The schoolgirl was hit by a driver who was going a little too fast. Hit-and-run accidents like these are common and they speak to many problems, including our tendency to refuse responsibility when we can avoid it.
I expected the traffic, both of people and vehicles, that I met on my way to work this morning. The combination of Lagos, Monday morning and rain is a recipe for disaster; that’s how a colleague put it in a tweet, and I find very little to disagree with.
I was climbing up the road towards Palmgrove Bus-stop, when I first heard loud cries and saw people running towards a place directly in front of the Conoil Station.
She may have been lost in her thoughts like I was, or perhaps trying to avoid the rain and all the people running from it, had pushed her farther into the road than she should have been. I didn’t see enough of it to know.
What I saw was enough to know this: A young girl in her school uniform, not older than 10, was hit this morning by a speeding vehicle in the service lane along Palmgrove Bus-Stop.
She was trying to cross the road from the foot of the bridge to the bus-stop where she would get a keke to school. The driver that hit her slowed down a little, then he sped away.
Something is wrong with us, I’m very sure of this, I just don’t know what it is.
How else do you explain knowing that you might have just taken the life of a young girl, on her way to school, only to decide to drive away, as if nothing happened?
Anyone who is familiar with the intricacies and culture of Lagos knows that there are largely two phases to any accident; the collision (with the victim) and the driver’s decision (which mostly involves looking in front to see if the road is clear and trying to foresee how much might be incurred in medical bills).
Earlier this year, the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics put out its 2016 Road Transport Data report. Of over 11,363 accidents that occurred across the country, over 33 percent was caused by over-speeding. A fair amount of these were hit-and-run accidents.
In my opinion, what this speaks to, more than anything else, is a lack of responsibility; a tendency to avoid accepting and fulfilling obligations when we can.
It shows in almost every aspect of public life; how we fail to see the correlation between our indiscriminate disposal of waste and our city’s clogged drainage, how we elevate fraudsters to celebrity status and blame young men for embracing crime, how the average Nigerian blames everyone, apart from himself, for his problems.
The only difference when a hit-and-run driver speeds away is that, more often than not, a life is lost.
Because there is usually no immediate collateral damage, we ignore the effect of this behavior on our communities.
A father that has willfully accepted his Yahoo boy son as the family’s breadwinner may accept that his circumstances made him accept crime in his household, but it will be hard to convince him that the 5 new yahoo boys on the street found confidence in his son’s example.
In all fairness, it is easy to see why a driver would choose not to alight from his car to see what he has left in his wake.
Jungle justice is a dark reality that persists all over Nigeria. The reasons are clear to see; most Nigerians have little to no faith in the law enforcement and justice systems.
So when confronted with the possibility that they have someone in their fold who has ‘committed a crime’, the court of the people often gives its form of justice with petrol and old tires.
The only problem is there is very little concern for the truth, emotions always override common sense, and the innocent often get caught up in very tragic circumstances.
The driver at Palmgrove may have seen the crowd that was running towards his car, and fear simply overtook just reasoning.
There are also episodes where drivers have simply fled the scene of accidents, only to claim, when caught, that they were afraid of the medical bills that they would have to pay if they had stayed behind.
It is hard to find a more apt synonym for ‘Selfish’; still, we must face the reality that we live in a society where certain hospitals refuse to provide medical care in cases of emergency until they see the money, literally.
In a better-run country, we would not have these problems, but in Nigeria, health insurance is one of those things that lives and dies in Google Docs and Microsoft Word documents.
What then is the solution? The sad, painful truth is there isn’t one. There is no definite suggestion or government initiative that will solve all our problems.
I could make the case that providing public transport for school children will take them out of the hustle and bustle that characterizes Lagos on Monday morning but adults also get killed in a hit-and-run.
We could contend that cleaning up the bridges and roads around Lagos would ensure easier movement of traffic, but soon as the government got to painting bridges, it became clear that Lagos’ public transport systems are struggling to handle the demand from commuters.
The problem is not simple; so the solution cannot be, by any means.
The best we can do is to be more and demand more from those around us. We need first to understand the ripple effects that every little decision have on us and our communities.
The hit-and-run driver needs to understand that the girl he hit, could so easily be his own child, or him, decades earlier.
Then we need to hold ourselves to better standards of behavior. Only then, can we truly begin to hold those in positions of power accountable and ask the Lagos State Government and Somolu Local Council why danfo drivers use the service lanes like a game of Crash Bandicoot, with little regard for the pedestrians who also use these lanes.
It’s not the end-all, be-all, but it’s a nice starting point.
I don’t know if the young girl made it. As I got closer to the scene of the accident, one of the agberos at the bus-stop lifted her off the ground and ran, presumably, to one of the hospitals or medical centers close-by.
The last I saw, she was unconscious, with many, including myself, praying for her life.
We need to do better. Our irresponsibility is already putting a new generation at risk.
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