By Nnanke Harry Willie
There is hardly any commuter on Nigerian roads that has not been a victim of the terror unleashed by siren-blowing, horn-hunking as well as horse-whip and gun- wielding escorts of all manners of individuals who believe that they are too important to follow the lawful flow of traffic on our roads.
The situation has become very dire in Lagos, where daily, motorists are harassed off the roads, their cars bashed and sometimes physically brutalized for not making way fast enough for fake VIPs to drive smoothly past them. This is in spite of oft-repeated warnings that only ambulances, state governors and the President are permitted by law to use the siren. All other categories of Nigerians are expected to obey traffic laws.
In a recent incident, the Chairman of Ojodu Local Council Development Area of Lagos State, Mr David Olusegun Odunmbaku on Wednesday, May 4, 2022, allegedly assaulted the editor of The Supreme Newspaper, Mr. Aruga Joe Omokaro.
It was gathered that the incident occurred at about 11.35 a.m. while the editor was at Ogba bus stop and the chairman who was riding in a black truck with tinted glasses and two other cars following, drove against traffic (one-way) from Ogba Bus Stop while entering Mokuolu Street.
Omokaro said three traffic police officers in uniform (two are ASPs) from the Area G Police Command were said to have stopped the truck carrying the chairman and directed the driver to go back and take proper turning, but the driver refused. Apparently, the chairman would have ordered him not to mind the police.
Despite, the police officers’ insistence Odunmbaku stood his ground creating a more chaotic traffic situation. The situation remained the same when people gathered and insisted that the Chairman should obey the Police. The account goes on to say that a police Inspector on the entourage of Odunmbaku later alighted from the car and saluted the superior officers and then introduced the occupant in the truck as Ojodu LCDA chairman.
Rather than arrest the inspector for aiding and abetting a criminal act “The officers allowed him and his ‘oga’ to pass. Surprisingly, he drove forward a bit, stopped and came back with his thugs to justify his action, and told the police that he was in an emergency. The officers then told him that he ought to have initially introduced himself to avoid the curious crowd.
At that point, the editor and some passers-by supported the police and told him that he was supposed to show a good example by his status. Just then he asked the editor furiously, “Who are you to challenge me?” The editor replied, “l am a journalist.”
And he retorted, “You are a stupid journalist.” And two of his political thugs came down and seized the editor’s shirt against his neck; another came and slapped him on his neck, while shouting “stupid journalist, useless journalist, who cares if you are a journalist; is local government chairman your mate?” Without asking for his identification card, the third person came attempted to seize his phone while he wanted to video the scene, and threatened to order the thugs to beat him up.
It is shocking that even the Police could be intimidated by a lowly Chairman of an LCDA even when the latter is brazenly breaking the law. With 37 LCDAs and 20 local governments in Lagos state, one can imagine the hell Lagosians will be going through if all Chairmen indulge in this obscene and illegal display of power show. This is also the case across the country. Those who have been entrusted with power to serve turn around to use the same platform to oppress and suppress the citizens they are meant to serve.
But it gets even worse as councilors and private citizens who can afford Police escorts or Spy Police have since joined the fray. Drivers of branded government vehicles are not left out in the madness as their staff chase hapless Nigerians off the roads and contribute to ear-piercing noise pollution across our streets.
Even those without escorts have joined the madness, including foreigners. A recent report by The Punch has it that a lady, Omotomi Akinsanya, is battling for her life after being crushed by a Toyota 4Runner driven by a Lebanese, John Greg, on Sanusi Fafunwa Street, in the Victoria Island area of Lagos State.
Punch Metro gathered that Greg was driving at top speed against traffic (one way) when he reportedly crushed Akinsanya against a wall. After ramming into the victim, it was learnt that Greg reversed his car and zoomed off from the incident scene in a bid to escape.
A good Samaritan, who witnessed the accident, boarded a motorcycle and chased Greg, who was apprehended and handed over to the police.
Clearly, contempt for traffic laws breeds more contempt. The tyranny of this madness by entitled misfits on our roads will continue to grow exponentially since the impression out there is that “only the ‘big-man’ and law-breaker can survive”. It is time to stop the madness!
The state governments and law enforcement agencies should urgently rise to the occasion and enforce existing traffic laws on all road users irrespective of perceived status. Abusers of siren use must also be appropriately punished to protect the sanity of the populace. Mr. Babatunde Fashola was able to bring sanity in Lagos even against top military officers when he was governor, it means that if there is the will, sanity can be brought back to our roads and erring motorists made to pay the price for breaking the law. This must commence urgently before further descent into anarchy.
Any ‘VIP’ who cannot stand the traffic snarl on our roads should stay away from the roads or come up with great ideas to ease traffic flow for every commuter. They should stop acting as though ‘some animals are more equal than others’. If these brazen acts of impunity continue, our society will be the worse for it as it may lead to even more unsavoury unintended consequences. Enough is enough!