Last week, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria decided to clear abandoned planes from the airport. The plan, presumably, was to tow them to junkyards where they would be scrapped. This was supposed to take place at night and they had figured they might be unable to tow them from the airport all the way to the junkyards at one time. But what they hadn’t considered was what Lagos residents would do when they woke up to planes parked at petrol stations.
Mutiu left his house at 5:30 that morning, later than is normal for a bus driver. He picked up his conductor, Sani, at the Okoko bus stop along with his first set of passengers. Mutiu drove to loud music, drumming his hands on the steering wheel to wake himself up. Sani was still wiping the sleep from his eyes when they drove past the first plane parked casually next to a fuel tanker. He stuttered, “Egbon, se… se aeroplane ni yen?” Mutiu looked over and saw the plane. Knowing all he did about fixed-wing aircraft and their inability to take off or land without a long runway, he concluded the thing sitting in the corner of the filling station couldn’t be one. “Rara o,” he said shaking his head, “helicopter ni.”
Sani would then say in amazement that he did not know they were building a helipad there. But let us leave them for now.
Blessing was on the way to her store. Thursdays are environmental sanitation days at the market, and even though stores are not allowed to open before ten, the traders have to be there early to clean up before the inspectors arrive. There was an unexpected spot of traffic and as the bus inched toward the source, she craned her neck along with the rest of the passengers and saw the cause.
This discarded plane was in worse shape than the others. The tips of the wings were clipped off, the tail was cracked, hanging at an angle. Blessing left her mouth wide open as they drove past. She got down at the next stop, brought out her phone and called her favourite radio station. “Plane don crash for Igando,” she said. “People jus gather am dey look. Abeg tell government make dem come help.”
Her message was repeated on air three times.
In her house, Yinka heard the announcement on the radio. She called her daughter who passes Igando every morning and repeated the message to her. She also added that in a crowded place like Igando, she was sure the plane had killed everyone in the surrounding buildings.
The Nigerian Airspace Management Agency was called about the crash. Their publicity secretary contacted the radio station and was put on air. He explained that the planes were old planes being trashed.
It was around ten when he responded, and by then Blessing had opened her store letting all her customers know she was the first to break the news of the crash, Yinka had turned off her radio and was praying against unexpected disaster happening to her family, and all the people who wanted to gather and look were gathering and looking. None of the panicked people heard him.
Ekene was listening to the radio on his phone. He was on the same bus as Yinka’s daughter, Ronke. He pulled one ear bud out and attempted to correct his fellow passengers. “No be accident. Dem say they dey tow am.”
Ronke, who was joined with her mother praying in the spirit, paused her quiet speaking in tongues to shout, “It is a lie! I heard it on the radio, it crashed!”
That was enough to shut him up.