It is not often that one happens to personally know the survivor of an accident not to talk of the survivor of a deadly plane crash. There is hardly anybody surviving plane crashes these days, anyway. But to open the papers and see the face of an acquaintance being declared as a survivor of a crashed plane is the most inspiring of events. The thought of knowing someone in a crashed plane is saddening though.
When I heard that the Sultan Maccido was in the ill-fated ADC crash, I screamed. I had been aroused from deep slumber on Sunday afternoon in my lodge in Accra, Ghana by a colleague who was following the news on TV. I have a long standing affiliation with the Sokoto people. I was born in and spent the first five years of my life living in the old Sokoto state. Little wonder I tell people that the blood of the Sultanate runs in my veins as my umbilical cord was buried in that land. And I was reunited with my “roots” when I was posted to Zamfara for my service year. It was like homecoming for me at a time when most of my co-travellers were screaming blue murder. It was a great time for re-learning the culture and the language.
It came as a great surprise to me when I was told the Sultan had died in the crash, along with his son and grand son. It is the sort of script that great tragic stories come from. I sympathise with the Sultanate and all the other families that lost loved ones in the crash. It is one crash too many at a time when we just experienced a crash about a month ago. It seems the fear of flying in Nigeria now is the beginning of wisdom.
But out of this tragedy comes a great survival story to which I personally know the character involved. Like I said earlier, it is not often that you get to know someone who survived a fatal road accident not to talk of an air crash. But this time around I can testify to knowing one. When I learnt about the details of the crash, I immediately sent an email to my elder sister asking her to confirm if there’s no family/friend involved. It won’t be until Thursday that I’d read on the pages of The Guardian along with a front page picture on THISDAY that a friend of mine from the university survived the crash. The emotion that overwhelmed me is indescribable. I screamed in the office to my colleagues calling them to come and see what I had just seen. It reminds me of that song “…my eyes have seen the Lord…”
I got to know Miss Esther Jeyibo when I was in my third year at Ife. Her elder brother, Robert had been my friend since my first year and we had shared the same bed space in year two. She entered for a science course then and had quickly become like a kid sister to all of us guys in the room. We were about six in my room and every one would take their time to check on her every night during our usual tour in search of jambites at Mozambique Hall. And if we met any guy at her bed space we quickly relayed a message to Robbie that guys had been troubling his sister. It is a natural thing for elder brothers to want to protect their younger sister from predatory guys. And we all felt like she was our kid sister then.
By the time I left Ife, she was in her third year. I haven’t heard much from her since. The last news I heard about her was in September when I had an online chat with Robert. I asked after her and was told that she was in Sokoto State for NYSC. I was amazed that she was already out of school. I wondered how time flew without us knowing. That was the last I heard until I saw her picture on Thursday on the cover of THISDAY; she hugging her parents in what seemed like an “I’ll-never-let-you-go-again” hug. I am, to say the least, very happy with the Jeyibo family on such a wonderful occasion as this. I thank God Almighty for delivering her out of the clutches of death at midday. Her life will be an inspiration to many other people.
If we were to be in a country like the USA, I know Esther would have become an instant celebrity as she would be asked to appear on TV shows like Oprah, etc. She would be made to relive those very trying moments when she ran back to get her handbag. And the question on people’s lips would be, “why would you go back for your handbag in such a crazy situation?” But that is one of the things that life is made up of. While some people are wishing that they just had their loved ones back home, even if without limbs or sight, someone went to get their hand bag. What were they thinking of? Make up? Funny but that’s life’s script for you. And Esther and her family would become rich by being paid to grant interviews. She would become a hero(ine) to all. She would even be asked to write a book about it. It won’t be a surprise if HarperCollins or one of the big publishing houses already splashed so much money for the ‘exclusive’. And it wont be an understatement to say that the aviation officials would have started turning in resignation letters citing poor performance.
But in a country such as ours, she would be interviewed by one or two reporters and that’s it. After receiving some family and friends at home, life would go back to normal. Plus I must say the usual thanksgiving service in church. And then all would die down. That’s until another one of those metallic birds fall out of the sky again. And then we replay the script over, with the government planning reforms for the umpteenth time. Then the aviation minister would accuse the elements of causing havoc. He would never think of resigning his post for constant failure. We seem never to learn anything.
I rejoice with you, Esther. You surely do have a date with the King as your name implies.