By Bayo Fasunwon
The first of the ’ember’ months is passed. Now, we are in the second of the four months which Nigerians have superstitiously accepted as the period for esoteric forces to renew their covenants, and therefore replenish their blood banks. Many have come to accept that road carnages, leading to loss of many lives are expected to escalate during these ’ember’ months. Basing their conclusions from inferences drawn from self-confessed witches, testimonies from religious institutions, observations and frequency of occurrence, it seems logical to accept these metaphysical based conclusions.
The solution against these accidents, traditionalists have believed lies in the appeasement of the gods. Amongst the Yoruba, States, communities and persons should consciously appease the deity of Ogun, the god of iron. Ogun is the deity that water at home but relishes in using human blood for his bath. Therefore, those who do not wish for blood spills need to sacrifice dogs, in replacement for human lives. For those averse to the worship of idols, various programmes are held in Churches with various themes such as ‘My blood is not for Witches’, ‘Arresting ‘Ember’ Life Wasters’, ‘War against Eaters of Flesh and Drinkers of blood’, and so many like that. During these programmes, there are always testimonies of divine protection and deliverances from road accidents. Are these deliverances coincidental or answers to prayers?
For the officers of the Federal Road and Safety Corps, there is no uniqueness about the ’ember’ months. To them, all months are the same, only that in these months the Nigerian roads provide more services to more road users, and hence traffic is usually at a higher frequency. The increase in traffic they submitted was due to the act that more festivities are attached to these periods, and such demands that many people would travel. Furthermore, it is also the period of increased business trips.
Therefore, suppliers and retailers are always on the road to stock their shops and also involve in more business deals in order to close the year with tangible profits. Furthermore, the months represent the last quarter of the year. Hence the frenzy for ‘ending the year well’ also promote increased road usage. However, and unfortunately too, FRSC observed that in these months, in order to achieve set goals, motorists are often in haste, seeking to get to their destinations in the shortest possible time.
These unrestrained desires lead to travelling at high speeds, dangerous overtaking and neglect of warning signs on the road. The end result is fatal and at times, mercifully, ghastly road accidents. The solution to this is reduced speed, use of speed limits in vehicles, getting enough sleep, avoidance of stimulants, abstinence from night travels, resisting temptations of dangerous overdriving, use of safety belts and non-use of mobile devices while driving.
Personal observation and words from road users reveal that the roads in ’ember’ months are worse than other months. Worse in the sense that the roads have been subjected to misuse and are therefore ‘ruptured’. Many overloaded trucks would have in the midst of the year destroyed even newly constructed road making them death traps at the onset and during the ’ember’ months. Our constructed roads without drainage have led to roads been eroded causing carnage. Sometimes we notice that many contractors do shoddy jobs thereby giving us roads that cannot last during the rainy, and unfortunately (even dry seasons). Added to these are bridges washed away during the rains; pot holes created by sunk sands, water puddles, riots and activities of men of the underworld. All these also make familiar roads become unfamiliar during the ’ember’ months and become death traps to unwary travelers. Unfortunately, some ‘law enforcement’ agents who mount roadblocks on the roads, and communities who self-construct ‘bumps’ have also contributed to accidents.
More profound are these contributions to phenomena due to the fact that these illegalities are increased during ’ember’ months for wealth creation or ‘safety’. Government at all levels would do well to expedite repair works on most of our roads at this time. Many unfinished repairs have also contributed immensely to road fatalities. What is worth doing at all, is worth doing well, and must be accomplished without a divided attention.
Statistics have shown that road crashes tend to reduce in one of the ember months, and then increase in the other. But ultimately, it increases more in December. Therefore, there is a strong correlation between festivities and increased road crashes for the months of January and December. In the last eight years, the ’ember’ months have contributed to more than 30% of road crashes. Further enquiries have also revealed that January and December are the worst months in road mishaps, Unfortunately, many lives have been lost and destinies truncated due to these avoidable incidents. Many have become lifetime beggars, while many have had to drop out of schools because their benefactors have been translated by ’ember’ accidents.
It is these gory realities that we need to support the operational strategy of the FRSC for better traffic management and control, as well as to prevent road accidents and fatalities. We all need to support the theme of the season, which is: “Maintain Safe Speed, Avoid Night Travels and Enjoy Quality Road Experience.” As vehicle drivers, we need to heed the call of maintaining safe speed, which is speed less than 101 kilometre per hour.
For us to achieve this, we need to leave our location on time so as to get to our destination in time. High speed endangers, intoxicates, hinders control and eventually kills. As commuters, we need to educate our drivers on this mantra, and that the road safety officers are not enemies, but friends in uniforms. We should desist from urging our drivers to press hard on the accelerator in order to get ‘home quick’. Remember, slow and steady win the race.
It is a good thing that the distinguished members of Legislature want fire fighting services provided along our roads. It would also be beneficial if some health centres are also constructed so as to give first aid to accident victims, many of which die due to delayed or lack of medical facilities. If not for security issues, one could also have pushed for the erection of makeshift offices with conveniences and security for officers so as to enable to function and give quick responses to accident victims at whatever time of the day.
Nigeria is not a perfect and developed State, so self-preservation is the best form of preservation for now. As this ’ember’ months progress let us preserve ourselves. Drivers avoid alcohol, rest when needed, avoid over speeding and dangerous overtaking, be alert, read road signs and use your seat belts. Maintain water, fire extinguishers, c-caution, first aid box and others in your vehicles. Above all, ensure your vehicle papers are up to date, and most especially be a certified driver. May the God of all months, the giver and preserver of life and properties keep us and all that belong to us safe in these ’ember’ months. Our blood shall not be spilled, neither shall our bones be broken, nor our flesh mangled in wreckages.