A few weeks ago, I wrote a short piece on the bad state of Lagos roads. I have since found that the said article was hasty, and so-to-speak, understated. Last Saturday, I had a raw encounter with how really bad Lagos roads are. I was on my way to Ayobo, a burgeoning neighbourhood in the Ipaja district of Lagos State.
Don’t ask me what I went to look for in Ayobo. My Oga, friend and senior colleague, Mr. Dafe Onojovwo, chairman, Editorial Board of The Daily Independent, had invited me to the wedding ceremony of his eldest daughter, Ese. Most times I choose to keep my Saturdays free, as a way of regaining my sanity. But with an invitation from Onojovwo, my former lecturer, back in those days at the College of Education, Warri, I had no choice but to respond.
I set out for the ceremony through the Lasu-Iba road. All seemed well and smooth until I got to the Isheri round about on the Ikotun-Egbeda route. Traffic had built up at the LASU end of the road. I took it for a minor hitch probably caused by the defiant Danfo drivers. I was wrong. By the time I spent over two dozen minutes on one spot, I knew there was trouble. I was hemmed in, and could neither go forth nor back.
The traffic rolled on with a laddened foot, as I looked forward to seeing what the problem was. For another 50 minutes, I still had not reached the Idimu police station. It took another quarter of an hour to get to the Car Wash bus stop, just in front of the AP filing station. A traffic warden, looking languid was there. I was just going to ask what the problem was when I saw a large and wide pit, about three to four feet deep right in front of me.
Every vehicle was striving to circumvent the deepest end of the pit. It had rained the day before, and the whole place was submerged in muddy water. Strangers to the road did not know which part of the road had the shallow end. We had barely survived that spot when we ran into another long stretch of broken road. The tar on the Egbeda-Idimu road had been completely scrapped off and left unattended with its uneven surface, under a so-called effort to revamp the road.
I was curious about the wisdom of “repairing” that road in fits and starts. I once lived in that part of town. The Ikotun-Iyana Ipaja road is dualised, and is even fitted with street light. Yes, there are many pot holes on the road, like many other roads in Lagos, but why the complete destruction, re-surfacing and re-tarring of the road? Why were the broken portions not simply patched instead until the state government is ready to do a thorough job?
After all, there are so many roads around town that are dirt roads or even far worse than the Ikotun-Iyana Ipaja road, which have not been attended to. Is it because the state’s deputy governor, Mrs Sara Sosan’s homestead is in that part of town? It was unwise enough to have awarded a near needless contract, yet it has become punitive that the said contractor merely scrapped off the road and abandoned the site leaving the people in a miasma of misery, suffering and pain.
When you experience how rain floods the entire road, the huge volume of vehicular traffic on that axis, plus the irresponsible driving of some drivers which results in the traffic jams on the road at some intersections, then the picture of Armageddon becomes clearer.
And while I was still suffused with lamentation and regret on why I had to come through that road (there was no alternative anyway), I finally got to Moshalashi bus stop, from where I had to turn and head for Ayobo, my final destination. The first kilometer or two was so remarkably different from the nasty experience of the last two and half hours. It was a wide road, free of traffic, and devoid of pot-holes.
Indeed, I was just heaving a sigh of relief, when I saw a long stretch of cars ahead of me. My heart almost skipped a beat. Another round of endless crawling through horrendous traffic, I wondered. Yes, it was indeed another round. For a length of less than 500 meters, we spent almost an hour. Yet again, we encountered another big and wide trench with uneven edges and depth right there in front of a big school, Honeyland Schools, to the left, and the gate of the Low Cost Housing Estate, Abesan to the right.
The sheer number of vehicles and their drivers all looking forlorn and ultra-stressed, the cars filled with filth from the reddish mud, was enough to make one weep. It had rained the day earlier. In ignorance, I drove straight ahead, from that point, heading to the Ipaja junction linking the Ayobo road, which I knew. But suddenly I noticed that I was possibly the only car on the wide road. All the others had circumvented this stretch. I did not know.
Everywhere ahead of me looked like a vast field of Oghwo soup (common among the Urhobos). Only a few buses, and several tipper lorries were all that was left on the road. Every inch of the road was a nightmare, worsened by the overflow of the red mud, thus making it impossible to even track a better lane.
It was indescribable and even incredible that any part of Lagos could be this bad. Not even in the war-torn enclaves of Somalia, or Sudan can one find that degree of acute government neglect. One week after that experience, my car has not quite recovered from the lacerations inflicted on it on that road. What makes it sadder is that most Lagos streets are replete with such nasty aberrations - just about everywhere you turn.
To cut the story short, by the time I navigated my way to Mr. Onojovwo’s residence, four hours after literally crossing the seven fabled rivers, the wedding was well over. Guests had left, except for a handful. I was virtually panting, and I kept asking under my breath if I was still in Lagos State. I had several times in the past heard complaints on the radio by callers who bemoan what they face daily on that axis of town. Until last Saturday, I never knew the depth of the needle in their flesh.
I was too bemused to ask my former lecturer why, of all places, he chose to live in Ayobo. The THISDAY event centre on Lekki Express way was ordered removed by the Fashola government allegedly because of the complaints of the residents in that area. So why have the complaints of the Ipaja/Ayobo peole about their hellish agony not been attended to by the same Fashola government? Is it because Lekki is populated by “big men”, and Ayobo by “ordinary men”?
In other climes, infrastructure is all set up in new areas before buildings are built there. In Nigeria, it is the other way round. I first visited Ayobo in 1984. The Deeper Life Church, at the time organized an annual training programme for its student members. Then, the Ayobo community was one quiet domain, enveloped in rustic innocence. Not anymore. The huge population in the area today, I thought, should be coveted for votes by politicians. That being the case, why are the people in this axis so grossly neglected, even if they are all PDP members?
With no water, no road, no electricity, no favour or flavor of government, why should the people be encouraged to pay tax? And soon the politician representing these people in the Lagos House of Assembly will come with gold-plated promises of how he/she will turn around the lives of the people, if voted into power. Where is the humanism in government?
The Alimosho Local Government Area is about the biggest council in Lagos. If it makes socio-economic sense for Alausa to ignore them, does it also make political sense?
A couple of weeks ago too, I postulated that the business of governance has ended, and that politics was in the air all the way. This is true and evident. What is not known is why a government that is on its way out, with just about six or so months to the election, will be striving to issue a N100 bond. N100billion! That is what Ogun State governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, is seeking to borrow from the capital market. What does he want to do with that huge sum in the twilight of his government?
Here is a man who had been in office for about eight years. It has taken him this long before issuing a bond. Granted that the bond issue has been on the cards for a while, but his obstacle has been the state’s House of Assembly. It is even more surprising that the lawmakers who had hitherto opposed the idea of the bond, suddenly believe it is worth issuing, especially since “the governor has supplied all the required details” for the bond.
Really? What are the required details that have now been supplied which they (lawmakers) did not have all along? Is somebody playing a game somewhere? Here is a state with a debt burden of N22 billion. Will part of the funds raised from the bond be used for settling this debt, even though bonds are normally tied to projects. What meaningful project does Gov Daniel want to embark on at this quarter-to-go hour? And please don’t tell me anything about government being a continuum.