I am still in a state of shock, whether to believe or not to believe. It was just like yesterday, men and woman, friends, families and colleagues, people with whom we ate together, laughed and when need be, cried together, are no more...I
have cried my heart out, have had to put my phone off on occasions, as friends and family have been calling to find out if what really happened, if I was part of the accident, who are the victims and such questions.
Their faces are still fresh in my memory. What kind of accident, with the exception of now, late Isaac of the Nation Newspapers, all the others had various degrees of head injuries. I could barely recognize Musa Nuhu of NAN, his face was battered, better still smashed, we later learnt that the car or was it the tyre climbed his head...
Judith Adama of New Nigeria Newspapers, only weeks back was in my house, she had just come back from Jerusalem and I was teasing her as a JP, she gave me a cap and two little shirts for my baby Amir.
As the news trickled in, it was just like a dream, and even now, it still is. I had spoken with Emmanuel Adenoyi of AIT/Raypower that morning; he just married only a month ago, I was to be on the local radio to discuss on the political programme which he hosts.
On confirming that I wont be part of the trip, he asked that I be at the studio, and we joked on phone, exchanged banters, I even recalled teasing him that he needed a honeymoon considering his fresh marriage, so he should come to us 'veterans' for tutorials. Little did I know that this was going to be last of such conversation?
He actually died wearing the tie and dye material that was part of his wedding wardrobe with his wife...what more could be painful...?
Moses Ezulike was my friend, a comrade, a veteran of over a decade with the pen, like Judith he had put close to 20 years, so they were elders. He was with the Champion Newspapers. Why did it have to be him? He had an accident some five years ago, broke his leg, ribs, but then he came out of it. That accident was on an official duty for the NUJ/Correspondent Chapel.
Again, he was stoned at one LGA when on an entourage with the same Dariye, I recall I was at that particular trip, our window was shattered, just minor injuries...but now it is all over, and Moses is dead. How could we tell the wife, the kids, how?
Isaac had also just come back from Israel, we had an intense discuss on religious divide, Muslim/Christian relationship, and he was a jolly good fellow. I saw him last at the government house with a Jerusalem neck cloth, oh Isaac!
Who will console his wife, his kids, where do they go from here? We were quite close especially during my Newswatch days; he was friend, family and colleague with Dan Agbese, then, my own Oga.
And it is with tears I talk about James Avre Chiwo of Leadership, first I have an attachment with Leadership, as a columnist and Correspondent at large, but far from that it was very close. I was the Master of Ceremonies at his wedding, three years back, and after the wedding the wife relocated to Lafia in Nassarawa, and lately many of us of the 'married club' kept disturbing him on the need for his wife to be with him in Jos, and sadly he listened to us.
His wife joined him only a week earlier, now she is a widow with a husband to bury, what kind of sorry do we tell her...My dear friend Chiwo.
Chiwo had practiced this pen pushing job for over 20 years, right from the good old days when Standard Newspapers was indeed STANDARD. He was a fine gentleman, he was a friend. What could I say now?
I see Musa, he was a clown, I often called him the bushman from Minna, he would wear a white shoe on blue trousers, and a purple wristwatch, we... (Saa, myself, Eunice) called him "our Musa". At Forty Musa was a baby, a very big baby with no troubles. He enjoyed so much watching me mimic Igbos and their accent that he would just come over to Radio Nigeria office when I was there for a doze of jokes, with fried yam, stew with meat or without.
How about Judith, we all at teased her because she was motherly to a fault as far as tears were concerned. Ready to cry at the slightest push, sometimes just carrying her in my car on a five meter journey she screams when she looks at the speed meter...Now who will cry for Judith?
Her best friend, incidentally Mariam Aleshiloye-Agboola another veteran with the Sun Newspapers was in far away Ilorin mourning her father. the Late Alesh as he was fondly called, was Obasanjo's press Secretary in 1976...Who will console Mariam? Either way, if not for fate, Mariam would have been part of the Journey, or her not wanting to go, would have been as good as Judith never going...
Too late for 'ifs'. Judith was a true friend, we would sit and talk, we would share experiences together, I was, if not the only, with the exception of her husband and maybe female friends who could put my hands into her handbag and pick money. When my dog littered she was the only colleague I gave a puppy some six years ago, and somehow today I have the grand puppies of that particular dog, I just stare at them these days and wonder how cruel can life be?
I remember many times I would just go down to her office and say Judith take this N1000 or N2000, I have plenty money, but when I am broke remember that this must have built a lot of interest plus the capital...we shared our moments as colleagues.
Chiwo, Moses, Isaac, even Judith could have survived but for the lack of instant Medicare, they died in the theatre we hear, Emma's skull was broken, a part was not even there, it was a gory sight. How do we replace the irreplaceable, amongst then was over five decades of reporting. With their deaths one is forced to ask is it really worth it?
None of these gentlemen and lady earned a N35,000 basic salary. It was a very difficult life they lived; most times the honorarium was more than the take home pay. Almost like the Police, objectivity and personal opinion, gratification was always on the scale.
But for slave-masters called Publishers, they could have been alive because rather than the nonsense of a government bus, each of them would have had an official vehicle specifically for such journeys with personal drivers. But that was and remained a mirage; they never lived to see their profession elevated to that status. If not for the selfish egocentric demanding editors that think you can be in five places at the same, the story may have been different. Though in all things we give thanks to the Almighty, but this is difficult.
The accident occurred because one of the tyre was bad...imagine a government house car tyre being bad. The driver would not listen that they should pump air into the tyre, he continued driving above speed limits, he was cautioned but he would not hear nor listen. Infact from narratives of the survivors it was a case of the more he was cautioned, he seemed to increase the speed more. He nearly killed military personnel on motorcycle when they were on the first leg of the journey.
This driver was old, he was past 60, he was merely an errand driver but because an irresponsible government would not pay its workers, there was shortage on the team of entourage drivers, and so he was co-opted. Government drivers, they hardly know how to die because there is pension and gratuity, sadly the driver, whose foolhardy made him a messenger of death equally died, he actually died on the spot with no bodily injury.
I hate this profession now as I grief, why did my colleagues have to die for a thief, a man that has been associated with everything that is bad, I like the person of Dariye but as an administrator, he turned out a failure, a crook, and too many unprintable words. The projects he was going to commission were fake, false, non existent, and I challenge anybody to prove me wrong.
This was a man that was going to commission a government house church twice, a man that had 135 personal housing properties in Jos alone, a man that escaped bail...my colleagues and I were only eager to be at the event because of the man's running mouth, and the fact that as he had planned to 'run'. As such that may have been his last assignment, but for Judith, Isaac, Moses, Chiwo, Musa, Emma, and an NTA Cameraman that was their last assignment.
Somehow, for a group of professionals numbering over fifty in a State, we had each talked with one of, in some cases all of the deceased in the last 12 hours leading to their death. Judith called Maureen another colleague to find out if the 'proposed' impeachment of Dariye was going to happen, she made that call at about 35 minutes to 3.00pm.
The accident occurred a little over thirty minutes later. How sad, we especially in Africa never wish people dead, but now I say it with venom, and very few people that know the Dariye we know would have wished Governor Dariye dead and I mean no offense, but this is exactly how I feel.
My office was in the same complex with the late Judith, funny how life can be, now I use the word late, Moses' office, was two houses away, Musa's office was two minutes drive away, and the AIT house was just opposite, being the tallest building in Jos, it was always there in the skyline from my office. Death has cheated us, but Allah knows best.
Let me also seize this opportunity to say that many of us would have been them or gone with them, Dogo, of National Mirror was chased, they claimed his paper was not part of the accredited list, he argued but to no avail, Jude of the Punch was let inside after a long argument, but choose to come down at the government house junction just on the flimsy excuse that his spirit was not settled for the journey. Incidentally Dogo who was to replace him had gone, both men beat fate.
Saa, friend and colleague with FRCN could not make it, her name was on the original list, but because of an earlier appointment with Professor Dakum Shown former Governor Board of NIPSS, and that her father also a veteran Journalist, Al-Bashir one time President of the Guild of Editors was to be in town. These events combined to save her.
I refused to go because the notice was short and did not see what in hell the man was going to commission, besides I had made no alternative arrangement for my kid's school runs for that day and I was not on the list. Aminu Kogi of the NEWS was told not to bother because only ten journalists were made provision for.
While Okechukwu Anakudo was to rush to Bauchi and back so we somehow cheated death. We certainly were not any better but if we could turn back the hands of time, we all did have wished that this assignment was one that never was.
The Kogi Chief, Audu of Daily Independent Newspapers, a reporter with a State paper Reality, Solo a government house information unit staff, Agada of Raypower, Andrew of Trust Newspapers, Seriki of Thisday, Aminu VON all survived with various degrees of injuries, they did not conquer death, it was only the mercies of the Almighty Allah, and may such mercies continue.
As I write this, the Dariye of a man has not even personally said anything, rather all we have is a terse press statement signed by his SSG. Sure we cannot even talk of him visiting these families, he will be mobbed, even if he was not to be, he still cannot as he may be planning his escape route now. Yes, it may not be his fault, but who else do we fault, if not him?
Now, it has happened, I say on a last note Allah wills, without Him nothing happens. The onions of action is on us to build a legacy of accurate reportage, balanced news-writing, imbibe the ethics of the pen, come together in our grief, for them and many common people who sacrifice their lives so that this nation may have a future.
Let this not just be promises to the families of the deceased that we would not keep like as is always the case, as for me my pen will never cease writing against injustice, I will continually fight for equity, fairness, good governance and responsive leadership.
May the Almighty Allah Help their soul find rest, adieu my friends, my brothers, sister, colleagues and family and to us that they have been left behind may we find the fortitude to bear the loss and strength to carry on.
How Governor Dariye Killed My Colleagues... (Seven Journalists Dead In Jos)
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Osondu Onoh Maryland, 20910, USA May 21, 2007
How did Dariye kill them? You have just written a very emotional story about the loss of human lives and properties, but I still did not find any connection with your headline.
If the blame for Dariye was that he did not fix the tyres or did not pay a young drive to make the trip, then we are going into absurdity.
With every respect my dear Mr Dickson. I do not know why you think Dariye should be held responsible. I think it was just an unfortunate incident as you have also acknowledged.
Let me also use this opportunity to extend my heartfelt condolence to the families and friends of the victims. May God give them the strength to bear their loss, Amen. And may the souls of all the victims rest in peace with the lord, Amen.
Larry Ade Cincinnati, Ohio, USA May 20, 2007
This is sad! sad!! and saaaaaaaaad!!!. Another generation of waste. As I was reading this article, I could feel how Prince Charles Dickson is feeling. Accept my condolence Charles and may the good Lord give you the strength to bear the loss of these great guys and lady.
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