I met her 2 weeks prior at Lekki , Lagos that faithful Sunday in the company of her sister Margaret and my dear friend Usman Thompson.
Precisely 2 weeks afterwards, on a Sunday, I started to receive BlackBerry alerts of the Dana airlines crash. Then I scrolled through a list of victims and I couldn’t identify anyone I might have known. The mind played a trick on me or was it in the hope that I wasn’t going to know a victim I would be indirectly connected to. But I was wrong. I knew a person.
Adiza Otegbeye’s name was on the manifest. “Oh God!”
“OH MY GOD” I exclaimed loudly after my wife had brought informed me. “Oh my God”, I held my head. If I felt this way, how was Usman to feel? How about Adiza’s husband Adeleke, his daughter Tomi and son Olorunleke?
In the aftermath of the Dana Airlines 992 crash of June 3, 2012, in Lagos, Nigeria – in which my younger sister was killed – I wrestled with what my role would be to help instigate change to a corrupt aviation system that had caused the needless deaths of over 160 people. In addition, I wanted to do something to create a lasting legacy for my sister and all the unfortunate victims of that ill-fated flight.
Because I’ve always found writing cathartic, I began to journal and express the gamut of emotions I was feeling. Before long, I began to receive calls and emails from people, telling me how much my writing was helping them through their own healing process. That singular fact birthed the idea for this book, which has since taken on a life of it’s own as I’ve expressed my thoughts succinctly but strongly, in an attempt to be a voice for change.
This book is the result of my life transforming journey that began on June 3, 2012, and while it specifically addresses the Nigerian context, it’s applicable anywhere in the world where people are desperate for positive change.
You had just read an over view of the book I am about to introduce you to. It has been beautifully written by Adiza’s brother Pastor Joseph Thompson in memory of Adiza, who was killed in Dana Airlines 992 crash of June 3, 2012. The book is titled ‘Imagine Say…: What If God Was Really Counting On You?
I had the privilege of an online interview with Pastor Joseph, the author of ‘Imagine Say…: What If God Was Really Counting On You? I asked him a series of questions that led him to write this book, his emotions, the state of Nigeria amongst others…..read the interview in full below.
JSD: Let me first say a massive THANK YOU sir for this opportunity to engage you.
JT: I appreciate the opportunity to share my story with your readers.
JSD: I must commend you on your inner strength for dropping your thoughts down in words – what particularly inspired you?
JT: I’m not sure how to answer the question “what particularly inspired you?” since; clearly, the very subject of the book is my sister, Adiza’s untimely and avoidable death in the Dana Air plane crash of June 3, 2012. However, thanks for recognizing that it took a lot of “inner strength” to be able to collate my thoughts and put them down in writing.
JSD: Sir, you wouldn’t mind if I get a tiny bit familiar by addressing you as ‘JT’…how long have you been living out of Nigeria? And how often do you visit?
JT: If you’re attempting to create a more relaxed/familiar atmosphere, then I’d much prefer if you’d address me as “PJ” (Pastor Joseph) since, only a handful of really close friends and family refer to me as “JT”
JSD: Compared to those many years back, what is your assessment of the country you left for better pastures?
PJ: I could give you a long, drawn out answer, but that would be redundant since I address this issue in the book. Suffice it to say that the Nigeria I grew up in looks nothing like the Nigeria of today, and the changes have not been for the better, by any stretch of the imagination. When I left over twenty four years ago, it was not with the thought in mind that I was seeking “better pastures.” I simply went to Seminary, and I had every intention of going back, however, circumstances dictated that my destiny lay outside of Nigeria.
JSD: The book – “Imagine Say…: What If God Was Really Counting On You?” is a tribute to your younger sister Adiza Otegbeye who died in the ill fated Dana Airline crash. Tell us about Adiza, your younger sister. What was she like?
PJ: When I left Nigeria, Adiza was a nineteen year old, so much of my more intimate interaction happened only sporadically in the years following. As a teenager though, Adiza and I were incredibly close, and I was sort of her ‘social mentor,’ teaching her the nuances of dealing with guys and handling relationships. In her married years, Adiza was committed to her family, loving, caring, and always willing to serve other people’s needs. She’d give the shirt off her back if she felt that someone needed it more than she did.
JSD: Your opening chapter ‘Any Given Sunday’ in the book is chilling. It sent fear down my spine….how were you able to jot down your thoughts? How long did it take you to write your story? How did your siblings take to pouring your heart out in words that will permanently be engraved for eternity in Google’s engine?
PJ: I wrote “Any Given Sunday” within days of Adiza’s death, and so it’s filled with the raw emotions of pain and anger, as well as the gamut of other emotions I experienced in the days following her demise. It began more as a journal – writing has always been cathartic for me – and evolved as I began to receive more and more encouragement from others who were reading my posts, to turn it into a book that would serve a much wider audience than just my Facebook friends.
In its entirety, the manuscript took me almost a month and a half to write, but much of it was written within the first four weeks following the plane crash. As to how my siblings felt, the truth is I never asked them. This was always my story and my journey, because it was my own way of dealing with and processing through my pain, and I didn’t feel like it really mattered what or how anyone else felt about it. Having said that, for those of my siblings that have read the manuscript and given me feedback, they appreciate the fact that I was able to do this for posterity.
JSD: For you, what is the book about? If any reader were to be inspired, what would you like it to be?
PJ: Great question. For me the book isn’t just about Adiza’s death since there were another 162 people who also perished as a result of the crash. Their lives were equally as valuable even though I didn’t know them personally. So while it’s true that it’s a tribute to my precious sister, who, at least symbolically represents all the victims, it’s also about a failed system. It’s about endemic corruption that has colored the perspective of the Nigerian so that life seems to have little or no value. It’s about a Church value system that, in many ways has failed the people, yet it pats itself on the back for how good a job it’s supposedly doing among the Nigerian populace. For me, Imagine Say… is about a nation in the throes of the eleventh hour of its existence unless some things are drastically changed.
JSD: How do you feel towards Nigeria?
PJ: It would be unfair of me to attempt to answer that question in such a limited forum because I couldn’t do the question justice, and it would leave people with somewhat of an unclear sense of what I really feel. I attempt to answer this troublesome question in the book, but even then I’m not sure I fully do it justice. Let’s just say I’d rather the reader read the book with the context and understanding that my feelings continue to evolve. Nigeria is a nation that takes so much from its citizenry but gives back precious little.
JSD: What was your immediate reaction when you heard the ill fated Dana Airline’s suspended aviation license had been restored? What anger if any did you feel towards Dana and Nigeria?
PJ: I wasn’t at all surprised that they’d gotten their license back so quickly, after all, it is Nigeria, and decisions are seldom made based on what is equitable and right, but more on what serves the interest of the elite and the power brokers.
JSD: What is Nigeria, as a country to you?
PJ: Again, I’ll refer you to my answer two questions ago. In the book, I unequivocally state, and illustrate the fact that Nigeria is a failed State.
JSD: PJ, aside the obvious brain drain from Nigeria, how do you think Nigeria as a nation would survive?
PJ: So as not to be redundant, and to ensure that people have something to look forward to, let me refer you to the final chapter in the book, titled, “Still Standing,” where I proffer some solutions as to how I think we can change the direction of Nigeria for the greater good of all. While I recognize that better minds than mine are attempting to wrap their minds around the issues that plague Nigeria, I’m convinced that if we don’t implement some of these basic changes, there’s little hope for the survival of Nigeria as a nation over the long haul.
JSD: If you were to offer a solution to the perpetual issues that have held Nigeria in bondage of corruption, what would they be?
PJ: See my response to the previous question.
JSD: Would you ever recommend flying local airlines in Nigeria?
PJ: That’s a difficult question to answer since I don’t have to live and work there. For people who do, it is still the most reliable and fastest means of transacting business across the country since the road infrastructure is in even worse shape, and the railway system is about as archaic as it was forty years ago. However, given the choice, I would avoid flying in Nigeria if I could.
JSD: Going personal. How, as a pastor have you been able to reconcile the death of Adiza with your faith in Christ?
PJ: There’s nothing to reconcile. Jesus didn’t kill my sister, an incompetent and corrupt aviation system did! I’ve long stated that Christians aren’t exempt from pain and suffering, Jesus Himself said, “In this world you will have trouble.” He didn’t say “might,” or “may,” He said “Will.” I don’t think it’s up to us to dictate what the manner of that “trouble” will be. I just don’t subscribe to the ‘gospel’ that suggests that Christians are exempt from hardship and pain, and so when hardship or pain strikes, they face a crisis of faith. My faith is intact and well, and I thank God daily for the way He’s shaping me even through the tragedy and pain.
JSD: How do you grieve Adiza’s untimely death? What do you remember her by?
PJ: My writing has played a major role in helping me through my grieving process, and my fondest memories are of the time we spent together in Lagos a mere two weeks prior to the day she was killed. As I stated in “Any Given Sunday,” we shared an amazingly wonderful and healing time together, and that’s what I remember my sister by. Connecting regularly with my brother, Usman, has also been a significant part of my healing.
JSD: Finally before I go, I couldn’t help asking you about your views on some Nigerians who claimed the Dana air crash victims were not ‘born again’ or ‘the accident might have been an act of punishment from God’ or ‘they didn’t hear God’ on that day….what are your thoughts?
PJ: I address this subject extensively in the book. I feel a measure of sadness for people who process life through that prism, because it means they live their lives in fear, and shame. There’s no doubt in my mind that everyone struggles with something, and since, from their world view Christians are ‘perfect,’ they clearly live duplicitous lives, showing one face to the world and living another in secret with no recourse for finding help since they won’t even admit to their weaknesses and shortcomings.
A person who believes that Christians cannot experience pain, loss, or death, is sadly deficient in their knowledge as to what Christianity as a faith actually is. Such people have no place in their theology for Paul – who wrote two thirds of the New Testament – who suffered tremendous pain, punishment, hardship, and all manner of suffering. I guess to them he wouldn’t be a Christian, or he was being ‘punished’ by God? These people still worship the God they read about in the Old Testament, without realizing that He’s created a new covenant just for them, and that covenant is one of grace.
JSD: You wouldn’t mind my saying, you are a fabulous writer….you have a style that engages the reader. Thank you so much for the opportunity to share your thoughts with readers of Jide Salu Diary.
PJ: Thank you.
Below is the introduction to the book….