Sunday, 16 March 2014

FESTAC CANOE MISHAP: I’m Finished, All My Three Male Children Are Dead - Father Cries Out

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The life ambition of Mr. Emmanuel Adeolu Adekile to have his three male children preserve his family name and heritage may have been dashed with the unexpected death of all his teenage boys in Tuesday night’s canoe mishap in which 13 persons died and 11 rescued in Festac area of Lagos. 



The bereaved father told Saturday Sun this much at his residence when he declared that the tragedy has succeeded in wiping out his lineage. Adekile has five children, three of whom are male.
He looked not only forlorn but withdrawn as he managed to relay how he learnt about the tragedy that cost him his three sons in one fell swoop.
“The three of them were very brilliant. They told me what they wanted to be in future: Timothy wanted to be a doctor, Joshua, an architect, and Paul wanted to be a lawyer. It is so sad.”
Adekile fought back tears as he again managed to mumble some words, asking no one in particular some questions.“How do I begin my life again?  These were the only boys I have, the other two are girls. What would I tell them when they ask of their brothers? Who will continue to bear my name after I’m
gone?”
“The eldest Timothy was a junior student of the Festac Junior Grammar School, he was 12 years old, Joshua, the second was about 9 years old and Paul was only 7 years old. Joshua and Paul were pupils of the Universal Primary School in 3rd avenue in Festac Town”, he struggled to reveal.
He relapsed again, fought to keep tears away, he put his two hands on his head in apparent grief, an act he repeated several times while narrating how the incident happened. His words: “Their mum sent two of them out at about 6pm to get some money from a customer that owed her in the same area. They didn’t have to enter a canoe to get to where they were sent.
“I was later told that while they were on their way, they saw their friend, Mustapha, son of the widow, Mrs. Memuna Mohammed who also died in the mishap. He was with his younger sister, Sariyu Mohammed heading to 5th Avenue to give their mother her evening food and they needed to use the canoe for that journey.
“As friends, they volunteered to go with Mustapha, to assist in arranging her mother’s shop since she sells food in the evening. I came home at 7.30pm, and as usual my wife served me dinner and I ate.  I kept asking her if she knew why the boys were yet to return home.
“It was while we were still arguing that the news broke to us that the canoe had sunk in the river. And the first question I asked was ‘I hope my children weren’t on it?’ And then at that time, their mum became agitated and wailing, she ran helter skelter looking for them. She went to the woman, she had sent the children to and the woman told her she hasn’t seen our children. Then we began to search for them, when it was around 9pm that day, we got news that my children were involved in the boat mishap.
“I immediately rushed down to the river where they said it had happened. By the time I got there, they were already bringing out victims from the river. And when it was getting towards 10 pm, they eventually brought out the bodies of my three sons. I just became numb, it didn’t occur to me to try resuscitate them by pressing them hard on the chest or doing anything that might help. I was just broken and couldn’t do anything. I managed to examine the head of one of them and discovered that it was already very stiff and there was nothing that could be done anymore to bring them back alive, I left the scene. By the time we would return to the place the following morning with our church’s vehicle with the aim of taking the bodies, they said the government people have come to carry them.
“We were then referred to the Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area’s office. The local government officials further referred our people to Alausa and even said we should wait for further developments and we would be duly notified.  I know the matter is now in government hands since the boys are already dead.”
Still wailing, he said: “I am 47 years old now and my wife is 44. We had our first baby in 1996 but she also died after a brief illness. The three boys who were drowned were my first, second and third born. They were the only males I have. Now that they are gone, I have no sons to answer my name after I’m gone. The remaining children are girls. This is too much for me to bear.”
Adekile, who hails from Ijebu-Ijesa in Oriade Local Government Area of Osun State, works as as a carpenter in 6th Avenue in Festac town. He told the reporter that he and other artisans in the estate were assisted by some compassionate wealthy people to stay temporarily in some of the yet to be occupied pieces of land there where they built some shanties with wood. Right now they have an accommodation challenge as the owners of the piece of land they live have asked them to leave some weeks ago.
So also were the lamentations of Felicia Okunbor, mother of one of the victims of the Tuesday night boat mishap, Festus Uyi Okunbor.  Weeping uncontrollably at their residence on 22 Road, Festac town, she said: “Where did you say my son went to? Please, bring him back for me, I cannot live without him. Uyi, please come home, your mother is waiting.”
Her husband, Emmanuel Okunbor, who could not hold back tears even as neighbours and relatives tried to console him,  told Saturday Sun how his beloved son died for the love of friends.
He said Festus, a computer software engineer, had moved to Lekki where he was managing a business for a friend who lives abroad.
“He has relocated to Lekki for about six months now but he always finds time to visit us to know how we are doing. He is not my first son but he is one son that had a good heart and loved his parents and siblings. No matter how busy he was, he must check on us.
“But on the day he drowned and died, he came as usual to see us. You can see how sick I am, so he comes here to know how am doing. After spending sometime with us, he said he wanted to go and see his friends at 6th Avenue, he said it has been long he saw them and wanted to go and play with them. My son promised to come back before he goes back to Lekki but he never did. Am still waiting and hoping that I will wake up from this dream and my Uyi will come back to this house to see us the way he always did”.
On how the news was broken to them, the 62-year-old father of the late Festus said it was some people that saw him board the ill-fated boat that told them.
He said: “We overheard people discussing about the incident and somebody among them saw my wife and said ‘your son was also involved in the incident’. My wife tried to find out where our son is and his state and they told her that he was not dead, that he had been taken to the hospital. In the morning, we went to the hospital only to find out he was dead. My heart was broken because my joy has gone”.
Madam Felicia, a petty trader and Festus’ mother, who cried like a baby, said: “It cannot be true. Who will look after me, who will do the things he does for me? I know he is not dead, I know he will come back. He said he went to see his friends and play with them a little, he will return and very sure he is still with his friends”.
The reality of the death of their son dawned on the Okunbors when one of the survivors, Blessing visited to console them.
Blessing said: “We were in the boat together and when it capsized, everybody was struggling to escape. The struggle for life was so intense that some of the passengers were pushing back those who could swim into the canal. I had to swim a distance back to where the boat took off from and that was how I was saved”.
Saturday Sun also gathered that it was in the confusion that ensued during the struggle to escape being drowned that the underage paddler was pushed back into the canal. He also died.
Meanwhile, when Saturday Sun visited the scene on Thursday evening, it was observed that the ill-fated boat has been set ablaze by aggrieved youths who claim that they had warned the operators to either repair or change the boat.
The site has since turned into a mecca of sorts as people keep coming and going.
A lady, who later identified herself as Chidinma, said she still finds it hard to believe that people died in that river. “This canal has been existing for years, in fact, this is the route that we normally follow to school when I was in primary school. That was 19 years ago. We have never heard that anyone died, even if the boat capsizes, people will just swim across. It is rather unfortunate and a mystery. I thank God that it wasn’t during school hour, otherwise the number of casualties would have doubled.”
Others who spoke with Saturday Sun alleged that they had made several efforts to build the bridge on their own but the local government authority refused. “Forget all those claims by government that they have plans to build this and that. We have volunteered severally to sponsor the construction of a bridge but they refused, insisting that the money must be given to them. We have even given them the estimate and they doubled it because they wanted to gain from it. I hope that with this incident, they will allow us construct this bridge”, an aggrieved resident stated.
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