Tales Of An Avoidable Gridlock
APC’s vote-me flags flying in the air; hundreds of people, with hundreds of missions and destinations crossing the busy road now and again; wild Okada riders honking and wooing would-be passengers for a dash to appointments terrestrial or heavenly; kaftan-ed mallams exchanging naira notes for ‘dalars’, ‘pands’ and ‘uros’; hawkers of everything – from Apples to Zero-sugared drinks; a persisting stream of yellow commercial buses; and the everlasting queue of frustrated motorists snail-driving through avoidable gridlock – welcome to Igando Junction on Isheri Road.
The junction, no doubt, deserves a branch in the jungle of Lagos State’s bustling spots. Its other brothers include the likes of Ikotun and Oshodi. It wakes at the wee hours of everyday, peaks at morning and evening rush hours, while observing some sort of siesta at midday. It is a conduit of all things human – tall, short, male, female, well dressed, horribly attired, fat, slim sane, crazy, hasty, slow… And if one made out time to look carefully, one might even find the kith and kin of Amos Tutuola’s ‘The Complete Gentleman’ mingling freely with humans. Such is the nature of the buzzing intersection.
The spot brings to mind the fate of an eater who having been enjoying a tasty meal of pounded yam with egusi and bush meat (don’t worry, Nigeria is Ebola free) suddenly finds a roach atop the soup-baptised bolus. Drivers who hit the road from the Egbeda or Iba end are treated to smooth riding on very good road, almost un-Lagos-like. They ‘march’ the pedal of their vehicles, and let the car fly, fooled into believing the sweet episode would run all the way. Well, it would have, but for the gridlock at Igando Junction.
At peak hours, the traffic jam could extend as far as the U-turn, some 800 metres away. A sour aftermath to what had been a swift ride, drivers begin the long and vexatious crawl to and past the junction.
The causes of the traffic jam are all too obvious. But like many things in this part of the world, the more conspicuous the root is; the more difficult it becomes for authorities to wield the axe or uproot the offence. For instance, a deep pothole at a strategic road is causing man-hour losses, the pit, however, is left to stand for several months, even when a simple and sincere palliative could have been executed.
The culprits at Igando Junction are two: one is the ceaseless stream of pedestrians surging across the road, forcing cars to slow down or halt completely; the other is the conversion of sections of the busy road into motor parks.
“We have been asked not to speak to journalists,” one man told The Guardian, when it visited the Igando branch office of the National Union of Road and Transport Workers (NURTW). The man led the reporter to a room, and asked him to sit down in front of a male receptionist (or was he a clerk?) whose face seemed to be asking, ‘Bros, wetin now? Wetin you dey find? Abi on se were ni?’ The man disappeared into a room and emerged about five minutes later. He was slightly nervous and barely concealed his struggle to get out only the right words.
Refusing to disclose his name, he put blame on a species of commercial buses that stop indiscriminately, pick up passengers and tip law enforcement agents to look the other way. This category of drivers, he said, avoids a mandatory Union’s fee, which is paid by another set of drivers that parks ‘properly’, equally picking up passengers. Only law officers can rein in control, he said, implying that the officers are not doing so because of pecuniary gains. He also stressed the need for government to provide a motor park for the operators.
At the notorious junction, however, there was no distinction between the two sets of drivers. Unmistakably clear was the fact that the presence of a motor park on the road constituted a nuisance that impeded traffic, and its absence would free the road. Simple arithmetic.
Supposing the Lagos State government, perhaps after the general election, finds its whip and sends the commercial drivers packing, what becomes of the swarm of pedestrians?
“Government needs to build a pedestrian bridge here,” said one trader who sold footwear. But would people use the facility, The Guardian asked, citing similar bridges across the state that are underutilised? “People will use it,” he answered, adding: “Government will use its power to enforce compliance.” According to him, a young man, on November 28, 2014, was killed, after a vehicle knocked him down at the junction.
Igando Junction, nevertheless, is a policeman’s delight. Thanks to the continuous flow of vehicles and the factors that now force them to decelerate. Officers have little or no qualms getting drivers to move to a corner, thereby facilitating the discharge of ‘statutory duties’. When The Guardian visited the place on Wednesday, January 28, 2015, policemen and Vehicle Inspection Officer’s (VIOs) were seen zealously flagging down vehicles.
Who dare say their action is a remote cause of the problem at hand?
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