The roads and the snare of leadership
It may appear curious but there is every likelihood that the general Nigeria life, like a book, is written and can be read by all discerning minds on the roads. To start with, if most of the roads are death traps as they currently are in the entire country, a lesson is learnt about the manner of leadership the nation is blessed with. In saner climes where there’s adequate concern for human life, road fixing and maintenance remain a very top priority.
Responsible and responsive leadership presuppose being alive to such responsibilities that can guarantee long life and proper well-being of the teeming citizens. In Nigeria, the first prove of government’s lack of care for the citizens is clearly evident on the roads. Many avoidable accidents involving the loss of so many innocent lives are daily occurrences and rather than any government looking critically at the issue with a view to putting a permanent end to it, indications point at lack of will power of successive Nigerian government to look in that direction. Indeed if the government’s body language is anything to go by, it seems to be no other than ‘let those who will die do so and those who remain will be governed’. If not, there ought to be no excuse for any government to treat the issue of roads the way Nigerian government does.
Another easy pointer of the government’s lack of concern over the plight of the citizens is official license given, as it appears, to the operators of articulated vehicles to continually unleash untold havoc on the citizenry through constant failure to put their vehicles in proper order. Years after years, many families are thrown into mourning occasioned by carnage perpetrated on the roads by tanker drivers and owners of large trucks. Many atimes large containers fall off suddenly or their brakes fail killing several people. There are also many instances of tankers explosion leading up loss of lots of lives. Each time such sad event occurs, the government would come out with the usual smokescreen as if any concrete action would be taken to avoid a recurrence. However, few days later, the dastardly business resumes and continues until another sad incident occurred and scores of casualties are recorded. With such daily loss of life and most regrettably through quite avoidable man-made, sometimes deliberate errors, most Nigerians have come to see living as a special grace of God. Religious houses are always filled up with worshippers on a daily basis, not necessarily because of so much faith but mostly for fear of the unknown.
It never seems to occur to Nigerians that even if truly there is a place called heaven, it will actually be easier for a carmel to enter through the eye of a needle than for them to make it.
A people gets the type of government it deserves. Those that hold the rein of power emanate from among the people and behave exactly the way all others would if given the same opportunity. It is largely due to that fact that right from Nigeria’s independence up till the present moment and irrespective of whatever type of government is in place, the experience remains the same and the same poor response attends the issue of roads no matter the number of ghastly accidents continue to be recorded. Aside from the issue of accidents, poor state of the roads also drains motorists’ meagre resources through constant visits to motor mechanics. The sad trend has forced many vehicle owners to either sell them off or abandon them. This ought not to be so if a government that takes the people’s welfare as paramount is in place. A particular government actually came up with a brilliant idea of establishing the road safety agency.
Soon another brand of uniformed officers made their debut on the roads and their presence began to make some difference until the common Nigeria’s ailment set in and pocket safety took over road safety. The game then became more of revenue generation than ensuring safety and officers since then became seen by the people as sworn enemies. What safety can even be ensured when the roads are complete death traps? The people’s hatred for traffic officers is never borne out of non-readiness to pay the stipulated fines but largely due to government negligence and abdication of roles. What right does any government have to set its agents for revenue generation under whatever excuse or guise in the prevailing situation Nigerians have found themselves with most of the roads in such terrible state of disrepair?
Bad roads cause so much traffic gridlock with several hours spent on journeys which ordinarily should not last more than few minutes. Indeed the state of the roads paint all tiers of government in very bad light owing to the fact that motorists renew their vehicles particulars every year without getting any commensurate service from the government. Vehicle owners change motor mechanics as mothers change their babies nappies and already meagre resources continually going down the drain through vehicle repairs. While the law abiding motorists maintain their lanes waiting patiently until the road opens up even if it means sleeping on the steering and the street, the other Nigerian attitude comes to play again. The gridlock is compounded by those who soon leave their lanes and block those approaching and all hell is let loose. Usually there are laws put in place against any form of recklessness on the roads.
But those who enact such laws are never aware that enforcement will always be the problem unless officers work in shifts into very late at night. Indeed with the constant harrowing experience on the roads, it may not even be out of place to have officers working at night since it is the presence of traffic officers that will always make a big difference. One may put all the blames on motorists who leave their lanes and face oncoming vehicles but the irony of it all is that just as those who cut corners easily make it faster in Nigeria than those who live by their conscience, breakers of traffic rules get to their destination earlier than others. Indeed, no commercial vehicles operator can ever be allowed to stay on lane by commuters when his other counterparts are breaking the rules with annoying impunity and getting away with it every time. It is therefore those who keep to the rules that sleep on the roads.
Oyewusi, an educationist, wrote from Lagos.