By Sam Omatseye
Lagos may be the vertebral bone of the Nigerian economy. But, like a bone gone awry during a meal, it can get stuck in the throat. The question of how to make Lagos right for everyone was the subject of a webinar recently organised by the United States embassy.
The topic of discussion was transportation. Lagos is nothing if not its mobility. For all its residents, the story every morning is not whether to move, but how to move, who to move, who should move, who to move to, where to move, what to move, when to move. Sometimes the Lagosian would have to understand each of these options as an epicenter of all the other options.
It is weird jigsaw puzzle where if and how and when and who are equally and simultaneously important. So the resident would have little time thinking or else, the only thing that would move is a mind that is tossing around possibilities. The result is a whirligig of inaction. Much thinking, like studying, is the weariness of the flesh, apologies to Solomon. So, the Lagosian has to wake up and go.
The question is, when he goes, he stays. Sometimes in a rut. That is what we all call go-slow, a snail in perennial motion. The US picked an expert, Robin Hutcheson, to give the main talk, and Nigerians also were selected to talk, and they included a representative of the Lagos State Commissioner for transportation, Engineer Toriola, a traffic specialist Tola Odeyemi and Prof Innocent Ogwude, a former vice chancellor and also an expert.
What struck me was that the issue of transportation in Lagos was mostly addressed as transportation. But I could not but be impressed by the way each discussant displayed understanding of the technicalities of transportation. The number of cars, the inadequacy of roads, space management, budgetary bugbears, easing nodal knots, pot holes, et al. Hutcheson showed great knowledge of what we need for every city and they also apply to Lagos. Her focus on space management was on the money, except that all who move around for money think little about some of the fine points, like focusing on the bus as the target of mass transit. Other issues include sidewalks, bike lanes, trains, metro, bus, light rail, train and additional creative points to foster connectivity between buildings and facilities.
Professor Ogwude said the reason Lagos lost its reign as capital was partly because of the need to ease commuting. He called for smart traffic lights, road pricing to discourage car usage, taxing car parking, introduction of car-pooling, accelerating light rail system and more focus on water transportation, which is only one percent as yet. He added that long travel corridors like Orile to Apapa, and Apapa to Mainland can be circumvented with alternatives in ferry travels. He also observed that the work on Ibom Deep Sea port being pursued by Governor Udom Emmanuel in Akwa Ibom State and the Lekki Deep Sea Ports hold prospects for easing matters. He also called for subsidy.
The publisher of Business Day, Frank Aigbogun, set the stage for discussion because, as the organisers noted, his paper has been very fervent about transportation in the city. He told a story of a tragic incident that resulted from transportation snafu.
It is not an issue that should be taken slightly. The population grows daily, the pressure too. This may create a discontent that may not be Lagos’ alone to bear but the centre. If the centre cracks, the whole nation tumbles. This is hoping that the centre does not wait until it can no longer hold.
IN his novel, War in a Time of Cholera, Garcia Marquez understood that without human love, all other things collapse. No matter how light-hearted the Nobel Prize-winning author wanted his novel to read, it ended sadly because the couple in the story had romance without peace.
So peace is so important that it vanquishes even the challenge of a disease. That is perhaps the birthday gift Akwa Ibom State Governor gave at the weekend. He is harvesting peace but also mobilising it to the battlefield: against a pandemic. After inheriting a state that reeled in blood and fights, the state is at one against a common enemy.
He has been able to do that by being the front-liner in his state in fighting Covid-19. He holds nightly meetings to cap his work having constructed a 300-bed isolation centre with a three-tier PCR laboratory, staked as the only one of its type and standard fully owned by any state government. This has earned him applause from the DG of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). Witnesses say the isolation centre at the Ibom Specialist Hospital has a five-star ambience and facilities.