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When Lagos visited Abuja; what happened?

In Lagos, traffic jams are normal, popular and have kept me on the road from Obalende to Ishaga through

Lagos became the capital city of an amalgamated Nigeria in 1914. After sixty two (62) years, Abuja was chosen to replace Lagos as Nigeria’s capital city. I lived in Lagos for an ordinary ten (10) years, a time most Lagosians would simply call a very short time, but to me as an Ikwerreman, it was a long time. As at today, I live in Abuja clocking thirteen (13) years. Therefore, I have a basic or fair knowledge of the two cities: I know some things Lagos is popularly known for and some things Abuja is popularly known for. So on 8th February, 2021, I knew Lagos visited Abuja.

At a popular round-about in Asokoro called AYA, I met the traffic jam or traffic hold up; no movement at all. That was about 8.30 pm. I asked and they told me that two trailers hit each other by the Shema petroleum filling station on the Abuja-Keffi/Jos expressway. With half a tank of fuel, I joined the traffic snarl. It was after two hours and I was still by Abacha Barracks that it dawned on me that Lagos has visited Abuja. But I waved off hoping that once I passed the accident point, the road would be free. I also told my wife of my optimism, given her numerous calls while I was on the road. By twelve midnight, I reached Shema filling station; I asked to see the accident but to my greatest surprise, I was told that the accident took place since mid-day and that the trailers have been removed. So, what still caused the traffic jam to the extent that I finally got home at 1.45 am on 9th February, 2021? It was the visit of Lagos to Abuja yesterday.

In Lagos, traffic jams are normal, popular and have kept me on the road from Obalende to Ishaga through Yaba for five to six hours. The visit of the invincible Lagos traffic spirit that stops all vehicles on the road to enable it pass, was around along that road yesterday.

During the visit, I observed that impatience ruled and reigned among the drivers. Impatience led to over 60% of the drivers driving against traffic or what we call one-way. In that process, you have many vehicles move to a point where they meet many on-coming vehicles and both lines stopped face-to-face and move no more. On the other side of the road where many drivers are on their rightful lane, many drivers stopped because their vehicles cannot start or fuel got finished or they parked to carry passengers or they hit each other and blocked the road.

These are the obscene behaviours of Nigerian drivers on the road, even in such horrible mid-night traffic jams. In Abuja, I must be sincere, the Federal Roads Safety Commission (FRSC) workers are doing their best; but it is not easy managing people who do not care however they behave on the roads. They don’t care how long we remain on the road. They are extremely selfish to admit that they had done wrong on the road. These behaviours did not start today and that was why in 2015 when election for the position of the president of Nigeria was to be held, some of us voted for President Buhari hoping that he will re-enact the 1984 war against indiscipline and drastically reduce the level of indiscipline and socio-moral decadence afflicting the country.

The FRSC should stop treating offenders with kid gloves. They are too lenient with offenders. One way to see drastic reduction in poor behaviours of drivers on Nigerian roads is to INSIST on punishing offenders not minding ethnic affinity. Doing otherwise has corrupted the integrity of the commission as most Nigerians no longer feel they must obey traffic rules even in the presence of the FRSC workers.

I am hopeful that these steps can assist Nigeria reduce bad driving behaviours.

Okachikwu Dibia writes from Maitama, Abuja