Tuesday, April 24, 2007
OPEN LETTER TO OUR COMMANDER(S)-IN-CHIEF
Tonight, as I was returning from the island, after a hectic day, I linked Eko Bridge via Adeniji Adele/Ijora Olopa. The Man United v AC Milan 'Champions League' match was on and I was hoping to make part of the second half. As I drove down the bridge, the National Arts Theatre to my left, I saw traffic further down. Thinking to myself, "Oh, no!" (I don't do traffic), I advanced closer and... Chaos!!!
People were sprinting from their cars and from buses, screaming "ole!!!" (Thieves), "armed robbers" etc. Cars had parked daigonally on the bridge, headlights on, engines running, their drivers and passengers racing towards me.
I got out of my car and thought furiously as confusion enveloped a dark bridge only illuminated by headlights at 9pm (there are no working street-lamps on Eko bridge.
"Leave the car?" There was no way the car could move. Cars had parked behind me, their drivers long gone. The Meridian was too high to climb with a car. Being on foot was as dangerous if not more. Drivers coming down the opposite lane to the island screamed, "armed robbers!!"
I thought, "laspapi, you have disobeyed your own cardinal rule of Lagos driving. Never get caught in traffic at night time in "black spots".
I backed away from my car and stood on the meridian that separated the lanes. A taxi driver exclaimed that if there were no robbers ahead, they'd probably been attracted by the long queue and commotion and would be coming from the back. Not very reassuring. I noticed an open manhole by the place where I stood, and peered into it. It seemed to have a ledge and I knew that would be one of the places these people sprung from in times when they sought victims in traffic, or those trying to repair disabled cars.
After a while, the vehicles began to move and some finally returning to their cars said there hadn't really been robbers there, and it had just been a car accident. Others said the robbers had descended through the Costain end.
I noticed 3 northern types seated beside a car that was facing the wrong way and had a smashed window at the side. One of them had blood on his knee while another made a call on his phone.
Now was the accident caused by the driver, or by the threat of the robbers if there had been any?
However it is, the Nigerian government is a long way from where it should be. Can one imagine armed robbers 'operating' on London Bridge 8 or 9 times a month? Or on Route 66? So do we have a government? Is a country where people abandon their cars regualarly to urban bandits and take to their heels, a successful state? The Lagos State government said it couldn't handle security because the police are on the federal government's exclusive list and the federal government jealously guards its inept enforcement machinery. The Odu'a Peoples Congress (OPC) known for its vigilante activities enjoyed more confidence from the populace than the police did. It lessened its security activities because of repeated brushes with the government.
If you (Obasanjo/Yar' Adua) do not provide street and security lights to encourage commerce and security, does it not mean you're totally oblivious of the needs of the people and are not fit to rule? If at age 47, Nigeria cannot have constant electricity to power the few lights there are, do we not have a problem of leadership?
If you do not arm the police force and provide incentives for them to face the #$%^&$% called "daredevil armed robbers", does it not mean you're playing Russian Roulette with the lives of your people and the said people should refuse to listen to you? I'm tired of railing against the police (my friend Ayo Arigbabu says I "rant" where the police are concerned). If they had proper and modern arms and not the WWII "Tommy Guns" they carry around, then maybe we could hold them responsible for not controlling the ills of the society. At the moment, they are in as much danger as we are.
If the lives of the people mean so little to you, should we not take matters in our own hands? Are we saying there weren't people aged above 70 and 75 in some of the vehicles on that bridge? Were they forced to run too, do you think, Honourable Sirs? In other countries, citizens above 60 are given free transport passes. Here we kill them on pension queues. Let this government note the words of Bertolt Brecht- "When the present is intolerable, the unknown habours no risks".
Just in case you ever lose your immunity and soldiered motorcades, and are forced to crawl out from beneath the Rock, here are a few of the blackspots in Lagos your excellencies should avoid:
The Mile 2 to Okokomaiko Road- Commuters here run a gauntlet of death every night. Armed Robbers join buses and dispossess passengers regularly. Bus-stops are not safe either, on this route. The Iyana Iba/Iba-Igando Road is as dangerous.
Apongbon- Rush Hour has become dangerous. Car windows are smashed in "grab and runs". A few months ago, a young female had her lung pierced as her car window was smashed in. She died from the injury.
Ijora Olopa/Adeniji Adele- Often known for hoodlums grabbing handbags and necklaces off drivers. Stories abound (I have witnessed one myself and another near miss)
Lekki-Ajah Express way- A relative was pursued in his car by robbers from the law school area. They didn't stop till he rammed a bill board. The car was beyond salvage.
Eko Bridge- Towards the Costain end (Notorious and recognized as such by the "closing from work" Lagos crowd
Apapa-Oshodi Expressway/Cele-Ijesha bus-stops- Terrible places to be at night for the unwary. Gangs march up and down these roads looking for stragglers and cars with problems
Osbourne Road Ikoyi/Under the Dolphin Estate Bridge- Robbers create their own checkpoints and cause havoc there.
Now if I know so much, how about the police? More guns, more equipment, more incentive, better pay and better governance. As I wrote earlier, I have decided not to blame the Police for any ills hereinafter. This deaf government is responsible for the carnage on our streets,for the accidents that are caused by the lack of lighting, for the ones Clifford Orji killed, ate and sold because they could not see the hidden manholes at "Toyota", for the many skeletons of unwary passersby found in the ditch just after the National Arts Theatre (at the Ijora-7up end) .
Hopefully, when there are no longer any motorcades to ferry you around, you'll fall into the hands of the boys-the boys at iyana iba. Wouldn't that be a thing of joy? Now, that would be leadership by example.