Sunday 21 January 2024

My brother suffered memory loss – Ibadan explosion victim’s sibling


A truck driver, Joseph Alao, 24, whose elder brother is among the victims of the Ibadan explosion, tells ABDULLATEEF FOWEWE the condition of his brother and how the incident has affected the family

Can you narrate how the incident happened?

I’m Anuolawapo Joseph Alao; I am 24 years old from the Ibadan North Local Government, Ibadan, Oyo State. I am actually not the victim, it is my elder brother, Oluwatobiloba Segun Alao, who is 27 years old; he is the one who fell victim. His place of work is the third house to where the explosion happened. He works as a distributor for a wristwatch company. It was a catastrophic incident, but we thank God that he didn’t die that day. He was on his way home and forgot a document in the office, so he went back to pick up the document. He was on his way back from the office when the explosion occurred.

According to what he told us, he was unconscious for some moments before coming back to life; it was after he gained some strength that he crawled to the gate and that was where we picked him up. 

How did you hear about it?

He (Oluwatobiloba) called his girlfriend and informed her, so it was his girlfriend who rushed to our house to inform us about it. We immediately headed for the scene of the incident in our grandfather’s vehicle. However, upon arrival, we found him by the gate of the estate where the incident happened. The surroundings were filled with dust, making it difficult to see clearly.

What was your reaction when you heard about the explosion?

The situation was distressing to the point that I almost fainted due to the unbearable pain. Our panic levels were high, especially when we saw our mother’s condition worsened. Determined to confirm the truth, we hurried to the scene. At the estate gate, we saw him bleeding and unable to stand. His body was covered in injuries, rendering him unable to speak or recall anything. We carried him to the vehicle and rushed him to our family hospital. However, the incident left us unable to sleep for two days. Upon arriving at the hospital that night, we were informed that only one person could stay with him. I decided to stay with him, but my mummy insisted on staying with him; I went home and I couldn’t sleep throughout the night.

As early as 5am the following day, I got to the hospital because I couldn’t cope with the situation. Even the doctor was shocked that I didn’t sleep. I told him that I didn’t sleep and I found it difficult to blink my eyes. Despite my mother still feeling unwell, she returned to the incident scene as a nurse to provide first aid to other victims before they were taken to the hospital.

How did you handle the medical expenses?

This posed a major challenge for us upon arriving at the hospital, as we had not planned for it and our family is not wealthy. We didn’t rush him to a public hospital; it was our family hospital we rushed him to. Luckily, the state government, and the Speaker of the Oyo State House of Assembly, Edward Ogundoyin, identified us and took care of the hospital bills. We are grateful for their assistance and thankful to God for making it more manageable for us.

How has your brother been faring since the incident?

He is currently recovering, although he has experienced memory loss about how the incident happened. The only recollection he has of the incident is being thrown by the explosion from inside a building into a drainage. However, he is still complaining of body aches and lack of appetite. He didn’t complain about anything for like two days. He was discharged from the hospital on Thursday evening.

However, he is showing signs of improvement from the treatment as we can observe the positive effects on him. Previously, he could barely talk or walk, but now he can walk, although not as well as he used to. The injuries on his leg remain.

In what ways has the community provided support or help?

The community members regularly visit to express support to the family, but aside from that, no particular aid has been received. However, due to our recent relocation from Lagos to Ibadan, many of his friends are unaware of the situation, so he doesn’t have many friends in Ibadan; most of his friends are residing in Lagos.

Are there any specific needs or resources that will aid your brother’s recovery?

We would appreciate any assistance from Nigerians as we have to cover the costs of energy and bone bills, which are quite expensive. Additionally, his phone was broken and he lost his bag, which included the goods he wanted to deliver the day after the incident occurred, and some documents. However, our mother has been the one taking care of us because she has divorced our father, so our father hasn’t heard about it, and we have not spoken to him since the incident happened. It is not as if we don’t have a good relationship with him, but I have not been using my phone since the time of the incident.

How has the incident changed your perspective on life and family?

The incident has disorganised me; I can’t go to work as I am a truck driver for the Bigi Cola company. It has also restricted me from doing whatever I want at my convenience because I have to be with my brother every time as this is the time he needs me most. So, I must find all means to make myself available for him. Also, it makes me overstressed as I make sure that I am with him every time for him not to be depressed. However, with this experience, I believe that death and challenges don’t have anything to do with age; some people died unexpectedly due to this incident. Although I was humble before, the incident has added to my humility.

Can you share any memorable moments of courage or determination you’ve witnessed in your brother?

There are many memories of moments with him because my mother gave birth to just two of us, so we are always together; we spent most of our time together, and we attended the same school from nursery to higher institution. He made me believe that there is no love like a brother’s love. Though we fight and make up because we are brothers, however, he is my favourite partner; I can remember when I had an issue with our area brothers, he took some risks and turned the whole thing over himself and made it his fight; he is a very courageous person and I can’t imagine losing him at all.

How has the incident affected your relationship with your brother?

Instead of straining our relationship, it has actually brought us closer. It made me contemplate the fragility of life, and the thought of losing him made me cherish our bond even more. Knowing I could have been left alone without a partner, I now appreciate our connection even more, and I am genuinely happy.

Are there any goals or milestones your brother is working towards his recovery?

He quietly pursues his goals; he is a silent achiever and I was unaware of most of his plans. He’s been diligently saving to launch a barbershop while simultaneously pursuing his Higher National Diploma at the Polytechnic of Ibadan. Additionally, he’s working hard to cover my school fees and has been the main provider for the family. I sincerely hope the incident doesn’t impact him negatively, as it will inevitably affect the family both emotionally and financially.

What was the school’s reaction to the incident?

I don’t think the school knows he is among the victims, but I have told some of his course mates about his condition and that is because he is doing his final-year project. We need to inform the school on time so that it won’t affect him.

What advice would you give to others facing similar challenges in supporting loved ones’ recovery?

I’ll begin by praying for God’s protection over them. May those who’ve lost loved ones due to the catastrophic incident find the strength to endure their loss, understanding that everything unfolds for a reason, guided by our master planner, God. However, in this kind of challenging time, my advice is not to abandon loved ones in critical conditions. Whether facing financial difficulties or other challenges, stand by them, and offer support through prayers and various forms of assistance instead of leaving them to face depression, which may lead to dire consequences like suicide.

What are your hopes and aspirations for your brother’s future despite the challenges he’s currently facing?

I believe very soon, everything will be fine, and it can’t continue like this, and I believe that this incident will make us closer to God than before.

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