By ‘Nonye Ben-Nwankwo
Dr. Kuku, younger brother of Third Mainland Bridge accident victim
Dr. Tope Kuku, younger brother of the victim of the Third Mainland Bridge (Lagos) fatal accident earlier in the week, speaks to ‘Nonye Ben-Nwankwo about his late brother, claiming the accident didn’t occur due to over-speeding
How was the victim related to you?
He was my elder brother. His name was Tajudeen Kuku. We have the same father and mother.
Was he married?
He was married with three children. One of his kids is in the university. The other one is attempting to get into the university while the third one is in the secondary school.
What was he doing before his passing on?
He worked with Access Bank.
For how long?
I don’t think it has been less than five years. He was one of the senior drivers that drove some of the top echelons of the bank.
When were you informed of the accident?
My younger brother called me around 4pm that day. He was contacted by another member of the family who heard about the accident in the news. I was at the management meeting at my place of work when I got the call. My colleagues wouldn’t allow me to drive when they saw the state I was in as I heard the news. They told the head driver to drive me.
We learnt the accident occurred due to overspeeding…
That is another issue about the competence of some journalists. I don’t think they are experts to be able to complain there and then and conclude that my brother was overspeeding. This was a jeep designed to traverse over rough terrain. It was a new vehicle. The jeep is very high. It is a Prado Toyota jeep. According to reports, they said the rear tyre burst. I think if anybody is doing 70 or 80 or even 100 kilometres, if the rear tyre bursts, as the evidence on the car even showed, the logical conclusion of any technical person would have been that as the tyre burst, the driver probably lost control of the car. It could have also been that the car swerved on the left and hit the median which would explain why the two doors on the driver’s side were ripped. The impact wasn’t a direct one that would taint it. That in itself, would have bounced them back. He probably tried to control it. The front tyre that hadn’t burst made a grip on the median and climbed it. If the speed had been high, the back tyres would still have climbed the median and gone to the other side. If that wasn’t the case, why would anybody jump to the conclusion that he was overspeeding? I am also disturbed that the pictures made front page in all papers. I must also commend the police in this case. We went there and the DPO attended to us.
What of the bank?
One of the officials of the bank extended necessary courtesies to us. He was everywhere.
We heard a female was in the car with him…
There were just two occupants in the car and the police would confirm that to you. Some said three people died, it was just my brother who died.
Didn’t the car have airbag?
When you look at it closely, you would see there was no airbag. I wouldn’t know what happened to it. I would still go there today (Thursday) and check and take some pictures.
Talking about a female being in the car, couldn’t she have been anybody, perhaps a colleague? Because you are trying to insinuate that whoever reported a lady being in the car might have been mischievous?
Possibly. But if you don’t see anything, why report it? There was no lady. Remember it happened around 10am. Let’s agree the lady might even be a colleague, but why would somebody say what he/she didn’t see? It was just one paper that carried that lie.
So who was with him?
It was another guy and he is stable at the moment. He didn’t die. He is still in the hospital. I was there to see him yesterday but the bureaucracy there was too much.
So he should be in the better position to recount what really happened before the accident…
He has recounted it. He hasn’t been able to talk to me but he has talked to the officials of the bank. They said he too was surprised about it. They said he was asking for my brother. He said he was talking to my brother and all of a sudden, they heard a sound. We have seen cases where car manufacturers recall some of their cars due to malfunctioning. It is not uncommon that such a new car could malfunction. The chance of the tyres of a new car bursting is remote.
Are you saying it is impossible?
It is possible but in rare cases. But then, I don’t think anybody would subscribe to the notion that over-speeding could burst the tyre.
Has the wife been informed?
Oh yes. The bank has done that. They have been at her home twice. They have been talking about him in good terms. They have come to commiserate with us and to find a way they would be of help to the family. Some of the junior and senior staff members have been helpful.
The vehicle was the bank’s own and should be insured?
Oh yes. It is the bank’s own and I think it was insured. I have asked and they said it was insured. But I still don’t understand the preponderance of all those pictures on the Internet and in the papers. This is not the first time an accident is happening.
But this is not the first time such pictures of accidents are published in the papers; how come you think this should be an exception? All over the world, such scenes are published in papers and on the Internet, especially these days that technology has even made it easier…
That is not the first time, I agree. But the individuals involved should be considered. You don’t add to an already bad situation. The trauma it has caused is so bad. Then again, the angle that a lady was in the car was also a bad one. His wife was traumatised over that. It was when it was suggested that the lady might have been a colleague that she calmed down. But then, there wasn’t even a lady in the first place.
It is obvious that your grouse is that it was reported that the accident occurred due to over-speeding.
Yes. People shouldn’t speculate and conclude what they weren’t sure happened. I don’t think he was over speeding. And because it was reported he was over-speeding, the public court would have just had a negative perception. It is not proper. We should be objective in our reporting and not add more pain to people’s trauma.
Would you say your brother was a rough driver?
If he had been an erratic driver, I don’t think he would have been accommodated by the top echelons of the bank that he drove. I know he was the one taking them round even in the dead of the night in the last five years. He would have been a stable person before he could be given such a responsibility. Last year, he even won the award of the best driver in the bank. They showed me the pictures. He wasn’t an inexperienced driver. He was with DHL before he joined the bank. He had no record of carelessness. He had never been involved in any kind of accident.
How old was he?
He was over 50 years by just few months. So he was mature. He wasn’t a young man, so he wouldn’t have had any reason to impress anybody by over-speeding. That is why I am still sad that some reports were impugning things that weren’t there. They also gave an eyewitness report. Nobody gave the name of the eyewitness. I know that LASTMA cannot afford to put their officials at every point. Why would a LASTMA official say the driver was over-speeding? Was he there? Is he an expert?
When do you intend to bury your late brother?
Tomorrow (Friday). We would take him to Ijebu Ode (Ogun State) where he had a landed property. He had intended going into fish farming when he retired. We have cleared a plot there to bury him.
Have you informed your mother about the accident?
No. Our first brother died less than three months ago in the US. My mother has not recovered from that shock. I still do not know how we are going to inform our mother about this incident. We don’t want to bury two family members at the same time. I don’t think I would want to buy two coffins all of a sudden. We will not tell her now. We were five boys and one female; two have gone now. I don’t see how our mother will cope with this. One of my siblings has been stationed in my mother’s house so that those who would want to sympathise with her are sent away. I went to Ijebu Ode to prepare the place he would be buried and to also inform our elders at home.