I spent three hours on Wednesday last week in traffic travelling within Lagos State, Nigeria (not to Ibadan!). Of course if you live in Lagos Nigeria that is certainly no news. You might as well click the next more important thing on the Internet and stop wasting your precious time. The reason why you would do that is because you have accepted this as normal. YES: earth shattering traffic is normal in Lagos.
That reminds me of a story I heard in Ghana. This family had become used to having taps in the house with no water ever running out of them! Nice looking taps with faucets to match but no water. They sure must have made for good interior décor. Incidentally this family took a holiday sometime and lodged in a hotel. The head of the house was appalled when he caught his little kids playing around with the tap in the bathroom, amazed that water was actually running from the tap. It looked like a miracle and they spent time excitedly demonstrating this incredible phenomenon to each other. Lagosians have accepted traffic as normal even in cases where the cause if unbelievably obvious.
Now back to my three-hour trip. We spent possibly an hour at a bus stop called Mile 2. I noticed later that the primary cause was a certain Y-junction which had vehicles joining the main expressway from the overhead bridge. A soldier standing at the intersection was doing his best to ensure those joining from the top remained on the outer lane while those already on the road remained on the inner lane; a hard task which reminded me of yet another story.
For some reason at a certain T-junction in South Africa, the traffic lights had stopped working. Amazingly there was no gridlock as would have been the case in a place like Lagos. Why? Because , without any Traffic Warden, the road users simply took turns two at a time. From each lane in the T-junction, two vehicles would move and the third would wait for the next lane. They simply took turns this way and the movement was smooth. Amazing huh? Well, it was in Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo’s book What is Wrong With Being Black? That I read that a certain white South African had said blacks were not created to govern themselves. A simple T-junction with non-functional traffic lights can be used by such a racist to prove his point.
We spent another significant amount of time at Orile because a long line of almost ten commercial buses all going to the same next stop were trying to fill up their busses with passengers at this bus stop. It became an idea for a final year project for some bright Transport Management Technology student at Federal University of Technology, Owerri. This delay can be cleared by doing something as basic as taking turns. The truth is that if each bus loaded before all others and moved, we would not have ten buses stationary at the bus stop, creating a queue running into the expressway.
Summary: some of Nigeria’s problems are not as complex as Nigerians themselves!