Friday is usually a special day many Muslim families look forward to, but to the members of the Bello family of Bayeku area of Ikorodu, Lagos State, Friday, April 6, 2013 will remain fresh in their memories for some time to come. That was the day four members of the family and a neighbour died prematurely in an auto crash. A five months old baby of the family escaped the incident unhurt.
Prior to that day, the family had planned triple celebrations: their daughter’s graduation ceremony, car dedication of their son and the head of the family’s trip abroad alongside the matriachax. All the plans came to nought as a result of the tragedy.
The head of the family, popularlly called Alhaji Bello, was a prominent figure in Bayeku following his sponsorship of many Muslim programmes including the recent turbanning of the first Imam of the community which took place the Sunday preceding his sudden death.
As part of the arrangements for the trip abroad, Alhaji Bello had placed a change of name notice in Vanguard which was published on the day of crash. The family had not even bought a copy of the paper before the accident occurred around 12noon at Agbowa-Ikosi area of Lagos State.
Five persons including the five month old baby were in one of the cars the family members were travelling in while two others were in another as they headed for the graduation ceremony of their daughter at a tertiary educational institution in Ogun State.
All the five persons in one car with the exception of the baby: Alhaji Bello, his daughter- in- law and her parents, together with a neighbour, died while the matriach and her son in the other car survived.
An eye witness, Madam Kehinde Olufade, said the family had had a smooth journey until they approached a crater at Ikosi where motorists had to slow down. But due to the dilapidated nature of Agbowa road, a trailer left its own side of the road and faced the car Alhaji Bello was driving, forcing him to manouver before a tipper rammed into him from behind. The car landed in a ditch.
‘’As soon as the car landed in the ditch, the tipper also lost control and fell on top of the car killing the four members of the family and their neighbour on the spot.The Bellos daughter-in-law, who was carrying her five months old baby at the time of incident, died while the baby miraculously survived”,the eye witness narrated
When the news of their demise filtered into their community, it unsettled residents. The community development association (CDA) wanted the victims buried before sunset in accordance with Muslim tradition, but some indigenes countered them, saying some rituals must be performed before the arrival of the corpses in the community as the death of the family members portended a bad omen.
The victims were buried same day as shops and business centres were closed while some indigenes, led by one ‘Lagatha’, a mechanic, organised a weeklong ritual which involved the Oro festival. However, the traditional head of the Solumade family in the community kicked against the ritual, saying it was not with the consent of Bayeku indigenes. According to the baale in-waiting, Chief Adesina Solumade, some people in the community were behind the ritual. “Gone are the days when rituals were performed anyhow. The community comprises of Christians, Muslims and traditional worshippers and their opinions must be sought before any ritual is performed. As far as I am concerned, the victims died a natural death and this has not called for ritual as organised by the residents,’’ he said.
Bello family members were yet to comprehend the demise of the victims when Sunday Vanguard visited the family. The matriach, Mrs Bello Adedoyin Busayo, and her son refused to talk about the tragedy. The matriach simply said in Yoruba ‘amuwa Olorun ni’ (God knows about it).
A close friend of the Bellos, who pleaded anonymity, said he was with the family the day before the tragic incident and they shared ideas. “Alhaji Bello told me of his plan to donate poles for the construction of community mosque, his plans to travel overseas with the family matriach and the daughter’s graduation ceremony which he never attended,”he said.
Another resident, Mrs. Musa Mayam, who saw the victims when they set out for the journey, said, ‘’I saw all of them before they took off, but I never knew that was the last time I would see them,’’ she said.