Pollution Issue: A Split Second Experience With Death

by Sylvester Fadal

The resolution was easy

Ignore everything

Ethical egoism at its best

Everyman for himself and God for us all

Not quite the resolution I expected from myself but that was all that came to mind. All of a sudden, I felt so peaceful.

But here I am nine months later, writing about my spilt second experience with death.

In seconds, there was a pile of darkness created by a strong cloud of smoke. We quickly rolled up the windows to moderate the amount of carbon dioxide around us. It was becoming difficult to breath. In our poor judgment, orchestrated by fear or better yet confusion, we turned on the fan and that only sucked in more of the dangerous fumes outside the car.

We gasped, and started choking.Someone yelled from the back seat,

“Pull over driver.”

“That would not change a thing” the driver responded.

We had to do something fast. It was a two-way freeway. Cars and trucks were zooming by and it was obvious that the driver could neither tell if the cars coming on the opposite side were far nor near. Each time he maneuvers to spy on oncoming traffic, he zoomed right back into his lane.  Breathing was becoming difficult. I started to choke. I placed my water soaked handkerchief over my nose and mouth. The big truck in front of us, discharging all the black, dangerous and contaminated fumes was struggling to ascend the hill and get over the hump. In its efforts, it was maiming the lungs of everyone behind him.

It became obvious that one of us would get unconscious in a matter of seconds.

“You better pull the car over right now” was the voice that emanated from the back seat. The deepness of the voice and the intonation of the speaker without doubt indicated a drastic intent.

The driver in a matter of a split second got into the opposite lane in an effort to overtake the big rig that had no business being on the road.Its tires were worn out, its lights were out and the overall shape of the trailer pictographically reflected a complete nuisance that was only qualified to be in a junkyard.

In our driver’s rush to overtake the trailer, he saw, rather late, an SUV that was zooming down on the opposite side, right at us, at an uncontrollable speed. He had to make an instant decision. His choices were limited. Go straight into the bushes, speed up and hope to get in front of the trailer, or hope that the driver of the SUV coming at us sympathizes and slows down. I gave up. My hope that is. I should have known better was all that crossed my mind.So this is it I thought. What would happen to my family? While these thoughts flashed through my mind, I lost consciousness.

When I regained my focus, we were on the sideline with multitude of people standing over us.

Some were crying, some wailing, some in despair and I could hear lots of murmuring.

Chineke…. which kind nonsense be this? Everyday, new-new accident! A woman with a deep melodious and soothing voice cried out.

Nah OBJ fault I heard someone else say. Another responded saying “Una, make you blame Anenih….na him suppose to be Minister of Works before.”

Who be the new Minister sef someone else asked?

Na government fault o’ jare. Na dem were dey let all these old agbegilodo ply our roads.

I just couldn’t understand the reasoning and lines of discussions. How were these people (Anenih, OBJ, Government) responsible for the action of the driver?

Actually, someone had to take the blame. If all else fails, blame the corrupt politicians or desperate business persons.

Wetin happen someone asked?

A passenger that experienced the entire incident responded with a narration

In a nutshell, in an attempt to overtake the trailer, our car got sideswiped. It went into a spiral and rested on the bushes. That was what saved our lives. The shrub that is. Some were injured. A young gentleman who claimed he was a pastor had a mild concussion. He was in the back seats had no seatbelt on. The law only mandates seatbelts for front passengers.

I was fine. Those without seatbelts had their heads banged all over the car. Thank Jesus we are alive. What now I thought. So this is how it typically ends when a fatal accident happens. No plans, no readiness for death and no goodbyes to loved ones. Who would raise my children? Would they be told I went to Heaven? What of all the hard work and future plans? Would my life insurance really be enough for my family? Perhaps I need to take a new introspective look at my life. Hmmm, where do I start?

I had an option to drive myself or have one of my siblings drive me in a tinted SUV. That would be trouble I was told. The corrupt cops would be all over you. Take a taxi. It would be faster. Due to the overwhelming traffic stops and trigger happy cops that would stoop to any level to ask for bribes and other unnecessary documents especially if they can tell one is not a resident, I was advised to take public transit.

Somehow, in the midst of it all, I realized it was more about those that have died in accidents due to poor driving, bad roads, bad vehicles, over speeding, recycled tires, etc. What of those that died on the long run from fumes and impure air? The air quality in Lagos and other areas of the country is horrible. It is hard to breath. It typically takes me a few days upon arrival in the country to get an itchy throat and voice crack…whatever that is.

Why does the government allow such decay in air quality? Has someone ever tracked the number of death from breathing in the poor, contaminated air? Among all, this is perhaps the least concern for most. In the midst of all complicated issues such as armed robbers, financial struggles, go-slow traffic, poverty, bad roads and all what not, why would someone have to concern his or herself with greenhouse issues?

Is this really a subject of substance I thought to myself? How did a country that was once a joy to be in, dissipate into ruins while gaining increasing financial strength from oil? Is this a state or federal problem? Where do we start in our efforts to address the problems? In the circle of my thoughts, I finally had an answer to all the problems just like the politicians do. How relieved I felt when the answer suddenly jumped out at me. I somehow became internally peaceful after it all.The resolution was easy.

Ignore everything.

Ethical egoism at its best.

Everyman for himself and God for us all.

Not quite the resolution I expected from myself because of my altruistic nature. But that was all that came to mind.

But here I am nine months later, writing about my spilt second experience with death just to bring awareness to the subject of pollution in Nigeria.

Footnote: This is asatire on the subject of pollution.

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