At about midnight on Friday June 8, 2018, Lagos Governor Akinwunmi Ambode yelled at me in a fit of rage. Don’t worry, I can explain.
After work on the day, my friend and I hopped into the car and began the drive homewards. All of Victoria Island was a mélange of snarling traffic and bedlam. We were stuck on a spot for an hour and left to curse our luck.
After a while, my friend and I decided it was pointless sitting in traffic and wasting precious time. We took a detour on Ajose Adeogun and soon found ourselves in a pub where a live band was soothing restless souls like ours. We were in this pub for two hours, mercilessly plunging cutlery into chicken and chips.
At about 9pm, we hit the road for the mainland. All was going well until we got to the Oworonshoki end of the 3rd mainland bridge. There was traffic all of a sudden at 10pm! Only in Lagos!
As we cussed the annoying traffic under our breaths, we soon came face to face with its cause. There had been an accident which meant four lanes had been reduced to two. A couple of seconds later, we saw people sprawled on the tarmac and bleeding profusely. A man in a white shirt on black pants was lying lifelessly on the road. Women were clutching their legs as they bled and cried. The driver of a danfo bus had his head on the steering wheel—he was motionless. Three cars, including the danfo, were now a crumpled mass of metal.
“Should we park?”, my friend asked in panic.
“Yes, let’s park”, I answered.
We found a parking spot at the end of a long queue of cars and jumped out. We took brisk steps to the accident scene and it was even worse than what we had seen while driving past. About 22 persons urgently needed help and a handful of victims appeared to be on their last breaths.
One after the other, people were whipping out their phones to call the Lagos State help lines. My call went through too; with the lady on the other end of the line assuring me help was on the way and that the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) ambulance vans were now around the corner.
Thankfully, she was right. Fifteen minutes later, two ambulances blared their sirens to the accident scene and began resuscitating some of the victims on the ground and ferrying others to ambulances. My friend and I had blood streaks on our palms as we also helped with administering first aid to the wounded and traumatised.
Everywhere around us, people were wailing and bleeding. The accident had left some 20 persons badly injured. A man had been thrown over the bridge when the danfo ran into a stationary Honda and a Toyota Camry. He was writhing in pain and calling for help from the swampy vegetation below. The occupants of the Honda had parked to change a flat tyre when the danfo rammed into them at top speed, we were told.
A couple of minutes before midnight, Lagos Governor Ambode arrived the scene in a convoy.
“What has been done? Where’s the crane?”, the governor asked the LASEMA personnel and paramedics on the ground.
Someone was filling Governor Ambode in when I whipped out my phone, put the darn gadget on camera mode and zeroed in on Ambode.
He was wearing a striped polo shirt on black jeans and it looked as though he had just emerged from a nite club. He was the picture of cool and hip.
‘Click, click’ went the shutter sound of my smartphone with its accompanying flashlight.
“Who is taking pictures?”, Ambode queried in an angry tone. “Will you stop taking pictures?” He was enraged. He was fuming. He had his index finger pointed at me.
I should have known. Before you could say ‘Pulse’, two of Ambode’s security detail had descended on me.
“Give me that phone….” they ordered.
They didn’t need to ask. One of the security personnel grabbed the phone from my grip and handed it to another before I even had a chance to explain myself.
As cars snaked past, amid the glow from the street lights, I watched helplessly as all the pictures I had taken from the previous week were deleted by the governor’s security personnel.
“I am a journalist”, I finally found the voice to say above the din.
“And so what? Does that give you the right to take the governor’s picture? Because you are a journalist, you think you can take a governor’s picture whenever you want? What have you done to rescue the victims of the accident?", a security personnel lectured. For a moment, he looked like he wanted to hit me so hard with the butt of his gun.
Thankfully, my phone was handed back to me minutes later as Ambode and his men sped off into the night. They had only spent three minutes on the accident scene.
Back to the scene of the accident: the paramedics from LASEMA did a good job of resuscitating the badly wounded and ferrying them to nearby hospitals just after midnight.
My friend and I left the 3rd mainland bridge at exactly 1:30am, chattering about the kind of night we just had.