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What the expressway expresses of US

By Kole Omotoso
16 September 2018   |   3:30 am
The modern road complained of loneliness. The Road is neither male nor female. The Road is both male and female. In its loneliness the Road sought Awo Ifa.

The modern road complained of loneliness. The Road is neither male nor female. The Road is both male and female. In its loneliness the Road sought Awo Ifa. What must the Road do to be rid of loneliness? Awo Ifa said:

“Go straight, be broad.
Go up, come down, be broad.
Let there be space along your depth.”

Awo Ifa asked the Road sacrifice what we eat and what we drink and all we use to decorate our being. And to sacrifice money. Where there is money, loneliness is scarce.

The Road did as it was told. And he was alone no more. Wherever the Road went, markets followed, market after market followed the Road.
Some time in the future, the Road is going to seek Awo Ifa’s advice as to what to do to get rid of markets and marketers so that the Road can go far and go along like roads everywhere do do. In the meantime what do our expressways express of us?

Nigerian Literature is full of roads, roads being constructed, roads being opened, roads being closed. Roads bringing goods and some bads as well. Joyce Cary’s Mister Johnson is dominated by a road being constructed through the forest. At random, this is from the novel: “Johnson makes no secret of his misfortune; in fact, he tells everyone on the road, including market women, passing traders, or unemployed labourers, that he has been sacked.” (page 129). The world of the young Mr. Johnson revolves around the road.

Wole Soyinka wrote The Road, a song in praise of the denizens of the road, the drivers long before the era of “I-go-drive-myself”. The powers that be in Ilujinle, home town of Mr. Lakunle and Sisi Sidi would rather the new road did not pass through their town. Because why? Because it would bring thieves and rascals from the city to pollute their serene and unspoilt land, including the Sidis of the village. Virtually all our writers write about something or the other to do with the road. Chinua Achebe wrote about the driver who hits a villager and the villagers, thinking their kin was dead, killed the driver. When they discover that their kin was not killed by the driver, they kill their kin, to square the sum! Someone else wrote about a goat killed by a driver hurrying through the village. All in all, something or other makes sure the road does not go straight and broad in our country.

Our expressways are clogged, bumper to bumper, like an overcrowded parking lot. Express, quick and getaway becomes stay put, go nowhere, place of rest is reached. Wasimi!

Dual carriageways must have been a break through in their time. Why not construct two roads, one going and other coming so we never again have cases of head-on collisions? Problem solved. Henceforth all modern highways must be dual carriage ways. Until they brought the concept to Nigeria. Here dual carriage ways are twin roads on which to and to fro, traffic can go and come. And drivers, racing one other to the next destination shuffle between the dual carriage ways, hurtling along at speed, surprising informed road users into accidents, head-on.

And wherever the road goes, markets follow. Virtually every village and every town in the south-west of the country has shifted in search of expressways. Some villages have shifted two or three times in the last fifty years, following the expressways constructed to hasten the movement of goods, services and passengers. Farm produce in profusion for the delight of the hurrying horde. Yams, plantains, bush-meat, snails, mushrooms, vegetables and fruits of various kinds.

As if these were not delays enough on our expressways, bumps and stop- blocks of stones, cement and wood ensure slowdown. Along with these are potholes and side gutters with green waters. Sometimes police men, army men, drug men, license men, all position themselves to ensure there is nothing express about our express ways.

And there are also ring roads. Town planners and such related professionals say that “a ring road (also known as beltline, beltway, circumferential (high)way, loop or orbital) is a road or a series of connected roads encircling a town, city or country. The most common purpose of a ring road is to assist in reducing traffic volumes in the urban centre, such as by offering an alternate route around the city for drivers who do not need to stop in the city core.” Such ring roads ensure that travellers continue their journeys on wider, broader, faster and safer routes. Examples given are to be found in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, in Cairo in Egypt and in Johannesburg in South Africa.

Think of the ring road in Ibadan. Or the expressway in the same city of Ibadan. Coming from the general direction of Ile-Ife, going to Lagos. And you do not wish to go via Agodi to Challenge and on to Lagos road. So, you take the ring road and you are no faster getting onto the Lagos dual carriage express way. Or you take the expressway clogged by tiny taxis and huge cement trucks and big bully passenger omnibuses. Easy motion kerere! Slow motion it is! Markets to the left, markets to the right and the in-between filled with the filth of the city.

At what point in the history of The Road in Nigeria did the expression “waka better pass motor” come into existence? Travel on our highways and expressways today and you see people walking up and down the expressways, women carrying bundles of firewood, children bearing loads twice their weight, and men walking behind them, holding a machete or a sakabula gun. They are all going to the next village or the previous settlement along the highway. In the absence of railways and working high ways, to walk would get you to your destination faster.

So, for the road to serve its purpose it seeks the Awo Ifa again. Town planners, road construction engineers consult with governments to create expressways that would expedite vehicular movement, ring roads that would speed the traveller along his or her ways. Governments must decree that no markets must follow roads again, no matter where they go. If they do, such markets would be destroyed and the marketers sent to prison. Who is dreaming? The road must be lonely again.

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