Before I start, let me just say that I am aware that Lagos borders the Atlantic Ocean. It has its fair share of lagoons, rivers and streams. It also has huge canals and gutters in strategic areas to channel all that moving water to any adjoining natural body.
The canals look nice for when you’re counting state infrastructure. They are also useful during the dry season for dumping household refuse and other stuff we don’t need. In fact, the gutters, where we have them, are just something you cross to get to the road. Decorative.
Until the rains came.
It started raining around May, which is quite early for Lagos. Since then, we have experienced ‘scatterings’ of rainfall. Lately, it has been more of steady downpours than scatterings – the beginning of our woes.
Rainy season in Lagos is unpleasant. The streets become filled with rubbish. Further, you are forced to make your way through random heaps. It used to be bearable when there was some sort of state waste control. But this year is a whole new story.
That evening; I skip-hopped across the road on tiptoes, dodging puddles and dirt piles, to get to a semi-dry sidewalk. The kind of relief I felt when I made it across without getting too wet, ehn?
I couldn’t wait to get home to peel off my skin. Nobody should have to leave their house on a rainy day in Lagos. Seriously.
When I got to the bus stop, I heard the bus conductors screaming as usual. “Ajah! Under bridge Ajah! 500! Straight bus! 500!”.
I thought he was joking so I moved closer to see and hear for myself if he was indeed being serious. He was very serious.
In a huff, I pulled out my phone to book a ride on one of these cab hailing services. Those bus drivers can carry their shakara to their village. The fare seemed okay, so I booked it.
But then my forefathers whispered in my ears, “check the traffic on Google Maps”. So, I did.
You know how they call some traffic situations “bloody”? I’m sure now that Google selected the colour indicating very heavy traffic on their map’s software based on that parlance.
Ah! It was “bloody” all the way to my destination. I just cancelled my ride quickly, swallowed the humble pill and entered the bus to Ajah quietly.
What caused that kind of traffic?
Apparently, over two kilometres of the Express way had been submerged by water. Vehicles were not in a hurry to cross to the other side. So, we were all stuck on one side in an odd queue; waiting as though a repeat of the ‘Red Sea’, like in the book of Exodus, was going to happen at any moment.
In my depressed and tired state after spending four hours in traffic, I looked up to see hawkers. They were peddling inflated rafters. For a minute, I realized that the answer to the traffic problem, and the flood situation in Lagos, was not the God of the Old Testament or the silent administrators of the Lagos State Government.
The answer was a canoe to cross that river to the other side. Every man to his own canoe and for us, maybe we will be alright.