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.