One day, one trouble

By Adekunle Adekoya

“There is always more misery among the lower classes than there is humanity in the higher.”  — Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

AS an individual, I ponder my situation and that of fellow country men and women and I simply shudder at what we have to endure on a daily basis as we claim to be citizens of Nigeria, under an elected president, legislature, and at the state level, governors.

On the micro-blogging platform, Twitter, yesterday were conversations ignited by a user who narrated his experience following an attack by traffic robbers in the Mile 2 area of Lagos. The thread of responses to his experience was long; I couldn’t read all, but I share in his travails and the trauma that attended his experience because I had fallen victim several times. As I write, I don’t know whether I will fall victim today, alongside my colleagues, because the nature of our duties dictates that we close late.

My first experience was in 2014. For those who don’t know, the Apapa traffic gridlock started in earnest in 2012; we’ve lived with it for about a decade now. In response, we take other routes to avoid the jam, which made a 30-minute drive last as long as five hours. So, leaving Ikotun-Egbe in Alimosho Local Government Area, we begin a long, circuitous journey to avoid the gridlock, going through Oshodi, thence to Western Avenue, past Eko Bridge, and taking a right turn using the Ijora bridge. We would then descend to Mobil Road, go through Ajegunle, and access Kirikiri through Wilmer. Those who know Lagos well must appreciate the effort and expense of doing this daily. I still do this. 

On the day I had my baptism of fire from the robbers, I was on the Ijora bridge, and traffic was at a standstill. Shortly, a group of urchins, six of them, approached my car. Without much ado, one of them reached into his pocket, brought out what must have been a hard object concealed in a handkerchief and hit the rear car window. The glass shattered. This happened in broad daylight.

“That’s the end of your central lock,” the hooligan muttered. He reached inside, opened the rear car door, took my office bag, my tablet, and a phone. I was not harmed, but my bag contained money withdrawn earlier, my tape recorder, and many other valuables, including my passport. They took them away. A few minutes later, one of them came back, took my jacket, slung it over his shoulder, and sauntered off. I came down and looked round. To my left was the Ijora Police Station, but no policeman was near where I had been robbed. I stood there, while a feeling of impotence welled up and nearly choked me. Other motorists simply looked on.

That was 2014, and this is still going on, daily. The Twitter user who narrated his experience also said his car window was shattered.

Now, sections of the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway are under reconstruction. When the road is finished, we will obviously enjoy it. But the question is: Must we all die before the road is completed? At the Second Rainbow Bus-Stop, an overhead bridge project is on-going, worsening the logjam. Traffic robbers take advantage of this and attack road users. 

In other parts of Lagos where there is no construction, hirelings of the recently created Lagos Parks Management Authority create their own traffic jams by mounting roadblocks, and demanding payments from truckers. Truck drivers who can’t understand when expressways became parks balk, and stop. Soon, traffic backs up behind them. At the same time, car drivers fall victim as traffic robbers move in. Meanwhile, no security man of any service is available to help. 

Daily, we live in misery. To compound our misery, Director-General, Nigerian Institute of Leather and Science Technology, NILEST, Zaria, Muhammad Yakubu, said government is planning a legislation to ban ponmo. This, he said, is necessary to revive the comatose leather industry in the country, adding that the habit of eating animal skin should be stopped to save the industry and boost the economy.

Another high point of misery is the lingering strike by university teachers, which has lasted seven months so far. A court ruling flashed a way out of the misery by ordering the varsity dons back to work. It remains to be seen if they would comply. Worsening the misery index are floods, occasioned by rains which poured relentlessly for some days, consecutively sacking people from their homes and rendering many roads impassable. In Lagos, commuting from one point to another is getting more nightmarish because of interminable traffic jams. 

Meanwhile, price of cooking gas, diesel, kerosene, yams, beans, gari, tomatoes, pepper, bread, and in fact, everything we use daily continue their upward climb, thereby compounding our misery. 

If the amount of misery among the lower classes cannot be reduced because the level of humanity in the upper classes that manage our affairs is low, who will save us? How can Victor Hugo be so right about our leaders? 

Let me end with another quote: “Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.”  — Victor Hugo, Les Misérables. Keep hope alive, fellow Nigerians. A new dawn is coming. TGIF!

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