Before Ambode visits
While most government officials in Nigeria will take a day rest on May 29 to mark this year’s Democracy Day, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State will be at work. He will, among other things, commission the Ajah Bridge in Lekki Peninsula. A year and a half year ago, Ambode was at Ajah Roundabout to see for himself the traffic gridlock which has defined life in the Ajah axis and promised that the roundabout would in 18 months give way to an overhead bridge to ease traffic. Exactly 18 months later, he is coming to commission the bridge. Ambode is a promise keeper. He has stepped into the shoes of his predecessors, Lateef Jakande, Bola Tinubu and Babatunde Fashola. And Lagos is the better for it.
The bad news is that the ease of traffic arising from the new bridge will last for just a few months. Like much of the peninsula, Ajah is a physical planning nightmare. For instance, there is only one road linking the whole of Ajah, Langbasa and Badore which have between them over 100 housing estates, with most occupied by those known as upward mobile families. People usually leave their homes well before 5 a.m. so as to get to their offices on Victoria Island before 8 a.m. From Badore to Victoria Island used to take some 30 minutes.
Traffic in Ajah will be enhanced tremendously in the area if the road linking Abraham Adesanya Estate with Oke Ira is constructed. The plan to build this road has been on the drawing board for several years. Governor Ambode can enhance his place in history if he gets it done immediately. He can accomplish it almost effortlessly. He is bubbling with energy and dynamism.
The Ajah-Langbasa-Badore axis was conceived to be a model place in line with the vision of the Lekki and Ibeju areas forming what is called the New Lagos. But the place is fast turning into an environmental mess. To appreciate the gravity of the situation, the governor is called upon to pay an unscheduled visit before commissioning the Ajah Bridge. Often when a top government official goes on a scheduled visit, officers who have been sleeping on duty put up an artificial show of beauty to deceive him or her. Ambode should not fall for this trick.
If the governor visits the Ajah-Langbasa-Badore axis unannounced, he will most certainly be taken aback by the dereliction of duty by various ministries and agencies. The eight-kilometre Ajah-Langbasa-Badore Road which was constructed nine years ago has failed in four places. The Lagos State Public Works Agency worked on only one spot last year for just a few hours and then fled. The place is worse now. The result is endless traffic gridlock, all the more so during the rainy season. The one-kilometre road which the Tinubu administration built for fishermen in Badore, now called Catholic Mission Street, is a shambles. It does not look like a street in Ambode’s Lagos but a street somewhere in Sierra Leone after the recent primitive war by savages like Foday Sankoh and General Mosquito.
Our governor will be shocked to learn that practices not permitted in other parts of Lagos metropolis flourish here. Heaps of garbage decorate public spaces. Shanties and shacks are ubiquitous, making a provocative mockery of the state government’s Cleaner Lagos Initiative. The drainages are filled to the brim but also blocked. They are not cleared by either the local development council or the Drainage Department of the Ministry of the Environment. The health implications are axiomatic. They breed mosquitoes on a grand scale. If care is not taken, they could soon begin to breed the kind of rats which transmit the extremely dangerous and highly infectious lassa fever.
The Ajah-Lanbgasa-Badore Road, which is the only tarred road in this part of Lagos, is practically overtaken by heaps of sand which have in some parts reduced the dual carriage way to a single lane. Over 200 tippers ply this road daily, making at least 400 trips every day. Considerable sand drops from the trucks each second on this road without being swept away. Once in a while, we find three or four sweepers on this road working leisurely for a couple of hours when over 20 dedicated sweepers are required. The pressure on this road by the big trucks which lift sand dredged at the sites in Ajah is humungous. The state government must address this activity.
Driving from Lekki Phase 1 to Ajah at night is often a delight because of the beautiful street lights. It used to be the same experience from Ajah through Langbasa to Badore at night when Ambode introduced the radical programme of lighting Lagos. But since the bulbs in the Ajah-Langbasa-Badore axis began to die, there is no evidence of any effort to change them. This axis now looks at night like the heart of darkness.
It seems the numerous street beggars taken away by the state government from Ebute Metta some years ago found their way to Ajah. They operate in large numbers. The sight and activity of these unfortunate Nigerians, who are mostly with all kinds of physical deformities, are not reconcilable with the Cleaner Lagos Initiative or Lagos status as a megacity. Also not compatible with modernity is the insistence of some religious organisations on turning their speakers to the highest volume during service. This is a clear violation of the law against environmental pollution. Whereas the government has closed down some organisations in the state for acting in brazen violation of the law and prosecuted the culprits, those committing the offence in the Ajah-Langbasa-Badore axis have not felt the full weight of the law.
Acting with impunity has consequently become a way of life for religious leaders here who think God is hard of hearing and so they need to scream to the heavens for their prayers to be heard. They build churches and mosques on this major road with no provision for vehicles. Worshippers are forced to park right on public road, causing traffic congestion. The authorities must do something about this practice. Francis Fukuyama has argued eloquently in The End of History and the Last Man that some people in the third world “still live in the primitive age of mankind.”
Finally, Ambode has to ensure that traders at the Ajah Market do their business in accordance with government regulations. The market has illegally spilled into the road, causing traffic problems. In like manner, both commercial motor cyclists and tricycle operators here must be made to conduct their business in a way which does not conflict with public interest.
Ambode has made a bold statement with the Ajah Bridge. He deserves our support and commendation.
• Adinuba is head of Discovery Affairs Consulting.