Saturday, November 20, 2010

This Dart Hits Me: Part I--Yomi Fashina is Dead

In April this year when I returned from a three-month fellowship at the African Studies Centre, Leiden, the Netherlands, I took a decision: I would be totally indifferent to any of the problems which have come to define Nigeria. I had met the electric power supply worse than it was three months earlier, the roads were worse... in short everything had gone worse including the health of the then president. I had always carried with me the burden called Nigeria. I was given to staying up at night worrying about Nigeria; soliloquizing during the day about the problems of Nigeria, and often giving vent to my frustrations about Nigeria at seminars and during lectures. Now, I decided ‘No More’. Nigeria was not my property or business. I constructed a mental and emotional cocoon, an iron shell into which I often withdraw, far away from Nigeria. But Nigeria is a good marksman and its dart keeps perforating my cocoon and hitting me. This One Hits me Sore!

The worst dart Nigeria has thrown at me since I withdrew into my cocoon was thrown on Tuesday November 9. My student, research assistant and friend, Oluyomi Dipo Fashina (DF) was returning from Lagos on the notorious Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. The bus in which he was travelling was involved in an accident. Yomi had several compound fractures in different parts of his body. Gallantly, Yomi fought the pains for five long days. In between spells of comas, Yomi was able to speak once. All he said was that everyone should relax; he would be fine. In the evening of Sunday 14 November, DF died. The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway had its way!

If anyone came close to being a perfect gentleman, Yomi was that person. A great team player, an ever-smiling workaholic, a leader and a true servant of men. Yomi, with like-minded classmates like Chuks Egbunike, John Ibanga and Folake Ogunleye, did a comprehensive fieldwork for me on mobile phone deception in Nigeria. And together we explored the Communication Infrastructure Theory and its possible applications in Nigeria. Several times he was my extra pair of eyes which picked my un-dotted i’s and uncrossed t's. He was there for me literally at the snap of a finger!

Since Yomi’s death, everywhere I turn, I encounter him: his MA thesis is on my shelf and on my table; his writings are in my files; his documents are on my laptops. Where do I turn from you, Oluyomi? My colleagues and students meet me and console me as you do one who lost an only child.

If the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway was good, if Vehicle Inspection Officers did their job, in short, if this was not Nigeria, Yomi would be alive today. In the last ten months, the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway (on which Yomi had the accident) has claimed about two hundred lives through accidents. The accidents included several occurrences of fuel-carrying tankers which lost control and ran into many passenger vehicles burning everyone to ashes. Women, men, children, newlyweds on their way to their honeymoon—all dreams are being cut short. We moan and groan and keep quiet. The dead become mere statistics. The road is bad, the vehicles are bad, drivers are unlicensed, policemen are busy with N20 bribes and the government is busy with elections and rigging, while Nigerians are dying in their prime!

Nigeria, it’s hard not to be hard hit.