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Blowing their killer sirens

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Today Wednesday, 20th February, 2019 is exactly 25 years ago that my article of the above title was published in ‘The Guardian’ on Sunday newspaper issue of 20th February,1994.

I wrote the (see caution) article, when some so-called Nigerian VIPs, public/private officials and their drivers turned sirens into menaces and egocentric machines to harass, maim and kill ordinary motorists and pedestrians. That was 25 years ago! Today, many people will wager a bet if the horrible traffic situation, or menace, has not gone worse. Motorists, cyclists and pedestrians, often times, are forced to hold their hearts in their mouths whenever our ‘lords’ of the roads tear away in their ‘unending’ convoys or private ‘racing’ cars. Lord have mercy on that/those innocent road user(s) who is/are considered slow in giving way to the tear-away siren users. Below is my 1994 article. Please, take a jolly ride with me.

“For two reasons, I am responding to the article, ‘HOW A MINISTER’S CONVOY HIT FOUR PUPILS, KILLING ONE”, published in The Guardian newspaper issue of February13, this year (1994).

“First, to commiserate with the family of the late Miss Atinuke Fadipe and the other victims of that horrible incident.

“Secondly, to postulate what I consider to be some of the reasons for the rising torment of the public by our ‘siren lords’, and how to keep this growing menace in check.

“Kindly permit me to say, with utmost modesty, that I was a member of siren-using convoys in old Oyo State (present -day Oyo and Osun States) for six years (1983 to1989) where one civilian and three military governors restricted the use of sirens to the barest minimum, and within the ambit of its original design.

“In our years, governors instructed their protocol officers to visit and time uncharted routes in advance, in order for us to know the appropriate time for departures and speed limit for accurate arrivals at venues. Where it was impossible for advance timing, for example inter-state travels, we departed early from base, after consultations with our hosts on distance, road/traffic conditions etc

“I am proud today to say that this great sense of responsibility and timely departures to function venues, on the part of my four former (state governors) bosses and their diligent state directors of protocols accounted, in greater part, for our accident-free and unobtrusive journeys within and outside the old Oyo State of Nigeria. “Credit also goes to their Aide-de-Camp (ADCs), who ensured that stable, enlightened and responsible officials manned our pilot (and other) cars fitted with sirens. Once an official/driver displayed vulgarity, however little, in the use of the siren, out he went!

“But, what do you have today? Too many public and unpublic (private) figures blaring away at the slightest need, even on express/ highways that are free of traffic holdups!

“Snarling, red-eyed officials and drivers, often with whips (koboko), or sometimes with guns in hands, laughing their heads off, as they watch frightened motorists and pedestrians bolt out of traffic lanes into the bush, as their siren-blaring convoys tear-away, often times without their ‘Ogas’ in the empty cars in tow.

“Compounding the already bad situation are the nouveau-rich, who, as part of their eccentricity, acquire siren-blaring cars, driven by equally-egostic drivers, drill their ways into such inconsequential ceremonies such as night parties! These acts of terrorism, if one may say, are sometimes not wholly blameable on  public/private figures permitted by law to use sirens, as statistics show that indiscriminate/vulgar uses of sirens often occur when these VIPs are not in their convoys.

“Their protocols/security officers cannot, however, escape blame. It is their duty to monitor and control convoy drivers. Once a driver exhibits vulgarity or instability, talkless of barbarism, he ought to be penalised and kept away from such highly sensitive beat. There used to be a Western state pilot driver nicknamed, “Oyinbo” who, dexterous behind the wheel as he was, had a suicidal penchant of driving, head on, motorists on the opposite lane to his car, into the bush. His daredevil antics came to a halt, the day a new military governor of that state, who could not stand “Oyinbo”s harakiri, assumed duty and fired the ‘kill-and-go’ driver.

“In order to curb the siren menace, I humbly advise that the police should wake up from their slumber, by impounding unauthorised vehicles fitted with sirens by arrogant owners/users who see the traffic control/alert mechanism as a status symbol.

Drivers of ambulances and bullion vans should be properly trained on the proper/lawful uses of sirens.

“In addition, regular medical/psychiatric tests should be done for drivers of siren-fitted cars, if not all drivers, who exhibit traits of madness, to ascertain their psychological stability or otherwise. The tests will ensure that only sane and careful persons sit behind the wheel on our roads.

“Sirens are designed and meant to herald approaches/arrivals, alert fellow drivers and motorists, apart from forewarning traffic controllers. They are, certainly, not meant to harass, maim or kill people.

“The best users of sirens in Nigeria today are drivers of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC). And they would do us a world of good, by organising safe-driving clinics for siren users.

“It will not be out of place, however, to advise impatient, impolite and stubborn motorists, motorcyclists drivers, and indeed all road users to observe traffic laws, stop and give way to convoys. Quite often, the “I don’t care, we all own the road” attitude of a lot of motorists have led to dire consequences.

“In conclusion, the siren menace is part of our national decadence whereby misfits/unstable and unsuitable persons man sensitive positions at the peril of the experienced, capable and endowed majority, who, sadly are apathetic or scared”
• This article was first published 25 years ago, The Guardian on Sunday, 20th February,1994.


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