“And we are here as on a darkling plane, swept with confused over alarm of struggles and flight where ignorant armies clash at night”.
The above excerpt taken from Mathew Arnold’s poem, “Dover Beach” aptly describes the shameful and cataclysmic situation found in Lagos/Badagry Road, a historical and international route that links Nigeria to other West African countries. At the time Arnold wrote this poem, his society was almost in the edge to precipice and he found expression through this poem to direct them to thread with caution in their relationship with one another. At every moment in her history, Nigeria has constantly presented itself to the international community as an unserious nation totally bereft of ideas on what should be an ideal standard for a functional civil society and nationhood. It has always rather taken a disturbing painful position on the global level ridiculously exhibiting ineptitude in all aspects of human life.
If there is one thing the nation is sadly noted for as their insignia it is corruption. That accursed plague has penetrated so deep on the nation that it could now be visibly seen in the poor standards of living of Nigerians. The very reason for the formation of this contract, to liberate man from the anarchical, brutish, nasty and poor life style that characterized him in the state of nature has failed in the country. As presently constituted, Nigeria still remain a nation where might is right, where office is grossly abused and many live below existential minimum in spite of her abundant natural resources. Human right is still abysmally low with poor political culture where some of those who found themselves in public offices live in astonishing opulence.
I once pointed out to a friend in a discussion about the fate of man in Nigeria in the present political structure, and I said in a clear term that education has failed to bring an appreciable impact in the lives of Nigerians. I also submitted in that argument that the elites who parade themselves as intelligentsias and learned men should be held responsible for the sorry situation of man in the present order, and the way in which virtually everything has turned topsy-turvy in the country. Instead of using their acclaimed knowledge to organize the society, they create unnecessary tension, insecurity, acrimony and unhealthy environment simply for personal gain.
Each time I ply Lagos/Badagry road, there is a disturbing feeling on how the contraption Nigeria came into existence. A visit to Lagos/Badagry Road will reveal the lackadaisical attitude of our leaders in relation to governance. To be candid, leadership in Nigeria does not provoke any serious challenge. It does not involve intellectual discourse or any task that demands critical thinking. This is because the docility of the masses is so much as to stir their leaders into action to the onerous task of nation-building, right thinking and good conduct. The early politicians marketed a very deceptive but dangerous political ideology in the country that is based on three diabolical and brutal forces namely religion, tribe, and ethnicity. The uncritical acceptance of this bad market by the people turned out to become a potent instrument of exploitation, corruption, oppression and underdevelopment in the country. Honestly, this is where the rain began to beat Nigerians. Through this process, governance became an infantile game where public utilities can be left to rot and depreciate to a dangerous point without anyone raising an alarm.
One of the dangerous effects of religion, tribalism and ethnicity is that it eroded completely the spirit of patriotism among Nigerians. It is the lack of this essential ingredient of nation-building that has kept the country in its terrible shape. This is why people can still go to work or their business in a road that daily threatens their life and existence without any complain. I cannot remember the last time effective protest took place in Nigeria. In 2009 I wrote an article published in the Sun Newspaper captioned “Docility as obstacle to national development.” In that piece, I stated among other things that part of the reasons why the nation seems to remain in motion without movement could be traceable to the apparent levity on the part of the people in issue of governance. The people are foolishly waiting daily in expectation of God’s intervention in what they could ordinarily do for themselves. This negligence of duty has resulted to mental laziness to analyze properly issues of state and right action capable of making government to wake up to their democratic duties. Instead they are contented with poor standard of living impressed upon them by their leaders who have pathetically reduced them to what the late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti referred to as “follow – follow”.
In Lagos/Badagry Road, you can visibly see man’s innate nature when subjected to a cataclysmic situation. On a daily basis, workers and business men ply the road in an excruciating pain. It is a common sight to see okada riders lifting their cycle on the head from one bad spot to another in an attempt to move. This sad situation is made worse by the rainy season that has flooded all the big deep pot holes making it absolutely difficult to dictate dangerous spots. On a daily basis, tankers and trailers summersault and empty their contents on the road. A tragedy was averted one day near the Army Barracks where a tanker load of fuel fell and emptied its contents. The pandemonium which this created brought the military on the road and stopped all the oncoming vehicles till fire service men came for rescue.
As one drives along the road one can see so many burnt and spoilt vehicles littered all over the road. Gridlock is a common sight and sometimes motorist stay two days on the road and suffer all kinds of assaults from hoodlums. The road has turned into an eye sore as mountains of wastes and refuse bins are daily thrown on the road. Okada riders do their things publicly by the road side without iota of shame. Human excrement is so indiscriminate on the road that as you drive along, one is offended by a putrid smell of human excrement. I will not be surprised if one wakes up one day to hear an outbreak of cholera in the vicinity. The place may pose a threat to human health as rain may carry excrement to the nearby abattoir and market places where consumables are sold. The frustrations of the road users could be seen in their faces as they surge and sigh while laughter fails. Movement on this road is like a war zone where survival of the fittest is high. Road users pay very highly as motorists and okada riders take advantage of the bad road to exploit them.
It is not a good thing that a situation like this should be allowed to continue in the country. The people have gone through all kinds of anguish as a result of the terrible condition of the road. It is therefore imperative that government should commence work on the road.
Ezeigbo writes from Lagos via [email protected]