When Wiwi as he is fondly called, one of the best footballers in my area then, joined the crowd who fled their homes for the safety of their lives on that ‘black Sunday’, he never knew he would never return home, he was one of those people who died in the swamp at Oke-afa in Isolo on January 27th 2002.On that particular Sunday, January 27th 2002 (I was in JSS1 then); I had gone to church to worship with other members of my family, excluding my father who went to the office. The day was suppose to be a special Sunday, because it was the last Sunday in the first month of the year, I could not afford to miss service that day, because I was also a chorister in my parish. That day I had a wonderful moment in God’s presence.
But around 6pm on that Sunday, we were about 10 in a neighbour's room (Baba Gabriel) at 31, Adekunle Street, Oshodi, Lagos, we were watching Issakaba part4 (hope u still remember that movie). Suddenly we heard a heavy sound, someone said 'awon ologbo yen tun ti bere kon ma sare kiri lori pan' (those cats have started running on the roof again), because we are used to cats running on the roof, unknown to us it wasn’t the cats making the sound that evening, it was the sound of a bomb. Before that day I’ve never heard the sound of a bomb before except in Rambo, commando and Van Damme’s movie.Five minutes later we heard other sounds repeatedly, we all ran out of the room to know what was happening, we were so worried about knowing what was going on, as we stood outside the house, we saw flames and fire in the sky at a not too far distance.
About 30minutes later while we were still standing in front of my house, we saw people fled their homes in their hundreds, most of them live very close to the Military Cantonment at Bolade Junction in Oshodi, they yelled at us as they were running “you people are still waiting, you better run for your lives, the cantonment is already burning and very soon it will get here.”I started shaking with my heart in my mouth, one of my brothers, Metro as he is fondly called said “it must be Cameroun waging war against Nigeria, they said it and they are fulfilling it, it’s because of the bakassi peninsula, that’s why they are waging war against Nigeria, can you see (pointing to the sky) it is bomb they are throwing it, they must have gotten to the airport (which is not too far from our house).’
In less than 30minutes, the streets of Oshodi was filled to brim, people have fled their homes, they are running for their dear lives, my mother quickly fasten my younger sister to her back, Elizabeth who was just about 4years old then. She took me and my elder sister Tope, but the two other bros believe they can take care of their selves, we also flee our house with other neighbours, to safe our lives.As we moved out, we didn’t have a specific destination, we just headed the same way the crowd were headed, the sound was becoming heavier and unbearable, even able men ran for their dear lives, cars were left on the street with their keys, GSM phone which was just introduced to Nigeria then littered the streets of Oshodi, that day could have been a very good day for someone who has been dreaming to own a car, or a GSM phone to be a pride owner of one of these valuables, but many never thought of this, as everybody were just running for their lives.
Our first stop-over was at a CAC church, where one of our neighbours attend, as we were inside the church, still not comfortable because the sound of the bomb just broke the ceiling of the church when we got there, my mother said lets go, I started crying ‘eje kama lo ema je kaku sibi o, eje ka ma salo’ (lets go, don’t let’s die here, just let’s keep running) my mother admonished me to stop the cry, but later she reasoned with me and we continued the journey to safety.Still on the street, we started hearing different account from different people, some said the whole of Oshodi from Bolade junction has been consumed by the explosion, they also mentioned my street, it was then I gave up, I said to myself so ‘Ile wa ti lo’ (our house is gone). I was not so concerned about the house but the safety of my family.
We kept running, and the sound was becoming heavier, when we got to a street, I saw some men at the top of a house with a camera capturing the flames and the fire from the explosion in the sky, then I asked myself “why do people like endangering their lives, are they blind, people are running they are carrying camera, instead of them to run for their lives” I never knew I will end up doing the kind of job I was condemning those people of doing that day.
While we were Still on the street, we decided to stop at St. Jude’s Catholic Church at Old Ewu road, Mafoluku, there it was another scene of ‘nite of a thousand laff’, I saw people praying ‘Holy Ghost Fire, fire this fire’, some knelt before the statue of Holy Mary ‘Holy Mary quench this fire’,I almost busted into laughter, but due to the circumstance, I couldn’t laugh.When we finally got to Ajao Estate along Murtala Mohammed International Airport Road, we decided to stop the journey in front of the Christian Pentecostal Mission Church (CPM), but some people kept moving, unknown to some of them and due to desperation of others to survive, as they continue in their flee for survival, they wanted to cross to a community in Oke-afa in Isolo, the way they head to was the swampy river they drowned in their thousands.
If we had not stopped there, maybe I wouldn’t have been alive to tell the story today.When the sound of the bomb stopped around 9pm, my mother and other neighbours decided we should go back home, but I refused, I told them I’m not going home due to the reports I heard from people that where area we live has turned into ashes, but they forced me to return home.
On our way home, I saw cooking pots, plates and spoons. Different strokes for different folks, while many are running to save their lives I was wondering that some people still had the time to carry pots, what do they want to do with the pots, spoons and the dishes that littered the street.I never knew any life was lost that night until the next morning on Monday January 28th 2002, when we saw it on the national television that hundreds of people had died at Oke-Afa swamp.
My neighbour, Ayodele Jeariogbe who came out successfully from the swamp, came home the next afternoon to narrate his story of how he escaped he said “I stepped on people’s head in the swamp to survive, many people have died there, if not for the help of some men who drew us out, I wouldn’t have survived.” Ayodele now holds a B.Sc degree in Accountancy from Olabisi Onabanjo University, many people like him who should be fulfilling destiny by now have died in the swamp at Oke-Afa.Students in Oshodi boycotted School for about 2weeks until we were assured that there was no danger, before we all returned to our classrooms.