By Clement Udegbe
IN the early 1980s, when I had just completed my National Service as a youth corper, Lagos was the destination for most young persons, and graduates. In those good old days, a corper was the love and admiration of all. We in the 1980 set, had free bus rides, free accommodation under Alhaji Lateef Jakande- One governor who ruled Lagos for over four years, without travelling overseas.
There was nothing like robbery and I remember from Ojuelegba to Ajegunle, a corper could move freely round the clock, and still enjoyed free rides if in the uniform. It was the days of the Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, and National Party of Nigeria, NPN, in Lagos. Corps members in those days were happy as politicians remained politicians; while corps members remained hope filled, enthusiastic and proud Nigerian youth, loved by most Lagosians.
Today, the Military and the Police personnel have displaced the youth corper in the enjoyment of free rides on Lagos buses. Corpers have no free accommodation, and have been reduced to common cheap labour in hotels, gas stations, and a few business concerns. The corps member has been abandoned, no thanks to our politicians in power, and it even appears that they have also missed out on“Change” too. Poor corpers, we love you all, and your labour of love for Nigeria shall not be in vain. Unlike Alhaji Jakande, today’s leaders start as frequent fliers to overseas and own mansions there.
The average Easterner came into Lagos via the Ibadan Express way, to Ojota, then into the great city of Lagos. The Magodo Bridge, which we call Berger Bus Stop today, was the beginning of Lagos to most new comers, like myself who came in from University of Ife, the great Ife, via Ibadan. It was a major gate into Lagos, and Lagos State Government erected the statue of the three wise Eyo Masquerades near that Bridge to mark it out as a special gate. This is the only gate into Lagos, that has remained a good story, and hope for the visitor into or out of Lagos State.
The roads are smooth, wide, but for the little traffic hick-up near the former toll gate, and the stench that once oozed from waste at Ojota, this gate remains the best route into Lagos, thanks to the years of People’s Democratic Party, PDP, in Aso Rock especially the Jonathan adminstration. The administrations of Sen. Bola Tinubu and Babatunde Fashola, opened another gate from the Epe-Lekki axis which Governor Akinwunnmi Ambode is working on, and when fully operational, will be the most expensive gate into Lagos, with two toll gates.
It will be the gate for a special wealthy community of the Lagos Free Trade Zone, and their environs largely known to be below sea level. I need not say more than to pray for God to keep the people. Magodo gate is the gate to beat. The other three gates in Lagos are international in nature namely the Badagry gate, the Apapa Sea gate, and Ikeja Airport gate, these three should constitute big embarrassments to the conscience of those who governed Lagos since 1999 till date.
The most neglected, the Badagry gate which starts from Mile 2, through Ojo LGA, appears more or less like a gate into hell on earth. The build up to the confusion starts for a visitor, from around the 2nd Rainbow Bus Stop along Oshodi-Apapa Express Way, with the dominant presence of motoryclcles popularly known as Okada on the Express way, oil tankers on the exit lanes, sprawling into Mile 2, to make driving through the place a daily night mare to workers who must go through the grid lock daily, with LASTMA, FRSC, and VIOs checking during peak hours, as if to mock and scorn at the settlers within this axis.
The confusion continues to build pass the Trade Fair Complex and hits its crescendo at Iyana Iba by LASU junction, where sense makes no sense, and nonsense makes a lot of sense if a driver must escape the torture of going through this route. On a good day, the traffic officers LASTMA and Police are overwhelmed and tired by 12 noon! This has become the worst gate in Lagos and will remain so for a very long time, leaving some to wonder if Badagry is still part of the popular “ Eko oni baje” slogan.
The Apapa Sea Gate, and the Ikeja International Airport Gate are gates used by Lagos, former Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, politicians for blackmail in order to take over power, and now that they are in power at the centre, as All Progressive Congress, APC, they appear locked up in the bondage they created.
The Apapa sea gate starts from Otto Wolf Bus Stop on Oshodi-Apapa Express Way via the Tin Can Island Port, to Apapa Sea Port, through Ago Malu. This gate houses most Oil Tank Farms, and the Oil Tankers’ menace has proved ungovernable to both the Federal government and Lagos state government. The roads are full of craters, rough spots, that has made the Tin Can Port gate an eye sore. Containers fall off trucks quite often on this road, and it is worst along the road to Apapa Port from Tin can.This is the gate of Blackmail and shame of the gate way to Nigeria’s economy.
The International Airport gate is a special case. As one approaches and turn right from Oshodi Bus Stop, one is first greeted by the ever present embarrassment of FRSC officers preying on travellers to the airport, then you run into oil tankers turning freely opposite the NAHCO shed, posing a huge risk to travellers, then the car park with its red soil, which forms a great paste of red soil when it rains! The colours of the taxis at this park present graffiti of all colours between deep blue, purple and light blue on the red soil!
The two car parks along the international airport road, are with bare soil constituting a huge embarrassment to Nigerian traveller with modest sense of decency. From the tale of these three gates so far, it would not be wrong to conclude that Lagos seems to have done better when it was in opposition to the ruling party in Aso Rock.
Mr. Udegbe, a lawyer, wrote from email@example.com, Lagos