By Uche Amunike
The Editorial news of Fides Newspaper is usually written by the Editors, that is talking about the Editor-in-Chief of Fides, Jude Atupulazi and myself. We take turns to write the editorial every week. Last week, it was his turn to write. So, this week, I wrote on the need to stay safe especially at this time of year. This time of year is the period known to record the highest number of road accidents on Nigerian roads. Most road users are very reckless at this time of year and this is one of the major reasons why accident rates are usually on the increase at this period. Nigerians are generally, very superstitious people. Little wonder they see these accidents from a religious perspective, thereby attributing the high rate of accidents on our roads to evil spirits associated with this time of year. Resultantly, they prayers are intensified at this period and most churches hold crusades to ward off these evil spirits at this period. I disagree with the myth of evil spirits being the reason for these car crashes. Most of the accidents we witness on our roads are man-made and avoidable mishaps caused by the carelessness of motorists. That was why, as I wrote that editorial, I made a mental note to expand it on this page and try looking at the other dangers associated with the ember months apart from road accidents. Now, statistics have shown that the top five causes of road accidents are speed violation, wrongful overtaking, dangerous driving, tyre burst and brake failure. These have nothing to do with evil spirits. They have everything to do with the human beings driving these vehicles.
There is a speed limit for every Nigerian road. How many motorists are aware of this? When you talk about wrongful overtaking, it is one of the most common causes of these car crashes. Sadly, private car owners seem to be the major culprits in wrongful overtaking, especially at sharp bends, all in the name of being in a hurry. If you doubt this fact, check 80% of the head on collisions witnessed on Nigerian roads especially at this period. They are usually private cars. Dangerous driving and excessive speeding are most often attributed to commercial drivers. I will also add overloading, as they make a lot of money from conveying goods of these passengers during the festive period. Vehicles are usually over loaded as they believe it is their season for making more money like never before during the year. The problem of tyre bursts is also one of the major causes of road accidents during the ember months, just like that of brake failure.
There are however, some other dangers that should be watched out for at this period apart from the usual road mishaps. One of these dangers is Fire outbreaks. As we know, the air becomes dryer as soon as the rains stop during the dry season. This is when the Harmattan gradually creeps in. At this time, the dryness in the atmosphere and high degree of heat induces sparks at every opportunity which triggers most fire outbreaks in market places, offices, bushes, farms, homes and even churches. This is the reason why everyone should own a fire extinguisher in their cars, homes, offices, churches, shops, beauty parlours and even mechanic workshops.
Kidnapping is another danger associated with the ember months. Just a few days prior, my daughter at Madonna University, Elele in Rivers State was sick and as I got her phone call, I made arrangements for the school to allow her come home so I could take her to my family doctor for proper medicare. The school authorities refused letting her come home by herself and when I reminded them that she was in third year and could find her way home, they gave me reasons of security. They said that the rules remained that parents were to come in person to pick up their children because Elele was no longer secure. It was now a kidnappers den and those children were easy targets because most of them believed that any parent that could pay the Madonna school fees would be able to pay them pretty ransoms! I had no choice than to go to Madonna on the very next day and pick up my child. Kidnapping and insecurity is not new in Nigeria and at this time of the year, it is usually on the increase. It is one menace that has lingered for a long time and carried out by all sorts of groups with different degrees of sophistication. Nigerians should watch out for these people and be careful about the kind of company they keep and the kinds of discussions they have in public.
We should also watch out for robbery and other criminal related activities by being vigilant about our environment and the kind of people we have dealings with. At this time that the ember months have arrived, there is a high rate of car thefts and even bank robberies. When you visit the ATM to do withdrawals or carry out any transaction, be sure to be extra vigilant about the people around you and be sure to be quick in reading body languages. It’s important to be watchful and careful always because it makes it easy for one to walk away from trouble before the assailant strikes.
I do not agree with the myth that evil is associated with the ember months. There is no evil associated with it. We have merely thrown caution to the winds by disregarding safety rules just because we want to be a part of the numerous end-of-ear activities slated for the period. We seriously need to change our perception of the ember months by making conscious efforts to disrobe these last remaining weeks of the yuletide of the garb of unfounded mysticism. We can only succeed in avoiding disasters during the ember months when we truly believe that they are more human than mythical.
When commercial drivers who go for five trips a day end up going for ten trips, all in the name of making all the money they have not made in the year, this naturally comes with its fatal consequences. When alcohol is consumed with reckless abandon and social outings are organized as if there is no tomorrow, all in the name of Christmas festivities, unavoidable human blunders with all sorts of misfortunes will definitely occur. People need to be extra careful while they celebrate this yuletide. The unusual jollity and allure most times have fatal endings. This has nothing to do with evil spirits. It has everything to do with us, endangering our lives in the spirit of the season.
I thank the members of the Federal Road Safety Corp for their safety campaigns since the ember months arrived. I have seen them on television and heard their voices on the radio, campaigning vigorously about safety. They have also been on the pages of newspapers doing same. All these are to ensure that road crashes and other related tragedies are reduced to the barest minimum. Much as I commend them, however, on these safety strategies, I urge them to intensify efforts in this direction while most appropriate government agencies should also come on board the ember months’ reorientation and re-awareness project. It is indeed a project for every agency and individual.
The sanctity of the human life must be respected at all times and I implore all hands to be on deck to save as much lives as can be saved this yuletide and beyond. Let discipline be the watchword. Life is truly precious. Let’s guard it jealously and be alive to enjoy other ember months. God bless us all!!!