Nigeria’s Sosoliso Plane Crash 2005: Remembering ‘the 60 Angels’ and Others

Yesterday, as I strolled out of the office premises onto the streets, my nasal cavity contracted a bit. The crisp dry smell of harmattan was back in the air. I felt the cold sensation the Christmas season often brings along from Santa’s home land. Xmas, for me, often comes with mixed feelings. Forty five months of the last five years have been spent as an undergraduate and most times at this season of the year, I just found myself in some lonesome emotional state. Often times, I would be back at home, where I hardly socialize. School always gave the opportunity to mingle and become so emotionally attached to friends, especially those met in school.

So, yesterday evening, I began to feel that sensation coming back, except that I’ll be having a lot to sort out during the forthcoming holiday period, so I should not really be that bothered. Anyways, yesterday I remembered what happened exactly five years ago, today! I had just finished attending the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA 2005) in Abuja, where I had represented Action Health Incorporated, a NGO I had worked with earlier in the year. I was to resume at the University the following month. There were two other young people on the team (Chidinma and Christopher), as well as some senior programme officers from the organisation. It had been a wonderful experience despite the thick fog associated with harmattan in the beautiful capital city.

That Saturday morning, December 10, 2005, we made our way into the local Wing of the Abuja International Airport, checked in our luggage and were soon waiting for the boarding announcement for our Chachangi Airlines flight back to Lagos. At the departure lounge, I fed my eyes with the goings-on even as I had a chat with the Chidinma and Chris. The lounge was very busy today, every seat is filled up and you could her most travelers having a gist. Particularly fascinating was the assembly of school children who were waiting for the flight to their respective destinations. Their uniforms were unique and I didn’t have the faintest idea what school they were from and I guess I was also too shy to ask.

The girls specially caught my attention – they were gorgeously dressed in their school uniforms (gowns) which had been tailored in such a skillful way I had never seen before. Each girl looked fabulous and smart in what looked like customized attire for each one of them. Many of them were bespectacled and I remember the one who was resting on another whilst reading from a book, perhaps one of those exotic novels she had bought on her last holiday trip abroad (just my imagination). Even a look at the boys too left me convinced they were a different breed. I could tell these kids were the bookworms, not even with the way they walked and the aura surrounding them.

After about two hours of waiting, it was time to leave. I could tell that most of them were Port Harcourt bound because, only a few of them left with us to board the Chachangi flight to Lagos. There had been an announcement about a plane to Port Harcourt soon to land and I assumed most of my new ‘friends’ were P/H-bound.

The flight to Lagos was a little bumpy and I had some discomfort, but I could not put my finger to the source of that disturbance I sensed in my spirit. Maybe it was my stuffy nose, a result of moving around in the hazy Abuja weather for ten good days. So I thought. Even ‘portable’ Chidinma (a colleague and friend) who had thrown up on our flight to Abuja looked calmer and did not have to repeat her show of fright for height, like she almost did with elevators and soon avoided using them as much as possible throughout our stay in Abuja. (She later told me she felt strangely too, and had premonition something was about to happen). The pilot reassured us that all would be well despite the not-too-friendly weather condition that early afternoon. (I would rank it second only to the bumpiest of flights I have ever had, one from Maiduguri to Abuja in June 2007.) Less than two hours later I was home.

Surprisingly, when I got home, there was power supply; so after blowing as much of the Abuja trash from my nostrils and all, I settled on Grandma’s bed to watch the TV. Less than an hour into my relaxation, watching Channels Television, I saw a tiny strip of information. It was a News Alert about the Sosoliso Airlines Flight 1145 scheduled between the Nigerian cities of Abuja (ABV) and Port Harcourt (PHC). At about 14:08 local time (13:08 UTC) on 10 December 2005, Flight 1145 from Abuja crash-landed on the runway at the Port Harcourt International Airport. The plane, a McDonnell Douglas DC-9-32 with 110 people onboard, burst into flames.

Wow!!! I was shocked! That was the closest I had been to a plane crash. As the evening sung its dirge into the early night, I got more details. This unfortunate incident had taken the lives of so many Nigerian children, so many adults, all over 100 – less than two months after a plane crashed in Lisa village and another one crashed somewhere around Kaduna. Pastor (Mrs.) Bimbo Odukoya, a popular pastor at the Fountain of Life Church in Ilupeju whose assertive messages had impacted so many lives, bringing joy into otherwise broken homes and hope to the ‘hopeless’ in matters of the heart, had also been on that plane! She had reportedly suffered serious burns and eventually died. And the school children I saw earlier? Sixty one (61) of them from the Loyola Jesuit College (LJC), Abuja had been on board too! Sixty (60) of them lost their lives, leaving only one (1) survivor! Many passengers survived the initial impact but died in the resulting fire. Port Harcourt Airport had only one fire truck and no ambulances.

Some reporters in the Nigerian press referred to the school children as some of Nigeria’s best brains. I totally I agree! I have met a few of them and I do not need to be told by anyone else. Olufunke Faweya (a former head girl of the school whom I had met earlier that year) and Nmachi Jidenma (whom I met about three years after the incident), the founder of Celebrating Progress Africa, who has just been nominated for the Best Use of Advocacy at The Future Awards, Nigeria’s most respected Youth Awards, are living testimony of the caliber of products the LJC, Abuja, builds every year.

In retrospect, many questions come to mind about what should have been and what would have been today if those kids and the other passengers on that aircraft were still alive today, but I believe most people have considered them too; so I’m not going to bore you with that. I plead that we all resolve to lead purposeful lives and make the best of today, because we hardly have any control over what would come the next day: leaders in highly exalted positions whose decisions affect the populace in no small ways; followers who should look inwards and become proactive rather than just wait for the government and ‘our leaders’ to do the right things. I’ll leave you with the song presented last Sunday (5 December 2010) by the LJC choir. It was composed by Kechi Okwuchi, the only LJC survivor of that plane crash whose name was the 81st on the official manifest.

A tribute to the Angels
By Kechi Okwuchi (survivor of the Sosoliso Plane Crash)
It seems like yesterday
Full of excitement
We chatted non-stop
All the way to the plane
It seems like yesterday
We made plans, discarded them
Made new ones
Our future bright
It seems like yesterday
When we dropped out of the sky
To noise, to pain, to…silence
To glory
It seems like yesterday
That God had different plans
To take us to greater heights
A future not foreseen
On angels’ wings we flew
Racing past the clouds
Racing up to glory
Enveloped by His Grace
Though not with you in glory
I am a part of you
Left behind to continue the legacy
Left to run the race
As long as there is breathe in me
Dearest 60, you are not forgotten
Through the pain of yesterday
A million tomorrows are born.
© Kechi Okwuchi

Posted by Gbenga Awomodu



Say it quick, say it well – the attention span of a modern internet consumer is very short!

The age of multitasking and quick fixes, get your message out quick and streamline your website to grab the attention of the modern internet consumer.

With the rapid adoption of smart phones and tablet computers and the expansion of free Wi-Fi, hotspots, and reliable 3G we live in an always on world. You only have to take a look around you in any public location, be it a coffee shop, supermarket, or on a commuter train to see that people are accessing the web on a constant basis. A 2011 AOP website usage study showed that a UK internet user visited 2,518 web pages across 81 domains and 53 sessions in November 2011. That’s a lot of content!

This is great for web based businesses as it means their audience is not only growing with each technological advance, but is also reachable 24/7. Whereas previously you may have been relying on key consumption times when people were able to be sat at their computer, now you have a consumer who you can reach with your product all through the day.

This always on world and the huge amounts of content available on the internet has significant implications for the modern day consumers attention span. It has even greater implications for the generation of people who have never known anything but high speed broadband and internet access, the future adult consumer. A recent Pew Internet study in the US suggests that while students coming through the schools system in this always on world benefit from instant access to a wealth of information from numerous sources, their attention span and desire for in depth analysis is consequently diminished. The current generation of internet consumers live in a world of “instant gratification and quick fixes” which leads to a “loss of patience and a lack of deep thinking”.

In a world of instant gratification and where an alternative website is just a mouse click away website owners need to find ways to firstly grab the attention of a user, and then keep it for long enough to get your message across. If you don’t, their cursor will be heading to the back button and on to a competitor in the blink of an eye.

Methods for doing this are nothing new. In fact most of them have been learnt from traditional print media where grabbing the attention and making the key points easily accessible and digestible is something that is built into how they structure their content. Yet many websites do not follow the main rules for engaging the always on generation.

So what rules should the modern day publisher or website owner be following when structuring their web pages in a world of short attention spans?

Don’t make people wait for the information – before even looking at how you are going to present information on your web pages you need to make sure the page loads as quickly as possible. Studies have shown that 32% of consumers will start abandoning slow sites between one and five seconds. Bounce rate can be improved by up to 30% with the reduction of page size and resulting speed improvements. A one second delay in page load time can result in 11% fewer page views, 16% decreased customer satisfaction and 7% lost conversions.

Include key information upfront and begin with the end in mind – a time poor website visitor is looking for instant clarification they are in the right place. By including key information up front you can convince the user to read on rather than exit to another information source. By deciding what you want the reader to take out from a page, you can tailor your upfront copy accordingly.

Use bullet point for key facts or USPs to make them stand out and be easily digestible – a well-known method for making key information easy to locate and eye catching, however far too much website content if built around paragraph after paragraph of text.

Use sub headings with descriptive wording to enable users to jump to the appropriate section if they wish – the modern day consumer will scan a page to try and pick out the piece of information they are looking for. By understanding how users scan web pages and having sub heading which are descriptive to the section content you enable users to easily navigate your content and find the relevant section for them.

Keep page content short and punchy and split any detailed content out into secondary pages if applicable – with the limited attention span and desire for instant gratification of the modern day internet consumer just seeing the scroll bar shrink into oblivion can be enough for them to not even start reading a page. If you have lots of content on a subject split it out into relevant, easily digestible pages that allow people to read one piece without necessarily having to continue on to the next.

Use rich media and alternative content presentation to keep users attention – the use of video as an online communication medium is well documented. But also think about other ways of representing information such as images, graphs and other visual forms. Novelty and the presentation of something that is new and unexpected is one of the key elements of the Reticular Activation System (RAS) which focuses attention. Playing to this trigger through the representation information in alternative forms will help you get your message across effectively.

Present information in a logical, sequential pattern – another element of RAS, by presenting information in a logical sequence helps to keep the attention of the user and allows you to take them through some logical steps to conclusion and get all of your key points across.

Tell the reader what they need, and want, to know, and no more – it sounds simple but far too many people don’t follow this rule. You want to tell a consumer, or prospect, everything they need to know, but once you have done this, stop. If your goal is an online transaction then get them to this point and present them with the option to purchase. If you are producing information give them all the top line stats they need to get your message across, and leave anything supplementary for those that chose to find it.

If conversion is your goal, make the path clear – once you have made your pitch, and given the user all the reasons they should purchase your product, make it clear where they need to go next. Too many website go through their sales pitch and at the point where they have the reader hooked it is unclear how a user goes from intention, through to action. You need to present the user with easy routes through to conversion once they are convinced they should buy from you. Again, understanding how users scan and view web pages will aid in where and how you should present your calls to action.

And the final point in operating a website in a world of short attention spans is to use the data at your disposal.

Almost all analytics providers will provide you with data on bounce rates, pages visited, time on site, time on page and many other measures you can use to optimise your approach to content. The leading providers will also show you where users clicked within a page or where their mouse hovered giving you further indication of what they were looking at and how you can tailor your pages accordingly. There are numerous free tools you can use such as Google’s site speed tool which can help you understand where you may not have optimal performance.

By using all of the tools at your disposal and following the rules above you should be able to cater for the always on generation and prosper in this modern day world of low attention spans.

Rob Weatherhead is head of digital operations at MediaCom. He blogs at robweatherhead.co.uk and tweets at @robweatherhead.

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You Are Your Content

Love to blog but struggling with what to write? Whatever topic your blog is about, remember the most important content you have is YOU. As you write stuff, realise the no.1 thing the reader is interested in is you – the person writing it. If they wanted a straight up objective article on [insert topic here], they’d go to an industry giant. That’s the beauty of blogging. You have a sea of digital strangers who become friends as they read your stuff. They want to know your take on it; your views. When they read your material, your personality must shine through.

It took me a long time to realise that blogging should be fun, personal and informative. On top of that, posts don’t need to be long. There’s a great article I read in the Guardian online. It was a post titled “Say it quick, say it well.”

A 2011 AOP website usage study showed that a UK internet user visited 2,518 web pages across 81 domains and 53 sessions in November 2011. That’s a lot of content!

So how does this fast digital age affect YOU and YOUR BLOG?

1. Keep your content short + sweet

Choose a topic, do your research, use bullet points. Stick to one idea with any post. Don’t give people too much information, too quickly. For ideas on how to make your posts interesting, link in from other places and use quotes from credible sources.

2. Keep it personal

Remember you are the personality behind the blog. Here’s the beauty of this new digital age: there’s a blurred line between where your blog’s content ends and where YOU begin. This is great because people like people. They like your content, but they also want to get to know YOU. Your readers are a cyber community of friends with shared interests you haven’t met yet. This gives you the freedom of writing stuff in your own voice. It gives you the freedom to share personal stories and go off topic in an appealing way if you like. You can capture your target audience in a personal way and still be effective. Make sure you’re authentic across the board. Get comfortable with who you are and your audience will be relaxed and encouraged.

3. Create resources other people find good

If you want to make money off your blog, you need to have the kind of traffic advertisers recognize as significant. Only then can you make meaningful earnings. To get the numbers, you need maximum exposure. To get that, you need informative articles which people feel is worth sharing. Check out my 20 Ways To Get Serious About Blogging.

4. Figure out your ideal reader + your content will present itself

Do some in-depth research about your target audience and marketing angle.

The better you understand your customer, the faster your business will grow. But new ventures often struggle to define their target market and set their sights too broadly.

– Entrepreneur.com

5. Align your business brand

Your blog is a business (if it’s not, it has the potential to become one). You write your blog. You became a public “personality” the minute you began your blog. Write from your own point of view and be open to audience interaction 24/7 on all your platforms. In the blogging world, your personal truth becomes your blog’s brand. People who enjoy your blog will come back. They become your “customers”. The angle of your brand should be the same all over (your “angle” is YOU). Become familiar with your truth. Once you’ve decided on a logo/name/colour scheme/writing style you like, make sure it’s the same all across all social platforms. This doesn’t have to be forever, just for a while. You need to innovate at some point, but keep the same colour scheme/logo for at least a couple months. Consistency makes your brand familiar and more trustworthy, which increases the likelihood of converting.

6. Think about how you help your audience

What is your intention behind the blog? Is it: to help, to entertain, to provide a service? Once you’ve decided, remember it when making a post. Ensure you have a clear intention when you create an article and that you put time and effort into doing it.

7. Look to other platforms for content ideas

What inspires your posts? Run different series each month in line with your industry topic. If you don’t have a specific topic, think about your categories. Make a schedule for posting articles within each category. For ideas on your articles, look to platforms like Pinterest, Google, Industry websites, News Websites and Google Search Trends to see what people are searching for the most.

8. Leave your audience changed

The biggest part of any blogger’s job is to leave your audience changed in some way after they read your post. If you can inspire them, help them achieve or help them grow, then you have succeeded. Whatever your content is, if you can leave your audience positively changed, they will come back.

Say it quick, say it well – the attention span of a modern internet consumer

Media organisations must adapt to cater for a generation of internet consumers who expect ‘instant gratification and quick fixes’

Rob Weatherhead is head of digital operations at MediaCom. He blogs at robweatherhead.co.uk and tweets at @robweatherhead.

This content is brought to you by Guardian Professional. To receive more articles like this direct to your inbox, sign up to become a member of the Guardian Media Network.