A friend sent me a rather frightful note last week in which he warned that I should not drive my vehicle with expired documents within the Ikeja environs, especially the Alausa secretariat, the seat of Lagos state government. He said that Big Brother is in town. He is currently resident in the secretariat armed to the teeth with mounted cameras to capture plate numbers of vehicles plying the area. Through some technological contrivance he can detect expired vehicle papers. No matter how fast you drive, warns my friend, the camera will pick your plate number. And if by chance you have defaulted in any way, you would get an alert on your phone and be sent a fee to pay for defaulting.
Instantly the note catapulted me to George Orwell’s socialist Europe which he captured in his dystopian novel, 1984. In the novel, one of the most memorable in its genre, Winston Smith, the fictional character – victim of the viciousness of state – was confronted at every turn by an all-pervasive, all intrusive and omnipresent government surveillance system and propaganda machinery symbolised by a big poster with the caption, BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU. For Winston Smith and for us today, there is no escaping the ever present vigil of the authorities.
But those of us who have made Lagos home for decades can appreciate the positive side of the big government in our lives – meaning it is not all a tale of woes. The current ingenuity of Lagos government, which is aimed more at revenue drive, should be expanded to make life more comfortable for us in the homes and on the roads. Traffic snarl, the defining feature of Lagos has been taken to another level.
Lagos roads have become clogged all over again, thanks to the return of potholes and huge gullies. A trip that should not be more than 15 minutes can take two hours or more. Until the work on the International Airport Road through Oshodi is completed, commuters would have to endure the harrowing experience of spending hours from the airport to Ikeja, normally a journey of less than twenty minutes.
Apapa-Oshodi Express Way has since become a misnomer. No longer an express way but a snarl way. So are the road links from Festac Town to Oshodi and Ikeja because both the Federal and the state governments cannot seem to find their way out of the logjam that has paralysed traffic and economic activities spilling over from Apapa ports. The truck and the trailers and other antiquated jehus on four wheels have made the roads and the bridges leading to the ports their permanent parking lots.
I remember vividly that Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo had landed in the midst of the blockade one day to show solidarity with Lagos commuters and to help rid the roads of the menace. Since then, task forces of all manner and descriptions had been set up and dismantled but they all failed to dismantle the blockade.
In the past, Federal Military Government had promised generous incentives to importers to use alternative ports in Calabar, One and Warri to decongest the Lagos ports. But those ones have fallen into disuse for lack of patronage. And yet, they must stay in Lagos even if the Lagos traffic is killing their business.
And there is no end in sight. With campaigns in full swing, Lagos residents get trapped without warning when one big man or the other is at a rally in any community in Lagos. And when the ruling party, APC, has a function at its ACME road secretariat, bedlam breaks out in the whole of Ikeja with the closure of ACME road and the commuters scampering for alternative routes. Commuters can stay on the roads for more than six hours in search of escape routes.
Lagos, in its drive for excellence, has remained in a permanent state of reconstruction and, inevitably in a permanent state of road blockage and traffic snarl. The technology that is available to the government for economic drive should also be available for enhanced security and clean environment. While Lagos seems to be winning the battle against insecurity, it is losing the battle to garbage, heaps and heaps of which, like traffic snarl, is another defining feature of Lagos. Plagued by mismanagement and corruptive tendencies, environmental nightmare with its high mountains of garbage and waste, has remained an enduring feature of the Lagos metropolis.
Police in Lagos should enhance its synergy with the Lagos State Government to tackle other menace posed by road users. Many people still drive with phones in one hand while negotiating a bend with the other hand constituting a veritable threat to other road users. And I am told it is an offence for people to be driving and using their phones at the same time. But how many people have been arrested? Or the police cannot see what the rest of us see on the roads? Maybe the Big Brother should come to the rescue.
Kogi State: SOS to the IGP
And talking about the Big Brother, I want to do one little patriotic duty today to save lives in Kogi State. I am doing so by calling on the Big Brother in Abuja to come to the rescue of misguided elements in parts of Kogi State who are hell bent on mass murder in the name of politics.
As campaigns heat up for elections into the National Assembly, supporters of various candidates in the Kogi East and Kogi Central senatorial districts have been killing and maiming one another. The two senatorial districts have become the main theatre of this senseless war and nobody seems capable or even willing to halt the carnage.
Where two or three people are gathered today, the chances are that thugs, armed with AK 47 from the opposing camp, would run into them and mow them down even with police presence. They now kill with glee as if killing is the popular pastime in the land.
If the police in Kogi State appear helpless or complicit, their boss, Mohammed Adamu, the new Inspector General of Police, who read the riot act to his men when he assumed duty last month, should use Kogi State as an example to prove the earnest of his vow and of his good intentions. He has to do something quickly to check the excesses of these senseless fellows before they kill themselves off.