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Author: Kehinde Akintobi
Posted to the web: 2/4/2008 2:24:46 PM


Incidentally it was Christmas day. Early around 6amin the morning, I heard a screeching noise of a moving vehicle and anaccompanying thudding sound. It was an accident and it was a ghastly one. Threemen on an okada had just been hit by a hit and run driver and the  driver escaped. Quite dark it was and therewas no street lighting, even if the victims had a chance they wouldn’t havebeen able to steal a glance at the dashing car’s plate number. Who does notknow who between the two parties was to blame though a run away driver givesvery little reason to be free of guilt.


One would think that with the frequency of similarincidents on the same road that maybe the road was bewitched or undulysynonymous with car accidents but over the news, on the pages of the newspapersit seems to be the same story. Before the Christmas break for instance, aroundMaryland, Ikeja an okada overrun by a tanker maybe another incident of a failedbreak system. This kind of incidents was not strange in the state.


Accidents are so common in our country that itseems to betray a claim for the valuing of human life. For instance even thoughreports and statistics have shown that the non-usage of helmets was a majorcause of deaths in cases of fatal head injuries of okada riders involved inaccidents, very few okada riders have helmets talk less of theirpassengers.              It seems theoperation of okadas is just another vehicle to generate money without concernfor the instruments through which this revenue comes about. In a visit toCalabar, Cross River State, it was quite a sight to see both okada riders andpassengers all adorning their helmets. Though this might have been possibleafter a series and session of coercion and concerted public awareness efforts,any society that expects people to do what is right without some form ofcoercion and enforcement and the consciousness of fear of punishment must be ina dream. Nigeria, please do wake up. Or maybe not a dream but a vision, as we havebeen hearing about a lot of them nowadays. From 2000, 2010, 2020 and now evenpossibly 2050. That is if you will still be around by then.


With an overview of the positive incident inCalabar, one wonders why it isn’t possible in Lagos. But all things arepossible to those who believe as ardent Christians would chant. At least beforeall our eyes, the hosting of the Nigeria 99 Sporting Tournament  saw Oshod unbelievably clean, neat andorderly. Yes all things are possible so rather than harassing okada riders andjust collecting or extorting money from them courtesy of NURTW, authoritiesconcerned can look into this area. Helmets could be good for us though wealso  have to do something. I rememberreports and claims of people turning to birds or disappearing when they wore orwere forced by okada riders in Lagos to wear their helmets. Should okadapassengers now carry their own helmets? That however is another case fordiscussion.


Okay non-usage of helmets could be disastrous butwhat about inadequate street lighting? Having spent billions on PHCN there isnothing to show for it apart from Nigeria having another award tag as thehighest importer of generators.  In whatseems to be a joint effort between the PHCN, bad roads for accidents androbbers to prey on unsuspecting ones, the non-functioning of streetlights hasmade it look like the country is unaware of the hazard that the naturaldarkness of the night can cause. Even during creation and circumstances thereinthe Creator of the earth promised that day and night shall not cease. Why thendo our authorities not seem to want to get prepared for it?


Indeed lighting beautifies a city.  With all the noise about promoting tourismit is expected that this is one area that the government can work on. Lookingat the banks and private sector initiatives in Victoria Island, we onlyencourage more private sector involvement in these needful areas as well. Wealso recognise and appreciate the state government for the new street signs wesee across the streets of Lagos but even a child that scores ninety is not justtold “Congratulations” but “more grease to your elbow” and “keep it up” aswell.


Another thing is the drivers and road users. Thepolicemen in siren blaring wagons and bullion vans that do not obey trafficrules, pedestrians that rather scamper across the 6 lane express rather thanwalk a few seconds over the not too far away pedestrian bridge, students whoare not content on walking on the sidewalk, pedestrians that aimlessly paradethe main road. Pedestrians and drivers are the ones that are involved inaccidents and atimes the cause as well. Tipsy danfo drivers toeing dangerouslyalong in the afternoons, drivers with cars without rear or back lights, tankerand molue drivers that drive speedily with unfunctional brakes.

But who puts these people on the road any way?Atimes a faulty system is to blame. In a chat with a neighbour recently herevealed that he was asked to pay a sum of ten thousand for a 1 week drivingcourse in one of the driving schools. To him, he preferred to take the morecost effective option of asking a friend to teach him how to drive. Some peoplein the country want to use the legitimate approach to doing things but with thesystem it seems easier the other way around. Connections, tips and all. Ingetting a national id card, in getting a passport, and yes of course in gettinga driver’s license. A tip and you can get your license delivered to you athome. Married men get one for their pestering wives who want a car of their ownand atimes cant wait to get started with driving it whether they are well ableand sufficiently able to do so or not. As a result with this in place on a general note, the roads are packedwith teenagers and several others behind steering wheels they only havebusiness when the engine is off. Some people do not even know how to read roadsigns. But they are on the roads and they have licenses to show policemen thatread them upside down.


Then there is the temperament, the mood. Every body is in a hurry; too much speed can bedeadly, even as the FRSC has constantly emphasized but atimes uncalled fortraffic boils up the temperament, a poor road network does too, a monodependent road transport system even does more. If authorities can ensure thateven as legislators can have millions of naira to renovate their houses andacquire furniture, money could also be allotted to put more policemen, trafficcontrol officers on the roads. And they must be well paid too as well.  For atimes it seems the arrest of trafficoffenders seems geared towards generating money rather than enforcing law andorder. A good example policemen and LASTMA.


Road worthy drivers, protected okada riders,pedestrians using their namesaked pedestrian bridges, good lighting, good roadsnot forgetting to thank the Minister of Works for repairing the famous Benin-Ore road, well paid, well equipped and motivated traffic control officials, aworking and effective driver testing and licensing system, a multi facetedtransportation scheme in cities like Lagos and all these geared towards oneobjective. Towards saving lives and safer roads. It is said that a strength ofa nation is in her people and we have seen nations like China putting herpopulation size to advantageous economic, political and even military use. Ifindeed the strength of a nation is in her people, with regular emergencieshaving people that survive being taken to Igbobi, General Hospital, Ikeja,LUTH  and those not too lucky transcend thislife, how strong then are we? Lets take care of ourselves, lets take care oftraffic, road users and lets do take care of our roads.

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