Monday, April 24, 2006

The road to Obasanjo's farm is littered with woes

(A reporter's diary published in Nigerian Tribune)
John Awe here recounts his experience on his way to the site of Bellview flight 210 crash recently. It is the route to President Olusegun Obasanjo's farm as well.

Late visitors to the site of the Bellview Flight 210 crash at Lisa Igbore village in Ifo Local Government of Ogun State would take it for granted that it would be an easy task. Everyone knows the place now. The road has been charted. All should be smooth and easy. Right? Wrong.

While late visitors to the site no longer have to contend with the confusion of the best route there, they will still find that accessing the site of the crash remains one of the most unpleasant experiences one can undertake in the course of a day’s work.

To begin with, anyone going to the Lisa Village site of the crash from Lagos have to first tackle one of the most notoriously chaotic routes in Lagos, Lagos-Ogun State express way. This, in case you do not know, is one of the traditional routes of Lagos' traffic menace, otherwise called Molue. It is the route that commands the presence of the most reckless danfo drivers that Lagos State can boast of.

Throw in the continuous milling of pedestrians around the major bus stops along the route, especially Iyana Ipaja, factor into the riotous equation the reckless okada riders, and sprinkle a few private motorists who struggle to match the commercial drivers madness for madness, strength for strength, noise for noise and what you have is a living nightmare.

If a comparative study of the blood pressure levels of people living in various parts of Lagos were to be carried out, those living along this route will emerge tops.

The road leads to President Olusegun Obasanjo’s Ota farm interestingly. But it also leads to frustration and despair, especially if you take it during the rush hours. The President does not know that. He flies.

While the rush hours pose the greatest headache, delaying your trip till the office workers have departed is no guarantee that you will have a smoother, swifter journey through this chaotic route. What helps is the presence of traffic police personnel at the trouble spots, particularly the T-junctions at Ijaiye.

For me choosing to wait till the traffic had reduced was a mistake on Thursday November 3 2005. A brief shower earlier in the day had sent all the traffic wardens off the road. That was the invitation the commercial drivers and other motorists needed to turn on their worst behaviour.

Many motorists unwilling to wait for the slow moving traffic lunched into the opposite lanes facing coming vehicles. From Obadeyi Bus stop, Ijaye, about one kilometer from Meiran, three queues of vehicles facing each other had formed, with no further room for any vehicle to move forward or backward.

It would appear stupid to a foreigner or a visitor how that situation could happen in a road as wide as that. But those who know the area said it happens regularly any time the traffic wardens are not there.

Some police men who arrived at the scene looked on helplessly. Some drivers shut down their car engines and stood with their chins on their hands beside their vehicles.

“Why do we do this?” an exasperated man in his 50s was overheard rhetorically asking his wife beside him. People in commercial vehicles are not asking questions. Apparently accustomed to it, they poured out of the vehicles and began trekking the one kilometre or so to the end of the logjam at Meiran.

I joined the exodus, blessing the colleague who had earlier advised me to leave my car at home.
While the crowd was huge, the trekking was confined to the side of the road as the vehicles had taken over the entire road. With the earlier rain, the road was slippery in parts, messy in parts and flooded in other areas. Many men folded their trousers’ legs, while some removed their shoes as we waded through the flood waters.

At the end of the log jam, mini buses were waiting for passengers. The journey from Meiran to Ijoko was riotous. The mini bus we boarded apparently had no serious defence against rain. The seats were all wet and passengers only realized it after they were seated.

But while bickering with the conductor over that, the passengers soon discovered that they had a bigger problem on their hands. When the bus ran into a puddle, by some strange ‘internal mechanism’, water was evenly distributed on all the passengers. There was bedlam as a couple of passengers who had not paid refused to pay. We were happy to make it to Ijoko.

At Ijoko, getting an okada to the site was very easy. The only tricky part was the bargaining. Since the crash and the upsurge in the number of people visiting Lisa, the fare had been increased from N50 to anything between N250 and N2000.

Capitalizing on the availability of many okadas hustling to take me aboard, I haggled the price viciously with a 25 year-old man, who I later got to know as Taiye. I got him to agree to take me there and back for N400.

The trip from Ijoko to Lisa is an exercise in endurance. The road was recently expanded following the Bellview plane crash. However, it retains all its contours, potholes and undulations.

Riding at about 60 kilometre per hour on this road as my okada man was doing was equal to riding a bull being stung by a thousand bees. It was a test of how long your spine could hold out.

After a couple of near-accidents, I asked the okada man if there was any special reason unknown to me why he wanted us both killed. He pointed to the gathering cloud and told me it was going to rain soon and that it was in our best interest to be in and out of the village before the rain began.

The explanation was good. But whichever way I looked at it, the prospect of clambering on a muddy, slippery road was still not half as bad as the prospect of breaking our necks and ending up on cold slates in a morgue. I suggested this to him, though it didn’t seem to have much impact.

We continued to a village called Opake where a hen ran into our path with a full complement of its chicks. In an attempt to avoid them, Taiye swerved, ran into a pothole and swung us into the air. Villagers nearby shouted in apprehension. Luckily for us the machine landed on its wheels without losing much of its balance. But my phone flew off my pocket, landed and scattered into three pieces.

I there and then gave the okada man two options: slow down or have me leave him without paying a kobo. He grudgingly took the former option.

We soon got to the worst portions of the road where motorcyclists were tested for skills and strength. It was a combination of sticky mud and flood water. Motorcyclists discharged their passengers and struggled to get their machines through the slippery mud to the other side. The passengers walked to the other side to join them.

There were up to half a dozen such spots before we reached the site of the crash. At the worst one, even a Toyota Landcruiser (four-wheel drive) being brought to the site by some victims’ relatives was stuck. Unlike in Lagos where youths swarm on you in such situations, here there was no helping hand. But you could trek to town to hire youths. The operative word is hire, because the youths would plainly ask how much you intended to pay them before they would follow you.

We made it to the site with mud splattered on our dresses and legs made heavy by mud. I knew we were there by the morbid smell hanging around the trees.

The security men sat around under tree shades, looking bored to death. Incidentally, no excavation, had taken place that day on account of the rain the previous day. And it did not seem any would take place the next day too because it was already threatening to rain.

The rains make it difficult for the experts to come from town and even more difficult for them to work at the site if they can manage to get there. The security men cannot go to town to seek refreshments on account of the bad road.

I was soon done with nosing around and hopped back on my hired bike for another bumpy road to town.


Dating Site Reviews said...

date match Top online dating sites compared. Simply choose the one most suited to you. Please visit date match

Karens-Jcu said...

I was accused of being over protective after finding that my wife once cheated on me. My relationship soured, and now they want back in. What do I do? Help I think Ill call the chat lines