What's a Parade Worth?
Is it worth nine hours on the road?
Is it worth hours spent standing in the hot sun?
Or more importantly, is it worth a young man's life?
Last week like thousands of young people across the country, I passed out of NYSC Batch C on Thursday, October 10, 2013. I'd been serving in Nasarawa for the past year and along with everyone else at my PPA was utterly dismayed to hear that our Passing out Parade had been moved from Keffi to Lafia.
I was already stressing out over how to get to Keffi for the POP, but Lafia? Just thinking about the road to Lafia gives me cold sweats.
Some parts of the road undulate like the ridges on some Black men's heads and half the time you can't even tell if you're in a car on the road to Lafia or on a rollercoaster at Six Flags. Then there are sections of the road that just aren't there because the road has crumbled away leaving a combination of dirt, stones, and gravel.
If these were the only problems with the road to Lafia, it might not be so bad, but this road that is supposedly for dual carriage traffic is narrower than a stick of spaghetti so getting from Keffi to Lafia is an extremely dangerous game of overtaking and playing chicken with the trailers, tankers, and lorries that ply the same road as small passenger cars.
So, needless to say, when I heard my LI say "Lafia", I was scared shitless because I know that Lafia road and I was none too excited to travel it just for a parade.
The day started out well enough. Some of the corpers from my PPA wanted to go to Lafia beforehand and sleep there overnight. I was having none of it, the less time I spent in Nasarawa, the better as far as I was concerned. After lots of begging, I got my friend Nkiru to drive me to Lafia and back, so I stayed the night at her place with my uniform and everything so we could set out as early as possible.
We'd passed Keffi and had just gone by Akwanga when we noticed more and more corpers on the road in front of us. Eventually, traffic had come to a halt because of a particularly large crowd of corpers that had gathered in front. When we rolled down the window, all we heard were screams.
There was a luxurious bus on the left side of the road..... Halfway. Up. A. Tree.
On the right side of the road, backed into a forest clearing, was what appeared to have been an SUV. The front of it was flattened and there was blood everywhere.
Outside our car, corpers were crying and screaming and a lot of them looked utterly traumatised.
The luxurious bus had collided head on with the SUV which was carrying a corper and the impact had forced the luxurious bus to the other side of the road and backed the SUV into the clearing.
There was a girl, with black curly hair, drenched in sweat. She couldn't stop crying. She said the bus had tried to overtake and so had entered their lane. She had guessed that it wouldn't make it. There just wasn't enough time or space and so she got out of the way, ploughing into the forest on the side of the road and avoided getting hit.
The boy in the car behind her didn't see the bus driver in time.
His name was Henry Amadi-Emina.
Lots of people stood around the wreckage taking pictures. I got close enough to see inside. There was blood sprayed everywhere. Nearby, I saw a boy with one side of his NYSC jacket drenched in blood. I took this one picture because it seemed unreal to me. Maybe that's why people take pictures at accident scenes, to understand the gravity. I've never been one for gory pictures of the dead, it seems so disrespectful and violating.
A guy got close to the car and dipped two of his fingers into the blood pooling on the shattered windshield. His fingers came up bright red. I felt very light-headed but strangely calm.
That was someone's blood. It's not meant to be there. It's meant to be inside their body, keeping them alive.
That girl kept screaming "Henry! Henry! Who will tell his parents!"
I can't imagine their heartbreak.
All because NYSC compels people's children to travel in states where the government doesn't even understand the meaning of basic infrastructure.
This young man didn't die because he was over speeding.
He died because he was forced to share a ridiculously tiny road with a massive luxurious bus.
Nasarawa is a state full of absolutely nothing.
It is dirty, filthy, disgusting, poverty ridden, and most of the people in the state show appalling levels of illiteracy.
The only ambition of all the school girls I encountered while teaching there was to be married. As if marriage is an occupation.
The governor of this state should be thoroughly ashamed of himself.
I don't know how long he has been in office, but he definitely has nothing to show for it.
Rest in Peace Henry Amadi-Emina.
Another Youth Corper NEEDLESSLY killed.