By Adedoyin Adedeji
On September 29, 2023, five students of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology(LAUTECH), Osun state including the driver who drove the vehicle, were burnt to death in a road accident near Ojutu Bridge, Ilobu. Also, on October 1, no fewer than eight people lost their lives in an accident that happened on the Ologbo Bridge, Benin/Sapele Expressway, Delta State. The report read that they were burnt beyond recognition. Several other incidents that sent cold chills down one’s spine have happened recently.
Many people believed that they happened due to the factors and forces surrounding “ember months.”
The notion of negativity during the last quarter of the year called “ember months” dates back to ancient times and the myths around them are specific to Nigeria. These months have the suffix “ember” and they include September, October, November and December.
Ember months, unlike other months of the year, have more festivities, a reason for the increase in the hustle and bustle. Aside the festivities of Christmas and New Year, a lot of activities such as marriages, anniversaries, dedications, religious conventions and end-of-the-year parties are scheduled for that period. These activities are usually accompanied by joy and happiness, but instead of looking forward to the good tidings that the ember months bear, for many people, the negativity attached to these months is a cause for concern.
Nigerians believe that the ember months are accompanied by depravities, an increase in crime rate, death toll and most especially road accidents, forgetting that the quest to meet up with the resolutions they must have made at the beginning of the year made ember months what they are.
Ember months of mysteries; these mysteries have eaten so deep into the minds of Nigerians that various religious groups leverage on them and organize special prayer sessions to ward off the evils in the months. Prayers for the land to consume more water than blood are offered.
As this part of the year rolls in, they become more anxious, competitive and materialistic. At this stage, it dawns on them if they made losses or profits for the year, but ember months like every other month require proper planning.
At the beginning of each year, people set specific goals which they intend to have achieved before the year runs to an end. These goals sometimes can be referred to as inordinate ambitions because they can’t be achieved within a year, let alone in three months.
Individuals try to meet up with targets and deadlines. The thoughts of the family gatherings held at their villages at the end of the year make them very competitive. It is usually a gathering of who has got more gifts for the elders. Whose car is the most expensive? And whose attire is more beautiful?
What happens when ember months approach? The race to achieve these goals increases without proper planning, and some people don’t mind achieving their goals illegally.
This period presents an opportunity for organisations such as the National Orientation Agency(NOA), the Federal Road Safety Corps and the Federal Fire Service of Nigeria to take bold steps in educating and raising awareness about superstitions, fears associated with the ember months and safety measures that should be obeyed.
Ember period is a season when drivers feel the need to “double their hustle” conveying as many passengers as possible, flouting traffic rules and forgetting to put their vehicles in good mechanical condition.
In an interview with The Hope, a motorcyclist, Mr Bright Frank, stated that “Ember period is a very unique period. It is a festive period when people need money to buy things. The expectations of people are so high and they will be looking for means to get money to prepare for Christmas, to be precise. At the end of the year, people want to build their houses, some others are trying to continue their projects and also trying to bring these projects to a place where they can count their achievements for the year. They will be running to see how they can meet up. It is a very busy period.”
He went further to advise his fellow motorcyclists that they should keep calm and not be in a rush while driving, and they should not allow the period to affect whatever they are doing. He added that security agencies should keep educating people. They should be up and doing and the government should fix the bad roads.
Year in and year out, the Federal Road Safety Corp organises campaigns educating drivers and passengers alike about obeying traffic rules. Earlier this year, the Federal Road Safety Corps Spokesperson, Bisi Kazeem, revealed that the period witnesses an increase in travels across the country with more vehicles on the road. He also blamed Road Accident Collisions(RTCs) on night trips, fatigue, excess speed and poor vehicle maintenance. However, he added that increasing road accidents in the county are not peculiar to ember months.
In another report, drug abuse by drivers, indiscriminate parking, wrong overtaking and traders displaying their wares on the road also contribute to road accidents.
Mr Segun Habib Rasaki, a driver in Oba-ile Akure, while speaking note that during ember months people travel to celebrate with their families and it invariably increases traffic. Everywhere is always jam-packed and due to the increase,, all the agencies are probably overwhelmed.”
Advising Nigerians, he added that the number one thing is to obey traffic rules. “I will implore security agencies to do their work diligently. That would solve the problem to an extent.”
Some other peculiarities of the ember months are the dry wind, low humidity, and fluctuations in temperature brought by harmattan haze. Worse still, the dry conditions of the harmattan season supports fire outbreak, making everything susceptible to fire.
In recent events, houses, offices, factories and even markets housing goods worth millions have gutted fire with the owners of such properties left in debt. Fire incidents are like a chain reaction happening all over the country, but good safety measures help to save the situation.
Speaking with The Hope, Jesutoni Adedayo, a fire officer, shared her take on the ember months and the mysteries attached to them. In her words “This particular year, we are still in the rainy season and right now we don’t have much of fire outbreaks but we have rescued people from erosions. I don’t believe in mystery. As a science student, there is no way to explain mysteries but these unfortunate incidents can be attributed to people’s carelessness.”
“During this period, people travel to meet their loved ones and they are always in a hurry. Particularly, last year we had about five fire outbreaks on the same day and we had to go to all these places. I believe people are overjoyous. For example, some went to church and they left the gas burning and it led to a fire outbreak.”
As a fire officer, no matter how hurried I am, I make sure I double check my gas and electric appliances to make sure they are all switched off. But in people’s ignorance and negligence, they don’t do that. They live a carefree life.”
Speaking about the role the fire agency plays in the ember months, she said “In the Federal Fire Service, we tell them what to do when there is a fire outbreak. They need to be aware of the danger of fire. They need to be sensitised. We started sensitization about fire in 2016 and the rate at which we receive fire calls has reduced. In the past, we used to receive five to ten fire calls in a day but now, the numbers are minimal. We tell people what not to do, what to do and how to do them. We give instructions like when it is raining before the dry season sets in, drivers should park their cars and you should be very careful while driving.”
Apart from what she said before, she added some rescue and safety tips for any dangerous situation. “if you are in a situation whereby your house is on fire, do not panick and do not cause others to panick. Leave the building, raise the alarm so that people will be aware, take a role call(Are your children out already? Is every one of your siblings out already?), call the fire service, and if there is anything you can do before the fire service arrives, you should do it.”
“If it is a rescue situation whereby you are trapped in a building or vehicle, you still don’t have to panick. If your phone is within your reach, you should pick it up and call the fire service. I advise that it is important to save the fire service number as one of your emergency lines for easy contact. In addition, if you are trapped in water(erosion) if you can reach your phone it is good but if not, try to find your way out to the surface and the only skill is not to swallow water. If you are a skilled swimmer, find your way out. Most importantly, Be safety conscious! Safety first! Save your life first!”.
Adedoyin is a corps member serving with The Hope