By Helen Ovbiagele
MR. X, a businessman, was pacing his lounge, looking highly agitated as he glanced at his wrist watch almost every minute. â€œBye daddy,â€ chorused his three children as their mum was leading them out of the house to take them to their school. â€œBye kids!â€ he replied, softening a bit as he bent to pat them on the head. â€œBe good, and make sure you complete your homework before I return tonight.â€
â€œWill do, dad,â€ said the eldest. â€œBring home some goodies, please dad.â€ â€œI have no choice, do I? Itâ€™s an order from his excellencies in this house.â€ â€œAn order! His excellencies!â€ laughed the kids as they gave him a hug and began to file out. â€œDarling!â€ said Mrs X, looking anxiously at her husband. â€œTake it easy. Lucky will soon be here. You need to be very calm for the meeting.
Last nightâ€™s rain must have caused his coming this late.â€ â€œHe wonâ€™t be called Lucky again if he doesnâ€™t come in time to take me to go keep this very important appointment. There are about a hundred people after this contract, and getting there early to see the relevant people will put me in good stead.
Lucky knows how anxious I am about being early for appointments, and yet he chooses to report for duty as late as he can. Iâ€™m not taking it any more.â€ â€œDarling, but heâ€™s a good driver who used to be punctual. Itâ€™s the rainy season and the floods which make him report late.â€
But there you are, a lady, getting into the heavy rain so that our kids wonâ€™t be late for school. What stops Lucky having that sense of duty and responsibility, and ensuring that he leaves home at a very good time so that he can report for duty on time? Itâ€™s a question of organizing himself well during the rainy season.
Common sense should make him make allowance for the delays he could encounter on the way, and thus he would leave home very early at this time of the year. Heâ€™s becoming too comfortable in the job, and thus careless. Iâ€™ll clip his wings.â€ â€œHm! Good drivers like him are not easy to get. Bear with him. Heâ€™ll be here soon. Donâ€™t sack him. Promise!â€
â€œMy promise is I wonâ€™t sack him if he gets here within the next thirty minutes, even though heâ€™s already one hour late. A minute after, Iâ€™ll drive myself to the venue. That would mean the sack for him. Iâ€™m not paying him peanuts. I pay him as high as fifty thousand naira a month for efficiency and punctuality.
He canâ€™t be the only good driver in this country.â€ Mrs. X sighed, went for a peck on her cheek, and left with the kids. When she returned an hour later, the husband was still at home and Lucky was nowhere in sight. â€œWhat happened?â€ she asked. â€œAny word from the driver?â€
â€œNone, and I donâ€™t care. Heâ€™s sacked as far as Iâ€™m concerned. I would have left for the meeting, but I discovered that I have two flat tyres. No vulcanizer would be out in this heavy rain. Iâ€™ve rung the office and asked them to send down a car and a driver from the pool.â€
â€œYou can use my car, and I can ring for a vehicle from the pool later, for collecting the kids.â€ â€œThanks darling. Thatâ€™s a better idea. Luckily, I can still spare an hour to get there.â€™ As he was collecting his briefcase, a thoroughly soaked Lucky was getting down from a bike at the gate. He was shivering when he got to the verandah. â€œYouâ€™re sacked! Fired!â€ bellowed Mr. X. â€œWhy, oga?â€ asked a bewildered Lucky.
â€œFor coming more than two hours late. Your appointment has not been confirmed yet, but Iâ€™ll pay you for the whole month. Go to the office tomorrow for your money.Â Â Iâ€™ll inform the Chief Accountant. Your letter will be prepared before the end of the day.â€ â€œOga, forgive me now,â€ pleaded the distraught driver. â€œI couldnâ€™t get out fast from my area in Olodi Apapa because of flood. Water entered my room; soaking everything, including our mobile phones.
My wife and children are drying the place now. Traffic jam on the express even as early as five-thirty was helele, because of flood and bad road. Then our motor quenched in a pot hole. I took three others before I took bike so I can get here. Iâ€™m sorry, oga. Itâ€™s not my fault.â€
â€œToo many sorrys for lateness these days. You remain sacked. No pleading.â€ â€œHm. Okay.Â Â Can I say something since you have sacked me, oga?â€ â€œGo on. You remain s acked.â€ â€œOga thinks that this is America or Europe where government is better government and they are responsible.
This is Nigeria. Government doesnâ€™t care. Every rainy season, we suffer because of the flood and the bad roads that government neglects. Lateness everywhere; school o, office o, market o; travel o, everywhere. You canâ€™t sack worker for lateness during rainy season; especially if the person delivers like me.
One canâ€™t walk in the air. Iâ€™m responsible man, oga. Na so o, oga. Goodbye.â€ Mr. X was stunned into silence by his driverâ€™s outburst. His wife giggled silently as she left the two. Later, she saw them driving off. Lucky had been reinstated.
Rainy season is here again and it has added pains to living in this country. We want the rains. We need them and can tolerate them, but it brings acute disruption of power supply as PHCN seizes whatever meagre power itâ€™s supplying, at the least sign of rain. Annoying, but we can bear that.
What about our roads? Most are impassable even during the dry season, let alone the rainy season. Gutters are clogged up with mud and refuse. Pot holes are deeper, and the floods are unbelievable.
We know that by the very nature of the land in Lagos, floods are to be expected. So, it makes sense to have covered drains so that water can flow unhindered to the various outlets, without being blocked by refuse and mud.
No matter how many times the gutters are cleared, they get blocked rapidly because theyâ€™re not covered with concrete slabs.
This is what worsens the floods. Right now, gas pipes are being laid on many roads. Workers dig up the earth, lay the pipes and then leave the heaps of earth right there on the side of the road. One rainfall washes the heaps into the gutters.Â Â Canâ€™t the government, local or state, make it mandatory for the companies that dig up the roads to restore them to their former state?
This means levelling the ground; using cement or tar. Arenâ€™t there supervisors for this work? I think our governments at all levels should have a more responsible attitude towards road repair and maintenance. A realistic sum of money should be set aside for this every year, and repairs should be regular; with the major ones taking place during the dry season.
I canâ€™t understand this attitude of waiting for the rainy season before feeble attempts are made to repair the roads. Most times, earth is poured into pot holes! Even a child knows that this soon wears away even before the rains start. The Apapa/Oshodi express way is hell at present, just like the Lagos/Benin road.
These are two important federal roads. Why doesnâ€™t the federal government do something solid about them, and others around the country? I didnâ€™t understand the headline â€˜Bad roads: â€˜Be carefulâ€™, Minister Warns Media.â€™ which I read in the Vanguard of July 2nd.. If this is true, then hopes for improved state of our roads will fade.
Well…………….. I also read â€˜Senate cuts Education, Health budget to fund roadsâ€™! Heaven help us! Our Educational and Health systems are bad enough as things stand.