Once I got the distress call from my News Editor that morning, I dashed out of the newsroom and hopped onto the next rickshaw heading towards my direction. We had barely reached Ibusa junction when I jumped down, racing towards the thick black smoke that billowed into the blue skies as the traffic lights threatened the urgency of my assignment. It was a black Tuesday.

Even before I got to the scene, the ambience was mixed with wails, crackles and the niff of searing. Pushing my way through the throng of sympathizers, I was at the foot of the raging inferno that gutted a section of the old Ogbeogonogo market. Hundreds paced about, salvaging the little they could from the furnace and thieves disguised in sheep clothing.

In the cause of my preliminary investigations to identify the actual or remote cause of the fire outbreak, a lot of sentiments were expressed, most of which ran contrary to reason. From behind me, someone supposed that the fire must have been deliberately ignited from an authority in government. Aloud, he argued that it may have been a strategy to push traders out of the makeshift stalls and rent the new ones built around the modern market. But how correct is his assumption?

A few weeks ago, the state government demolished the Abraka market and relocated the traders away from the highway. A democratically elected government did not have to set fire to people’s properties, all it had to do was consult, issue an ultimatum, then grace before doing the needful. Same would have been the fate of the incinerated market if the government had considered relocating it. Again, it will cause the government more to burn a market than to build it. As the Commissioner, Bureau for Special Duties implied, the market was a huge source of internally generated revenue for the government.

Meanwhile, firemen from Delta State Fire Service fought for hours before eventually putting the furnace out. They would have done so earlier had it not been for some challenges but those constraints do not in any way make them incompetent.

One youth kept bawling ‘’Delta State firemen, save us like you did Onitsha’’. It took over five trucks of water to travel from a distance through the busy Nnebisi Road to an even more congested market and then confronted by a quarrelsome crowd before the battle was won.

In the heat, fake news was being baked. I watched several persons run misleading commentaries and deposit on their social media handles for millions to consume. One of such was the howling of water pouches. No doubt, those who suffered losses were bound to be depressed and desperate but the conjecture that they threw tiny water-bags at the conflagration was indecorous and offensive to commonsense.

Those who bought such concoctions did not remember that the humans who took extra miles into the fire suffered dehydration and do not only need water to defeat the enemy; they also needed water and oxygen to survive the confrontation. Among the goods scorched by the fire were bags of water and other packaged liquid contents but why could they not make the threat hiss at their touch.

Ok! The whereabouts of a fire hydrant installed in the market by the government sufficed. When asked, a source indicted the traders for not being responsible in safeguarding facilities installed for their good. On the other hand, the merchants pointed fingers at someone for removing the facility for pecuniary benefits. While the quarrel raged, others prayed fervently that their stores were not torched.

It was embarrassing at first when security agencies attempted to cordon off the crowd on the premise of preventing pilferers. Unfortunately, the real enemy was not the fire but those who pretended to satiate it. As I rode out of the premises in the company of a senior colleague, the wailings continued just as the controversies but the smoke no longer billowed, hope seemed only a distant away as assured by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa because just as despair can come to one from other human beings, hope too, can be given to one from other human beings.

The sun that pasted itself on the cerulean skies just above the Niger River, reminding us that ‘’Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery and today is the gift of God which is why we call it present’’.

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