to less than twenty. I could see both men clearly now, both of them were young, around their late twenties or early thirties was my best guess. The story recounted from the conscious one went thus;
It was infact his car, he just allowed his friend to drive while he sat in the passenger seat. They were not intoxicated, everything was right in their head. His friend had been on a speed of one hundred and twenty kilometer per hour and he did not have his seat belt on. When he complained that his friend should go slower, the latter stepped on the break immediately. That was all that happened and the next thing he knew, they were tumbling. He believes that it was probably the seatbelt that kept him from meeting the same fate as his friend but he honestly couldn’t say.
If that was indeed the truth, we might never know.
Help finally came from a friend that had been called. The emergency rescue team or whatever they are called were still yet to be seen. Both men were helped into the car and off it went. People still lingered a bit before the patrol cars came and everyone was running from being asked any questions. Some shouted obscenities at the Police, LASTMA men and the Lagos State government as a whole. “If na money una go run come, mtcheew” the guy in front of me said before walking off into the dark night. I silently walked away too after taking one last look at the car and the police men that were now guarding the scene from the thieves that were supposedly quietly waiting for everyone to clear out; that’s what I heard from the old men and women that knew the area well. “If no body dey here dem go steal everything for the car finish, even the tyre sef”. I could still hear people’s prayers as they walked or ran back into their homes.
Science would probably have an explanation for everything that just happened and that’s understandable. However, it doesn’t change the fact that i believe it is grace. People have died from less but somehow, this duo survived up to this point. Think of all the what ifs, what if it was a bit later than this and no one was awake to help? What if the guy had been alone in the car and there was no friend to get help? What if they had both died on the spot? What if the car broke through the fragile pavement and entered the residential building that was close by?
I saw love right there today. The youths did everything selflessly. The people that helped to carry the unconscious man did not have to do what they did. The others that directed cars (that refused to help the victims of the accident) away from hitting the upturned vehicle in the dark, did not wait to be paid. Call it pity or common sense but i call it love. Without considering faults or reward, the Christ kind of love.
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity…..
No one knows how the story will end. We might never hear about these men again, and it’s probably too minor for the media to carry. It does not change the fact that it happened and humans came through for humans. I dare to hope that there’s still hope for humankind. I could not be of help with my almost nonexistent muscles but I count it a privilege that I could put these words down. I am learning not to take things for granted, we all should. Observe, listen, withhold or recount, lend a hand,do what you know to be right. Be a part of the change.
Live everyday like its a miracle💖.