Fire! Fire!! Fire everywhere!!! Our dear country appears to be screaming. The disaster that has made most headlines this year has been fire incidents in different parts of the country. Let me recount a few starting from the most recent. A few days ago, Daily Trust reported that no fewer than 30 persons, suspected to be vandals died in a pipeline fire at Arepo village, in Ogun State. The preliminary investigation of the Nigerian Police revealed that the fire was sparked off by vandals, who were arguing over who was eligible to fetch from the ruptured pipeline. It was in the heat of the argument that one of them accidentally released a bullet that led to several explosions.
Also within this New Year, a massive fire tore through a waterfront slum in Ebute Metta, Lagos burning down dozens of shack shops and homes; a vessel belonging to MRS Petroleum reportedly exploded and ignited a raging inferno in Tincan Island, Lagos; while a fully loaded petrol tanker lost control, somersaulted around the Ibadan end of Lagos-Ibadan expressway, caught fire and burnt over 17 cars and many other properties. The national headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Abuja also had its own “fair share” of the raging fire, an incident the commission described as “minor”. The Murtala Mohammed International Airport wasn’t spared either. More so, fire recently razed a portion of the royal palace of Alaafin of Oyo as well as a part of the hilltop mansion of our former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in Abeokuta. Fire also presented a cruel New Year ‘gift’ to the residents of Port Harcourt as Ikoku Spare Parts Market and sorounding buildings were razed. There must have been so many other unreported fire incidents, domestic or communal around the country in the last couple of months.
The causes of these fire incidents vary but a common factor that binds them is that they are all related to human activities. Could some of them have been avoided, absolutely yes, particularly the ones related to petrol tankers, pipelines or vessels. Following the havoc petroleum tanker inferno has caused on Nigerians in recent past; one would have expected that a responsible government would take measures to make recurrence extremely difficult. That hasn’t happened. Expectedly, many compatriots would have started praying to possibly ‘bind the spirit of fire’; in addition to that, everyone should also take actions that will make fire incidents almost impossible. The good thing about the various reported fire incidents is that in most of the cases, men of Fire Service responded in good time and quelled the inferno. There were no reports of “no fuel” or “no water” and this suggests that the institution has become more effective.
Furthermore, during the dark days of military dictatorship particularly in the 90s, Nigerian masses thought that the return of democracy will put an end or at least reduce to the barest minimum the sounds of gun fire. Nevertheless, the activities of terrorists, armed robbers, kidnappers and the activities of the men of the police and armed forces who try to curtail the criminals have rather resulted in an upsurge. Nigeria is on fire! Lives are being lost to the activities of terrorists and arguably the armed forces almost on daily basis in the Northeastern part of the country. Kidnappers made sure wealthy residents of the Southeast and South-South sleep with one eye closed, while armed robbers are making life difficult for the residents of Southwest; my friend Tolu Ogunlesi recently survived an attack near his residence in Lagos. Life in Nigeria has become so cheap! A 48 year old herbalist in Kogi State allegedly killed his 4-month old baby for ritual purposes and thankfully was apprehended by Police. The case of the four University of Port Harcourt and over 20 Mubi students are now history. It is shocking that more than 24 hours after a 27 year old physician, Irawo Adamolekun was reportedly shot dead on the streets of Lagos in broad day light; the killer is yet to be apprehended. Unbelievable in a modern world!!
Nigeria is really on fire; every wrong thing in the system is part of the fire. But the question is who quells the raging fire? A proverb says that a man whose house is on fire does not go about chasing rat. Are we doing enough as a people to quell the fire? I don’t think so. I think we are still chasing rats. We are busy playing the blame game instead of uniting to tackle this national challenge. Some people feel the solution is to run out of the country, they do so leaving their loved ones behind some of whom eventually get consumed by the raging fire. For a country like Nigeria with “big government” (apologies to American politicians), most of the solution have to come from the leaders. However, the leadership won’t succeed without the cooperation and support of the followers. Let’s commend our leaders where they’ve done well, criticize them where they are failing and suggest better alternatives. We also have the power to reject the non-performing public officers at the polls.
My main action point for the government is to expand and strengthen the emergency service system without further delay. There is no gainsaying the fact that the leadership must get the system and Nigerians fired up to quell the raging fire without further delay.
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