Home OPINION COMMENTARY Bakana Boat Mishap: Joe Blackson As Hero For All Seasons, By Kola...

Bakana Boat Mishap: Joe Blackson As Hero For All Seasons, By Kola King

Many would argue that heroes are born but not made. But the consensus is that heroes are made of sterner stuff. Joe Blackson happens to be an ordinary man who exhibited extraordinary courage and gallantry in the face of great danger to his own safety and well-being.  His selflessness and kindness are rare in this clime, where a large majority is uncaring, callous and selfish. Yet the name Joe Blackson does not ring a bell. Rather it gives the impression of a foreigner, possibly a white man. But Joe Blackson was a bonafide Nigerian from Bakana, Degema in Rivers State. He was neither a politician nor Nollywood actor, nor even a football star. He’s just an ordinary Joe struggling to earn his own bread.  Until his untimely death in a boat mishap last July, he was an upcoming businessman, struggling to run a family business in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State.

36 years old Joe Blackson was also a husband and father of two little children, a boy and a girl.  Many spoke of his kindness and generosity.  According to reports, he was always ready to lend a helping hand to his fellow men. He was always willing to go out of his way to help, without thinking of any reward. Little wonder this positive trait came to the fore during a fatal boat mishap in Bakana, Rivers State. It is a sad irony that Joe Blackson has come to both national and international limelight, albeit, under the most tragic circumstance. However, Joe Blackson has proved himself a hero for all seasons.  While some may cringe with fear and buckle under in the face of grave and present danger, yet others will seize the moment and show the sterner stuff they are made of at that difficult instant. That was what happened on Saturday, July 28 in Port Harcourt. On that fateful day, he made supreme sacrifice for others. In a word, Joe Blackson gave his own life in order to save others.

As it happens, Joe Blackson was one of the passengers on board a boat travelling from Abonemma wharf, Port-Harcourt to Bakana in Degema Local Government Area. The journey had started at Abonemma in the afternoon on Saturday, July 28th with about 25 passengers aboard the boat. However, as the journey advanced the weather suddenly changed and rain began to fall. The downpour lasted several hours. With violent and turbulent winds and the rising water level, the boat began to be tossed up and down, like a yo-yo, floundering at will.  By now the waterways were clogged with floating debris such that any object could have capsized the boat, especially if it finds its way into its propeller.  According to one of the survivors, who preferred anonymity, despite the inclement weather, the boat driver was on high speed. By this revelation it’s clear that the boat trip was an accident waiting to happen.  Eyewitness account says the accident occurred at a bend near Iboronma at about 2.45pm, which left 6 persons dead, while 19 others were rescued.

In any case, caught in this violent thunderstorm, the boat suddenly capsized. As the boat capsized the hull was steadily being filled with water and many jumped into the sea to avoid going under with the sinking boat. Many lives were in mortal danger. At that perilous moment, many would think of themselves first, since survival will be uppermost in their minds. Of course, there’s always that strong instinct for self-preservation. But at that dark moment, Joe Blackson instead of saving his own skin, and swimming ashore to safety went out of his way to pull many passengers who were already drowning out of the sea. He had embarked on a solo rescue mission, going back and forth.  Bent on rescuing more passengers, he went on plumbing the depths of the sea in order to save victims of the boat accident.

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Apparently being an expert swimmer he had succeeded in rescuing thirteen of the passengers from the sea. He was on the final leg of his rescue mission for the 14th passenger when he succumbed to the forces of the raging sea and perhaps due to exhaustion, he suddenly went underwater, never to rise again. Still, it is a mystery how he succeeded in rescuing thirteen passengers from the sea despite the fact that he did not wear a life jacket. Indeed Joe was a rara avis who was simply motivated by altruism. He’s a figure of unparalleled courage and selflessness. Little wonder, many people across the world have hailed him as a true hero for his gallantry and extraordinary courage and humanity.

His mother, Elizabeth describes her son as a compassionate man; a very kind person who was always ready to show kindness to others, even in the face of great odds. Even though Joe was not rich, yet he was driven by a passion to show kindness whenever there was an opportunity to do so, she stated.  Definitely, Joe was rich in good deeds. He was kind-hearted. In short, he was his brother’s keeper. He died so that others might live. By his action, Joe Blackson has exhibited astonishing traits of service, sacrifice and selflessness, which are the hallmarks of heroism and great leadership. He will always be remembered for his huge and selfless sacrifice. He joins the pantheon of heroes, who will forever live in the hearts and minds of the people for his uncommon act of benevolence.

Now, what should be done to avoid a repeat of the Bakana incident? Yet what are the lessons from this tragic incident? First, safety and security of passengers who patronize the water transportation system should be uppermost in the mind of the authorities. Since most part of Rivers State is crisscrossed by creeks and rivers and the sea, the waterways should be a component part of the transportation network, hence the government should fashion out a comprehensive policy on water transportation.  There should be minimum safety standards for all boat operators. No seaworthy vessel should go to the sea without providing life jackets for passengers. There should also be speed limits for the boats plying the waterways. Furthermore, boat drivers should go through a mandatory test to ascertain the level of alcohol in their system before they would venture into the sea.  Yes, there would be quirks of nature, but for boat drivers, sobriety while behind the wheels of their speedboat is a panacea for such avoidable accidents. All said, may the soul of Joe Blackson and other victims of the tragic incident rest in perfect peace.



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