Bombs on the Third Mainland Bridge
“I hope we do not get stuck in hold up again today. I must be home before my children go to bed. We may decide on an alternative route home if traffic on Third Mainland is heavy.”
That is about all the conversation I would have with my driver before I drift off into another world consisting of my own thoughts. I had finished late at work as usual, having delayed a bit so that the traffic that usually bedevils the Victoria Island – Lagos mainland road is eased. We had set out from the office at about half past six and were gradually cruising through some newly refurbished roads by the Fashola led Lagos government. I have again miscalculated Lagos traffic because here we are stuck in hold-up. But this one is a light one. My gaze drifts to four children heckling in a car next to mine. The oldest could not be more than seven, while the youngest must be two. They have completely drowned their mother’s protest with their own noise in the car. The poor lady has obviously given up as she tries to concentrate on driving and probably trying to figure out what would be for dinner this night.
I try to glance at the dailies I had purchased on my way to work but most of the stories where as usual not encouraging. If it was not a new Boko Haram attack, it would be the latest on a scandal involving top government officials. Nigeria, a nation of one week one scandal. I drop the paper and can see from the back seat of the car that Sunday, my driver, had found an inner city bypass so as to beat traffic on a particular notorious section of the city. But alas, here we are again, held up in Go-slow. Obviously many more people have discovered this same bypass. I think to myself: it may be wiser to just take the main street. The longest distance between two points is a short cut – those words of Tunde Bakare again ring in my ears.
Sunday is now negotiating the overhead bridge that would link us with the Third Mainland Bridge. I heave a sigh of relief when I notice that the traffic on the bridge is moving and I quickly make a mental deduction that I should be home before 8.00pm. Having driven for about three minutes we have again had to slow down to about 30kmph as we drive through another heavy traffic of late home-returnees like myself. I notice the woman with four children again but this time the children have been quietly tamed by nature itself. Every one of them has drifted into sleep and I can see through the AC tight vehicle that she is humming along with some music she is playing in the car. I think to myself this must be the challenge Jola had been having with the children that she would not cease troubling me until I got a driver to take them to and from school. I again thank God for the resources He has made available to take care of my family.
Suddenly we hear a loud bang. I turned around and tried to figure out where the sound may have come from as I peered through the rear glass of the car. “Concentrate on your driving!” I bark out to Sunday, who obviously may have been more alarmed than I. Those words were barely out of my mouth when we heard another bang, this one louder and coming from somewhere in front of us. By this time traffic had come to an abrupt stop. Suddenly I notice the bridge was shaking. At first the shaking was little then later it became more vigorous. Then the shaking stopped. I stepped out of the car, like most people around us and we began to ask ourselves what could be happening. Someone began shouting “bomb! bomb!! bomb!!!…” before we could make any decision on what to do, a series of loud bangs, this time louder than before went off all around us. Instinctively I dive to the ground, shouting on top of my voice at Sunday to do the same. Where I was I could see that many other people had done the same. Unfortunately, the unwise began running… to nowhere in particular. From where I was I saw smoke rising from every part of the bridge. Cars where on fire and people where just screaming all around us. The bridge had began to vibrate again and I felt it might actually be tilting to the side. I raise up my head from where I was lying and indeed the bridge had titled a bit to the right. I stood to my feet and I noticed a deep crevice must have been created on the bridge some 2km in front of us. Some cars heading to the mainland would certainly have dropped into the sea. Not waiting to find out how serious the situation was I turned and beckoned to Sunday (who also was on his feet now) for us to run for the other side of the road that did not seem affected by the explosions. We must be about a kilometer into the bridge. We begin to make our way through the hundreds of abandoned vehicles on the road.
As we ran I noticed the woman with four children trying to get her kids out of the car. I rush at her and pulled open the back seat. I grab the seven year old in the hand and carry another who must be about five. I could see the glance of relief and gratitude on her face. Sunday carries the third child while the woman had the two year old. Some people had tripped over themselves in front of us, so I motioned to Sunday and the woman for us to climb over the divider on the bridge and run on the side of the road where traffic would usually head towards the Island. Due to the commotion on the bridge, traffic had ceased on that side of the road. Many people were doing the same thing and everybody was simply running for dear life.
There was no time to think on what could be happening but it has been well publicized in the media that the Boko Haram terrorist group would be targeting strategic points in southern Nigeria. Was this a bomb attack on the Third Mainland Bridge? There was no time to think of an answer.
We were still well on top of the bridge. The vibration had ceased at this time but my instincts told me that if there had been a series of bomb explosions on the bridge it would only be a matter of time before the whole stretch of bridge collapses into the sea. The thoughts seem to shore up a new supply of adrenaline in my blood stream. Sunday is in front of me running and carrying one of the children of the woman. The seven year old is running beside me, while I am still carrying the five year old. I glance back briefly and saw the woman and her baby scrambling along with us a few steps behind. I can now see the end of the bridge and could only run faster despite the close to 30kg mass on my hands. Suddenly I trip over and the child and I go sprawling on the floor. Sunday rushes to my help, while I scream at the woman to take her children and flee the bridge, since the child I was carrying was not hurt. I try to get to my feet but there is a terrible pain on my right leg. It may be broken. Sunday helps me to my feet and with an arm on his shoulders I begin to half-hop and half-run to safety. The vibration on the bridge has again begun but it is more intense than ever. I look at the commotion behind me and can see that the portion where our car was situated on the bridge had given way into the sea.
The bridge is collapsing!
But thank God we have run to safety. I try to get a corner to sit on but the sight before me was simply incredible. One half of the bridge had, as far as I could see, collapsed into the sea. People could be seen still running to safety but the causality figure of this attack would be running into the hundreds as many people who did not die from the bomb blast, would have drowned in the sea below. In the safe corner that I sat with Sunday at my side, I close my eyes briefly and could feel the hot tears rolling down my cheeks. What sort of country has this nation become?!
I am suddenly jolted out of sleep with the sound of Sunday’s voice.
“Oga, Oga… which way do you want us to take. Third Mainland Bridge or Eko Bridge?”
“Eko Bridge… please”
It made sense to me to take Eko Bridge this evening despite the traffic that we would probably encounter there. This dream did not just come to me to change the direction in which I was driving my car but it is also a timely warning to our political leaders to change the direction in which they are driving the ship of state so as to avert a potential national disaster.
I flip out my palm top and begin to write this story…
– Written by Deji Yesufu
This article was first published in my now defunct blog yesufu.blogspot.com in 2013.