As Dogara, Anya lead other recipients Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital will quake today as high profile Nigerians from diverse walks of life- government, politics, the industry, professions, sports and entertainment circuit storm the city, the nation’s second largest, for the 13th edition of The Sun Awards. Former Commonwealth Secretary General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku will be…
This is a very important subject matter. For a society that knows what complete development is all about, the transportation, its development and organization should receive prime attention. I want to look at this sector in today’s outing and I must admit that I have to displace a work on another dimension of the significance of Christmas to discuss the issue at hand. The issue of transportation, especially as it relates to the transformation of a backward society, is certainly a very wide topic. It cannot be adequately x-rayed in a small piece such as this; nevertheless, it is important we highlight some of the issues because of their centrality to the proper development of our nation. One of the few things that baffles me about our vision of the national transportation architecture is the inability of many of those we appoint as either ministers or commissioners to understand the scope of the transportation sector.
Listen to many of them and you will discover that they equate the development of the sector with revenue earnings. It is worse at the state levels where what engages the attention of most transport commissioners is how to use thugs to block highways in the states, just to extort money under different guises and when this is not the case, it would be about ensuring that their cronies control some of the motor parks which are in very dilapidated state. You hardly hear them talk about marine transport development, interlinking the city centres and the adjourning rural settlements with railway lines, an ideal that has capacity to enhance economic prosperity and reduce the massive unemployment that has become a national plague. At the national level, it is the same: you hardly hear of marine issues; when they talk of aviation, it is about equipment and structure, little or no emphasis is given to organization and comfort that should go with it; such abandonment led to the total destruction of the railway system. The transport ministry may not be responsible for the construction and rehabilitation, but it has a huge task to organize the transportation agencies in such a manner that travel schedules are originated and scrupulously followed. It is part of their responsibility to ensure transporting organizations have good stations with modern facilities for the comfort of the traveling public. If this were to be the case, most Nigerians irrespective of class, would have for a long time found travelling by road or rail an interesting option.
The truth is, our transport sector is not what it should be and I have not seen a proper or professional effort in that direction. The aberration is not the focus of today’s discourse; I mentioned it just to stir up our minds particularly those of them who are in-charge of affairs in the sector, that is if they read newspapers at all. Today’s work is motivated by the exodus often associated with specific times and festivals and my target is to discuss the management of traffic at these periods. I do know that in dealing with traffic of various kinds, especially of the road variant, there are two cardinal things that do come into play, enforcement and management. Enforcement seems suitable when issues of security breach or scrutinization of either persons or particulars is the challenge; I have nothing against that so long as those enforcing it do not go beyond the bounds of decency and legalism to do their own thing, indeed, it is the responsibility of citizens to support, without promptings, any governmental measure designed to aid the sanctity placed on human life. Besides it is reasonable for authorities to find means to collect taxes or funds due them for services given.
Management of traffic has to do with smooth movement of citizens and it is more so when statistics can lead to the prediction of more people being in a certain location at a particular time. From what obtains, it would appear that all connected with the management of the transport sector are yet to make a distinction when the tactics should be either enforcement or management standing either alone or being employed in combination. It is the inability to decode the above that has made travel in our nation one of great inconvenience, even getting to the point of abuse of human rights. In societies, whether developed or underdeveloped, where public officials have been trained to be alive to their responsibilities, at certain periods in the national calendar you see officials of designated agencies prancing about the whole place just to ensure citizens travel in very great comfort. They are always on the lookout for statistics and once the data suggest a more than usual increase in the volume of travellers, be it through the sea, airports, rail and road transportation, officials issue public statements, stating what should be done and follow it up with adequate arrangement, all to make sure citizens feel the impact of a government they have chosen to serve their interest.
But our experience is different, there is no transport structure in place, and the supervising authorities like I observed earlier do not know their job assignment, so the situation has become a case of everybody to himself and God for us all. What citizens go through on the roads is not only pathetic, but very dehumanizing. Where the roads are bad and require simple remedial action, none would be done because officials would not do the simple thing of going to inspect to ascertain, not to talk of undertaking light rehabilitation work. The consequence is that those points record gridlock and innocent citizens for no fault of theirs get stuck there and some of them with their families remain there overnight for the simple reason that no arm of the security agencies would appear to remedy the situation. We are in a democracy and yet our roads appear the most policed, you find on our roads, the military who should not be there in the first instance, all cadre of police, Customs, Road Safety, Vehicle Inspection Officers, Immigration and National Drug Enforcement Agency all of them competing to outdo one another in mounting of road blocks. If it were about the security of the nation, one could bear but it is just about extortion. I feel sorry for the army.
Road travel between Shagamu and Aba is nightmarish. Between the two cities, you find over 200 checkpoints, nearly all of them stopping cars. Travelling with a private car on this route is akin to a journey to hell. It is worse in the Southeast end of the road. The military declared operation ‘Operation Python Dance’ in the Southeast and the question would be, why must it be about roadblocks? In a book I read about Germany titled ‘The Typography of Tyranny’, I came to understand that a roadblock is part of a bigger strategy to create a siege mentality against the people. Could this be so? What sense is there to block roads at a time civilian traffic would be at its highest? Sometimes we should learn to manage traffic and not give citizens excuses to turn out bad citizens.
***Christmas is about repudiation of the old unworkable order and the introduction of a new order based on experience. How many of us are ready to change our old bad ways? *** Happy Christmas!