I had thought to relax my nerves for this week, especially when it is ominous if I don’t.
Still in shock after the auto crash that almost took my life on Wednesday night. At about 9pm, right in front of the Women Development Centre (WDC), along Oba Ogunji road, Agege Lagos , a Keke NAPEP tricyclist rode against the traffic and gave me a hard head butt. The car crashed and I sustained a cut on my toe, but I thank God for life.
Yesterday, I boarded a tricycle to Fagba as that is the closest point I could get to use the ATM, the mod con that emits money anytime of the day (if its operations have not gone on frenzy). One would have thought that in a bid to rip off customers more from the crazy re- introduction of #65 deductions for the use of other banks’ ATMS, some people would have applied their business wisdom by planting the money-emitting gnomes on all street corners, just as some of the churches are doing for accessibility; but no, they derive pleasure in stressing us while we gladly go to submit ourselves to pay a #65 ransom for withdrawing our own monies from where they are supposedly being kept.
I was one of the passengers who encouraged the rider of the said tricycle to beat the autoschlange, as Germans will put it, and go park somewhere close to the traffic light, so we can move faster once the traffic light turned green; but the tricyclist, an obviously experienced rider refused our demand and stayed on that long queue (I must confess I thought in my mind that the guy ain’t smart at all). Eventually, the light turned green and we continued our movement only to find ourselves right in the middle of the road as it turned red on us. Gbege!
Expectedly, the LASTMA officials saw a kill and they jumped at it; but they did it in a crazy way. The traffic law isn’t meant to kill offenders but to correct any misdemeanor. This particular crazy official (pardon my language; wish I could break my promise not to get him sacked as I have the footage of the scene on my phone), spoke the cyclist down, and rained curses on him so much it got me reacting, not minding my limping gait. I became crazy, stood my ground, and told him that I expected the madness of his touting days to have waned (most of the LASTMA/KAI/BRT officials are refined touts). He threatened to go physical, but when he saw that I had more fury in me than the regular gentleman, he mellowed. That done, I brought out my phone to record the imbroglio and as soon as he realized what I was doing, he rushed to grab my phone, assisted by his colleagues; but dem craze no reach my craze.
We all are quick to say: ‘It’s the crazy traffic’, forgetting that those cars are manned by humans; not excepting the state officials who are supposed to uphold the law and who in the name of carrying out their duties, drive crazily on the roads, without care or affection for the people they were employed to serve. Or how can one explain someone who totally ignores traffic rules and drives against the good of the trafficking public? Definitely, the government needs to order a psychiatric evaluation for its drivers; and the laws of the road must apply to government bus drivers just like any other defaulting driver, commercial or private. There must be some encouragement of good reasoning so that the driver, the passenger, and the public at large are not threatened by lunatics behind the wheels
In the face of the menace of chronic traffic jams that are fast becoming synonymous with the city of Lagos, the government has been making moves towards finding a lasting solution thereto, by the establishment of a traffic management body to work alongside the federal authorities.
Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) has been created to work with the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI), to maintain sound discipline amongst the driving populace, part of which is to arrest pedestrians who, in the face of apparent dangers of crossing the busy expressway, despite the availability of pedestrian bridges, choose the path of destruction, where many have been killed or maimed.
All these bodies, LASTMA, FRSC, and KAI, are to work in concert with the police. The synergy coalesce and take on the task enthusiastically, even in the face of ever-present politics and corruption; but not for long. After months of recorded successes and some sanity on Lagos roads, much of the populace relapsed into chaos. The marshals that were employed, most of who were “area” boys and girls, poorly trained, soon became corrupt like their priors. People learned how to quickly and readily pay their way through anything, anytime. A minimum fine of twenty five thousand naira became included in the penalties for some traffic offences, and most people learned that if ten or twelve thousand naira were offered a traffic marshal for his own keep, rather than pay the full twenty five thousand naira into government coffers, the marshal would collect it readily, and happily too. Did I mention the Vehicle Inspection Unit (VIU), formerly Vehicle Inspection Office (VIO), as one of the agencies that sanitizes our roads? Sanitize indeed!
Their uniforms are adorned with many pockets which are usually put to good use, as most of them go home with those pockets filled with money, raked in from transporters and defaulters.
“I have a daily target.” One of the marshals answered when asked why his attitude is akin to that of a merciless wolf in executing his duties. He concludes with, “And I have to send money to the office.”
It is a government that no one trusts in any way. And we expect a free society?
Woe betide the world of crazy drivers, crazy pedestrians, and if I may add, crazy voters. Nigeria has a full set of them all!
Adebayo Coker is the author of Societal Fragments and A Man Like Me: Noteography Of a Father to His Son (both are available on www.amazon.com, www.smashwords.com OR order directly by calling 09096991619). He blogs via www.pausibility.wordpress.com and tweets @adebay_c