By Tony Okoroji
Can anyone understand what is going on in Lagos? Yes, the city has always had a reputation for awful traffic. Put simply, the Lagos traffic jam is legendry. Even my guy, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, had to do a song called ‘Go Slow’ in honour of the majestic Lagos traffic.
Some years ago, some ‘brilliant’ guy in government decreed the odd and even number system to reduce the number of cars on the streets of Lagos. How was that supposed to work? If the number of your car started with 1, 3, 5, 7 or 9, you were allowed during the working week, to drive the car on the major streets of Lagos only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. If on the other hand, you owned a car with the number beginning with 2, 4, 6 or 8, the car was allowed on the road only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That seemed to have worked for a while.
But trust Lagosians! To beat the system, almost everyone in Lagos acquired two cars. No matter how old or rickety, you had to have one odd numbered car and another even numbered car to live in Lagos. The result? Our mega city with no mass transit system, became the dumping ground of every battered, tired and rickety vehicle in the world. They came from Belgium, Amsterdam, Baltimore and parts unknown. Our ports were awash with these contraptions and the guys at the ports in Cotonou and those who smuggled the old machines through our land boarders made a killing.
In the last several weeks what we have seen in Lagos is not the infamous traffic jam. It is anarchy. It is mayhem. Let me give you an example. I live in the part of Lagos that to get to work in Ikeja, I have to pass through a place called “First Bridge” along the Lagos – Abeokuta Express way. Two months ago, the journey between “First Bridge” and the ramp by the domestic airport in Ikeja took an average of ten minutes.
Every day now, it takes anywhere between two hours and three hours to get from First Bridge to the airport. That is about the time it should take you to travel from Lagos to Benin City! After the stress, the pollution, the breakdowns, the cursing and the quarrelling, you are of no use to anyone, not yourself, not your job and most certainly, not the economy. If you have a flight to catch, you will be watching the plane in the air from the window of your car. If you have a meeting, better do it on the phone.
To get back home, I have to do the U turn between the Airport Bus Stop and PWD. What happens at that U Turn every evening is absolute commotion. No one and no system is in charge. Your patience is tested beyond breaking point and if you survive it without your car being bashed up, you wriggle to Ikeja “Along” where you see a sea of Nigerians in peace time trekking to get to where ever, some with heavy loads on their heads. Believe me, it is like a scene from a theatre of war. This is happening every day. To be candid, I am frightened to leave home these days.
I am told that this is going on because our new governor, His Excellency Babajide Sanwo Olu does not yet have Commissioners. If I recall correctly our new Governor was elected on March 9, 2019. That is about four months ago and there is still no cabinet. Before the elections, I once met the candidate Sanwo Olu at an event. He seemed to have an answer for everything. I took it for granted that he had a team ready with which to perform the wonders he was promising.
I am told that there is a lot of haggling going on. It is time to share the loot and all those who brought some money or some foot soldiers are asking for their pound of flesh and the poor governor may end up with a team of strange bed fellows he has no control over. That is the nature of the politics we have developed in Nigeria.
My question is: While the horse trading is going on, must the state grind to a halt? Let me repeat that I had no problem with Akinwunmi Ambode as governor. To me, he was pro-active. I could see what he was trying to do with Lagos and I thought that Lagos would have been a much better state if he was allowed to finish a lot of what he had started. But Ambode is gone not because the people of Lagos did not want him but because the people who control his party had a problem with him. Ambode is gone with his commissioners but did he take the permanent secretaries with him and the Heads of Departments too? Did he take common sense with him too? Pray did Ambode go with the password of Lagos State?
When you check, the reason for the madness on Lagos roads are some pot holes which can be filled for next to nothing with a little imagination or some drains somewhere which do not require a super budget to clear. No one appears to be in charge and the pain to the people is just unimaginable.
If this government is not ready, should we invite Akinwunmi Ambode back to take charge until the government is ready? I am tired.
See you next week.