By Kole Omotoso
Somehow modern town planning has yet to solve town planning problems in Nigeria. Overcrowding, traffic jams and park anywhere you like are a few of the problems of modern cities around the world. Some countries use roundabouts to solve the problem like Britain. Other countries deploy straight roads with innumerable architecture of skyscraper traffic lights. Problems solved. From time to time, the city is held down by numerous cows, born again vehicles and instant motorcycle repairer point by the side of the road. In no time at all, vulcanizers, battery fixer, bump air provider arrive to join the corporation. City Council decides to construct a Ring, grand-father of the round-about. Various build to rent get a copy of the ring road. In no time at all, houses, face-me-I-face-you arise. By the time the Ring Road is complete, the town has ballooned out away from the old centre of the town. All that has happened is that the heavy traffic has now shifted to the new town! In some cases, the bush takes over the old road and old houses are abandoned and the village or town shifts left or right. In a few years someone looking for his old school that was on the old old ring road cannot find it. The forest has swallowed it.
This long introduction is report that in the last six weeks alone there have been three tragic accidents in the university town of Akungba-Akoko, the site of Adekunle Ajasin University. It is usual for new sites, for new universities to go far into the bush. The site of A.A.U. sits on the site of a primary school, which became a secondary school and finally a university. Years of trying to teach in the university and find its history yielded no result.
Those areas of the old Western Region are hilly, tortuous and dangerous roads. The road is right at the lips of the gutter. The market day is every third day. There is not one bank branch in town. The only banks are in the university, for students. Every market day is a potential day of tragedy. Imagine those Dangote 16 wheels lorries running down into the market.
The previous accident occurred in the unclear days of “Is the university closed or open?” Nobody knows how many fatalities were involved. There are no major hospital in Akungba. So, accident victims are taken back to Owo to be looked after. In the process, patients are lost. Sometimes trailer burns upon trailer upon students. Where there is no ID Book and no proper form of knowing who is who, it is the student who does not turn up in three months who has gone with the last accident.
The last accident happened in front of the impressive university gate that delivers traffic twenty meters into the market, to the right and to the left. As if this would help the university count the number of students involved, the university has closed when it has hardly opened the doors for first semester examinations. And the students are to go home indefinitely.
Outside of the private universities, and the ASUU-controlled universities, nobody can say which semester of what year we are as of today. Even if by some magic we do calculate what semester is, what year, what have we paid for? Half of a year? Do we cancel the whole year? And yet salaries are being paid on a regular basis. For what purpose?
There was a time when every illness flew every patient overseas including Republic du Benin. It is said that the Nigerian rich build universities “overseas” to earn foreign exchange. Then the pandemic occurred and you couldn’t get a visa into Bangladesh even if you would pay them. So with illness, so with education.
The thing is to remember not to pull at the climbing plants. Because why? Because the plants will pull down the forest. This is a reverse proverb, which can say that unless you resolve one problem you cannot resolve the rest of the problems. Yet, once you resolve one issue the rest find their resolution. But that is not the end of the tangle. Have you seen electric wire over Lagos electricity poles? Confusion over Ojuelegba traffic jam. In primary school in those days, we were usually told that order is the first law in Heaven. If there is no order, there is no ordering to be found anywhere on Earth. There is no order on the Nigerian Earth.
One morning I watched an armed soldier beat up two motorcycle riders, turn their motorcycle into a motorcade into a motorcidal instrument. During the exchange, one of the motorcyclists hit the armed soldier. Surprised, the soldier looked at his arm, took it off and aimed at the now escaping cyclist on foot. Then scatter began to scatter. Some stopped running, stood still waiting for their bullet. Nothing happened. Was it that the soldier was obeying orders never to shoot into an unarmed civilian crowd? Or was he not armed in the first place. Only God knows. In no time at all the street was empty.
To return to the two accidents in Akungba-Akoko, the drivers escaped. They were never found. Did they perish with the other victims of the accident? Was there ever a police report on the accidents?
What report was filed on the state of the roads? In what state were the vehicles themselves? Can a road also serve the purposes of a market place? The answer to this question is a no. The market is one place. The road to the market place is another matter all together.
How do we impose order in our society without using canes and guns?
In the first place, anger is not the response of the person witnessing disobedience to the rules and regulations, to the laws and orders of society. If anger were all, punishment of the offender would be enough. But that would not be enough. You would not be there next time. You might not be angry. So what happens then?
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