When Lagos visited Abuja; what happened?

By Okachikwu Dibia
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Lagos became the capital city of an amalgamated Nigeria in 1914. After sixty two (62) years, Abuja was chosen to replace Lagos as Nigeria’s capital city. I lived in Lagos for an ordinary ten (10) years, a time most Lagosians would simply call a very short time, but to me as an Ikwerreman, it was a long time. As at today, I live in Abuja clocking thirteen (13) years. Therefore I have a basic or fair knowledge of the two cities: I know some things Lagos is popularly known for and some things Abuja is popularly known for. So yesterday, 8th February, 2021, I knew Lagos visited Abuja.

At a popular round-about in Asokoro called AYA, I met the traffic jam or traffic hold up, no movement at all. That was about 8.30 pm. I asked and they told me that two trailers hit themselves by the Shema petroleum filling station on the Abuja-Keffi/Jos expressway. With half tank of fuel, I joined the traffic hold up. It was after two hours and I was still by Abacha barracks that it dawned on me that Lagos has visited Abuja. But I waived it hoping that once I passed the accident point, the road will be free. I also told my wife of my optimism, given her numerous calls while I was on the road. By twelve midnight, I reached Shema filling station, I asked to see the accident but to my greatest surprise, I was told that the accident took place since mid-day and that the trailers have been removed. So what still caused the traffic jam to the extent that I finally got home 1.45 am today, 9th February, 2021? It was the visit of Lagos to Abuja yesterday.

In Lagos, traffic jam is normal, popular and had kept me on the road from Obalende to Ishaga through Yaba for five to six hours. The visit of the invincible Lagos traffic spirit that stops all vehicles on the road to enable it pass, was around along that road yesterday. In Lagos, because we cannot see the spirit, we rationalize that the reasons for the traffic jam are too many vehicles on the road at the same time and the distance. In the case of Abuja, the distance was less than twenty kilometers; why should Nigerians be on the road for five to six hours on a journey of less than one hour. So what happened? What happened was the visit of the invincible Lagos traffic spirit.

During the visit, I observed that impatience ruled and reigned among the drivers. Impatience led to over 60% of the drivers drive against traffic or what we call one-way. In that process, you have many vehicles move to a point where they meet many on-coming vehicles and both lines stop face-to-face and move no more. On the other side of the road where many drivers are on their rightful lane, many drivers stopped because their vehicles cannot start or fuel got finished or they parked to carry passengers or they hit each other and block the road. These are the obscene behaviours of Nigerian drivers on the road, even in such horrible mid-night traffic jam. So when the invincible Lagos traffic spirit visits and elicits these behaviours, be rest assured Nigerians can be on a one hour driving time road for over twelve hours and who cares. In Abuja, I must be sincere, the Federal Roads Safety Commission (FRSC) workers are doing their best; but it is not easy managing people who do not care however they behave on the roads. They don’t care how long we remain on the road. They are extremely selfish to admit that they had done wrong on the road. These behaviours did not start today and that was why in 2015 when election for the position of the president of Nigeria was to be held, some of us voted for President Buhari hoping that he will re-enact the 1984 war against indiscipline and drastically reduce the level of indiscipline and socio-moral decadence afflicting the country.

This narrative succinctly tells you that the moribund so called national orientation agency (NOA) is useless. One expects the NOA to take up its suasive and intellectual arsenals to strongly fight this cankerworm that has eaten Nigeria’s morality and ethics dead. Since its existence, I have not heard what NOA have consistently told Nigerians to do against stealing of public funds, child abuse, anti-social public behaviours, relationship abuses, disrespect for elders, cultism and secret society membership, religious fundamentalism, exam malpractices, internet fraud, prostitution, same-sex relationship, big brother Nigeria (BBN), disrespect for traffic rules, abuse of ethnicity, drug abuse, disorderliness in public places, etc. Bad behavior is the fundamental problem with Nigerians and an agency established to re-orientate Nigerians has a lot of work to do, doing otherwise is dereliction of duty. The FGN under President Buhari is expected to do better here.

The FRSC should stop treating offenders with kid gloves. They are too lenient with offenders. One way to see drastic reduction in poor behaviours of drivers on Nigerian roads is to INSIST on punishing offenders not minding ethnic affinity. Doing otherwise has corrupted the integrity of the commission as most Nigerians no longer feel they must obey traffic rules even in the presence of the FRSC workers.

Another solution could be to ask ourselves: what is the intellectual/educational qualification to drive in Nigeria? This is important and you will appreciate this when you compare the driving manners of graduates and non-graduates. I took my time to make this comparism and reached the conclusion that all drivers in Nigeria should at least be graduates. A graduate can easily understand the responsibility attached to driving than non-graduates; he/she can easily read and understand the rules; all these are difficult with drivers who cannot read or write.

I am hopeful that these steps if taken can assist Nigeria reduce bad driving bahaviours, reduce accidents and reduce opportunities that lure us to invite the invincible Lagos traffic spirit that would suffer us on hours to reach our houses after work. We need to stop punishing ourselves over things we can help to avoid.

Okachikwu Dibia writes from Maitama, Abuja.