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Saturday, April 20, 2019

Vigil @Lagos Third Mainland bridge - ITREALMS

Thursday, April 11, 2019 may have come and gone, but the incidents that made up that day for me cannot be forgotten in a hurry.

Waking up about 5am to prepare for the movement of the corpse of my late cousin, Mrs. Ogbonne Eucharia Akabueze (Nee Nweke) was top on the agenda for the day after she had stayed at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) morgue since Monday of the same week when she passed on after a protracted breast cancer battle.

Her husband could not call me to announce her passage but choose to send me a Short Message via his mobile. I was struggling to clear my desk having been off station the previous week only to return on Thursday and practically unable to be at the office but worked from the apartment on Friday. On Saturday, April 6, I had two visits that must be done.

One was to my long time pal, Ogbeni Goke who took ill while I was away of which I had promised to visit him soon on return even though we had talked on phone, but for the mere fact he was still hospitalised at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), it must be fulfilled, having missed his contributions and daily soft-jokes among other things we had in common.

The second item on my agenda for the weekend was to visit my cousin to get first hand update before our town’s meeting in Lagos in the next 24 hours, of which I am sure some questions will come up as to update and on behalf of the family, check on her.

Yes, it was obvious on my getting to LUTH that Saturday to visit Ogbonne as I used to call her even in our days in the village despite being a first cousin, I never knew her baptismal name, yet she was not looking well, but I was in strong hope God has all it takes to make reversal of any situation for good. So I did not show it. I prayed with her and family at the time including the husband and one of the daughters, Amara. I asked plenty questions especially as to the outline discussed earlier with the husband to get from the medics to enable us write some appeal letters outside the ongoing social media campaign on save “Ogbonne Eucharia Akabueze.”

Thereafter, we met with a matron on duty and I explained the purpose of the letter and we were advised to follow up via the husband on Monday. We went to her bedside to talk more, encouraged Ogbonne to take her medications and assured her that she is not going anywhere else except the medics say so let alone allow her husband to leave her at the hospital. It was a deal and we prayed.

On Sunday, being the first for the month was a hectic ritual and by the time I returned at night, my bed was the best mate. Little did I know that will be my last encounter with Ogbonne as she passed on, Monday afternoon, just a few minutes past 12noon according to SMS from the husband. “Remmy, my wife is gone by 12:20pm.”

That was how I aborted going to the office that day and called up the women leader of our town in Lagos, who also is my spouse to come and invariably pass the message to her colleagues in the Lagos branch of the Awba-Ofemili Development Union (ADU) Women, while I take to ADU Men assembly; all roads lead to LUTH.

Cutting the story short, between Monday and Tuesday, we where at LUTH trying to get clearance so that the town union can do their part of taking her corpse home at Awba-Ofemili in Awka-North Local Government Area of Anambra State. Wednesday was now fixed for a wake keep in her honour at her residence in Ijiru via Agbara-Ogun State, while Thursday of same week will be taking the corpse home with another wake and interment slated for same Thursday night, just as funeral was fixed for Friday.

Back to Thursday, April 11, 2019 after the corpse left LUTH with the delegates from both men and women wings of Lagos ADU, with the kind of headache I had earlier in the morning, I have been scheduled to have a bedrest as approved by madam.

By late afternoon, I woke up to a call that the delegates were approaching Niger bridge head amidst other missed calls, while the ambulance was already home. Then my task-alert showed up that I had “Its your Facebook” event at Artist Foundation in Victoria Island and itching to unwind after a hectic week, I headed to the Facebook evening event.

I had a long age philosophy that if I do not have a car to get me back on standby, I will not attend any late evening or night events. And it came to pass that after the event, my other colleagues advised that we wait till 8:30pm before hitting the roads and that was exactly what we did although I had no company in the car by the time we got to the road, everywhere were still knitted with cars finding their ways home, hence we did not run away from traffic as planned.

I succeeded in getting to Falomo only to envisage that due to the Third Mainland bridge go-slow, its better to add fuel to the car, so I decided to enter via Golden Gate Restaurant to Obalende to get additional fuel at Oando only for me to get there, ‘there was no fuel’. I headed to Obalende roundabout after the traffic along Radio Nigeria, there were a good number of vehicles on queue, and that was how I found myself at Awolowo Road and just before the Fire Service, I stumbled on a filling station, but there was a queue, that is how I decided to just queue and head home afterwards. So, I positioned the car and due to the long queue I put the engine off and that is the beginning of my vigil. The next thing I heard was sound of emptying water on the road, so I jumped out to see all the water in my radiator on the road.

Initially, I did not want to worry about it only to find a place to park and ask the mechanic to pick the car tomorrow morning in my company of course. I thanked God it happened in front of the Fire Service station.

So, I went into the station, asked a young man to help push the car off the road and was told he does not have the authority. And I looked further to see some three probably senior officers on a roundtable. I approached them and introduced myself as a journalist followed by my request to park the car till tomorrow morning which was refused. After volunteering to even declare the car papers with them one of them volunteered to follow me to the car and beckoned on the earlier junior officer to join and push my car off the road and he insisted that it was a mere overheat. I was certain my car can’t do overheat as there is no basis for that sign; I checked it in the morning like every morning no matter how-hasty I needed to move from point A to B and everything was literally perfect in my view.

That is how I spent another 30 to 45 minutes at the Fire Station to enable the car radiator cool before we refiled it with water and it was not leaking, no belt cut, but a little oil spill which I noticed and agreed with the mechanic to pick the car the following day for clear up and change the leaking nozzle.

Whereas waiting for the cooling time to complete, we agreed to use five letter kegs to fetch some fuel and improvise funnel with a used-plastic bottled water, so that once the car starts, I will head home without stopping.

And so it came to pass that I started the engine and it answered affirmatively, I appreciated the young assistant who even had to go under to had a hit on the kick of the Pathfinder SUV before it will come alive.

By this time it was a few minutes past 11pm, while approaching Oworonshoki, I noticed the car acceleration failed and I put on the double pointer and allowed it to roll until it came to a stop. By then I had moved to the last right-lane. Efforts to stop other cars for help was not fruitful because there was no light at the Third Mainland Bridge except for the moving vehicles. So, I spent another 20 minutes there without any help outside praying within me; no Police in sight and no touts too. By the 25th minutes, I tried the start and it responded. I jumped out to close the bonnet and zoomed off and getting to Oworonshoki, it failed again. I managed to park just after the Bus stop. I called my mechanic who assured that it will start after cooling for a while. So I decided to wait for the cooling. Some 30 minutes later, the engine has cooled but could not start, then came this young man who has been parading himself around and who went under to inform that the kick was loose and he needed to tighten same. Done, workman fee was settled, so I sped off only to finish climbing the Oworonshoki-Oshodi link bridge for the accelerator to fail once again. I managed to roll the car with the velocity I took off with down to General Hospital link road to a filling station opposite Mobil.

In an attempt to park the car there, though at service lane saw me approaching those I met at the filling station, a number not less than 50 northern youths were having shelter without any official security in-charge anywhere.

All these while, I have not sighted any Police patrol and it was already past midnight. By this time I have decided to find a towing van or vehicle to just get home and rest but none in sight. As God will have it I tried the start and the car responded and so I zoomed off again but before CityPeople Magazine office or opposite Charley Boy Bus Stop, it failed yet again, this time I had entered the Expressway again.

It was at this point that I saw a taxi who decided to assist after a while, but then, one advanced lanky-youth approached with the longest spanner I have seen so far in his hand and he quickly dismissed the taxi man with the promise he will help. When I asked him where his towing van was, he assured “they” will bring it. He then placed some calls which did not get the driver of a supposed towing van. He also advised that we push the car down to a level where he can cross the road and call the towing van driver by himself who must have been fast asleep.

To this I agreed, but quickly advised that its much better if we can push it back to enter service lane than being on the Express way before he can go and get the supposed towing van. This was welcomed and so we pushed the car back and into the service lane. He picked his long spanner and crossed the road to get his towing van friend, by this time, we had another friend of his who joined.

Both left to get towing van and on a second thought I tried the vehicle and the engine came alive, that was how I sped off again and entered Redemption Street and rolled down to Zinox car park and parked. I went to identify with the security, introducing myself and handed my business card over with hope of picking the car in the morning so as to avoid raising any false alarm when eventually they spot the car.

My thought afterwards was to see if I can get those late night cabs or even Uber to get home, so I walked to the front of UPS Bus Stop. I stood there for over 20 minutes without any cab in view before I saw the lanky tout with his long spanner approaching again and I did a swift u-turn placing my phone on the right ear to depict answering a call until I got to the car, opened it and sat in. There and then only I decided to just sleep in the car despite the company of mosquitoes.

Laying down in the car, what came to mind was that my family has to be informed as I had promised earlier that I was returning before departing Victoria Island venue of the event and the phone line was off. Madam cannot be informed now since she is leading delegation at home in the East for late Ogbonne’s interment, so I sent an SMS to my two brothers, and a brother inlaw, to check on my household first time in the morning, intimating them of my location and situation; then called a neighbour just to inform my family I will see them in the morning without much ado.

After saying my night prayers, I remembered that madam used to leave Odomus, an anti-mosquitoes cream in the car and so, I applied the remain I found and tried to sleep.

Needless telling you how many times I woke up before 5:30am when I called the mechanic with a direction of my location to come and pick the car.

Above all, it was obvious I was actually in solidarity ‘vigil’ with my people at home for our dear cousin, late Ogbonne Eucharia Akabueze. May you rejoice with the Saints.

Good night my dear amiable cousin, Ogbonne!

*A tribute by Remmy Nweke.

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Pix: late Mrs Ogbonne Eucharia Akabueze

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