The heat in the Ikeja bound Lagos Danfo bus from CMS was unbearable. The time was 2pm on Monday 27th April 2009. As usual the fury of the typical Lagos sun was at its peak, shining down hard on Lagosians making us sweat like the proverbial Christmas goat.
For the passengers in the Danfo bus, it was much worse, as there was no ventilation. On any of the days the mercury hot Lagos sun decides to do its damage, the last place to be caught is inside a Lagos Danfo bus.
As the rickety bus rattled along on Third Mainland Bridge, one could hardly hear the conductor who continues to demand for his fare above the din of the noisy engine made worse by the deafening, ear grating noise coming from the body of the disjointed bus that looked as if it would fall apart any moment.
At the back of the rickety bus, a worn out voice of a female itinerant preacher reminded us of the urgency to be born again to avoid the calamity of an imminent rapture and the wrath of hell fire. I chuckled at the thought of another “hell” different from the one we already found ourselves.
Earlier, at the bus terminus in CMS while the conductor was prospecting for passengers hysterically at the top of his voice, a series of events and conversation from passengers, professional beggars, destitutes, area boys, hawkers provided amusing insights into the thinking of Lagosians and “professional commentators” about the activities of the current Lagos Government under the hardworking and celebrated Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola. These often uninformed verbal exchanges are your typical beer parlour policy analysis.
These set of Lagosians whose activities and quest to eke out a living has turned Lagos into a chaotic, dirty city which the present state government is now battling to salvage to pave way for a truly urbane and modern city compared to others globally are at pain to appreciate the efforts of the state government.
As passengers waited patiently for the bus to fill up, a destitute beggar would stroll by, at another time a hawker would block the entrance of the bus and disappear as soon as she sights the Kai Brigade in a distance. You looked out of the window of the rickety bus that is fast being replaced by BRT buses and you are at once confronted by the beautiful paved stones and manicured lawn of the Outer Marina.
The state of the outer Marina with the Atlantic Ocean in the background can compare to any of its kind in any part of the world. As the bus journeyed laboriously towards its destination, a cacophony of voices broke out as you would expect in a typical Lagos public transportation about current development efforts of the state government in the last two years. This was prompted from the announcement on the radio that Governor Fashola would be marking his seven hundred days in office.
Most of the conversations which were of course half-baked would amaze any sane person. There were those who think the state government should go ahead to sanitize the state by demolishing illegal structures and there were also those who think government should let people continue in their old ways. For later, the question was “wetin the governor dey do self”?
“Look at Oshodi” a man beside me bellowed, spraying some saliva in every direction. Why dem go demolish people wey dey look for some thing to eat? He asked no one in particular. A counter argument from another passenger that Oshodi now looks like “London” further infuriated who asked if the fellow had been to the airport before.
He reiterated his point saying “you Nigerian’s should not compare yourselves to Oyinbo people” The pro-Fashola camp in the bus would not have any of these, they pointed to all the “good things the man dey do”. According to them, “Lagos is now beautiful, look at under the bridges, the man is planting flowers every where”.
He continued “Everywhere is now neat, look at the roads, under the bridge, look at the BRT, he is even providing employment. Lagos will be a mega city in 2020”. I could not conceal my laughter. The man behind me was incensed, springing to his feet, he shouted “na flower we go chop, stop saying nonsense, the man no dey do anything”.
The man later confessed that his wife makeshift shop was demolished, by the officials of Kai Brigade. On further questioning by the “pro government forces” in the bus, he admitted that the shop was built on drainage path. Officials of LASTMA also got a tongue lash from this man whom one of the passengers jokingly referred to as a PDP man. They told him to go Alausa to collected transport fare to go back to his village. “If Lagos no favour you this man…go back to your village now?” His friends’ fire back in retaliation, but no one paid them any attention again.
However, the most shocking part of the argument in the Danfo is the endorsement of military government by a man who had otherwise been quite. “That is why I like military government, dem no dey disturb any body so long you know disturb them” As the argument raged on, yours truly decided to play the role of an observer. One of the most dangerous things to do is to join in an argument with the less educated.
After about two hours of grueling hot exchanges, the Danfo arrived at Ikeja; the protagonists alighted and disappeared into the crowded streets of Ikeja. The incident in the bus for a moment was a metaphor of the difficulty of governing a people whose psche and poverty of the mind have made them oblivious of any effort to make things right. They have been used to the state of disorderliness which has become a norm in our society these several decades that any attempt to instill a life of order is viewed as a disorder.
The greatest challenge confronting Alausa today is how to get ordinary Lagosians to be a partner in the developmental projects going on in every parts of the state. There is the need to protect the huge investment being made in environment (Lagosians are still dumping waste in the newly constructed drainages), transportation, roads, waste management, tree planting etc.
These may seem insignificant but majority of the people do not see government property as theirs. Otherwise why will people willfully damage public properties so callously? They do not even know that these are procured with taxes collected from them.
Area boys have continued to constitute a menace to people and public property. The tree planting campaign launched by the Fashola administration is a case in point. In the newly completed Aja-Badore Road on the Lekki axis, area boys have turned the newly planted trees on the highway to canes.
As soon as a fight breaks out among different factions, they will proceed to uproot the young trees and use them to flog themselves. This is not funny; those plants were bought with tax payers’ money, planted and maintained at a great cost. There is the need to have volunteers to assist in protecting the properties.
I think the law enforcement agencies should double up their efforts in this regard. But most importantly, there is the need to educate Lagosians and visitors to help protect these huge investments in environment, transportation.
For example, close to a dozens street lamps have been knocked down by reckless tanker drivers. They are still lying there and nobody seems to care. This has been the practice in
the past. But things must change. Some Lagosians are still defecating in open places.
Another case in point is the activities of tankers drivers, apart from their indiscriminate parking that is now the cause of their present ordeal with the state government, they constitute a great menace to life and property in the state through reckless driving, killing innocent motorists and damaging street lights through break failure. They should be checked.
As the State government marked its seven hundred days in office with different laudable projects to show for the hardwork, they must also invest in changing the orientation of the people so they can have a personal attachment to them. Otherwise as soon as they are put in place, they would not last. It also behooves on Lagosians to support the state government to make Lagos livable. Instead of asking wetin this Fashola dey self, we should be asking “wetin we fit do for the state”