On the 3rd of June 2012, two disasters, which unwittingly addressed the issue of unity in Nigeria, occurred. The first was the bombing of a church in Bauchi, in the Northern part of Nigeria. Unfortunately, Nigerians have become familiar with these kinds of attacks in the North – violence against Christians and Non-Northerners – , so when news of this gruesome act came to light, there was the usual exchange of blame and verbal insults among Christians and Muslims, Northerners and Southerners. Every Nigerian will agree that these recent but yet frequent attacks in the North are bound to cause National Disintegration if they are left unchecked. This attack on Christians, at the Winners Chapel Parish in Bauchi, was another omen of Nigeria’s imminent breakup. The Bauchi attack left animosity in the atmosphere; Christians and Muslims were at loggerheads, there was the usual expectation of National Disunity, until, ironically, another disaster, the crash of the Dana Airline Flight 9J-992, occurred.
As I looked at the names of all the victims onboard that flight, and in my curiosity, as I carried out a brief research on some of the victims, I discovered that the whole of Nigeria was on that plane: Northerners , Southerners , Christians , Muslims , Aristocrats , Foreign-trained Graduates , Local Students , Children , Old People , Mothers , Husbands , Celebrities, Entrepreneurs, Beautiful Ladies….every geopolitical zone, social class and religion had a representation on that aircraft. This “representation” made it easy for every single Nigerian to have empathy for the passengers and their families, because they could identify with at least one of the deceased. When I walked into the lobby of a hotel some hours after the crash, I saw a Yoruba man and a Hausa man sitting and discussing the event. I could see the mutual sympathy. I could see the mutual anger they had against the “foreign” management of Dana for letting a written-off plane carry passengers. They did not refer to the passengers of the plane as “Christians” or “Muslims” or “Northerners” or “Southerners” but as Nigerians. When I also turned on the TV for the News Briefings, there were two newscasters — both from different geopolitical zones — delivering the news, with genuine grief. Even when the News Correspondents went on the streets to get people’s opinions of the crash, everyone they interviewed — irrespective of tribe, religion or social class — had a common sorrow, had a common anger, had a common wish that such disaster will never occur again in the land. Ironically, this disaster brought unity to a country which was at a point of division. Ironically, this disaster, gave Nigeria the hope of unity.
Furthermore, this Dana Air Crash gave all Nigerians a common enemy. For once in a longtime, on the day of the disaster, Nigerians were not against themselves, but against “foreign” investors who use substandard products – or planes in this case – to serve citizens, so that they can make profits. On that day, there was a sense of “National Protection”, almost everyone was against these nonchalant foreign investors who want to exploit the resources of Nigeria, at low costs, at the expense of precious Nigerian lives. I saw this feeling to protect the country in the two men talking in the hotel lobby, the two newscasters on T.V, the people interviewed on the streets, and in myself.
The passengers of the Dana Aircraft 9J-992 did not die in vain. They left a legacy of National Unity. The atrocious act in Bauchi, on that same June 3, was enough to further deteriorate Nigeria’s fragile unity, but the Airline disaster somehow brought hope for Nigeria’s future. Sometime ago, I heard a “certain report” stated that Nigeria will break-up by 2015, however, judging by the way Nigerians of all zones and religions reacted and mutually sympathized to the Dana Air crash tragedy, I can confidently say that that report is an utter lie, and come 2015, Nigeria will be celebrating her 55th year of independence and 101th year since amalgamation.
Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Anna Politkovskaya are examples of people whose death sparked a radical changed and left an eternal legacy. These peoples are referred to as icons in their various spheres of influence. Their lives had meaning. Their deaths too, had meaning. I believe the passengers of the Dana Aircraft 9J-992 are worthy to join this honorable roll call; their deaths have a meaning to Nigerians. They have made Nigerians united, and we will remain united.
So as from today, do not refer to the passengers of the Dana Aircraft 9J-992 as victims, but as icons, icons of national unity.