By Evelyn Usman
November 21, 2012 may have come and gone. But it has no doubt left one remarkable memory in the lives of several Nigerians . To some, it left a memory to relish on all the days of their lives and to others, untold anguish and pains.
This day could best be described as a midnight of horror for occupants of block M20 in Low Cost Housing Estate, Oke-Afa , Isolo , Lagos, following the tragic incident that has plunged them into beginning life all over again. The occupants retired to bed that fateful day unaware that tragedy loomed.
Just when most of them were attaining the crescendo of their sweet sleep, the unimaginable occurred! First, it started with a crack followed by a deafening sound which resulted in the collapse of the left wing of the two- storey building.
While some of the occupants managed to escape, the likes of Mrs Christiana Cooker, a 68-year-old retiree from Shell Petroleum and her two daughters could not. They crashed right under the debris, from where Mrs Cooker was rescued alive . But same was not the fate of her two daughters: Toyin(32) and Buki (26) as they were sent to eternal rest from their sleep.
Mrs Cooker was discharged from the hospital next day(Thursday), losing everything she has labored for all her life. Again, the Ogun state indigene is thrown into a second round of mourning. First was the demise of her husband, 17 years ago.
Since then, the widow has been struggling to bring up her two children, a task she did whole heartedly until they both graduated. While Toyin (32) graduated three years ago, her younger sister Buki(27)just returned from where she had gone to serve the mandatory one year Youth Service.
While apparently looking forward to reaping the dividend of motherhood from her daughters, the unexpected occurred, thereby shattering her dreams. Today, Mrs Cooker who as at Thursday was unaware of her children’s demise, could be described as the most affected of all the occupants, as the incident left her virtually empty .
However on the other hand, for the Daramolas , a family of five who occupied flat 5 of the collapsed building are counting themselves privileged for surviving the evil day. Call it a dint of miracle or outright work of providence and you won’t be wrong. This is because every member of the family escaped unhurt.
When Saturday Vanguard visited the scene on Wednesday, Mr Daramola was too stunned to speak. He only stared at the remains of what used to be their home in shock. His wife, a banker was nowhere to be found at first. But Saturday Vanguard eventually sighted her in the midst of some of her friends and church members who were thanking God for their escape.
When approached, she said, “ I really did not know how it collapsed. But I was told that some people went to watch football and when they arrived ,one of them could not open his door. When they noticed the building was cracking, they said they went to alert the neighbour up stairs.
And while they were on their way out of the building, their wing collapsed.” At that point, she paused and heaved a sigh of relief. But as she attempted to continue, someone hugged her and started jubiliating with her. After a while, she continued: “ This is God’s doing , not man. I owe it all to God.
That night, I heard people shouting Jesus! Jesus! That was what alerted me. By then, I did not know the building had collapsed because our wing was still intact . I then said , Jesus, na your name them dey call now, make you answer this person I beg .
My husband went out to the balcony to find out what the problem was. The next thing I saw was that he dashed in and said the house was collapsing. Immediately, I jumped up, went to where our children were sleeping and carried them. That was how we managed to escape without a scratch! It is by the mercy of God that we were not consumed,” she said waving her hands in appreciation .
Asked if they did not notice the crack on the wall, she responded, “ we have reported to the concerned office , LBIC and they promised they would come and inspect it.”
When next Saturday Vanguard visited, her husband was sighted at the scene trying to sort out their belongings from the rubbles. When approached , he simply said he went there to check if he could get the children’s school clothes in order for them to go to school. “ At least, we cannot keep them at home forever. They have to go to school”
The question on the lips of the affected occupants was same. Where do we go from here? Most of them escaped with the clothes they had on. At present, some of them are putting up with relatives and friends. But for how long?
“ We want government to come to our rescue”, they appealed.
For Mrs Cooker, the flat she occupied according to her was bought with her retired benefit when she retired, while the rest are on rent.