Road Blocks Building Blocks, Short Cuts Long Wounds
ON the average, there are five or more different roadblocks on Nigerian motor paths on an average day. There are the vigilante local government area boys wielding sticks, holding some dirty twenty Naira notes and swearing at miserable looking taxi drivers out to make a difficult naira. These scenes disturb with their naked display of brutality.
Is this the only way to extract these difficult Naira from unwilling fingers? Who are these people menacing taxi drivers as well as their long-suffering customers? How have these stick-wielding collector of illegal taxes fared since the addition of Keke Napep and okada? Who regulates the work of Keke Napep and okada? Is there a licensing place for all to go and be certified pliers of our dilapidated town and city roads? Who collects from these collectors?
The minute you move out of town and join the motor paths of our so-called highways, you encounter your first roadblock: military. Oil drums cement filled block zig-zag the going and coming with young soldiers holding rifles. Yes, book haram is watching us and so we too must watch out for them.
Day and night, the crab of watchfulness carries its eyes high above its head to be sure he can see everything before it is seen. Patiently they search the vehicle and then pass it on. In the meantime some passengers want to pee or rather politely wish to answer the call of nature. Others want to buy pure water (which is different from bottled water) and maybe something to eat too. This makes every road block a building block of our informal economy. How do you formalize this instant market place?
Next roadblock belongs to the police. This is the most notorious of the roadblocks on our roads. They are the most familiar. They are the most visible in terms of what they are there to do and achieve and collect. There are decrepit vehicles on our roads. The roadblocks do not block them from plying our roads. There are dangerously extra-over-loaded vehicles groaning from one pothole to another. Our police roadblocks do not prevent them from breaking down right in the wrong places and making movements forwards or backwards possible. There are lunatic drivers full of cheap ogogoro over taking, under taking, rear taking, forward taking but you would imagine that our police road block can save us from their lunacy. Of course, not. That’s not the reason for the roadblock. The informal market is also here.
The next roadblock is a series of road safety vehicles manned and womanned by uniformed officers of differing shapes and sizes. Did you admire uniforms on trim bodies smartly turned out as a kid? Was that what made you join the boys’ scouts or boys brigade, girls guide and girls brigade? Forget such picture perfect uniformed officers of the police and the armed forces. Here be pot bellied traffic officers side by side with oil drum shaped females heaving alongside their male colleagues.
And since you have seen road safety uniforms in other climes, you would think these are here to help the traveller go on safely on their way. In fact the road safety organisation does not settle down at a roadblock. It drives along the highways along with other road users ensuring there and then, here and now that our motor paths are free and friendly to all users.
Customs are the next makers and stakers at roadblocks. You cannot see a national or international border in sight but no matter, the customs are here. After all, there are the innumerable fake drugs and expired medicines, which came by way of the international borders in the first place. Internally, we have the movement of weed cultivated in fertile river valleys around the country. They are then transported to the civilized capitals of our country. There are the retailers of human body parts who use public transport to deliver their wares to potential customers. What about baby made for sale in hospitals? Do they use public or private transport systems? The customs people will ferret them out and deal with them. But the fact that they are there day after day means they are not winning.
But are they interested in winning against the criminals? Are they not in fact in a symbiotic relationship with said criminals, each helping the other to ruin Nigeria? (In biology, symbiotic refers to any diverse organisms that live together, but in this case, the relationship is not necessarily beneficial to both. Parasites, for example, have a symbiotic relationship with their hosts —Nigeria, but only the parasite benefits.)
NDLEA – National Drug Law Enforcement Agency also roadblock as in they also block our roads to the greater glory of the informal sellers of guguru and banana and pure water. They are also interested in maintenance of proper standards for all products sold to the Nigerian public. You would not have thought so given the amount of sub standard goods in the market. How did such sub standard goods escape the roadblocks of this organisation?
This is finally a group that is just tentative about blocking the road. They are beggars, beggars on castors, beggars wielding diggers and spades, beggars trying to fill the potholes on our high ways and by ways and motor paths. They risk their lives and do people really appreciate them? Do they give them anything as they speed by cutting right and left seeking escape from these potholes?
Can someone please bring all these people who block our roads together and make them building blocks!