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Immanuel James: Lagos Traffic & the Second Coming of Okada Riders



dreamstime_l_30569376For most humans, the face is the most remarkable asset for individual recognition and identity. Forget facial similarities, biometric assistance can be summoned to preside over the dispute that may come. Yet there are a few privileged exceptions to this theory of recognition; where an individual’s identity can be lodged in such particulars like the ownership of customised feet, nails, fingers, etc., body parts unmistakable in their unique, if not bizarre specifications. It will be difficult not to recognise his head whenever I see it, the okada man whose rascality painfully reminded me that the crazy bald heads are back in town.

His head seemed to have grown tuberously upwards from his neck, concluding its growth quietly in a poorly finished cone. I had seen pawpaw-shaped heads before, but none had as much dramatic presence as this one, boasting deserved a monopoly of public attention. The owner of that head had arrived the scene of stationary Okota traffic atop his bike, cutting up his way through the spaces between the vehicles behind.

Between my car and the one ahead was a space insufficient for his passage, but Conehead was not a man to jump into such traffic conclusions without first testing the elasticity of that space. He propelled his bike, or rather the bike propelled him, into that space. He got stuck, and before my hand could leave the horn, he had fled, completely separating the entire bumper from the rest of the car. An unfair street lay waiting by the right and he plunged into it, his exhaust pipe farting triumphant smoke to the full complement of his mischief.

In sharing the blame for this okada bullying, it seemed unfair to keep an entire half of the ugly prize for Governor Ambode. The traffic had come from the governor’s good gesture: reconstruction of the Cele-Okota road, an old evidence of government neglect of this part of Lagos. At the moment, Okota is entered and exited only from this beleaguered route: the town is a cul-de-sac, its other route leading nowhere. Actually, no; leading into a vicious space purporting itself as a road, riddled with wild, flooded, car-eating pits.

Human beings no longer use this FESTAC route. Contract for the fixing of this Okota-FESTAC ‘road’ was awarded in the evening of the Fashola government, years after the road had remained unbeaten as a tourist site for bad governance. The reconstruction had gone halfway before Governor Ambode assumed office and put the project in brackets; the delay helped the road to marinate itself back to shame as a farm of treacherous mud. Thanks to the governor, meanwhile, work has now started at both ends – and that is a good thing.

I had published an article in The Punch on the road and had got an official reply published in the same medium from the Ministry of Works. I had also recently sent photo-accompanied personal e-mails to Governor Ambode – and for these reasons, I feel so happy that succour is finally coming, even despite the unhurried pace of work that poisons the taste of an otherwise laudable intervention. I have had to caution ‎my own optimism by preparing my mind that the project might be intended for the posterity of the current dwellers of the town.

Yet despite the peculiarity of the Okota case, Governor Ambode’s share of blame in the okada bumper drama seems like fair entitlement. It is not bad enough that the accountant-governor has maintained akimbo silence in the face of this okada resurgence. He also had to devalue LASTMA into a car-cruising, white-elephant affair, an agency saddled with what appears like traffic invigilation rather than control and enforcement. The result has been a Lagos panting from the strangulation of traffic in recent times – an environment encumbered at every cranny by robbery-friendly gridlocks. Things are not looking good at all.

But then let us call a spade by its proper name: the Lagos traffic problem will not be solved even with a reconstituted LASTMA with a new traffic regime. Lagos cannot work the way it is. With mainly two-lane roads on either side running through the state, and with only a few alternative roads to help, there cannot be peace on the roads, never! A road infrastructure intended, years ago, for a few thousand cars in the colonial era cannot now cater to over five million vehicular movements daily. With rapid urbanisation, remarkable social mobility and limited road expansion prospects due to property inhibitions, the future of Lagos traffic in ten years is scary.

That future is scary, but only to the extent that government has failed to recognise that flyovers are the only solution to this problem. Limited ground space necessitates the exploration of multiple aerial routes as obtainable in China, where a massive population has not led to traffic difficulties. The state government cannot undertake such a project, when it spent a whopping N2.5 Billion in 2011 to build the Falomo Link Bridge of a mere150-metres long.

Government should set up modalities for licensing private investors to build and own tollable flyovers across the state. There should be no delay on this one.The bleak traffic future can be converted to value if we can have the foresight to begin to harness a robust traffic economy masquerading as traffic problem in Lagos. ‎The earlier the better.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Camrocker

Writing is my means of saving me from myself! Immanuel James, author of 'Under Bridge', is the winner of the 2014 ANA National Prize for Prose.


  1. beauty

    October 13, 2015 at 10:50 am

    If I had my way, I’ll take okada across third mainland bridge from sabo. the crawling traffic is something!


    October 13, 2015 at 10:53 am

    Ambode, I’ve never in my life vented, ranted, moaned, lashed out, spewed expletives, spewed invective over a singular human. Now with my hoarse throat and my jaw in my palms, na siddon look I dey.

  3. kk

    October 13, 2015 at 11:33 am

    The picture taking Gov AMBODE who is doing absolutely nothing!!! He is destroying whatever fashola built. so sad

  4. Grace

    October 13, 2015 at 11:53 am

    Ambode as i see is going to be the nu Goodluck Jonathan aka do as you wish and go away. This is pure madness. Lagos state is going to be bad news if something isnt done and fast. Festive period is fast approaching and see where we are now. Most roads are in very bad shape,public transporters aint helping it(in short most of them are insane)most road users aint patient(Lagosians always in a hurry)smh

    I truly hate Lagos though. 🙁

    • feud

      October 13, 2015 at 8:39 pm

      I hate Lagos myself. I can’t wait to flee. I can’t wait….?

  5. Rubby

    October 13, 2015 at 12:22 pm

    Ambode should keep forming gentleman there ohh. Fashola knew the kind of people he had in Lagos hence, the biblical stance he took when tackling traffic and ensuring discipline on the roads (the violent taketh by force). Ticketting and gentleman behaviour is not the way to go in Lagos!!! He is gradually reversing Lagos instead of driving us forward. We don’t care if you are a puppet and you are there to steal money. Just don’t change anything Fashola has done!!! Lekki to Yaba is now 2.00hrs in the morning and between 2-3.30hrs in the evening!! Have i not spent all my life on the road like this?

  6. tk

    October 13, 2015 at 1:23 pm

    please oo, we care whether you steal money or not. so do not steal our money but please do not be a puppet if you will leave us in tears lest our tears become silent curses for the unnecessary pains we bear.

  7. Chinma Eke

    October 13, 2015 at 2:06 pm

    Traffic is killing us in Lagos and our governor is doing nothing. I’ve had to add an hour extra to and from work, what time does that leave for a human being to ‘live’!!!
    Something isn’t right, 3MB traffic has worsened, somebody help!!!

  8. nene+

    October 13, 2015 at 2:23 pm

    Welcome to party blind followers where Ambode was chosen over Agbaje.

    Osibajo,Tinubu,Buhari told you the Federal government will pay attention to Lagos if they choose similar APC for Lagos.

    As at today Fed Govt has not put its act together how much more remembering Lagos. Buhari will not visit Lagos more than 3 times in his tenure. Buharis priority is not Lagos.

    Ambode sort your self. Ambode voters bear with him

    • Take it easy

      October 13, 2015 at 6:13 pm

      Every thing must be political with nene+ I bet you eat, sleep and dream APC vs PDP, you better take it easy because that is how high blood pressure starts – over people who couldn’t give a hoot about you.

  9. nunulicious

    October 13, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    Flyover is a good solution but permit me to also proffer another SMART solution.
    In my opinion, the obvious and readily adaptable solution is in our WATER WAYS!
    Pulease, Lagos is an island. Why should everyone commute by road when going from Ajah to VI/Lekki or Ikorodu to the island? or Apapa to the island? aside from the long-term strategy to create other business hubs aside the island, can we solve the current Island traffic problem by 1)ensuring safety in our water ways? and 2) subsidising the cost of water ways? 3) promoting it
    There aren’t that many “commercial boats” at the jetty’s. Even I as a private individual can track, register, and give the managers safety benchmark. why is it so hard, dear LASG?

    as per subsidising the cost, I took a speedboat from ikorodu to marina and I was told to pay N600 one way maka ginni? do I print naira in my backyard? why are you charging them 1.5 million (MONTHLY) to ply the water ways? aside levies how silly!

    and as per promoting it, instead of going to quilox, can you use common sense to get local celebrities to promote our water ways, talk about it often in the media biko.
    Finally, as per these rumors about the water ways dispute between LASG and federal government, I hold the most important office in this land-that of the citizen so I tell you, I DON’T BLOODY CARE! solve the gaddam problem and stop saving 3billion

    sigh, but then again, what do I know, i’m just an ordinary citizen.

    • Thatgidigirl

      October 13, 2015 at 5:34 pm

      Thank you!!!!!??

    • kanyin

      October 13, 2015 at 7:38 pm

      Yeah! I use ferry when I know the gridlock is mad or days when I know say I don oversleep and staff bus is not feasible. I live in Ketu, Alapere. I work at oriental. Just behind/beside my office, i take a speed boat to origin(ikorodu).. in 22mins! I repeat! 22mins! I’m at ikorodu. And then I take a bus back to ketu… i’ll be going against the traffic. give or take 45mins… i’ll be in my house. We really need to look into this. Agbaje kept mentioning it during his campaign and even the debate. Ambode should take a cue from him abeg. This traffic is frustrating!

  10. miss Pynk

    October 13, 2015 at 2:54 pm

    No private investor will come in and build any road after the soap opera Lagos state displayed with LCC. The roads are getting worse, nobody is fixing anything and LASTMA thinks they are London traffic police looking for who to ticket.

  11. Chuqx

    October 13, 2015 at 3:24 pm

    Causes of traffic dreadlocks in Lagos is multi faceted. In as much as l agree with you on the construction of flyovers here and there, l believe one of the easiest and fastest ways of easing off Lagos traffic jam is the decentralisation of our sea port operation. At present more than 90% of the sea port activities in the country take place in Lagos ports. The goods, vehicles, tankers all pass through Lagos roads. In addition, the operators in Lagos ports also have their extended offices in various parts of Lagos and equally need to move around the metropolis.. Decentralisation of Port operation will reduce Lagos traffic by at least 25%. Many people will migrate out of Lagos to locations like Portharcourt, Warrington, Calamari etc. .It is only when this happens that other solutions to Lagos traffic quagmire can be more effective.

  12. Yup

    October 13, 2015 at 6:15 pm

    It might be time for Lagosians to sign a petition against this Ambode man to jolt him out of his slumber. For how long will people continue to put up with this kind of exorbitant stress?!!

  13. mabel

    October 13, 2015 at 9:38 pm

    For 4 years o @ yup. Chubby Ambo has come to relax biko. He does not like stress please. Fine governor. You want him to have head full of grey like uncle Fash abi? No way. Change means come and work while continuity means come and relax. He came to relax.

  14. deluxxe

    October 13, 2015 at 10:05 pm

    The traffic situation has become unbearable.we have always had bad roads so it cant be due to that may be because lastma has been stripped of their powers to enforce. Dear governor please look into this. People are suffering!!!

  15. Raheem Sadiq

    October 13, 2016 at 6:21 pm

    It is not a positive surprise that not one amongst the preceding comment authors observed this article’s fluidity of language and its writer’s startling wielding of it thereof.

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