ROAD SAFETY ARTICLE
For more than two years, I have daily pondered over the question of the religious beliefs of Nigerian drivers irrespective of their religious inclinations. My deployment to Port Harcourt some years ago further provoked this burning thought which compelled me to do a piece on driving in Lagos and Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital. In that piece, titled, BETWEEN LAGOS AND PORT HARCOURT DRIVING, I tried to compare driving in both cities with the conclusion that Port Harcourt driving was weird because of the increasing traffic infractions and the absence of a strong structure to curb and to deter these driving mannerisms that daily takes the garden out of the City. I also did say in that piece that Port Harcourt, like the typical Nigerian cities boast of numerous places of worship especially churches which adorns almost every street yet daily driving rarely shows any form of piety.
Incidentally, three events prompted me to do this piece which had been in the cooler since, awaiting the right time to hit my page. The first event was a discussion I had with my former staff, Officer Asuquo on the same subject who was quick to observe that Nigerian drivers are religious but not believers; meaning that all we do is to attend religious programmes without reflecting God’s teachings that dwells more on humility and respect for the law of the land including respect for traffic rules.
The second event took place at Wazobia some years when I attended a reception held by Tommy, a media colleague whose wife gave birth to triplets. At that event I was fortunate to meet some members of the Rivers State Investment Forum who sought my take on traffic in Port Harcourt. I was too delighted to inform them that traffic in the State capital can be tamed in the same manner the Lagos state government has succeeded in deterring the average Lagos drivers from impunity driving. I informed them of my proposed plan to see His Excellency,Governor Nyesom Wike and canvass the urgent need for a state traffic agency in line with the Federal Road Safety Corps strategic goal to collaborate with States on improved road safety Administration; the need to rid the roads of street trading that practically eats off part of the lanes thus restricting lanes to one in very busy roads and rush hour, incidence of overloading which is rampant, unauthorized and indiscriminate parkings,absence of designated bus stops and parks or the absence of an agency to enforce usage, enforcement of minimum standard for commercial vehicles to rid the state of rickety vehicles with broken windshield, broken head lamps, worn-out tyres and the need to relocate markets which adorn most streets among other vices.
The consensus of these gentlemen whose names I failed to grab as I am still grappling to come to terms with some names, was that attitude was the root cause of traffic gridlocks in Port Harcourt. One of them tasked me to do a thorough undercover study/observation of the traffic issues in places like Rumuola,Slaughter,Peter odili road,Rumuokoro,NTA road just to mention a few. These places according to them are where commercial drivers have become a nuisance and lords unto themselves, committing all kind of traffic infraction without fear of arrest. They offered to work with me and fast track discussions with the Governor to address these issues. The third and last event occurred when in company of some junior officers we honored the health and safety week of one of the oil companies in Rivers state. After the brief safety talk, reactions dwelled on the same driving mannerisms which was raised by the gentlemen from the Rivers State Investment Forum That is why my focus is on the attitude of the average motorists despite the proliferation of places of worship across the States. In the case of Port Harcourt, I also wonder what influence, the driving culture of the oil companies have on general driving habits. This is because in all of these companies,”SAFETY” is key .Or have their operatives joined the craze? While I worry, I will contrast motorists attitude with ignorance because attitude is predominantly our bane.But if you ask the average motorist,he would prefer to blame all the crashes,the number of deaths recorded on our roads and the injuries sustained and gridlock on ignorance.Most would rather push the blame to government and its agencies.The private car driver would blame the commercial driver who in turn blame the private car owner. The parent who allows his son of sixteen to drive would hold government responsible for not clamping down on underage driving.The licenced driver who indulges in excessive speed would blame the Ministry of Works or FERMA for the crash and not his penchant for speeding which is a violation of the law and which is critical in the event of a crash.
Why does the average motorist in Lagos,Port Harcourt and other parts of the country indulge in violating laid down traffic rules?Why do you think convoy drivers believe they are above the law that governs speed,overtaking and decent driving.?Why would such convoy drivers with VIP and armed uniform personnel whose arms are bought with the taxpayers money jump traffic lights and assault motorists for daring to question them while the government officials or very important dignitaries keep mute?The same dignitary whose life is as fragile as yours and mine?Why would a mother or a husband or both jump into their car bought for over a million naira strap themselves with a seat belt,yet dump their lovely child at the back seat of the car without any protection even when all efforts are made to educate this same parents on the dangers of their action?Why would this same parent hear of the death of a child because the child was not strapped in a car seat and yet hide under some spirituality by declaring that ‘’God forbid,it is not my portion!!!
Why do we dare God by our actions on the wheel?God says obedience is better than sacrifice.That same God commands that none should kill.He never listed the instruments which means that if you kill anyone through your reckless driving,you certainly run foul of God’s commandments.Why do we forget that of all the laws or commandments of God ,Love your neighbour is the greatest of all.Yet in our usage of the roads, rarely do we have consideration for the other motorists .Would you call this ignorance or just sheer attitude?