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Of Lagos traffic blues and commuters’ parliament

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AFP PHOTO / PIUS UTOMI EKPEI

Traffic on Lagos roads has risen sharply over the past years. This has made Lagos one of many urban cities around the world struggling to unravel the puzzle of traffic congestion. Lagos traffic jam is usually described as an urban myth. Sometimes when you find yourself trapped in it, the enduring predicament and tortuous situation may attract some hilarious or sad moment. As you progress, the traffic may look very endless, boring and annoying. At some point, it may even provoke you to engage in soliloquy or the usual five minutes madness, arguing about who has the right of way. It may even result in asking the most common traffic question among car owners: Why did you hit my car? The most astonishing thing about Lagos traffic is that, the cause of the traffic jam sometimes could be a bit misleading, because when you get to the bottle-neck point, you hardly find the reason behind the snail movement. One thing that makes Lagos traffic tick is that, whenever you find yourself trapped, you cannot but laugh over the stress and the drama surrounding your sojourn or temporary imprisonment.

The traffic situation has become part and parcel of Lagosians. Therefore, the painful stress they under-go daily is seen as a way of life. Many Lagosians barely sleep six hours at night. Every day some get home from work by 11:00 p.m. yet, you see them as early as 4:30 a.m. at the bus stop the following day. Lagosians do not lose sense on the time to beat traffic. Ordinarily, the commercial transporters are doing their best in transporting people from one point to another. But, most often than not, they offer something that displeases commuters who grudge over high fare. It seems the Lagos State government is handicapped as it lacks control and regulations over commercial transporters, especially when it comes to fixing transportation fares. Perhaps, that is the reason behind arbitrary increase in transportation fare for the slightest motive.

For instance, commuters’ purse is constantly inflicted with additional fare increase anytime it rains or if there is traffic or public disturbance by area boys, among others. Aside the transport hike, commercial transporters enjoy seeing commuters go through pain. Also, they stop some distance away from the stop so that commuters will run a race to catch the bus. In addition, they condition five persons to sit on seats made for only four passengers.

This cruel treatment meted on commuters reveals that, both the Lagos State public transportation system and the commercial transporters cannot efficiently serve Lagosians due to the curious growth in population. Over the years, Lagos State has become a melting pot where people arrive in droves to chase the “Lagos dream” with alacrity. Therefore, the transporters in their quest to make more money congest passengers in buses as they suffer and smile to borrow from the Afro beat legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.

It rained cats and dogs the other day, and expectedly, it caused serious traffic on the Okoko-Agbara-Badagry route. Of course, it was an opportunity for commercial transporters to increase the fare. In their characteristic manner, the conductor’s unique yelling of the bus route suggested that the energy he exercised was being influenced by other factors especially on a cold-wet day. In no time the bus was filled to capacity with its human cargo. Despite the cold weather the temperature inside the bus could inflame dry leaves during harmattan season.

As the journey progressed with its twist and turns to a point along Mile 2-Trade Fair axis, the traffic situation became very chaotic. A stand-still, due to the road construction and some passengers became irritatingly angry. One commuter retorted: “What type of nonsense is this? When is the Lagos State government going to finish this road? The contractor is very sluggish intoned another. I wonder why they gave the contract to a Chinese company, if it was Julius Berger, they would have completed the work by now, said another passenger. A sharp voice from one corner of the bus interjected: “What are you people talking about? You see a government that is working and making headways despite the headwinds and you are here complaining. Between Lagos and the Federal Government who works the most? Suppose Federal Government is working like Lagos, Nigeria would be better for it.” That comment, somehow inflamed the argument as the passengers, regardless of the torrid condition in the bus, became very intense in arguing stern points about why government shouldn’t be what it is reflecting before the eyes of the people.

You see, people often do not appreciate something they got on a platter of gold until they lose it, a female passenger said, with a reference to Buhari’s 2015 election victory. Many people in the bus were furious and demanded to know why the Buhari-led government should subject people with such disdain especially as they don’t keep their promises. “Are you saying that Buhari has failed because he has been unable to meet all his party’s promises? Chipped in another passenger.” “Yes! He has failed….and APC has lost its momentum.” Okay! Thank you, a middle age man said: “I wouldn’t say Buhari’s government has failed with a capital F in all entirety. But, Buhari has failed in principle to deliver the positive constructive society many of us had hoped for. Instead of giving Nigerians a better future, we hear of killings everyday across the country,” a woman lamented. “These killings seem orchestrated to push the nation down a separatist road that majority of Nigerians don’t want to travel… if you are liberal, you probably view what is happening between herdsmen and farmers as unbearably cruel”, a young girl on Youth corps member’s vest said.

“First, the president argued that the killers are foreigners now, the current narrative or revelation is that the killers are being sponsored by some politicians. What stops the government from fishing out the killers and their sponsors and make them to face justice?” another lady lamented.
“Good talk. But you people should be grateful to have somebody like Buhari as our president,” said a male passenger on front seat. “Why did you say that? You be mumu! He is a government apologist… “chorused from those opposed to the view. “Excuse me let me make my point,” he protested. “Of everything you people have said about Buhari, none among you said he is a thief. This is because, Buhari is incorruptible. Currently, he is the champion of anti-corruption fight in Africa. He is not like other past leaders who have looted the treasury blind and made the country a “beggar nation.”

“Of course, nobody can dispute that.” implied the conductor who has remained calm throughout the debate. Hear him: “Buhari should watch the way and manner he grandstands about being corrupt free, because his government accommodates people of questionable character. Also, it is often a mistake to attribute too much power, trust or assurance in shaping history to a single person. The result is what we see in the name of herdsmen and farmers conflict as well as corrupt people hiding behind Buhari’s shadow to become more corrupt. For those with long memories, it is important to understand that the nations’ problems are not going away just like that, especially with governments’ “sweet” talk or one man’s clean records when the fundamental issues remain as metaphor,” The bus driver hinted.

Nevertheless, the good thing now is that, the masses are beginning to have a deepening political consciousness. This can be seen from a reflection of their anxiety and frustrations about governments’ inaction and they are anxious to speak to power with their vote come 2019 elections.


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