Our Roads as a Mirror of our Lives

Anthony Kila writes on the need for people to be careful on the highway as they commence journey of life in year 2023

Dear Readers

As we start our journey of life in this new year called 2023 and we hope to get a better year than the last one, I would like to invite us all today to, in addition to our many plans and intentions, also try some new and even simple considerations in a bid to get a better year and a better life in our homes, work and country.

A good and simple place to start from is our roads. It is a simple and good place to start from because that is one place that we all use and I am convinced that if well managed it will give us all a better life. It is amazing how many contemporary sociologists, economists, clergy and others who practice the art and trade of studying and managing our lives make little mention of the road, yet, after just a very little consideration, anyone capable of observing and formulating thoughts from observations will quickly see how the road is one of the most democratic and yes most inclusive part of human lives.

We are used to talking of markets but even that is now very segmented and the markets people have a lot to do with not just their needs but also their mindset and socio-economic status.

So, even though some affluent shoppers can still be found in very low-cost markets because they always check their pennies or because they still love to save, it is not really where one would expect to find them.

So even though some not exactly affluent shoppers might be found in very high-end markets because they are wasteful, disorganised, uniformed or want to be seen at the high-end markets, it is not where one would rationally expect to find them.

In both cases these shoppers are outliers. Not so for the road where it is rational to expect to meet and see anybody from the pauper to the wealthiest, from our villains to our most virtuous, from the dullest of us to the brightest of us. Advertisers know we are all on the road, hence you keep seeing more and more billboards and in different shades.

In considering the road, I am sure you will readily agree with me that while anyone can say “I have not been to or used this or that place for a month”, and get a smile, laughter or even approval or admiration, nobody can say “I have not been on or used the road for a month” and expect to get a smile, approval or admiration.

Most of those who do not use the road are either confined in prison or to a sick bed. Since most of the population of the country is on the road, it is easy to see why the road can tell you a lot about a land and its people. When we consider our roads in Nigeria, one of the first things anyone will note is that we have more untarred roads than tarred roads, that in itself is an index or development and a measure of how present or absent and visionary and accountable governance is.

There is no point spending time and words on the importance of having good roads to our lives but it is, I think, useful to find out why we don’t have them? There is no Nigerian ruler or citizen that does not consider tarred roads a sign of progress and a worthy project, so is that there is not enough time, money or idea to tar most roads in Nigeria or is that time and money have been allocated to most roads and some people have used these resources for something else?

The fact that we the people somehow accept this level of development or turn of things and work, pray or steal to buy SUVs says a lot about we the people of the land as well.

On our roads, there are too many people who seem to drive with no regard or even knowledge of the traffic rules and regulations.

The question here is how is this possible?

Yes, people buy licences and some drive without licences. These are, in my view, just symptoms and consequences of a bigger malaise linked to our little consideration for and understanding of the road.

Drivers’ licences are issued by government after training and exams with the aid of driving schools. Drivers’ licences are monitored by law enforcement agents. We do not say it enough but in realty an unqualified driver behind the wheels of any vehicle is a potential murderer and or suicide candidate.

Any government agent that has a good understanding and appreciation of the road should have the theoretical knowledge and the practical conscience that allowing a non-qualified person on the road is morally equivalent to being an accomplice in homicide.

Just like with the use of forks and knives, no one anywhere in the world was born with the understanding and appreciation of the road, our relationships and actions are guided by rules and regulations dispensed in codes that we have to learn. These codes are learnt in schools and reinforced by the community as morals and ethics.

Two similar but distinct notions that most tend to confuse. Our schools both general and driving schools need to rediscover their essential roles in the creation of informed and safety conscious road users. The rest of community from our families to our churches, mosques and clubs need to (re)discover their roles in contributing to the creations of beliefs, taboos and stigmas system for uncouth road users.

Left alone to their own devices, most teenagers anywhere in the world would be tempted to drive without learning and without a licence, but in societies with a good understanding and appreciation of the road, most teenagers will not drive without learning and without a valid driver’s licence.

There is neither magic nor mystery in having safe roads with reasonable drivers, the key, not trick, for having both is education, engagement, engineering and sanctions.

As with most things in life, if one looks well, there is a spiritual angle we can always count on, so though there were no cars or bikes in the stories of the holy books, we can still use religion to guide people, so I ask all that in 2023 and beyond to drive and ride as you would if Jesus or Mohammed was with you in the car or on the bike.

Join me if you can @anthonykila to continue these conversations.

-Kila is Centre Director at CIAPS Lagos. www.ciaps.org.

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