Conditions are the fault of society. But should these conditions, if negative, be beyond solving by society? As a resident of Lagos, a simple Google search of the word ‘traffic’ exposes to you the miserable truth that everywhere in Lagos can be prone to traffic.
Irrespective of how smooth, wide, or how many lanes a road holds; one human error, event or happenstance can render that road a traffic nightmare or blocked. For instance, there was an additional 12 minutes delay on Bajualaye road on Monday. Why? Because a local vendor was taking delivery of eggs.
What is worse? These events cannot be reasonably predicted. As it is, part of your routine before leaving the house necessarily has to include a quick Google map search; then a little prayer for your stress levels. The reality is just absurd. It is a thing of wonder then how this traffic issue has not taken center stage in the debates for living a healthier life in Lagos.
Lagosians are said to have higher levels of stress. Four years ago, on my way back from Apapa at about 8 pm local time; a driver passed out and then passed on in traffic on the Ikorodu road; causing traffic for other commuters.
Another time, on my way from a friend’s house in Oshodi; the driver made an abrupt stop that frightened the passengers, and in the midst of all the insults; a few of us noticed he was throwing up.
The driver had apparently been working since the day before and was paying for his hard work.
Doctors advise that Lagosians take better care of their health because of the conditions within which they live. In response, some residents have come to see this as a normal lease of life. In fact, there are people who wrongly attribute this to proof that Lagos and Lagosians are very productive.
This is incorrect. According to data from a crash course; the average productivity of a worker in Nigeria is $3.24/hr as compared to that of South Africa; which stands at a noticeably embarrassing distance of $19.8/hour. To qualify, we are very busy but also very unproductive. Indeed, a reasonable explanation would be that we may be spending too much time in traffic.
Businesses have tried to come up with palliatives. Right now, there are at least four bike hailing services that are attempting to provide transport services to commuters who are willing and able to accept and pay for the risk. From OPay to Gokada and Maxng, these startups are attempting to exploit the congestion for profit.
However, there have been attempts by Lagos chapter of the Nigerian Union of Road Transport Workers to stifle these businesses. According to responses from inquiries made; it appears these startups have not done a proper handshake with the members of these bodies. Yes, they pay taxes but there is also the cost of corruption in Nigeria. They ought to account for that in their balance sheets.
The government’s response has been akin to that of charlatans. In the area of rail transportation; the idea of developing a light rail network for Lagos was resuscitated by former governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu; in the early 2000s, with a formal announcement of its construction in December 2003, after an earlier attempt, failed.
The initial $135m proposal was part of the greater Lagos Urban Transportation Project; which was to be implemented by the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA).
In April 2008, the state government approved 70b for the construction of the Okokomaiko-Iddo-Marina Line. This had an estimated completion date of 2011. However, the project has suffered many delays; with the state government and supervising agency- LAMATA, sometimes giving contradictory reasons for the delay in meeting the numerous deadlines.
Indeed, Lagos state does not have an efficient functioning, rail system. Further underscoring the charlatanism, the present governor promised during his campaign to fix the traffic situation in Lagos in 100 days. The problem here isn’t that he was believed. It is that he was bold enough to make such a properly impossible promise. It is astonishing.
The arresting truth about these facts is that traffic in Lagos has persisted because of greed; incompetence and the barrenness of a busy life has triumphed over the decency of solving our collective problems. I am in traffic as I type this; thinking through the stress and adjusting my buttocks to the discomfort of sitting in one position for too long.
In Lagos, a journey of a thousand miles begins with Google maps and a prayer.