The dailies have been awash with the unfortunate story of the landslide a couple of days back, in Calabar, that dealt one man, Amos Akaniyene, a painful blow. In one swoop, his wife Ekaette, his children, David and Deborah, his mother-in-law, Iquo, two relatives, Samuel and Anthony and the unborn twins Ekaette was carrying, all died. Reports say Amos survived because he went out of the house to fetch rain water. Had Amos stayed in the house with his family, he probably would have been pronounced, “Dead on Arrival” like his family was, at the General Hospital, Calabar, where the corpses of his family members have been deposited.This sad story took calitown.com to Edim Otop, a densely populated but laid back part of Calabar. In all her majesty, Calabar’s glittering expansion has rubbed off on this community, minimally.
We arrive Edim Otop at exactly 10.15am and ask directions to the site of the disaster. We are given the ‘normal’ directions, “em…go front, turn right, walk down a little and ask another person”. We follow the lame instructions and arrive at the mouth of a ravine, several feet deep. First, we relax and take in the environment; Indian bamboo grows with an annoying boldness, steep steps are carved out of the ground to take you to the base of the ravine while a noisy hen with her chicks, peck the bush close to where we are standing. We are urged on by a young man in his early twenties who befriends us immediately, indeed he comes in handy as most people we meet on our way down the ravine nod at him.
Several winding steps, carefully applied, take us down, passing on our way buildings that calitown.com can swear are in harm’s way. Parts of the ravine’s base is flooded, inaccessible and filthy. The other part left is a little above water but still under threat. we pass a row of rooms built like those in a shanty town and before long, we hear a male voice painfully lamenting. We guess it may be sympathizers but within seconds we come face to face with a man spotting a black striped sweater on shorts, covered in mud to his knees and surrounded by not less than 20 persons. Our sixth sense tells us we have hit the nail on the head; indeed the cry was Akaniyene’s.
“Oh yoooo, all my suffer-o. Kai, why me?”. It is a cry that he caps with a rhetorical question, driven more by pain than by reason. It is easy to understand why he laments like this, not many of us can endure the wiping out of our families, before our very eyes and in one swoop.”If my family was sick, I will understand, but see, nobody was sick and death just came and took all of them. what did I do to merit this?”, asking no one in particular. Those who gather around him take turns to shake their heads in pity as if it is an appropriate ritual.
Several feet from where we stand, two men are still toiling, digging at the mud that completely covered what use to be Amos’ house. A wrapper is thrown up, then the tiny slippers of a toddler, a bathing sponge, a bent spoon and several other pieces, items that were kept in the house.
We approach Amos and share in his grief, pat him on the back gently and urge him “to be a man”. Somehow you just wonder how man enough can a man in his circumstances be. He looks at our team without acknowledging us, it seems, but seconds later, he holds one of us by the hand and takes us to what use to be his house. His question is unexpected; “you say I should be a man, can you be a man if my late family was yours?”. Emotions flood the whole place and some women in the background cry in a murmur. Those who are discreet with the sound of their cries, express how they feel with free flowing tears. It is a painful sight to behold.
Those digging and throwing up items, take a break from the painful undertaking nature has thrust upon them. One of the men walks to where we stand, continuously shaking his head. At the appropriate time, we bring out our gear, mount cameras on tripods and begin shooting painful pictures of the whole place.
We are done just in time as a group of Akaniyene’s friends arrive to take him out of the place. It is a tedious walk up the ravine with equipment in tow. This is indeed a painful experience, one you don’t even wish on your enemy. Painfully though, the other people who still stay down the ravine refuse to accept that harm is just a breathe away.
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