By Isah Hussein
A book titled ‘Bleeding Roads’ was launched on 24 November 2021 as part of activities marking the United Nations World Day of Rememberance at the National Press Centre, Radio House, Abuja.
The book authored by Benjamin Atonko is an expose on the 5th pillar of the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety — Post Crash.
It tells the story of Nigerians whose journeys terminated on the road and relatives of crash victims who are living eternally with broken hearts.
The World Day of Rememberance is marked every 3rd Sunday of November to remember those killed and seriously injured in road traffic crashes.
The United Nations gives serious consideration for this year because it is the threshold for the 2nd Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030.
The decade’s target is to reduce road traffic crashes by 50 percent. The world body looks up to a public transport system that is accessible, safe and sustainable. Stakeholders are of the view that if the decade doesn’t begin well, the target will be far from being met.
Of course, the target of the first decade 2011-2020 was not met as road traffic fatalities rather increased and it’s amazing that road traffic deaths outstrip those from all the public health problems.
Ben Atonko, a veteran Nigerian journalist, in an interview with journalists on the motivation behind his new book, Bleeding Roads, and what he hopes to achieve by the publication of this literary masterpiece responded as follows.
PT: What is the rationale behind your new book?
Ben: I was moved by the theme of the United Nations World Day of Remembrance 2018. The theme for that year was “Roads have stories.”
Nigeria has countless road stories, many of which are even untold. I decided to take up the challenge of telling the Nigerian roads’ stories.
Bleeding Roads is one of the ways of telling the stories of the Nigerian roads.
Telling the roads’ stories is bringing to the fore the magnitude of the chaos on our roads so appropriate actions can be taken to tackle the crisis.
That’s why it wasn’t only a book presentation. We brought those who have been badly affected by road traffic crashes to stand on the podium and tell their stories.
And the impact was huge as the audience was greatly impacted.
PT: How long did it take you to write the book?
Ben: Since 2018 when the United Nations declared “Roads have stories” my interest in writing ‘Bleeding Roads’ began.
PT: What makes it different from other books with the same theme?
Ben: Generally, literature on road safety hinges on the prevention of road traffic crashes which is a wise thing to do.
However, many crashes keep happening. I, therefore, focused on the last pillar of the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 which is Post-crash.
Post-crash is what happens after a crash has occurred.
Crashes occur very often. What happens when a vehicle flips and is mangled with passengers inside?
How do we bring them out?
How are they evacuated to places of definitive care? In case one is disabled as a result of a crash, what becomes of their livelihoods?
Any consideration for relatives of crash victims who become forlorn having lost their loved ones? Or dependents who become miserable after losing their breadwinners?
Bleeding Roads, therefore, seeks comprehensive care for those who suffer road traffic crashes, directly or indirectly.
Society must move away from the placid everyday “Thank God you’re still alive” to a more practical action to help road traffic crash victims.
PT: What did you learn from subjects while writing the book that struck you hardest?
Ben: What we call roads in Nigeria. Our roads are really bad and they aren’t getting the needed attention. There should be no pot-hole on a highway. The rating of Nigeria’s road infrastructure is very poor.
I’m particularly pained by the way accident victims are treated especially when they’re unknown. Many have passed away because they didn’t receive care when they needed it most.
Our emergency response is poor. The FRSC which should be the lead agency here is poor. As we speak, the agency has only 50 ambulances across Nigeria. This explains why we still evacuate accident victims in open vehicles. This is unsightly and inappropriate.
PT: Why should anyone take time to read it and who are your target audiences?
Ben: Everyone should read ‘Bleeding Roads’. Well, as long as you ply Nigerian roads, the book will be of immense help to you.
It’s useful to motorists just as it is to pedestrians. Driving school instructors need it.
Emergency and medical workers will find it useful. Of course, policy formulators and implementers will get new knowledge reading Bleeding Roads.ⓘ
PT: What next for Ben Atonko literary-wise?
Ben: I intend to make my own World Day of Remembrance different from what others do. My intention is to mark the day every year with a publication highlighting ways the road use culture in Nigeria will improve. And I want to push the government to remove corrupt acts in road construction and management for the well-being of the generality of the people.
PT: Finally how can readers get a copy?
Ben: Copies will be sent to bookshops. I intend to put it online as well.