For two odd years and running, driving in Lagos has become a nightmare, thanks to the articulated trucks, container laden long vehicles and tankers that have been parked on bridges, busy expressways and sidewalks, ready to crush cars or bikers before you can say ‘Ambode’.
Thrice, I have almost had the misfortune of being run over by a container laden vehicle on Eko Bridge and on Abebe Village Road in Surulere.
Drivers of these vehicles defy all traffic rules known to mankind, intimidate and bully other road users, crush other road users by emptying containers on them from bridges and elsewhere and of course park smack in the middle of a busy road to gleefully obstruct free flow of traffic without apologies.
The fear of these trucks has become the beginning of wisdom for most Lagosians.
Which makes it even more disturbing that while these lawless trucks have brought traffic to an agonizing standstill for months on end in Apapa, Costain, Ikorodu Road, Festac, Cele, Oshodi-Apapa, Surulere, Ojuelegba, Eko Bridge, Apongbon and elsewhere in Nigeria’s commercial capital, the Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has reacted to the complaints with deafening, non-challant silence.
Ambode hasn’t lifted a finger by way of addressing the angst raised by residents concerning these trucks, or deployed traffic personnel to actively manage gridlock around troubled spots during rush hour.
Until President Buhari showed up in Lagos for a whistle-stop campaign rally.
I first noticed the disappearance of the trucks three days before Saturday’s APC mega rally at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos, as I made my way home through Eko Bridge.
Worried that the biblical rapture had happened without me in copy, I put a call through to a friend who works with the Lagos state government to find out what exactly was going on and why he also missed the rapture.
“We had to clear the roads for Baba Buhari’s visit na”, he quipped.
“Oh, why didn’t you guys do this all along? You had to wait for the president’s visit?”
My friend was chuckling now as he always does when I take him up on perceived shortcomings of the administration he works for.
“So, Ogbeni, where did you guys take the trucks to and why didn’t you take them there all along?”, I wasn’t about to give up.
He laughed some more--an annoying guttural guffaw--and then he initiated the change of subject to football and Arsenal’s lack luster display in recent times. I could have punched him from my phone.
Hours later, I would learn that the trucks were corralled into Festac Town, Mile 2 and Sanya.
I have also learnt that following Buhari’s departure, the trucks are back on Ikorodu Road, Ojuelegba and Eko Bridge with all the nuisance value they bring with them.
But the questions remain: Why wasn’t it considered important to take the trucks off busy roads as residents ranted and kicked for years until President Buhari showed up? Why did Ambode turn his ears and eyes the other way as residents groaned about these trucks from hell until Buhari announced his visit to the state? Is there no permanent parking lot on the outskirts of the city for these trucks from hell?
Is the government even thinking up a permanent solution to this problem? Or are we condemned to a life of waiting to be crushed and bashed by unruly truck drivers in what is already a chaotic city?
The jury is still out on what exactly Ambode will be remembered for as Lagos Governor, but you’ve got to say it isn’t stellar, creative, innovative governance.
There’s no other way to put it—by tormenting us with these trucks for two years and yanking them off just because the president is visiting, the Lagos state government poured scorn on residents and spat in their faces. Ambode has simply refused to govern since he lost the primary election to Sanwo-Olu last October. It's almost as though he is hell bent on punishing Lagosians for his own political misfortunes.
What this ultimately proves is that one life is of more importance than 20 million lives in Ambode’s Lagos. It’s disrespect of the highest order. It’s the ultimate disrespect to taxpayers.