Posted by By Beifoh Osewele and Henry Chukwurah, Port-Harcourt on
Some of them wore black to reflect the unenviable fate that had befallen them and their loved ones. Some were attired in white.
Some of them wore black to reflect the unenviable fate that had befallen them and their loved ones. Some were attired in white. The colour of dresses notwithstanding, they were all united in grief over the loss of beloved ones in the Sosoliso plane crash at the Port Harcourt International Airport, last Saturday.
Although they had gathered at the scene of the crash for an interdenominational church service, organised in honour of the dead by the Rivers State government, the mourners wept more than they sang songs of worship.
Mrs. Ilabor, the mother who lost three children to the crash, cut a pitiable picture. Armed with the photographs of the children gruesomely snatched from her by death, the woman walked up to the wreckage displaying the pictures for all to see. Standing and staring at the ruins, she sobbed profusely.
At a stage, a bunch of overzealous security men, acting on orders to clear the scene, attempted to pull her away from the wreckage but met a stiff resistance from both the woman and a sympathetic crowd that yelled at them to, “leave her alone.”
At another section of the gathering, a woman, Mrs. C. Ezue, who lost her husband in the tragedy, did more than weeping. The mother of six asked the management of Sosoliso to do the impossible. She wanted her husband back.
“I want my husband. Give me my husband o. I have six children. I don’t want any other thing but my husband. Sosoliso give me my husband,” the widow, who said she is studying abroad, cried. She would also want to know who would pick her bills now that her man was gone.
“Who is going to pay the fees? Who am I going to be telling now, ‘come and take your drugs; come and take Quaker oat? They have killed my husband o”.
The mother of David Okereke, one of the dead students, was unable to hold her grief Overwhelmed and wearied, she was an emotional wreck. She even blamed herself for the misfortune that befell her son.
“He told me he wanted to stay behind for the retreat. He begged me. He begged and begged me to let him stay back. Oh, how I wished I had listened. He begged me, but I didn’t listen, oh, disobedience, you’re worse than witchcraft,” she wept, clinging to Father Marc Roselli, her son’s teacher at Loyola Jesuit College, Abuja, who represented the management of the highbrow school.
She revealed that she had a sort of promotion of the ill-fated plane crash of last Saturday some weeks back.
“During my last visit to David in school, in the bus as I was returning, I dozed off and the next thing I knew was that I started dreaming. I saw an object in the sky, like a saucer, burning and flashing. Then it was followed by an explosion, oh, I didn’t understand the implication of that dream. How I …. I know oh my God, I didn’t understand.”
Apparently to control her, Fr. Roselli, attempted painting a picture of what a nice boy David was. According to him, David was special and gifted. “He had already been tipped to be the leader of his house, Saviour House, as soon as the school resumed in January. He was so special.”
Roselli, while recalling the last moment he had with the children, said: “They were excited that they were going home, but instead of going home to their parents, they have gone home to God.”
But Mrs. Okereke is certain of one thing: If the authorities have been more forthcoming and prompt with rescue operation, the little angel would still be alive.
“He was not burnt. He only had little injury on his head and a fracture on the arm. I’m sure he was trying to jump out, oh my God… my David,” she trailed off and had to be supported by two ladies who supported her off the scene.
And as it was for David’s mother, so it was for sobbing Engr. Declan Nwaji, who came with the passport of his late son. He has a message for his nation.
“Tell the world that this country is rotten. The blood of the innocent kids will begin the process of cleansing for Nigeria.”
In another stanza of grief, a woman, whose identity was unknown, fainted and was carried away just as a bereaved father, Mr. Ajilone, who lost a daughter and a son, rolled on the ground, asking for the bodies of his children.
Even Governor Peter Odili could not mask his emotion as he delivered his brief speech in which he enjoined the grieving families to be strong.
“My prayer is for God to strengthen all of us,” he said.
According to him, “I am a victim like yourself. Rivers State would leave no stone unturned to ensure that within our capacity, we do not go through this again within our own soil.” The governor’s brother-in-law, Barr Okey Nzemwa lost his daughter.
Before then, speaker after speaker had condemned the lackadaisical attitude to aviation safety. Mr. Isaac Okemini who spoke for the family of victims, recalled that in the last 10 years, the nation has witnessed 20 air crashes and wondered why the appropriate authorities continued to pay lip service to the sector. He posed a question to the airline operators: “If you operate in Europe, would you fly the kind of planes you use here?”
Perhaps, what pained him most was the fact that the victims were left for over half an hour without anybody moving a finger to help salvage their lives. He said the crash should serve as a clarion call to everyone, even as he thanked River sState government for providing emergency ambulance services.
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