This is a work of fiction and creative writing, therefore any depiction of or reference to any actual person, organisation or government is purely co-incidental (hopefully).
"It is better to cherish virtue and humanity, leaving much to free will...than to make men machines and instruments of political benevolence" - Edmund Burke
"Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence" - Leonardo da Vinci
INTRODUCTION You see them approach your car and an involuntary shudder went through you while you cringe inwardly. Military age males with mayhem in their eyes, that is if you survive long enough get to see them up close. They look at you menacingly, in their t-shirts, baseball caps and rubber slippers. You look back with nonchalance despite being terrifying melting under their gaze. But you dare not show it. They rudely thrust their wares into your face. Daring you not to make a purchase, even if as a ransom for your life or limb. Under the tense atmosphere, you could not help doing a little mental calculation; the total cost of the goods they are offering for sale to you in traffic is not up to the price of a full meal in any decent restaurant, or bukateria. How do they get away with this every day? Yet, they offer same to police patrols, military patrols and various government officials’ spouses’ convoys and motorcades. You wonder whether any of this is for real. The street hawkers or the government that has banned them from selling in traffic. You look again. That tray holding less than five hundred naira worth of kolanuts and bitter kola is what this sun-darkened able body hard man claims to be selling all day? Since morning? The same sun that has baked this purported street hawker is now setting. And now it is getting dark. And to think that the sun was still in the sky when I left the office some couple of hours ago. Why didn’t I wait a little longer for the colleagues who have pleaded to join me on the ride home, at least to their various bus stops along the route? But it’s too late now. I should have waited and allow some staff, especially the male colleagues, to join me but it is exactly the fear of this traffic jam that made me to zoom off when they were not keen to leave at closing time. This idea of not leaving before your supervisors or managers or heads of departments despite the fact that it’s closing time and you’re done for the day is a mere eye-service and hence stupid. Except those who have other ideas anyway, like downloading stuffs from the net or chatting with their friends. So, why should I hang around aimlessly in the car park for these lilylivered subordinates meanwhile traffic has started building? The news from the traffic radio is not pleasant at all. Everywhere clogged up since offices close almost around the same time and everyone wants to have a head start before every other driver. Abandoning the guys has not helped. Not at all. Now, here I am, all alone. Motionless. And to worsen the situation, dusk is slowly but surely filling the clear sky and the traffic jam is showing no sign of abating. As far as the eye can see, motor vehicles line up, fenders to bumpers. A young lady, all alone, behind the wheels of fairly brand new tear-rubber car is always an endangered specie anywhere in the world but in Lagos, you had to be exceptionally brave or exceptionally stupid if you make it a daily habit. But is it my fault that I’ve been promoted to a 3
managerial position where a status car is part of the perks designed to trap me in place for the next four years, if I so desire, for the vehicle’s ownership to become mine? I’m sincerely praying that this car does not signify my end tonight in this horrible traffic. It also does not seem as if there would be any transcendental escape from this traffic jam this time around. The realisation that the mind sometimes activates a release functioning to make a hard condition more durable as a latent survival instinct, or it the brain? Where is the mind really located? Inside our heads or somewhere else? Some have described such a state of leaving your immediate physical environment for a more rewarding reality as extreme cases of absentmindedness but I beg to disagree. I know it can’t be what has been stated to be astral projection. It didn’t come as a result of intense meditation or contemplation. One thing I’m certain of is that it is exactly that state of mind that has helped me to keep my wits about me without going crazy in the never ending Lagos traffic gridlock. I looked around. There are no policemen in sight and the odd ones you chanced to see getting down wearily from the commercial buses trying to run you off your lane. Their effrontery emboldened by the fact that they have law enforcement officers as passengers, therefore above the law for that duration. The policemen and women, even if not directly encouraging such licence to lawlessness by the danfo drivers, and their conductors, are happy to turn the other eye as the option for not paying their fare and laying claim to being staff. One of the paradoxes in governance in Nigeria is that these police officers are federal agents. They are only answerable to the Inspector General of Police who answers to the President although there are some niceties such as the Minister of Police Affairs and the Police Service Commission who recommend to and advise the President as to the appointment of the IGP. There is no State or Local Government police despite the fact that these other tiers of government should replicate the federal structure as it pertains to the security of lives and property. A policeman serving in Jigawa State can be suddenly transferred to Akwa Ibom State, a totally alien landscape to him. These unleash plenty of hardship and insurmountable challenges on the hapless police officer that would pale the noble task of enforcing our laws and protecting the weak and the Nigerian Way into an insignificant irritant. I sincerely believe this is one of the reasons why most of the policemen we encounter on a daily basis are highly irritable and trigger-happy. God help you if you dare argue your fundamental or constitutional rights with an angry cop clutching a Kalashnikov! But honestly, I have also seen policemen going out of the way above and beyond the call of duty to help people in distress. That, I personally witnessed at Egbeda bus-stop and I fell in love with the Nigeria Police that day and only that day. But these ones I’m looking at now are obviously on their way home and clearly not interested in keeping any law and order or protecting the weak and helpless. It is obvious that the time for doing that has just elapsed. From the resigned looks on their faces and the tired way their 4
carriage suggests, even if a wholesale murder is taking place under their noses, that they would do so much as lift a finger. It’s a situation of ‘hey, Bud, no hard feeling, but no one is paying overtime around here’. Nothing, no force on earth can stop them from looking forward to enjoy their well-earned rest and eat supper. Let’s face the truth, they are, after all, human. The ubiquitous black polythene bags popularly referred to as polybags they are clutching is clear evidence that save for the uniform, they too have now become the ordinary citizens going home for the day. Ummmm, uniforms. We are a besieged people. Years of abusive military rule have done wonders to our mentality. Until public servants are decked out in ridiculous military uniform, the feeling of the overlords is that the masses would not be cowed into submission. That is why from LASTMA to VIO, KAI Brigade (imagine that, brigade!) to CBD, FRSC to NSCDC, even the health ‘wolewole’ officers, a truly rainbow nation of gaudy coloured uniforms. Everyone is strutting in their fancy uniforms with epaulettes and jackboot, clutching assorted walkie-talkies. But I digress. Where was I? Ah!, tired workers going home to rest. Okay. It can be a bit distracting being stuck in traffic. Meanwhile, for some, with different purposes and missions, the day is just beginning. It is clearly apparent that some of these hawkers are not interested in selling any of the wares they are carrying. They look as if they are waiting. Just waiting. For it to get darker. And the fun to begin. And there is no escape. Today. Tonight.
Chapter 1 It has become notorious that the terrible traffic situation in Lagos is getting out of hand. It is fast becoming the stuff bad dreams are made of, those types you long to wake up from but couldn’t. This is not to say that the State government has not been trying its utmost best. Compared to the Federal Government, Lagos State has more bragging rights as shown by its focused sense of purpose and direction. Look at the laudable efforts which among other things, birthed the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) (It is gladdening that the much-awaited house cleaning has been embarked upon by the management headed by a former CoP [pardon the pun] regarding the over-zealous cadre that first seemed to have ran amok); creating dedicated lanes for its ‘rapid’ bus services; setting up of the much heralded 96.1 FM, the first Traffic Radio in Africa which greatest advantage, according to the critics, has 6
been catharsis; the value it provides road users to vent the pent-up frustration associated with traffic build-ups; embarking on the very ambitious rail project from Badagry to the Marina; severely restricting the movement of commercial motorcyclists operators popularly known and called okada; aggressively filling pot holes on certain roads in the day time when traffic is at its apogee; and clearing blocked drainages with its Drain Ducks. The frightening news is that all of these efforts seem not to be yielding the desired results. It is really scary when you consider that there seems to be no logical empirical basis for serious traffic logjam stretching as far as the eye could see, only for you to get to where you believed to be the epicentre of the go-slow and cannot see any trailer lying belly up, no petrol tanker spewing dangerous products, no half-hanging half-falling 40-foot container off a truck-head and no accident-scene in a proper setting. In fact, nothing physically known seems to be responsible for the break in traffic. This shows that the current palliatives are at best a scratching of the surfaces of the endemic problem. And we know that cosmetics eventually wear off. Lagos State, dubbed the Centre of Excellence, was created on 27 May, 1967 and touted to be the economic, financial and commercial nerve centre of Nigeria and the ECOWAS responsible for 65% of Nigerian GDP and over 70% of the national industrial investments. If the devastating traffic situation that is worsening every passing moment is not confronted head-on, all these sterling achievements could gradually be history. The adjusted official census figure for Lagos is 19million souls but we know for sure that the unofficial population of Lagos is about 25million and counting. With a very limited land area, Lagos is approaching a demographic nightmare if the current trend should continue. Those probably informed the proactive measures being taken by the State Government to check the wanton ease with which anyone (including rabid terrorist groups) could enter and locate in the State to the detriment of other legitimate residents and adding more pressure on the available facilities and utilities. There are already whispers whether the newly formed Residents Registration Agency, in a country where the last credible census exercise was in 1816, would be able to (or allowed to) capture the actual number of residents in Lagos as this could be a double edged sword in the murky politics of Nigeria. Would residency now be defined as a state or federation matter? What yardstick do you apply to categorise those who are to be deported to their state of origin? Is there a tribunal with a clear cut guideline in charge of determining whether or not this exercise could be abused? Are there provisions for appeal? How did this issue even start? Where would it end? With this bold and radical step in urban renewal, we can expect that after the vagrants, the non compos mentis, the homeless and those without any visible means of livelihood are summarily deported to their home states, it is a matter of time that those with different political leanings 7
would soon feel the heat. Does this mean that with time, according to historical antecedents, those with tribal markings, skin complexion, different religious affiliations or sexual orientations should not sleep with their two eyes closed as long as this exercise lasts? With an enviable internally-generated revenue war chest (reportedly over N40 billion monthly), the regular though unofficial ‘rainmaking’ exercises and the highly regarded, though classified security vote a.k.a. Contingent Spend a.k.a. Vote for Security, the State government could well afford to set up a ‘high-powered’ Commission, headed by a private sector technocrat, to look into the actual causes of traffic challenges in the State. To continue with the status quo and hoping that things would get better by themselves is wishful thinking if not madness. Things are really getting worse. It is fanciful and living in denial of reality to continue repeating the worn cliché of how would Lagos have been without the emergence of LASTMA. A more enterprising approach with a view to a permanent solution would be to swallow the humble pie and look at this phenomenon that seems to defy conventional and orthodox measures in a fresh light.
Recommendations should then be given the utmost priority. It is then that the political will backing such practical alternatives would rid us all of a situation whereby billions in naira and the naira equivalent (measured in broken stuff: broken hopes, broken dreams, broken homes, broken businesses, broken vehicle parts) are wasted in senseless delays and frustration leading to severe health problems from hypertension and other related afflictions. The heavy pollution from the exhausts of knocked apart engines has swamped the last fresh air blown in from the Atlantic in the metropolis. In Japan, any car emitting noxious fumes is impounded and taken to the crushing yard. Apparently, what applies to the Japanese does not apply to Lagosians, the right to fill one’s lungs with clean and breathable air. Most times, I have had to put on my car’s headlights in the daylight as the result of the thick black smokes issuing from some heavy trucks, and which the highly lauded imported buses of the government have joined the ranks. Taken as a whole, pollution is a very big challenge in Lagos; air pollution, noise pollution, oil pollution, water pollution and lately, electromagnetic radiation pollution from telecommunication masts littering the metropolis. 8
Come to think of it, do you actually need to embark upon a serious research to highlight the immediate solutions to traffic problems on the limited roads? Really? What about solutions staring us in the faces such as empowering local government councils and releasing their total allocations to them, building more roads, more bridges, flyovers, bypasses, trams, underground trains et cetera (which would also provide heavy employment opportunities for the populace and related services providers). It is also the government’s mandate to encourage investments in alternative transportation media. I have often noticed ferries of different sizes lying alongside the jetty at Elegbata, Ebute-Ero and the Waterways Authority can really make a big impact replicating ferry services throughout the State giving the BRT and LAGBSUS folks a run for their money as the State is almost surrounded by water. This should significantly ease traffic on land. Who wants to drive or be trapped in commercial vehicles when a more comfortable alternative exists? But is anyone seriously thinking about making life easier for the citizenry? In whose ultimate interest is it if life is actually made easier for the masses? Won’t they demand for more? Won’t they start asking questions about how they are being governed and ask for more accountability and transparency of the commonwealth? That can’t be allowed to happen and so, any meaningful development that would take place must happen piecemeal. If the above sounds cynical, then how else would you rationalise the annoyingly little or no serious efforts to dealing with the maddening traffic problem that has been bedevilling the metropolis for more than two decades and getting worse every passing day. Questions are being asked by those who are daily affected by this phenomenon that is shortening lifespans if those saddled with governance couldn’t be too bothered.
Yes, these have their private jets and helicopters while if they must be terrestrially-disposed, there is the air-conditioned, siren-blasting motorcade making life miserable for the generality. 9
How then would a discerning observer come to the cold conclusion that the neglect or refusal to ensure that the roads are permanently fixed is not a deliberate policy to ensure a perpetual cycle of contracts awards and its attendant kickbacks or from the other end of the spectrum, another mean to keep the sheeple preoccupied with sheer survival and limit the time for so doing in endless traffic logjams so that they do not get sufficient rest and time to ask too many questions about governance or the lack of it. Or could this seeming intractable transportation problem solely due to the poor state of the roads? The reluctance to treat other alternatives to road transportation is suspect, with the way the state is ballooning uncontrollably, bursting at its seams. Or could it be city planning gone awry? Urban orderliness ran amok? Or could it be the sum of all these and more?
We have been inundated with anecdotal accounts bordering on apocalyptic proportions of how the traffic situation has gone beyond the ordinary. The best version still remains a traveller who met her parents returning from the States at the Ikeja airport on her way to Abuja for an official meeting and who when coming back later in the day after her Abuja meeting got home in Victoria Island before these parents who had been trapped in a heavy traffic all day! For those who use their eyes and heads, it is no brainer to figure out that the traumatic traffic problems currently being experienced on a daily basis along the Iyana Ipaja-Abule Egba route could be halved if not totally solved with the construction of a flyover directly linking OrileAgege to Ile-Epo-Ekoro-Ipaja. By doing this, residents of Alimosho Local Government Area who have no business going to turn at Abule-Egba and would easily access their homes and businesses. This, without the arduous task of jam-packing the Oko-Oba-Abule-Egba junction with those travellers going to Alakuko-Ajegunle-Ota-Ifo-Abeokuta axis. This is the type of 10
creative thinking that is demanded to tackle the problems of Lagos macabre traffic. Not only thinking out of the box as some would recommend but evolving the mentality that there is no box to start with in the first place. It is also mind numbing that no one in the government, either in the Ministry of Transportation or Special Duties had yet figured out the reason why there is a predictable but annoying traffic gridlock along Iyana-Ipaja stretching down to Pleasure and Ile-Epo bus stops coming from Abule Egba, that is inbound Oshodi. A construction firm recently worked on the Agege side of the Iyana-Ipaja road, making life hell for commuters and residents of the adjoining property. Hope was however high that the problems associated with this stretch of the road are finally over only for the discovery that the scope of works inexplicably did not include the other side of the expressway. Now, every morning, long traffic jam snaking from Iyana-Ipaja under the bridge is the norm. A commentator wryly observed that until a top government official relocates to that area, a very unlikely prospect, the problem would never be addressed. The same commentator remarked that some traffic gridlock on Lagos roads go beyond the physical as they have some mysterious aspect to them and exorcism would be needed to solve some road issues. How else would you explain why trailers always eerily wait until they get to a bottle neck before irreparably breaking down? Sometimes in a bizarre mechanical solidarity with another broken down trailer. This diabolical angle is further considered below with a proffered solution. It is shocking that another factor responsible for the murderous traffic situation on that particular stretch of the road is the absence of pedestrian bridges save for the one at IkejaAlong bus stop. From Oshodi to Alakuko, one of the busiest and longest spans of roads in the State, pedestrians risk lives and limbs, and sometimes lose out when dashing across the expressway (same with the Mile 2-Badagry Road!). It is incredible that the stakeholders (and they are plenty) have not marched en masse to the Governor’s office, a recognised effective method for gaining the attention of and putting the government machinery into action, the vibrant press has also joined in the conspiracy of silence. Yet the body counts climb higher. A time-tested advice found inscribed on bolekajas of yore states “Many Have Gone, Be Careful”. We can take a little liberty in para-phrasing this into a plea for life saving pedestrian bridges on this road - “Many Are Going!, Please Do Something!” the latest gory event being the woman who was crushed to her death in the very early hours of the morning, about 5 a.m., after scrambling across the median, in the thick darkness as there are no streetlights and even if there were, would there have been power? Presumably going to eke out a living, with her baby still strapped to her back. Worthy of note is the stretch of road leading from Adealu bus stop to Iyana-Ipaja bus stop, that is outbound Oshodi. The pot holes have horribly graduated into terrible trenches. What used to be annoying little holes on the expressway are now terrifying king-size obstacle courses as a 11
result of our legendary penchant as a people to ignore problem until they worsen especially since a stitch in time would not lead to mega contract fees being awarded for same. If it is not deliberate that we know the right thing to do and failed to do so, why do we always wait till the last hour when it is almost too late and precious lives have been lost? In a similar vein, farreaching safety reforms would not be rolled out and implemented until a disaster occurs like aircraft crash.
Residents have, in the mean time when the government officials are grappling with how to continue applying unworkable solutions to the traffic issues, devised ways to survive the dreary and bleak reality of the Lagos roads. Lest I forget, let me hasten to add that not all of the traffic problems are of natural causes as some are perceived to be outright sabotage.
Chapter 2 If as earlier touched upon, the recurrent road problems are useful for successive administrations of government to make themselves relevant (and extremely wealthy) by awarding contracts for the repairs and maintenance of these roads, then it stands to reason that our road problems will never end. Due to the esoteric dynamics of contracts bidding and awards, government â€˜contractorsâ€™ often do not use the quality materials and personnel which are articulated in the contracts documents. The resulting effect is substandard roads which start falling apart before they are even commissioned. You marvel at the speed whereby contracts are being reawarded for roads that are just barely repaired or rehabilitated. Are we to believe that a maintenance or postcompletion period was not included in government construction contracts?
You only can wonder if any retention, subject to the terms and of the tender document, is provided for. The recent use of the government public works corporation is commendable except if these civil engineers could exercise more skill in the resurfacing and potholes refilling they always engage upon in the middle of hot afternoons further exacerbating the horrible traffic experiences we all are getting used to. But how else do we expect residents to know to 14
what use their tax monies are partly being expended on if these remedial works are being done in the midnight? I remembered a colleague in the office telling me that there are reports of novel schemes whereby contracts are awarded at lower value and in-between the award and the execution, that contract would be reviewed two, three times higher than the initial award sum. These are common with the federal government’s contracts but who says a leaf cannot be borrowed across the divide? All of the issues about ‘Due Process’ are now being conveniently thrown aside in feathering of nests. We’ve heard tales of ‘no-bids contracts’ and ‘irrevocable standing payments’ but the matter of selective tendering without advertisement beggars belief. Colossal and mouth-watering funds are exchanging hands in the name of contracts but the reality is that there is nothing to show in justifying these huge allocations. The roads are still poorly constructed and the gaping potholes bear testimonies to the inferiority in planning, execution, materials and longevity of these projects.
Filled potholes are of another gradient with the existing roads being reinstated and slightly elevated mounds are the results of these repair works. Are we supposed to be grateful that the potholes have been filled and dare not complain about the resultant mounds that are not a motorist’s delight especially when you are on a high speed. Many efforts at straddling large potholes have failed when the alternative option of swerving violently to avoiding these would definitely lead to ghastly if not fatal accidents. But the key word here is the remedial works being carried out as these are still the existing road networks since independence (not the Nigerian flag independence of 1960 but the independence of Lagos Colony on 5 March, 1862). Exceptions being for the very few new constructions in ‘strategic’ locations, say in Bourdillion Road or Oyinkan Abayomi’s Drive in Ikoyi (where the elite have substantial current and future interests, that is) as opposed to AlfaNla or Ajangbadi. Until when the same quality attention being paid to traffic management at Falomo or Akin Adesola is also paid to vehicular traffic on Alof/Oke Popo or FolaAgoro/Bajulaye that we can be sure that hope is rising for other residents in the State. Yet, some few not so elitist areas have enjoyed super roads, in the light of what exist elsewhere. It is a joy to now cruise along the Isheri-Igando-Iyana Iba road and pure ecstasy to drive on the Igbo-Elerin revamped by-pass to and from the Badagry Expressway. When would these be replicated all over Lagos so that the government can beat its chest and throw a challenge to the Federal Government to learn from the masters; the art of being focused and to tackle the power problem the same way and manner? Being the acclaimed commercial nerve centre of the whole country, Lagos serves as a magnetic force for every business-minded persons; individual and corporate, who have goods and services to offer. This brings us to the other type of sabotage being perpetuated on the roads. Craters often magically appear overnight on a stretch of road which were not visible the previous night. Visions of possessed personages armed with diggers and shovels feverishly digging potholes when other mortals sleep are not hard to imagine, but no other rational explanation exists to justify the appearances of potholes and gullies which due to heavy traffic on these few roads become manholes and ditches within hours. The theory has been advanced that some special forces units of the uncoordinated army of traders, vendors, hawkers doing brisk businesses on these roads are responsible for furiously digging most of the pot holes found on very busy roads when we are not looking. What could be responsible to the extreme dedication these folks would go too to ensure that the buyers have access to their goods and services notwithstanding any challenge? What extreme dedication to business would make a clique to override other considerations in the bid to ensure and engender a very sustainable business environment?
When you carefully analyse this theory, one will come to the realisation of the fact that what are being sold on Lagos roads constitute life itself to justify the battle cry; by any means necessary! A black economy on the upswing. We have everything from essential commodities such as rat poison powders, sugar cane, watermelon, oranges, nicely peeled pawpaw and bananas, fruit salad, hot golden puff-puffs and buns (for those in the know, there are routes where you get hot àkàrà in the morning on your way to work and fresh delicious móínmóín in the evening on your way home), recharge cards, stolen handsets, stolen smart phones, stolen wristwatches, stolen jewelleries, universal phone chargers, air-fresheners, yoghurt, perfumes, potato and plantain chips, energy-saving light bulbs, exotic incenses to ward off evil spirits (this would probably be very useful for those unexplained traffic hold-ups which causes could not be readily ascertained as stated above), prayer beads of various sizes, shoe polish, pirated CDs and DVDs, designer wrist-watches (stolen and not), designer sunshades, portable fire-extinguishers, leather products such as sandals, belts, whip, corkscrew, key holders, bed covers, duvets, envelopes, batteries, torch/flash lights, hats and caps, male and female underwear, handkerchiefs, fresh meat and fresh, smoked, roasted, dried fish to hardware such as gardening shears, barbing clippers and kits to various assortments required for daily living like soaps and detergents, toothpastes and toothbrushes, children and adult toys, newspapers, magazines (mostly junk), hard to get controversial bestsellers like ‘Death by Drones: The New Face of Democracy’; ‘In God’s Name, Again!!’; “‘Terror’ in Africa: Drones, Death & Democracy”, bulletins and different grades of drinking water of dubious origin and bubble/chewing gums and peppermints with enough aspartame to give the whole of Africa massive brain damage! Hence, the stakes are really high.
. Although the State government claimed to have outlawed trading and begging or gathering alms, giving of alms, littering by passengers in vehicles, et cetera, on the roads, the actual enforcement, like every other important policy, has been lacklustre due to the absence of a practical alternative. The fact should have now sunk in that over legislation has its drawbacks. Once a problem has been identified, options should be considered before such a problem is tackled. Very soon, normal fatigue over the constant churning of legislation would soon develop and the government would have no one to blame when citizens begin to ignore laws which are not realistic and incapable of enforcement. A terse response by one of the targeted to the plethora of laws being churned out by the State Government and the incessant arrests with confiscation of his goods is this: Na dem go tire! This summed up the unrelenting attitude, unquenchable spirit and the tenacity of productive purpose which are sorely needed in government offices and corridors. How so? The day that I witnessed a danfo conductor whose bus ran out of fuel mid-trip going to purchase petrol with a polythenebag, and the petrol filling station obligingly selling 4 litres of high flammable premium motor spirit, aptly described as the most dangerous material in peacetime, into an unstable nylon container and him dashing across a very busy 4-lane highway with the sloshing polythene bag held with both hands and panting as he poured same into the gas tank of a rickety bus full of passengers, was when I knew that nothing, absolutely nothing can conquer the irrepressible naija survivalist spirit! It is hoped that the lesson would soon sink in, as wisely noted by Jonathan Swift, that it is a great disadvantage to fight with those who have nothing to lose but it should also be acknowledged that none so deaf as those that will not hear. 19
An objective observer would note that there exists a vacuum, indeed an opportunity which these traders, vendors and hawkers are filling by the services being provided and if that void is not fully investigated and examined well, the law of demand will continue to guarantee regular supply by these traders, vendors and hawkers. Truth be told, this writer has recently concluded a fumigation contract while in traffic. The bloke’s shop was right by the roadside and tired of the cockroaches hiding all over my house, called him over and we negotiated and concluded on the contract while the traffic was motionless. Apart from being a time for a sober reflection; to review one’s life’s activities or lack thereof, Lagos traffic has its high points. That is if your reflection was not rudely disturbed by the sudden materialisation of a lethal locally-made handgun or a sharp dagger from beneath a well-packaged sausage carton! It is therefore logical that trades and businesses that could only flourish and bloom in terrible traffic should be highly suspect as an efficient traffic movement would clearly spell doom for such a fragile business plan based on crawling cars and their occupants. Rumours inevitably started that most of the potholes we find on certain strategic routes are the effect of hydrochloric acid that have been poured, while men slept, as a sure fire initiative to weaken the structural integrity of these roads. These eventually result into those pesky craters we come across on the expressway and busy inner roads. Theses the bane of our vehicles’ suspensions and wheel racks. This acid(ic) theory certainly has some logic to it since some of the potholes are almost perfectly cylindrical, a mean feat if indeed they are natural occurrences and the mysterious manner they suddenly appear (except we broach the fringe and accept the mysterious potholes as the African answer to crop circles!). But if it’s simply a matter of cui bono, then there are many culprits. We should be able to add the fuel marketers to the list as they get to sell more petrol and therefore benefit from heavy traffic situations.
An unfortunate consequence of subjecting new vehicles with bright future and high hopes to the hazards of Lagos roads is that many of them have unwittingly become premature candidates of the unique but dreaded locations in Lagos State called Owode-Onirin, ASPAMDA and Ladipo markets.
Chapter 3 The State Environmental and Special Offences (Enforcement) Unit has admittedly shown it cannot keep the entrepreneurial spirit of these traders down despite the serious abuse of civil rights of these men, women and children whenever the task force mounts its offensive against these so called-hawkers; from brutalising and illegal seizures of wares (the subsequent disposal is a matter still shrouded in official secrecy. One could only wonder what has happened to all those tubers of yam you see being carted away in those black trucks). Awards should be given instead to these men and women of commerce who are ensuring that the needs of the hapless commuters on our roads inside intractable traffic are duly met, instead of being harassed by hungry men wielding assault weapons operating under the title of Governorâ€™s Office Task Force.
Letâ€™s be a little honest here. Well chilled pure water and the bottled compatriot, soda and juice drinks of varying sizes, beef rolls and sausages, popcorn (the special one made from microwave 22
ovens, very crunchy, very tasty and very cancer-inducing from all those nice radicals! Take your pick; hydroxyl, perorxl or super – orxyl) and fresh loaves of bread (hot Agege, Ghana, Togo, even French baguettes. You’ve not been in traffic long if you haven’t seen toast for sale), fried and smoked fish which have saved many lives and marriages in Lagos traffic. The tale has been told that some people play ‘game’ (a.k.a. Baba Ijebu) in traffic in a certain locale of Mushin although this is yet to be independently verified. We should also acknowledge that these lifesaving services come at a great cost and huge risks to the precious lives and limbs of these sellers who constitute a latter day Hawkers Sans Frontières. Some have even sworn that they have seen live cattle on sale in traffic!
The zeal, dedication and energy with which these hawkers go about their collective trades are exemplary and should be a commendable template, especially for government workers. Yes, the Governor has marvelled at the dexterity of these folks while selling in traffic and should also go a step further in calling off those hunting them down with automatic rifles. You would definitely empathise with their apparent conviction that all people have the right to goods and services on our roads during traffic regardless of race, religion, creed or political affiliation, and that the needs of these people outweigh respect for draconian laws. And truly, like their namesake, many have fallen; injured and maimed in the line of duty and some have paid the supreme price. (Let us solemnly observe a moment of silence for the departed). Therefore, the average Lagosian is guaranteed breakfast, lunch and dinner and supper at a modest cost. In all fairness, if the government insists getting rid of and punishing these 23
hawkers, vendors and sellers, the same law, in all good conscience and equity should apply to the buyers and consumers of the goods and services of these sellers. What is sauce to the goose need not be fatal to the gander in this case. Concerning this fantastic urban legend that some rogue hawkers deliberately damage the roads in order to cause traffic for better sales, now that the surveillance cameras being mounted at every intersections and roads, we are confident that the government would soon release footages of these road wreckers caught in the act in flagrante delicto. It is hoped that by that time, streetlights would be functional as most are currently not working. Who knows whether these cameras are infrared-enabled, a fact dependable on whether they are first, second, third, smart or next generation technology. It is interesting and remains to be seen how the CCTV would be efficiently powered in an environment notorious for unreliable power supply. Would generators now be used to power these security cameras just the way lightings for Christmas and Eid-el festivities are being powered along Alfred Rewane (Kingsway), Alausa and other select roads and locations? Can you imagine the cost of fuelling that would be required? But why the worry? If the private sector could impossibly mount huge generator-powered electronic billboards along Berger at the onset of the Third Mainland Bridge, two at Adeniji, one at Legico and several all over the State which are consistently powered, why would the State find the powering of its CCTVs difficult?
It also a cold fact that no amount of CCTV has ever been known to reduce or eradicate crime. More cosmetic solutions from an administration bereft of ideas? Are these signs that our satraps are now at their witâ€™s end? Let it be known now and for all time that it is never in the best interest of the government, any government for that matter, to eradicate crime. It is naĂŻve to think that government would actually want to solve problems permanently. If the government solved our problems, there would be no further need for government. So, our problems, and they are many: legal, economic, social, educational, health, housing, crime, traffic are all here to stay! All we can hope for are the half-hearted attempts to ameliorate and 24
mitigate the impact of these problems on our collective lives especially when these issues also directly affect those holding the reins of affairs.
The best CCTV-infested cities in the world, for example, London, where a rash of CCTVs are almost at par with the number of its resident, have shown the way to go about combating crime. Well-equipped and motivated police force with a reasonable standard of education and a smooth administrative system, unlike the bloated and over-worked central and unitary colonial-inherited mysterious contraption with the command and control solely located in Aso Rock (contrary to all known and accepted practices of a federal government), a force known more for occupation and oppression than a proactive crime-discouraging entity. CCTVs are complementary to a good police structure already on ground, not vice versa. But what do I know? In all likelihood, the CCTVS being deployed would put a sudden stop to the road destruction, ritual murders on the Third Mainland Bridge at unholy hours, spate of kidnappings and abductions and other violent crimes in general. The fact that the embattled Abuja CCTV project 25
awarded at the princely sum of $470million, as part of the much lauded Nigeria Public Security Communication System (NPSCS) failed woefully should not suggest that Lagosâ€™s wonâ€™t succeed. But if we chose to believe and run with this acidic justification, how would we then account for the uncanny condition of the road along Candos/Cardozo road leading to Baruwa Inside, especially at the latter portion of the road as well as the contiguous area of Ayobo and Abesan? I recently found myself in a gorge so deep that it would easily swallow a reasonable sized car were it to rain on this route specifically at Gemini bus stop. I do not think this is the work of a devious road hawker but a stark symptom of a serious neglect and misplaced priorities by the managers of road networks in the State. Do we have a bureaucracy that is devoid of lateral thinking? Where independent creativity is considered a threat to the existing old order of maintaining the status quo and therefore worthy of punishment instead of being rewarded and encouraged? Where all credits for laudable initiatives must be attributed to the Executive honcho or else? Anyone who feels that the good people and residents of Amukoko do not deserve good roads must be smoking pot. How then CCTVs-hosting poles are clearly missing from certain rustic locations in Lagos? Are these deliberate or these areas not worthy to be part of and under the watchful eye of big brother?
It is therefore inevitable that all of the fake fawning and excessive deference to State executives and the President eventually lead to hubris. And plenty of potholes on the roads for good measure. It has recently been suggested that if a high-altitude aerial snapshot of Nigerian road network were to be taken from the Nig-Sat juggernaut in low geostationary orbit, it would reveal a large strip of potholes marred by some few good portions of normal roads, mostly concentrated in the FCT, Minna, Ikoyi and the Lekki-Ajah axis!
Another visible major cause for traffic on Lagos roads could be attributed to the activities of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) but delving into this hypothesis would take a full thesis. I cringe at the mere thought. But we all know why this problem will not be addressed by the current crop of politicians, at least not in this lifetime. But I digress. Lagosians in traffic jams often cope by sleeping, even by those behind the wheel. Some distract themselves by eating and drinking. Others read newspapers and books. Some talk. Others curse. Some doodle. Others paint. Some make their wills. Then there are the chronic road users who have graduated from these mundane solutions to combating boredom in traffic and have, unconsciously, adopted a most creative approach to surviving traffic snarls. This phenomenon occurs in two phases; the first is restlessness, when you cannot wait to get out of the traffic jam and be on your way and the second is when you accept with a stoic equanimity worthy of the Buddha that there is absolutely nothing you can do to make the wretched traffic move on. The latter feeling is the key which opens the portal meant to alleviate the huge abuse the human mind and body are being been subjected to as a result of 27
the punishing effects of being stranded in unmoving traffic gridlock for hours on end, every day, every week, every month and every year. The brain often shuts down critical systems and processes out of self-preservation when there is a heavy shock which it cannot cope with. A traumatic experience such as that often instantly leads to a faint or at worse, a coma as a self-defence mechanism meant to protect the organism and ensure its survival, even if as a vegetable! A traffic jam is gradual in its debilitating effect; medical practitioners will let you know. And the effect of such a long term punishment inevitably leads to an avoidance strategy by the body to prevent further damage to the mind and internal organs, notably the kidneys, the liver, the spleen and the bladder. Oneâ€™s hips, thighs, knee joints are guaranteed to suffer continuously from constant traffic hold ups. Recent studies have shown it only happens to drivers, not the passengers in the motor vehicles. These drivers often feel themselves drifting as a way to combat the humdrum of sitting in one location and staring at long rows of cars in unending lanes with no visible resolution in sight. The restless ones come out of their cars looking for a bush to take a leak, stretch out their aching legs, and every other thing except to sitting down motionlessly. These are not the ones under reference here. Those fall under the first phase and may spend years before activating the second and critical phase. These second phasers, after the reality has finally dawned that a significant and substantial portion of the lifespan is going to be spent in Lagos traffic and there is no escaping it, slip into a state of nirvana right behind the steering. Maybe it has to do with synaptic overload or whether the phenomenological effects of the rearrangement of cognitive associations are external or internal, scientists will later tell us. It starts with initially thinking of other things totally at variance to the task at hands, a sort of daydreaming, even when it is night time. Ask regular road users on Garage-Sabo Roundabout-Itamaga; Itokin-Sagamu Road axis before the LASPOTECH 1st Gate; Ogunnusi Road-Ogba-Agege Pen Cinema-Oko Oba-Abattoir-Abule Egba route; Iponri-Funsho Williams-Costain-Ijora route; Benson-Ikorodu Roundabout; Abule OsunOnireke-Iyana Iba; Ilaje-Barracks; Agidingbi-Omole-Grammar School-Ojodu-Berger; Admiralty circle Toll gate from Maroko-4th Roundabout-5th Roundabout by Jakande Estate-Chevron Roundabout-New Toll gate-Ajah Junction after VGC; Ijanikin-Afromedia-Okokomaiko-Alaba Rago-Iyana Iba-AbuleAdo; Owode Onirin-Mile 12 under bridge-Kosofe-Ketu-Ojota; Ile-Epo-Oja Oba-Abule-Egba-Salolo-Ajegunle-Abeokuta Expressway; 7-Up-Ojota-Maryland; Majidun-Agric; Ikorodu-Lagos Expressway; Eti-Osa-Lekki-Ajah-Epe Expressway; PZ-Odogunyan-Italuwo; Oregun-Olusosun-Ojota-Maryland; Capitol Road-Alfa Nla-Oke Koto-Tabontabon-Gengeto-Oko Oba; Apapa-Oshodi Expressway that was constructed between 1975-1978 and which has become a huge death trap despite being the economic gateway for the nation ; Ago PalaceOkota route; Ajelogo Road coming from Mr. Biggs; Mile 2-Mazamaza-Alakija-FinNiger-AbuleAdo-Volks-Iyana-Iba-Okokomaiko-Ijanikin-Badagry Expressway especially the Agbara axis; Ejigbo-Ikotun-Ijegun-Idimu route; Alapere-Ogudu-Oworonsoki-3rd Mainland Bridge route et.c.
It is interesting to note that the most basic motor control neurals are functional which ensure that the car inches forward as well as controlling the wheel around corners even without the driver consciously realising it but in actuality, the driver is no longer in the car. Most find themselves at the gates of their streets or houses with no absolute no idea how they made the trip home or inside the Lagos lagoon! This Out of Body Experience or Effect (OBE) is a serious phenomenon needing further scientific enquiry and study which, apart from establishing whether the risk of severe long-term neurological damage exists from such experiences, may finally provide the hard evidence for the mind over matter/reality debate.
Chapter 4 Awesome dude: I mean what’s that? Total waste of time and manpower!! BUZZ!!! BUZZ!!! This person appears to be offline and will receive your message the next time they sign in (10:17 AM) sophia: Sorry Joe, just came back from another meeting Awesome dude: So so meetings. Heard about the best way to waste time? Call a meeting. Many tnx for yesterday, hope the traffic situation improved after I got off? sophia: Apologies my brother, had to respond to some urgent mails, but free now. Oh! The traffic was horrid as usual. Got home around 11 despite leaving at 5:30. As usual. I’m so tired. This is not how to feel early in the morning. How do I make it through today? I’m even in dread of going home tonight. I heard over the loudspeakers mounted outside the worship centre on my street that that there would be a 7-day vigil commencing tonight. Awesome dude: Night vigil? sophia: don’t be cheeky. Do you have day vigil? Awesome dude: At this rate, something has to be done and fast. sophia: That’s what we’ve kept shouting for a couple of decades now. Awesome dude: But it can’t continue like this. sophia: good observation Awesome dude: You have to wonder if the traffic management were to be the only performance yardstick, how would the government rate itself? sophia: It has already rated and gave itself excellent marks, that’s why the problem will continue to persist. Awesome dude: So how did your appraisal go? sophia: U want the truth? Freaking waste of everyone’s time Awesome dude: my opinion exactly but HR need to be seen as doing something sophia: there are better ways to measure performance, not a pointless exercise where the concerns raised are never followed up 30
Awesome dude: But now that you are a manager, it shouldn’t be too hard on you sophia: are you serious? I had a feeling that my director’s mind was elsewhere throughout the whole exercise. Awesome dude: Did you hear about what happened to the protesters of the Lekki toll gate? sophia: No, what happened? I’ve been off news lately, preparing for the appraisals and all that Awesome dude: The protesters were mobbed. Can you imagine that the government imported thugs and area boys to come and beat the protesters up? sophia: na lie! Seriously? Awesome dude: the people came under the protection of the police and other security agencies and forcibly truncated the protest. But the government has now been forced due to the public outcry to hasten the construction of the alternative route for those who’re not willing to pay tolls sophia: shouldn’t that have been done first? Awesome dude: the idea of even constructing a toll gate on a public road renovated with public funds not synonymous to triple taxation of the citizens? sophia: we shouldn’t forget that bridge linking Lekki Phase 1 to Ikoyi, I understand that it’s going to be tolled too. But wasn’t it built with the taxpayers’ money? Awesome dude: There’s a new scam going on right before our very eyes. A group of favoured investors come up with a proposal to the government for the construction of a major infrastructure which is the government’s responsibility in the first place. These ‘investors’ agree to source for money for the project provided agreements are executed giving the investors concessionary rights once the projects are completed. They therefore go ‘looking’ for cash, armed with the concession agreements to collect tolls from the infrastructure, be it a road or a bridge or a rail for the next 50 years. Down the line, the people protest and the government suddenly realises that it is a bad agreement but eh, agreements must be honoured otherwise we are sending wrong signals to foreign investors, so the government pays the penalty for terminating the agreement and also pays off these ‘investors’. Leaving the people holding the very short end of the stick. sophia: Ah! and nobody is punished? Those who reviewed the agreement? Those who advised on the agreement? Those who signed the agreement? Awesome dude: That’s how you know that it’s all an elaborate scam. This has also been taken to the federal level. You have the FRSC and the Police suddenly waking up to know that they can generate revenues beyond their wildest dreams as long as a bigger portion is remitted into the federation account. The governors are suddenly being told that their portions of these windfall runs into hundreds of millions of unbudgeted and unappropriated funds, theirs to 31
spend as they wish. Quickly, they approve the thieving schemes and the battered and abused people of Nigeria are once again brutally raped, figuratively speaking, let me quickly me add. sophia: what of the press? Is the media oblivious of these scheming? I mean if you, a lowly paid accountant can see through these schemes, what of the editors-in-chief? Publishers? Owners of print and electronic media? Or are they all on the take too? Awesome dude: Me I know no o, but their silence is not exactly the silence of the graveyard. This country is being run and managed in the way and manner a company is not supposed to be run. People joke in my department that we make Excel do stuff Microsoft never intended Excel to operate. Nigeria is being handled the way a nation is not supposed to be handled. When the inevitable occurs, we have no one to blame but our own selves. sophia: I hear you. But take for example that bridge linking Ikoyi and Lekki, is the thinking that the residents won’t complain since they are the big boys of Lagos. Is it everyone living in Ikoyi and Lekki who are billionaires? What of the indigenes? And the artisans who reside in these places? Can they afford to be paying tolls every day they leave their homes and return? I’m not getting it o, why should I pay to leave and return to my house? Or is it because I don’t live in that axis? Awesome dude: Wot indigenes are you talking about? Have you forgotten that ‘Lagos is a no man’s land’? I’m sure that one of the real agenda of the Residents Registration exercise is to identify those who are ‘deportable’ and those who can be ‘tolerated’ while expanding the tax net notwithstanding the propaganda stating otherwise. Lest I forget, I’ll be joining you after work. The other guys also want to follow you to Oworo. sophia: What’s the real story behind the Eko Atlantic project? The project is surely going to outlive and outlast the life of the present administration, what is the guarantee that another government in power won’t blow it out of the water. Awesome dude: Out of the ocean you mean? I don’t know any story behind the project, abeg. All I know is that by the time we have to pay for the air we breathe, maybe we would realise that we are seeing selective slavery in the making. Now, it’s Ikoyi and Lekki residents bearing the brunt, so-called upscale areas of the state, by the time the same bitter medicine is given to less than glamorous parts of the state, then it would be too late. sophia: Are we even sure that the air we breathe is clean and safe? There’s just too much pollution. Dangerous chemical depots are all over the place, next to residences and schools. You see gases being released into the air with impunity, industrial areas have merged with residential areas. The government doesn’t care and won’t lift a finger to rein in the excesses by industrialists, telecom operators, the police, the LASTMA, the VIO, the KAI, NURTW et cetera et cetera sophia: As long as you people leave on time. I’m not feeling too well. Do you know what it is to be in traffic for hours? Every blessed day? If you are not at the car park by 5:30, too bad! 32
Awesome dude: sorry dear. But can’t you make it ‘six’ dot, in case Ngozi doesn’t leave early. sophia: And what has your manager’s timing got to do with me? All these eye services! Closing time is 5:30. The idea of waiting until your supervisor or HoD leaves before you leave the office is hypocrisy. By the way, she doesn’t resume the same time you resume, why must you allow her to leave before you leave? Awesome dude: I don’t understand too. It’s just the way the department operates. Leaving the office before your manager is seen as not being serious with your work. sophia: That’s my point with these pointless appraisals. It is a subjective exercise where the issues that really count don’t matter and totally unrelated matters are brought in to determine one’s progress in the company. I went away from my appraisal with the feeling that I’m only employed to do maintenance and ensure the status quo, y’know, sort of as long as the winning formula is not changed, is that the reason I was created? To maintain someone else’s idea of status quo? So my better ideas or new initiatives are going nowhere as long as they don’t fit the status? Awesome dude: Sure. The thinking and the unspoken rule is that if you’re that bright, go establish your own company, but as long we pay your salary, you have to toe our line, even if your idea is smarter. It’s monotonous, it’s soul-sapping, but the money is useful. Abeg, let’s move to more interesting news. Do you know the latest documentary on Al-Jazeera now? It’s about Nigeria’s security services. The first part is about the extra-judicial killings by the police and its death squads! sophia: As in, seriously?!!! Awesome dude: you won’t believe it. The guys behind the documentary apparently got one of the policemen to wear a camera for 48hrs and it was a sordid expose of the brutality of the SARS guys. How they commit cold blood murder every weekend, partly to keep the number of arrested citizens who are presumed innocent until proven guilty down and to perpetuate the myth that as hard men, they take no prisoners. The clips show the dungeons, we already know who the dragons are, the airless underground chambers where many are locked up without any chance to prove their innocence, the graphic executions of those unlucky to have been picked up while being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Do you see the way these SARS guys dress nowadays? No difference between them and confra boys on a vengeance mission; what with black t-shirts, bandana and clutching AK-47s with multiple magazines attached combat style. sophia: Lord have mercy! Do we now have secret cults within the police? Awesome dude: It gets worse. The second part has to do with the DSS popularly called SSS. The show exposed the serious corruption in the organisation. Y’know the saying as to who watches the watchers? And absolute power corrupts? And the granddaddy of them all is the Customs. I can’t wait for them to air the 2 nd and the final part. This is ground breaking investigative journalism at its finest. Hope the local media will learn from this, why must it always be 33
foreigners teaching them how to do a proper job? The Presidency is already in denial that it is the handiwork of the opposition, as usual. sophia: And there’s no outrage? Where are we going to in this country? Just a sec, pls BUZZ!!! Awesome dude: I’m here. sophia: Sorry, I had to pick a call. My head is reeling from what you said and I quickly checked the site and found it just as you stated. We really are in a jungle society. The painful aspect is that those in power know that these things go on but pretend as if they are powerless to stop the slide into anarchy. Unemployed graduates are taking to kidnapping, armed robbery and vices out of sheer survival. The universities are on perpetual strike and the future of the children is bleak due to battered education system while the States’ owned tertiary educational institutions are mired in astronomical hike in fees’ syndrome. Awesome dude: I once read that a country is measured big or small, not by the numbers of its population, but by the intelligence and education of its people! The politicians make noises about caring for the future but neglecting the very foundation of that future. A so-called sovereign wealth fund has just been launched, another sure-fire method to rob us blind. There are now talks of dipping their dirty fingers into the pension funds of workers to aid in the infrastructure development of the country. sophia: As in ‘Don’t steal, the government hates competition’? Awesome dude: Most def. It is puzzling to me that a government would portray itself as caring and responsible but where it matters, suddenly balk at making that critical change. What’s the use and purpose of building a 4th Mainland Bridge or a rail express from Badagry to the Marina when the wellbeing and welfare of the people these infrastructures are meant for are already being mortgaged? sophia: Do you know that my landlord has just increased the house rent? I protested that it was also reviewed only last year. The old man told me to pack out if I don’t pay him by this weekend. The Tenancy law is only effective on paper. I thought there are governmental safeguards against these kinds of arbitrary increase in rents? Awesome dude: That law was dead on arrival. When you have a so-called law with patently discriminatory provisions stating that certain choice areas are excluded from the operation of the law, what do you expect? Landlords will tell you to pack and go to the houses being built by the government if you can’t meet up with their rental conditions. Do you blame them? Can the government enforce these legislations being churned out as if law making is going out of fashion? Now, it’s an offence to spread laundry on your walls and if you don’t plant flowers in front of your property. Ridiculous!
sophia: It the brazenness of the Tenancy Law that I found appalling. What were they all thinking? The Legislature? The Governor? The Attorney-General? Itâ€™s an infamy. Apapa, Ikeja GRA, Ikoyi and Victoria Island are exempted from the Tenancy Law! Iâ€™m sure posterity will judge them severely as it is unprecedented. The fact that no one could even muster any courage to challenge the constitutionality of such a perverse law is beyond me. Awesome dude: Word! We really are living in interesting times. It is shocking that these politicians will still come around and lie with a straight face that all these are being done in our own best interests. sophia: My brother, I tire o. Everything is just going crazy. A friend in church told me how corruption in the civil service led to the death of an innocent woman in her church. Apparently, telecom masts are not supposed to be installed close to residential premises. Yet, you find scores around residences in Lagos. One was placed in this womanâ€™s compound. Within a few years, she developed serious medical afflictions and eventually gave up the ghost. Autopsy revealed that intense electromagnetic radiation principally caused her death. The family used this info to drag the telecom company to court for wrongful killing and the telecom company is now begging, wanting to settle out of court. But no one is talking about the regulatory agencies that conveniently turned the other way when the whole process of indiscriminate location of cell towers was being carried out. No one is talking about the banks funding these illegal operations and now, the telecoms lobby is making efforts to get their business under the aegis of critical national security infrastructure, so as to be finally above the law!
sophia: But when they know that these violations of existing regulations are not tolerated in their home countries, why break the law in Naija? Awesome dude: It’s simple nah! They’ve been taught all they need to do is to use a monkey to catch another monkey. Our people are hungry. The take home pay is no longer taking people home. What the major telecos do is to outsource most site-acquisitions and operations to cutouts as proxies, known as sub-contractors, especially for what they themselves can’t legally do, often in direct violation of their so-called quality policies so that if those proxies are eventually exposed, the telcos get a get-out-of-jail card free. These cut-outs don’t mind strutting where the angels fear to tread as they’re making a killing, literally, for the risks they are bearing on behalf of the telcos. They wear the skin, speak the language and have no qualms whatever in unleashing anguish and plenty sufferings on their fellow men, with the government taking a front-row seat in the proceedings, of course.
sophia: So, that’s why we have crazy proliferation of masts, even as many as four on a single street in a fully residential neighbourhood. And they are getting more out of control as others catch on to the game, aware that there’s no repercussion from a clueless government. Awesome dude: It’s not only telecom mast madness that has overtaken the land, what manner of government would watch while its people, the electorate for crying out loud, build houses, churches, mosques and shops under high tension cables? And these pylons are already reaching their terminal dates. Maintenance culture is notorious in these climes and these lethal cables could break away from their mountings and kill thousands in the blink of an eye. sophia: I continue to weep for this country.
Awesome dude: The other day, a building collapsed in Ebute Meta killing scores and the government spokesperson came on air to claim that the particular building has been marked for demolition close to six months but that the occupants refused to vacate. Imagine that? Is that an excuse? 37
sophia: So you mean that no compensation would be paid to the victims who survived and the beneficiaries of the dead? What kind of people do we have in positions of government in this Nigeria? Awesome dude: In your dreams. That declaration was the official position that the dead should even be prosecuted for not hearkening to the government’s red sign marking! You remembered the last time when 56 police and state security officers were ambushed and brutally murdered in Nasarawa State by the Ombatse sect, the government paid compensation and some police officers were subsequently arrested for stealing the money meant for the beneficiaries of the victims. Things are really strange in this country. sophia: I think I remember now. There was also an outcry at the marked difference between the compensation approved for the state security guys and the police officers. That the federal government would even discriminate in such a blatant manner is beyond me. No wonder there are eternal hatred between those two executive agencies. Awesome dude: Sure. Why wouldn’t there be? The police in my own opinion are getting short changed, even by their employers. Different cults, sects, militants and armed robbers are after their blood even the ordinary citizens on the streets despise and treat them with contempt and scorn. How can a human being under these severe stress and armed with an assault rifle be expected to function normally? Why won’t they be brutal to all? Leaving blood, tears and sorrows in their wake. sophia: Ah! Fela! But not necessarily in that order. Awesome dude: No, it’s actually in the reverse order. Baba 70 was a prophet! sophia: Far ahead of his times. Now I know that we are not safe in this country. From the hands of our government, no less. Awesome dude: Personally, I believe the police is the most cheated but hard-working organisation in the country. The lower cadre are short changed by the higher-ups and their colonial heritage is not easily shrugged off. With the recent clamour for state police, although the states basically fund and equip the police nowadays, the federal government will never give up its control of the police force. That’s why private militias are being formed and equipped with far superior kit and equipment by the state governors. That singular action guarantees that violence and conflicts will never end in this country. And the innocent citizens who are trying to quietly eke out a living are the ones caught in the middle. Always.
Awesome dude: There should be an award given to every Nigerian, especially those residing in Lagos State for surviving each day. Itâ€™s no longer when you step out of the house and come back safely that thanksgiving is due, because now, horrible experiences have shown you could be sleeping safely in your beds and be butchered in cold blood or a faulty and flaming jet engine could just make your bedroom a landing site. Yes o! sophia: and our most urgent priority now is to build a city out of the Atlantic? Awesome dude: Ah! Thatâ€™s the plan! A marine city with 1,200 skyscrapers rising out of the Atlantic like the phoenix. Itâ€™s heart rending. All of these white elephant projects are totally needless when basic infrastructure facilities are still out of reach. Potable water, good roads, stable and affordable power supply, reasonable health care, security of life and property, sound and qualitative educational system. Why distract focus on good and responsible governance into projects not having direct and meaningful impacts on the lives of the majority of the people except for a special few who stands to make more money while widening the gap between the rich and the poor? Medial tourism to India is still on the increase. Government medical facilities are still yet to be properly funded and stocked leaving patients no option than to patronise fake drug sellers and dubious pharmacies to get the drugs prescribed in general hospitals. 39
sophia: Phoenix rising out of the Atlantic? I don’t agree with that analogy o. Phoenix and water? Neptune or Polaris should be more suitable. But seriously, are skyscrapers conclusive evidence of economic development? Is it not a classic case of putting the cart before the horse? Is it not when the economy is virile and employment at an all-time high that skyscrapers would emerge as a result of a vibrant and robust economy? What is the usefulness of gleaming skyscrapers in the midst of a population plagued by debilitating fatigue, constant buzzing in the heads, joint pains, sleep disruptions, cardiovascular problems including heart palpitations, skin rashes, memory loss, low immunity to opportunistic infections, lightheadedness, anxieties, shortness of breath, nervousness, agitation, headaches, heat sensation and depression? Who are we fooling when brain, blood and bladder cancers are increasing in alarming rates? When chronic kidney failure is rising in the children? When the incompetence of the government officials in this matter is alarmingly glaring? Awesome dude: Do you know that Israel has even banned telecomm antennae on residential homes? Our police force has further been dealt with by the installation of telecom mast in many police stations in Lagos. I’m sure that many ‘ogas at the top’ don hammer over that particular deal. Chei! Police don suffer o! Lest I forget, by the time I got home yesternight, I learnt that power was restored for twenty minutes after almost a whole month of power 40
blackout in my area. So it means there’s hope for us this week. Probably the transformer has finally been replaced when it blew up sophia: You’re even lucky, I can’t remember the last time we enjoyed power. We all on the street have written off the power company. We all survive on generators. You can best imagine the cacophony of different models of generator at various stages of ageing sputtering away and belching heavy fumes into the hot air. Some have no choice than to run their gens throughout the night. Awesome dude: No wonder you come to office with heavy bags beneath your eyes and in serious dark mood complaining of splitting headaches! Ah! sophia: I’m not the only one. I see others with the same mien all around. If it were only the visible external symptoms. Phew! Only God knows the current state of health of our lungs and other vital organs. Is this a country? Awesome dude: There was a country. sophia: Don’t be cheeky. Honestly, if the federal government has given up with the generation and distribution of a stable power supply, other levels of government should be allowed to handle this critical issue for the good of the society. Awesome dude: don’t be naïve. That can never happen. It’s never about the interests of the people. It has never been. It’s about power for power’s sake. How else can you explain why there is uninterruptible and stable power supply in neighbouring countries and not here? Where do you want to put the generator importing companies that keep declaring mindboggling profits and whose promoters are littering the corridors of power? What do you think their business development staff do? Wake up and smell the coffee sophia: Can it be really that bad? Vested interests are more entrenched and protected than the common good? Awesome dude: There is no other major source of pollution around than these generators; the noise pollution is maddening, the toxic and carcinogenic fumes being spewed out into the air are scary. They consume all of the imported fuel and we are helpless year after year. sophia: You think so? Haven’t you heard about the issue of the air we breathe in is still my major headache. Whether here in the offices or at home, I know I’m inhaling more than my normal share of oxygen and the long term implication of this is very frightening. Not to mention the impact on our innocent children who stand the increased risks of lung cancer. So, what then is the function of a government that prides itself of being on top of environmental issues? Awesome dude: My concern is that anyone can say anything, it’s the consequences that will reveal the truth. You have government agencies and ministries. There’s LASEPA for instance but have you actually felt the impact of this supposedly elite agency in regulating air pollution? Factories pour heavy smoke into the environment and you have thousands of rickety vehicles 41
on our roads turning mid-days into utter darkness as a result of the heavy smoke they consistently pour into the environment from their exhausts. What visible efforts are being made to control these scary emissions? sophia: Ah! We turn full circle back to the civil service; they’re known to be more of an evil service than civil service! Awesome dude: Like the issue of the telecom masts we were discussing a short while ago, the issue is serious but being systematically covered up. There are cases involving telecom companies and their indiscriminate located evil masts are in the law courts but you will hardly get to read about them in the ‘papers. The media barons and the chief executives of telcos are members of the same clubs and you don’t bite the hands that feed you. Understand? That is the message of telecommunication masts in Lagos and elsewhere. A conspiracy of silence and censorship though this mast menace is a life-threatening issue. The whole of Lagos would be swamped over with cell towers, even inside nursery schools before an official whimper would be heard. Let the government continue to hide its head in the sand, pretending as if these cell towers are invisible and the next best thing of the much sought after foreign direct investment. sophia: I also see some of the telecom masts and wonder why they are allowed to be built so close to houses, schools even the teaching hospital in Ikeja is ringed with fearful looking masts. Awesome dude: The bitter truth is that the government’s hands are tied. They mistakenly allowed the telecom companies to penetrate it. Huge donations have been made to the government’s pet projects, its programmes have been funded and sponsored, telecom companies have infiltrated the government effectively that for the government to call it to order in the matter of unlawful location of masts would be tantamount to cutting off its nose to spite its face since telcos and government are now one and the same. Just expect no protection from the government, except for the minimal slap on the wrist, and you’ll save yourself plenty of heartache. Do you have any idea of how much these companies make on a daily basis? That’s why they can embark on those frivolous campaigns and stupid reality shows of no socially redeeming quality and dumb programmes of dubious utility except to further dumb down our kids. Whenever they do any good deed through their foundations, it’s probably to assuage their collective bad conscience on the harms they’ve unleashed on innocent Nigerians. sophia: Is it that bad? Awesome dude: It’s worse. Those in the know, and these include the telecom companies themselves, are aware of the harmful effects of radiofrequency radiations in close range to humans but will continue to insist that the radiation is safe. The deflection has always been to the heating or thermal effects of the radiation while the real evil is the non-thermal effects on biological systems. That is the truth the telecom industry is afraid will bring the industry down. It’s madness that profit will take precedence over safety and survival but we are talking of ego here. Too much money can do wonders to human conscience. There was a time that asbestos and lead were thought to be safe but now known to be carcinogenic and hazardous to human health. The sad aspect to this is that the Lagos State government agencies meant to protect the 42
residents from these electromagnetic and other emissions problems such as the LASIMRA, UFRU, LASEPA and the Environment Ministry are more interested in revenue generation, both for the govt coffers and personal coffers. Do you blame them? sophia: Wetin money go cause for this world, money no go fit repair am!
Awesome dude: These masts and pylons are not exactly hidden from sight. Once the elected officials and their lackeys lack the capacity to appreciate the science behind these emerging medical-technology issues despite going overseas every other day on tax payersâ€™ expense and not seeing the streets of London or New York or Beijing littered with telecom masts and high 43
tension pylons, certainly a people deserves the government they deserve. Poverty has really dealt terribly with our people. They readily swallow the patented spins put out by the telecom industry of ‘inconclusive evidence’, ‘more studies are needed’, the WHO this, the UN that. Would you take a drug that has an inconclusive tag on the package? Why is then untested and unregulated technology unleashed on the public? The health concerns of people are being ignored and suppressed. Those won’t get any, ahem, airtime. The media is complicit due to the adverts revenues cumulatively running into billions annually, it can’t allow the truth to be prominently featured as this would affect the bottom line. sophia: it’s about the benjamins then? Awesome dude: The telecom is now the government’s cash cow. No one is connecting the dots. The rising and worrying cases of acute kidney injury and leukaemia in children are duly being documented in the teaching hospitals; LUTH, LASUTH et.c. People of all age brackets are being diagnosed and perishing with various forms of cancer and nobody is talking. These have been brought to the attention of the government for action to be taken but nothing is being done. There is no evident willingness to deal with this issue. Or is it a case of our civil servants doing their thing again? This deserves a state of emergency but some would likely see that as an opportunity to declare force majeure!! sophia: ‘There’s a fire on the mountain….’ Until when it will all be too late and the blood of the innocents will be on the heads of these government officials and they will surely pay for these one way or the other. That’s karma for you. Awesome dude: do you think they give a hoot for madam karma and her family? I think you drive them to more wickedness when you appeal to their humanity. Those who seek power this part of the planet are closet psychopaths. Serving the people does not appeal to them. Many of them crave power to act the benevolent personage doling out favours and cash to their supplicants. Their sycophant hungry followers sing their praises to high heavens, giving them silly titles like emeritus governors, emeritus presidents and the likes. They in turn, after enjoying the adulation so much, would ensure that their protégés and ilk take over power from them so the nauseating dynastic cycle continues. In that way, they don’t get probed after leaving office though they never left in the real sense of the word. There’s no amount of water that can wash away their iniquities. Talking of water, that little drizzle that fell this morning left many streets in my area flooded. If the rains were to last for more than an hour, at this rate, I’m certain that most of the residents living in Lagos would have to be evacuated. And we’re just entering the rainy season, oh! la! la!! sophia: But being a coastal state, Lagos State government has been tackling the issue of flooding with more seriousness than previous administrations and the way and manner waterway canals and drainages are being cleared show much dedication that is laudable. Awesome dude: We shall see. You can never deceive nature, even if you succeed in deceiving men. And water always finds its level. 44
sophia: Frankly, something tells me that the flooding would be worse this time around.
Awesome dude: Famous last word. By the way, have you made arrangements for lunch? The canteen gets filled too soon nowadays, maybe I’ll just send the cleaners to get food for me from outside. The canteen operator has started taking staff for granted again. She should be told of what happened to her predecessor before she follows the same route. sophia: I’m not in the mood to eat anything today. All these depressive issues have robbed me of any appetite. Awesome dude: Na you sabi. Those running and ruining the State are not losing any sleep or appetite. Which one be your own now? Abeg, time is going. Just remember to let me know when you are leaving the office. I have to buy a bathroom curtain in traffic today. sophia: Ah! Ah! Ah! I thought you detest these hawkers plying their wares in traffic? Awesome dude: The only thing I have against them is that their presence on the road is against the law of nature. sophia: Huh? How so? Awesome dude: Transportation of goods and services can be compared to the circulatory system in the body. Roads represent the veins and arteries. Vehicles of all sizes and shapes are the corpuscles ferrying vital needs of the nation’s economy around to critical parts of the nation. So, how do you explain hawkers on the roads? sophia: freaks of nature? Awesome dude: more like viruses, with time, they will kill the body. sophia: Ah! That’s a little too harsh o. I don’t think biology can explain the problem. It’s more complex than that. 45
Awesome dude: whatever. Just remember to let me know when you are leaving so we can join you, madam manager! sophia: Iâ€™ve told you, if you guys are not out of the building by 5:30 and meet me in the car park, too bad!! Awesome dude: We go try o, but you know now? sophia: the days of spending my lifespan in traffic is over. Awesome dude: ok, no prob. sophia: no long story otherwise youâ€™re so O-Y-O!!! BUZZ!!! BUZZ!!! BUZZ!!!
I woke up from my reverie with a start. I was momentarily disoriented. Where was I? A quick spatial triangulation of the area with the time assisted in the location of where I was to where Iâ€™m headed and why. Suddenly, I felt a slight pressure on the body of my car, as if an incubus has rested his weight on the vehicle. Some hawkers are fond of placing their wares on top of cars in motion when they are busy trying to find the correct change for their customers while keeping in step with the moving car. But hey, no vehicle is moving yet. Maybe I should apply for a transfer out of Lagos. Workers in other states would have eaten, rested and be in bed by now. What kind of life is this? It is fully dark now and there is a heavy overcast in the sky, effectively blocking the sun from being reflected off the moon, what we call moonlight, from illuminating the road as there are no street lights and even if there were, are we sure that they would be powered? Benghazi and Cairo were better illuminated than these parts of Lagos and they were waging full warfare at those times. Go figure. 47
I have seen street lights with their heavy lamps precariously dangling like the sword of Damocles over the heads of the unassuming citizens strolling underneath them. Giving a whole new meaning to a life hanging by a thread! It is amazing that our decaying infrastructures are not giving us concerns. We take it for granted that they would continue to stand tall and strong yet they are collapsing right before our eyes! But as true Lagosians, omo Eko gangan! We are just too busy to notice, mouthing Eko o ni Baje! like a rallying cry of demented dolts, especially when it was totally unwarranted, until one day, the ticking bombs explode, buildings collapse, bridges sink and pylons crash! At the height these street lamps are hanging, it is unsure that they would achieve terminal velocity before they cracked the skulls of some innocent pedestrian; it is always an innocent pedestrian that would bite the bullet. Why? It is apparent that in the bid to make ends meet, these death-dealing devices (like drones, eh?) are invisible to all except to the most paranoid. But now, you also know. O baje ti? Indeed.
Headline news over the car radio: ď‚ˇ
The Inspector General of Police has warned police officers and men against usage of excessive force in the execution of their duties. This warning came against the backdrop of reports of policemen shooting and killing okada riders in the bid to arrest them for flouting traffic laws banning their plying of routes that have been declared off-limits to commercial motorcyclists.
The Lagos State House of Assembly has declared that the bill sponsored by a private member seeking for the arming of the LASTMA, the VIO, the KAI Brigade and the Health Inspectors for their personal protection in the line of duty is a reasonable demand in the light of the approval granted by the Federal Government permitting the NSCDC to bear and carry arms. The Assembly is however silent on the uproar that has been generated by this bill on the unprecedented militarisation of the polity under civilian rule. It would be recalled that the Lagos State Government and other state governments have already been buying arms and ammunitions for the Nigeria Police under their various security trust funds interventions.
Elsewhere, the Federal Government has promised to set up an investigative panel to look into the recent outcry against the alleged deportation of Nigerians of eastern origin by the Lagos State government and their being dumped and left at the bridge head of the Onitsha end of the River Niger at about 3a.m. as reported by the Anambra State government. These hapless individuals were reported as being unable to provide 51
satisfactory explanations to Lagos State government officials as to their means of livelihood, mental health status and locations of their residence in Lagos. In a related development, the Lagos State Honourable Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice has vowed to drag the Federal Government to the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of such a panel to review an executive decision of the State Government. Our correspondents have consulted with legal experts on the implication of this latest face-off between the State and the Federal Government. More on this in later bulletins.
A 23 year old commercial motorcyclist popularly called okada has died while swerving from an official of the Lagos State Traffic Maintenance Agency (LASTMA) and running into a pothole at Balogun bus stop, Ajegunle, Apapa. The deceased, Olawunmi Glover was described by his uncle as a promising young man who could not afford school fees and resorted to okada riding to make ends meet. The uncle who spoke at his nephew’s burial at Ikoyi cemetery said Olawunmi had been riding for more than one year before the accident in which he finally died occurred at the weekend.
Eyewitnesses reported that a bus fully loaded with passengers has plunged from the 3 rd Mainland Bridge into the lagoon. It would be recalled that a similar incident happened a week ago when eight persons were feared drowned when a commercial boat capsized while conveying about nineteen passengers from Sagbokoji Village heading towards the lagoon area of Apapa when the tragedy occurred.
Reports reaching us have verified the recovery of the body of the 3 year old girl that was missing for about a week. Her remains have been mutilated by suspected ritualists as vital organs are missing while her limbs have been chopped off. This is coming in the wake of the arrest of three people who allegedly beheaded a 10-year old boy in Amale village of Kaffi-koro District in Paiko Local Council of Niger State. It is believed that ….
I slowly turned the radio off. Which is more depressing? I glanced up. One moment, one is basking in the full glory of the sun, then seeing the moon coming up only to be fully covered with thick clouds, all these while still crawling inside traffic. The feeling is uncanny, experiencing utter emptiness as to how long would one continue to endure these cycles of solitude in the middle of multi-numerous fumesemitting contraptions of different make, model, origin and nationality of which not a single one is made in Nigeria. I nearly slipped into another state of bliss as a result of the long lull in the slow traffic which those not in the know dismissively refer to as absent-mindedness when with a quick glance at the rear mirror, I caught a furtive movement at the back of the car. Now what? Are they now stealing wheels off a moving vehicle? Well, technically, a vehicle that has been motionless for 52
close to forty-five minutes in a heavy and perpetual traffic gridlock should qualify to fall into a category of stationary vehicles but for goodness sake, why not remove the spare wheel under the car if you must steal anything from the car? I asked no one in particular. Thank goodness, it’s obvious that side mirrors are not in season otherwise those would have been the easiest pickings. The uncanny reality is that other motorists are just watching, probably thinking ‘there but for the grace of God, is my portion’, ‘whatever you do, madam, don’t come down!’ and ‘hang in there, lady, it’s just a tyre, not your life, yet!’ and doing nothing. So as not to attract any attention, and imagined vicious retribution unto themselves. Common but useless excuses. Right behind, ahead, left and right are vehicles with occupants inside them, watching with keen interest at the developing drama without lifting as much as a single finger to assist. Blasted Lagos Lookers! That is how they keep on looking until one is brutally murdered, mugged or raped right in front of their eyes. Yet, they will keep on looking. Man’s insensitivity to man. Callously taking sweet comfort in the fact that it’s their smug non-involvement in others’ predicament that has been responsible for their longevity, wellbeing and continuing survival in Lagos. Disgusting voyeurs of human misery. Heartless gawking vultures of road-kill. I can swear to how a man was left on the road in Mushin after being hit by a runaway car for close to two hours with passers-by walking by left and right of him in the middle of the day. Few good Samaritans exist on Lagos roads. When eventually the Ambulance Service came, this man was treated, bandaged and left right on the road by the emergency medical team! Only in Lagos! Lasgidi no dey take last. Nothing do you! Shine ya eyes! My heart is now beating quite fast, clammy hands wet with sweat gripping the driving wheel. Shadowy figures all around my car. Without thinking, a sudden rush of adrenaline made me giddy enough to summon some courage and blasted the still air with the horn from the car tearing the night like the piercing wail of a banshee. Deo Profundis!