As Told By An Onlooker


Today, I stood by the road in New Haven, Enugu, hoping to get a cab. A blue Honda CRV sped past me and careened into the island dividing the lanes. The car didn’t tumble or anything, so no one cared.

Then we heard groaning. Someone writhed on the ground about a meter from the car. Her wrapper had fallen off (I assume the victim was a woman). The young woman driving alighted, saw the victim and did a Nollywood wail, jumping up and down, stretching her hands from her head to the sky and back.

Five seconds after she started wailing, she and the victim were crowded by onlookers. Even drivers stopped to get a better view of what was happening. I stood across the road, wondering whether to go over there or not. The victim was obviously in pain, writhing on the floor, naked bum in the air. A crowd of about fifty people surrounded them, shouting. The woman continued to wail.

Shopkeepers behind me yelled, ‘Take that dying person to the hospital! Hospital ooo!’

The dying person kept dying. The crowd had grown so much I could barely see the victim. Five minutes had gone by. The argument gave way to more wailing. Women in the crowd put their hands on their heads and wept. I was a bit confused. Is it customary to gather and watch someone die before taking them to a hospital?

The victim hadn’t died yet, but wasn’t moving around as much. I said a prayer for her. No one had put her in a car yet. What were they waiting for? Maybe I should have gone there and done it myself.

Finally, the victim was lifted by some young men and put in the backseat of the Honda. Some of them got in with her. It was very cramped as the driver had two passengers of her own. Three seconds after the car drove off, the police arrived, asked a few questions and ran after the car on foot.

I hailed a taxi and left.

Moral of the story:

  1. In the face of crisis, don’t just say a prayer and then wait for someone else do the right thing.
  2. We NEED emergency healthcare services, ambulances, paramedics. A layman moving an injured person may aggravate the injury (and subsequently have a hand in the person’s death). No one wants to have a hand in the death of a stranger. So people would be reluctant to try to help. With the number of road accidents we have in Nigeria, one would wonder why the hospitals private and public, don’t have ambulances in waiting, with phone numbers printed boldly on them.

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