June 15, 2009

OSHODI: The dark days are back again?

By Albert Akpor

FOR long Oshodi, a sprawling market and major bus-stop, revelled in its notoriety as an urban commercial jungle where confusion reigned supreme; a no-man’s land where bedlam was the order of the day courtesy of traders and commercial vehicle operators who turned the place into a war zone of survival.

Then last year the  Lagos State government led by Governor Babatunde Fashola decided that enough was enough and sent in the bulldozers accompanied by uniformed security personnel to put an end to that reign of chaos and restore order and sanity.


And by the time they were through, all the illegal structures, especially those obstructing the flow of traffic, had been pulled down and all undesirable elements were sent packing.

This was loudly hailed in several quarters, especially as the once dreaded Oshodi began to wear a new, decent look with traffic now flowing freely through the place unlike what obtained in the past when it used to be a traffic nightmare for motorists and other road users.

But it seems the joy attending this welcome development is about to be short-lived. Reason? The elements that once made Oshodi a notorious centre of commerce are gradually finding their way back to the place and appear determined to continue where they stopped the last time before their overthrow.

For instance, some road side traders are back and are already erecting illegal structures. On their heels are the notorious  social miscreants otherwise called Area boys.

Motorists, both private and commercial and of course pedestrians who use the Agege Motor road en route the  popular Oshodi market, as well as the Oshodi bridge (Oshodi Oke) now have one bitter tale or the other to tell of the re-emergence of what they refer to as “dark days”.

Presently, it is easy for the camel to pass through the needle’s eye than for motorists and pedestrians alike to drive and walk through the Oshodi market as the public transport vehicles called Molues have successfully taken over a substantial part of the Bolade axis of the Agege  Motor road of the market,  thereby making it increasingly difficult to drive through.

Apart from this,  make-shift large umbrellas, a recent means adopted by some itinerant traders have completely replaced the illegal roadside structures.

Worse still, club-wielding Area Boys have  taken over the Oshodi bridge and commuter bus operators, including of course, passengers are harassed with reckless abandoned even in the presence of law enforcement officers  which include the Police and  Lagos State Traffic Management Authority(LASTMA) officials.

Reacting to this situation, Mr. Uzo Okudili, a  driver with one of the second generation banks with its headquarters on the Lagos Island but lives somewhere in Iyana-Ipaja had this to say: “You won’t believe that I was the happiest man when about two months ago, I drove through this road; it was as if I was in Ghana or South Africa.  I couldn’t believe that one could drive through Oshodi in just seconds.

Normally I drive through the Mobolaji Bank Anthony way to my work place but with the clearance of all the illegal structures and those traders who had virtually blocked the road, I said bye- bye to Bank Anthony way.

But as you can see for yourself now, the story has changed.  We have been stuck here for about one hour now just to connect the express road without success.  The police, LASTMA and even the traffic officers are all at the Bolade junction and we do not know what is wrong”.

Another aggrieved respondent who simply identified himself as Kasali, one of the traders at the market whose stall was demolished angrily remarked in pidgin English language: “The government and even you Journalist wrote that we traders in Oshodi are the problems of Oshodi market, you write for papers and government come demolish our shop so that we should go and thief before we feed our families and we couldn’t do anything. Now that the go-slow has resurfaced, are we still the cause?”

Continuing, Kasali pointed out thus: “Can’t you see that Molue has taken over the whole second lane and you people wey get motor dey manage one lane?  Move forward before you get to the bridge, you will see Lagos State environmental officials there. What people don’t know is that they allowed the molues to block the road because the drivers have settled them”.

However, to Mr. Uzo sOkwudili, a Lagos based legal practitioner, what bothers him is not so much the re-emergence of all the relics that gave Oshodi a bad name in the past.

Rather it is the fact that  the state government has not been able to completely stamp out the 911 truck called Molue as a means of transportation in Lagos metropolis.  According to him the fact that Molues are still used as means of public transport system in Lagos is not only a shame but a dent on the developmental efforts of the state government.