Published On: Thu, Aug 15th, 2013

Lagos NUJ Chairman Narrates How He Survived the Accident Which Killed His Three Colleagues

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Chairman of Lagos State NUJ, Deji Elumoye,

Recuperating chairman of Lagos State NUJ, Deji Elumoye, in this interview with AKIN ADEWAKUN, recounts his experience of the August 2 auto accident that claimed the lives of three members of the union, saying that the mishap could have been avoided if attention had been paid to the state of the nation’s roads. Excerpts:
How did it really happen?
We went to Abuja for a meeting at the instance of the national secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ). The federal national secretariat invited federated chapels, media houses owned by the federal government such as the Voice of Nigeria, Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) and chairmen and secretaries of councils, to come to Abuja over some issues that had to do with the non-remittance of their dues for close to two years. They claimed dues meant for NUJ in some government-owned media houses were being remitted to the RATTAWU, and that shouldn’t be. And each delegation was to be led by chairmen and secretaries of councils. We went on Wednesday, had the meeting in Abuja on Thursday and left for Lagos Friday morning as early as 7.30am. In all, 10 of us set out from Lagos, and three other members from Oyo State chapter joined us, making 13 in a 14-seater bus. It was a smooth ride up to Ilesha. Shortly before we left Ilesha, that is Ilesha-Akure road, we were just descending a hill when we realised that our rear tyre was gone. The driver tried to maneuvre the vehicle, and in the course of doing that, we discovered that there were some potholes. In the process of avoiding those potholes, he lost control of the vehicle. The vehicle somersaulted several times, ran into the bush before coming to a halt. A very big Iroko tree stopped the vehicle. I was sitting in front, alongside the driver. We had our seat belts on, but our colleagues, 11 others who were seated at the back, didn’t use their seat belts. Some were flung out before the vehicle finally came to a halt, which accounted for why we had casualty figure as high as three, as some hit their heads against the tree. But those of us who were held by the seat belt sustained injuries and others too. So we lost three of our dedicated members, two from Lagos and one from Oyo NUJ.
Why didn’t you go by air?
I believe anything that will happen will surely happen, though nobody prays for any eventuality. Unfortunately, we even discovered that we could not afford the return trip by air; hence our decision to go by road. Professional dues are not being paid, so how do we fund some of these trips, except for us to use our goodwill or spend our personal money? That brings us to the issue of the network of roads in Nigeria. Most of the roads in the country are very bad, and mind you, more than two-thirds of the roads in Nigeria belong to the federal government, 33, 000 kilometres of roads across the 36 states and Abuja belong to the federal government. But how well are these roads maintained? If the potholes had not been there, the driver would not have applied the brake and maybe the vehicle would have eventually stopped by itself. But the roads are bad.
Government needs to wake up to its responsibility and work on some of these roads, especially those ones that carry a lot of traffic.
Did you in anyway have any premonition about this accident?
No. Before we embarked on the journey, we had our prayers as usual. Our practice has always been to put God first in anything we want to do, and that was what we did that day as we embarked on the journey.
Why not restructure the workings of the body (NUJ) to incorporate technology, so that there will be less of these physical meetings?
It is a good one but you may not necessarily get the kind of result you will want. For that meeting we went for, we started around 9am and didn’t finish till 4pm. So if you say you want to have a virtual meeting for like five good hours, are you likely to get the result that you want or the kind of clarification that you want? It is like asking the president to just sit in Aso Rock and hold such a meeting with the governors. It will not give them the necessary result that they want.
What lesson has this sad incident taught you?

It taught me that we should be good and do good always, because you don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Okonkwo and two others have died and left us now. They never knew they were going to leave so soon. So, in the course of interacting with your fellow human beings try and be nice because it is what you do when you are alive that people will talk about when you have left.

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