By Kareem Itunu Azeez
Before I witnessed the travails of this road, I most times believed it’s just the usual exaggeration about the road, how unfit it is for motorists; as people usually say, and how risky it is for those who trudge the road. This is amidst endless and unaccountable budgets, dump into this road. All this was basically because I had options to school and to my home in.. Okokomaiko.
With different construction companies, the likes of China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC), and some minor construction companies, coupled with the huge sums of money, the Federal and Lagos State governments have claimed they have spent, it would not be too much for me to say the great China wall would have been completed if time was to go bye, in fact, the bullet train track in China would by now be long forgotten as the time the construction has started.
Before I narrate my journey from the dirty and dusty mile two to where I was headed, the heaps of filth call Iyana Iba, let me first give you a tragic summary of what this road has swallowed, judging by mere observation, what I witnessed, snapped and continuously questioning those ready to offer answer. I cannot say for the years gone by, but if this year was to be my case study, then I would easily say nothing more than 12million Naira has been washed away, into the oceans of forgetfulness, by innocent citizens, who in one way are trying to make ends meet.
I do not have the statistics, but if that was to be proven, then my assumption will definitely come short of the accurate amount.
Now my travails through the rage of the road……
Having forced myself to pay an extorted fee of #500 instead of #200 for a bike man, on a day when the road was free and usable, in fact I’d prefer to take a bus for safety reasons, but I was in a hurry, so I journeyed with another man, making three persons on the bike, and so we continued our journey.
As we proceeded, I saw the potholes, larger ones, and a river all on the same road that the current governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Sanwanolu has promised within sixty days would be transformed into an oasis of comfort for those whose means of livelihood depends on. Trouble kicked to life as we got closer to the now famous Under Bridge, where it’s a no go area, even on a Sunday afternoon when I thouht it would be a rollercoaster ride, but the traffic jam was serious, the type Lagosians would say, “E tie wrapper ”. Under the oppressing heat of the sun, the bike could not move nor the bikeman find a solution to our woes.
And so we get off the bike, and surprisingly, the three of us lifted it up and carried it to the other side, where it wasn’t safe but out of hopelessness. We created a path that others also were forced to follow. The curses, abuses, and angry civilians were visible, in the eyes of everyone through the road.
The private car owners were just stuck in the jam, the bus drivers with their passengers were against each other, some just watched on, some determined to sleep if it calls for, but no matter how long it took them, they will see the end ofthe road. On another section of the road, were fast business mallams. It is incredible how they carry people cross the tiny road, so as to safe them from being stained by the dirty red clay waters. This came at a token of N50 per person. It’s a tragic scenario, in one of africas‘ megacities, in the 21st century. Prior to current times, the Lagos state commissioner for works, Engr. Ade Akinsanya, at one time, in a statement, said the Governor was touched by the discomfort being experienced by the motoring public plying that axis and had vowed to continue to intensify all necessary steps to ameliorate their sufferings. Months after this fibbing, everything has gone from bad to worse.
Taking us back to history, as at 1977, when this road was created as a route to ease and connect all Ecowas countries together. Some 42 years down the line, the road is no longer recognizable, and the (CCECC) continue to yell, that works have been on snail progress due to lack of funds, in a state whose revenue is twice that of some African states.
Every day, big trucks keep summersuaulting, cars keep breaking down, goods worth millions of naira, worst of all, thugs have seen this as an opportunity to rob innocent and choiceless victims of the roads. This same road, close to the barracks, has witnessed a collision which led to a fire outbreak, killing more than two, and burning goods worth millions. What could the people do, nothing than to curse the moments they found themselves in. After that scene, nothing is done, and everything once again is swept under the carpet. It’s typical of Nigerian people. We take things that shouldn’t be taken, and we always manage situations until we are pushed to the wall, and even after that, we still wish we could enter the wall rather than request for answers to issues we have right to have answers to.
There was time although, when few people trooped out to protest. They stormed the roundabout with placards bearing various inscriptions such as: “Fix Lagos/Badagry Expressway. Our businesses are dying’’; “Bad Road, Our pregnant women are having miscarriages’’; and “We are not at war, Remove checkpoints on our road’’; “We are losing man hour”. The complaint was due to the anguish of the people. Extensive reconstruction of the Lagos portion of the 61 kilometer, 10-lane expressway began in 2010, but lingering funding problems have compelled the contractors, the Chinese Civil Engineering and Construction Corporation (CCECC), to stop work.
We do not know how long this suffering will continue, but we do believe ultimately if hell has a preamble, then those of us who have no other options than to go through Iyana Iba, Okoko, Iyana Era, Agbara, already have first-hand-experience about what it looks like, arguably though. It is even on this that the previous administration had done little or nothing worth remembering throughout its four years. They kept patching the roads, they cleared few places when important personalities were coming. A good case is the President of the country on his visit to Lagos. A few months from then, it was the Vice President. Sarcastically, nature can’t continuously be bribed, so this time it was a chopper, simply because there was no usable road through there.
Having the opportunity to ask businessmen and women about the level of their survival, especially now that the rains have come, coupled with this road, my cup was full, as different angry answers filled my ears. The one which really caught my attention was that of an eastern Nigerian, who sells clothes, “The place I spread my clothes has now been taken over by okada riders, struggling to get a chance, now there is but less hope that even the road would be completed in two-three years, how do I survive? I had taught Lagos was going to be a great marketing place for me, but with this, home is the only option”, his name was Chibuke Anele.
The opinion of even the smallest of citizens matters, how much more the angry Lagos State University students, who stay close to the school by having rented apartments off the University, due to lack of adequate hostels, some do not even make it to class on some days, since the fare was exorbitant, rather than usual. This indirectly also affects the academic performance of these students, how tragic that also means.
Concluding my travail, at every ten to fifteen minutes, we had to stop and carry our bike to a passable place, just to get a place to pass, I saw even the beggars on the road, who no longer could get the little on the streets anymore, it’s not the rain that sent them away, it’s the Government. Likewise the students, who could not make it to school, as usual, it’s the government also, and also those whose businesses have been crippled for longer than expected, it’s the government.
I use this medium to remind the new governor and his administration to keep to their promises, within the stipulated sixty days, announced, Lagosians are angry, and the people are suffering, the roads are not fit for humans anymore, and we are not cows, because now, the Cowboys have begun to rear their flocks through this road.
What is Lagos turning into?
Kareem Itunu Azeez writes from Lagos State.