Sunday, October 29, 2006

An afternoon of sadness..

In a distracted daze after the news of the crash, I went for a walk in the park, ill-at-ease with the world. The place was full. It was early dusk. The park was a disgusting mess of litter. I am constantly dismayed to see people roll down their window and distribute their litter onto the road in Nigeria, and to see the park such a shit-pit after a few hours of use. I only find one thing more intensely irritating than queue jumping – and that’s tossing litter. Unfortunately, Nigeria appears to be full of queue-jumpers and litter-droppers. I cannot disrespect someone any more than I disrespect people that dump trash from a moving car. For example, last time I was in London, I was on a bus when a woman let an empty crisp packet fall to the floor right in front of me. I asked her if she wouldn’t mind picking it up. She sucked her teeth. I asked her whether she would do the same thing on her doorstep. She muttered ‘bambaclaat’ under her breath and rattled off a patois curse to her friend. So I called her bambaclaat back, much to her surprise, and proceeded to weigh in. Others joined in the harangue and the woman was thoroughly cornered. I think I embarrassed her sufficiently to think twice about doing it again, ever. But why is it that in London I often see black people drop litter? Do parents not teach their kids about throwing litter? And why is Nigeria so full of litter-droppers? I think in both cases it has something to do with a lack of a civic culture of engagement, and an alienation from any possible form of public space and sense of belonging. Of course, its not a phenomenon restricted by race - its much more grounded in class and environment. But blaming the environment can only go so far: on another level its just plain ignorance and lack of respect for others. No home-training, as they say. Except that's the point - people don't seem to link the dropping of litter with being well brought up.

As I walked around the park, I spotted three Fulani-looking girls under a tree. One of them shouted ‘hey oyinbo’. I realised then that all three were in fact teenage boys, with earrings, make-up and dresses. It’s not that I find the Fulani ladyboy phenomena disturbing (although it is intriguing), it’s more that I find it amazing that it takes place quite openly in such a deeply homophobic environment. I remember trip to Bida market, with ladyboy “male wives” up for grabs amongst the cowrie shells and other juju items. It seems that as long as something is not explicitly said in Nigeria, it is permitted its space. As soon as tolerance is tested by law and the explicitly stated, everyone gets all antsy.

But back to the crash today. Apparently it was caused by a storm (but why was the plane on fire reportedly mid-flight? Can a storm really bring down an aircraft - albeit a 23 year old machine?) Will the black box be found (the Bellview black box was never recovered, which remains a distinctly odd mystery, given that they are virtually indestructible). Will a clear explanation be furnished? Will any heads roll (of course not – no one is to blame are they?) Rufai visited the scene and was appalled at the state of the 727’s tyres. So: no adequate pre-flight inspection there then. I’m sure the conspiracy theories have already begun – given that two senators lost their lives.

Incidentally, the two oyinbos brought in to head up the new Arik airline resigned last week (it seems to have taken on the mantle of the defunct Nigerian Airways, using their hangar etc), just as the service was about to launch. According to reports in the newspapers, they were not happy putting their names behind the claim that all the aircraft for the airline are ‘brand new.’ Local airlines in Nigeria continue to take advantage of weak regulation. I fear more lives will yet be lost.


Bea,  9:03 pm  


I live in London I know what you mean about litter. However, I have to say that black people are as guilty as everyone else. Everyone does it; the Asians (ever tried strolling through Upton Park? A grim experience if there was ever one) and now the Eastern Europeans are getting in on the act. So yes I think it's unfair to single out black people as the main perpetrators. With regards to today's events - it's hardly surprising there has been another crash - a maintenance culture is seriously lacking in Nigeria. Nothing ever gets maintained, checked or serviced.

Janada 10:34 pm  

Hello Jeremy,

I'm Nigerian, I grew up here, I don't litter and I don't jump queues. I have to add that it seems to me that almost everyone else does and it irritates me too (possibly more than it does you). Anyway to a more important matter; someone should be blamed for todays crash and I believe the finger should be pointed first at the minister of aviation, Mr Borishade. It is, afterall, his job to make sure that everything to do with airlines is according to regulation, isn't it? I lost a colleague in the Bellview crash and I was very upset how the crash was overshadowed by the news of Mrs Obasanjo deciding to commit suicide. 104 people were in that plane and as yet only 7 survivors have been reported leaving the number of fatalities at 97. Every single life on that plane was important and I am unhappy that the news seems to be more about the Sultan and his son dying than about our authorities failing us (especially the families of the deceased).

Jeremy 11:43 pm  

We don't have satellite tv anymore but I just turned on to see what the local tv stations were offering. NTA is I think institutionally incapable of being quick on the update come hell or high water - instead they were beaming in BBC World (the DG of NTA was on a panel somewhere talking about free media - doing a Dele Momodu in other words). AIT was showing some random football match as they always do.

Thanks god Channel's was covering the tragedy, with quite commendable analysis - on the recent history of air disasters (900 people have died in the past few years in Nigerian aircrashes). From what they were saying, it looks like the search and rescue teams at Nigerian airports have no training and no equipment. As with the PHC/Sosoliso tragedy, it took hours for help to arrive, meanwhile, people trapped inside the plane were heard crying out for help, only to be slowly incinerated. Its a similar story in Lagos, where collapsed building after collapsed building, people are left to die.

Shango,  4:09 am  

(but why was the plane on fire reportedly mid-flight? Can a storm really bring down an aircraft - albeit a 23 year old machine?)

A storm of a certain kind can bring down any plane, new or old, big or small. The B727 is a very safe aircraft as long as it's in good shape (particularly the engines) and the pilots know what they're doing.

If the aircraft was on fire (which part? The engines? In the cabin?) mid-flight, you'll have problems, regardless of who's flying it and only extensive simulator training or considerable luck would be sufficient to get you out of that situation. Aviation is in a terrible shape in Africa.

For example, I'm not sure if you know this, but once you cross south into Africa from Europe, pilots are no longer under any kind of air traffic control and each airliner transmits in the "blind," negotiating flight levels and routes with other airliners because there are no control facilities. A real wild west.

Knowing what I know now about aviation, I would not get on a flight in Nigeria.

dami,  5:56 am  

hmm jeremy, i think i might have seen those ladyboys while i was at high school but i just thot it was a cultural thing. there are lots of things that nigerians do that no one talks about, and i think i like it like that, homosexuality in nigeria or africa is quite different from that in the west, you can either say it is live and let live or dont ask dont tell, i dont really have a problem with either policy...does it really have to explicit? of course the homophobic culture has to continues to shock me esp in this christian/moslem nation.

as for the plane crash my sister told me this morning, and the way she said it a little part of me died because she just sounded so tired, b/c you see she was at the abuja airport waiting to go home, my brother having gone to lagos on an earlier flight, when she heard that friends and classmates that she had laughed with just hours before had perished in a crash but no one was sure, so my poor sister just cried all the way home not really knowing whether or not it was true, turned out to be true

i too am tired, just tired of country that frustrates its future even before they can do anything. lol if not for my strong head, id just throw my lot in here in coporate yankerz, but too much is already at stake..

cutie 1:40 pm  

well Jeremy, all I can say is when is this going to stop. What is going to follow is another stakeholder's meeting, where long agendas are drawn up and impeccable english is spoken, and before u know it another crash occurs. Everybody just folds their hands and wishes they are not onboard the next plane to crash. So much noise now which will eventually die down in few weeks time, while we await yet another tragedy. It's so painful that hundred's of us perish because some people at the helm of affairs particularly the aviation sector, who should be meticulous about their job have become so unserious or do I say incapable of handling such sensitive positions. Who will make a difference?

Anonymous,  10:00 pm  


It is not just black people that litter...white people do too so knock that one on the head.

Anyway more importantly what is there to be done about Nigeria's abysmal aviation industry. I thought the President vowed last year that there wouldn't be any more crashes?

When will this rubbish stop? I really despair of Nigeria nowadays. As the rest of the world is moving forward, Nigeria seems to be moving backward.


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