American civil rights activist and Baptist minister, Jesse Jackson, yesterday escaped a near-fatal incident when a podium collapsed while he gave speech before a thousand youth in Abidjan, Ivory Coast's major city.
After a highly successful four-day sojourn, which culminated in the conferment of a dignified chieftaincy title, Jackson was holding his last engagement meeting at a stadium in Yopougon, south of the city, when the wooden platform from which he spoke, caved in and swallowed the reverend, his wife and other dignitaries who were also atop.
Panic immediately swept across the little stadium with rescuers swooping forward to save the Americans and police officers confiscating cameras suspected to have photographed the deplorable scene, in a bid to prevent the images from hitting the outside world.
Jackson was extricated from the debris unhurt but his wife sustained injuries and was evacuated to a military hospital.
Observers blame organisers of the event, who according to them, ignored renting solid metal platforms and instead, erected a rickety wooden podium.
Across the streets of Abidjan, people seemed to be regretting the incident, which they deemed a disgrace to the nation. Some wonder what image the Americans would take back home of the Ivory Coast.
However, Jackson said on state media, RTI, that he and his wife were doing fine.