Very few things events are so memorable, you remember the time of day, place and your state of being when it happened. In Nigeria we have the kidnap of the Chibok girls and perhaps Yar’adua’s passing, but nothing very few things are as tragically unforgettable as the Ikeja Cantonment Bomb Blast of 2002.
It’s been 17 years since the fire started that set off the first blasts, the evening of January 27th. In that time we’ve had the Naira lose its value, abusive senators assume office and a former dictator ascend power, and yet, the events od January 17th remain unforgettable.
We spoke with 4 Nigerians, all of whom remembered the events of the Ikeja Cantonment Bomb Blast and asked that recount their experiences of the day. Here are their stories:
Quadri – 24.
In January 2002, I was a few months shy of turning 5, but I remember everything that happened like it was only last week.
When the first blasts went off, we were wondering who was still throwing bangers this long after Christmas and why they were shooting it so close to our home. When the blasts wouldn’t stop, we knew something more serious was happening, but none of my family members wanted to alert the other.
My dad did what any dad would do, he asked us to put a movie on to distract us, while he stepped out to discuss with neighbours every other minute. It went on like this until the blasts subsided, everyone pretending to pay attention to the movie, but jerking every time another blast went off. The relief was palpable when the blasts stopped ringing out.
Ayomikun – 34.
I remember the events of January 27th, but maybe not in the way everyone does. At the time, I lived in Egbeda which was a considerable way off from the blasts, so while the majority of Lagos was in pandemonium, wondering where to turn because of the blasts. I was home with my family, first wondering what kind of thunder was ringing out, then if anyone was shooting a rifle or something of the sort around. Word eventually got round to us, but when I saw the scale of damage brought on by the blast in papers the next day, it was still so hard to believe.
Ayoola – 29.
I was in Ota, Ogun State on January 27th, 2002. Mobile phones weren’t as widespread during that period, so I and members of my family were clueless about events in Lagos at the time. I was heading to the bus stop, looking to go to You Ore from Main Ota when some bike men spoke the following words in Yoruba to me: “head to Iyana instead (believing I was headed elsewhere), the world is ending in Lagos”. It really was too.
Fisayo – 30
Somehow what I remember most of January 27th isn’t the sounds of the blasts, but the sheer number of people that were out on the streets when they started.
I lived in Iyana Ipaja at the time, back then, if gunshots rang out, nobody waited to tell the other, everyone ran. You couldn’t even be upset with the next guy for not informing you.
So when the first few blasts rang out and my family found the courage to venture out, it was surprising to see so many people just walking on the roads. Many with haphazardly packed luggage on their heads. the reality that a great majority of these people ended up in the lagoon or succumbing to some harm jars me till this day.
Around 1000 people lost their lives in the aftermath of the Ikeja blasts. We remember them today, and always.