The Minister of FCT, Senator Bala Mohammed knows how to stay in the news and get positive coverage. I have a strong feeling that his background as a journalist is serving him well in this regard as he is able to make newsworthy pronouncement at whatever function he attends.
Senator Bala Mohammed again displayed this trait of his recently at the launch of “Operation Sanity” by the Federal Road Safety Commission of Nigeria (FRSC) apparently in response to the diabolical level of insanity on the roads in the FCT. The Minister was quick to point out that poor driving attitude and indiscipline are major causes of most road accidents in the Federal Capital Territory-thankfully even the least enlightened person in the territory knows this. The seeming good news, for the few sane drivers in the city, is that Senator Mohammed urged the security agencies especially the Federal Road Safety Commission, the FCT Directorate of Road Traffic Services and the Nigerian Police Force to put tougher measures in place to sanction traffic offenders and instil discipline on the roads.
Just for the purpose of clarity, even by Nigerian standards, Abuja roads are not short of oddities that have become everyday affairs. On Airport Road, I have seen mini convoys blaring siren to convey cattle on the bed of a pick-up truck. I have seen siren blaring for some bunches of plantain, in another instance it was for a deep freezer in transit and just when I thought I had seen it all I saw a pick-up load of firewood enjoying that rare privilege of being conveyed through a traffic snarl with siren.
There is also the appalling everyday spectacle of convoys that terrorise road users all over the city; drivers must leave the road for them immediately, in which failing, those on the convoys will menace them sometimes with guns. There have been many instances when drivers who do not immediately make way for the convoys end up with dented cars and in extreme instances they get beaten. Usually these convoys leave chaos in their wake as commercial bus drivers, taxi cabs and other uncouth drivers take advantage of the openings left by their bosses.
These same convoy were responsible for the now dominant practice of driving on the hard shoulders of the road with the attendant splashing of mud on the decent road users who maintain the legitimate lane-with the dry season around such drivers progress on their self created rapid lane at the expense of leaving others behind to breath in the cloud of dust in their trail. Take a closer look today, those driving on the hard shoulder of the road sport green government plate numbers, diplomatic plates, vanity plates others are commercial bus drivers, taxi drivers and drivers who merit the creation of the theme “Operation Sanity.”
It is also common knowledge that drivers of the pick-up trucks used by banks as makeshift bullion vans with their police escorts are blissfully ignorant that traffic lights exist in the city as they run the red light at will sometimes with disastrous consequences for other road users. This class of insane drivers get worse when an intersection is manned by traffic wardens.
The list is not exhaustive but the last category in this piece are the nephews, nieces, concubines and stooges of the ruling class who try their best to turn every available road in the nation’s capital into race courses. To this set of ‘human beings’ sanity sets in only when there has been a crash and English begins to follow grammar as they try to intimidate the hapless victims of their erratic driving that they are well connected. Those who have experienced the oppression of such people must really happy with the pronouncement of the FCT Minister.
Unfortunately, I am worried that in calling for tougher sanctions for violators of traffic rules, the Minister of FCT, Senator Bala Mohammed must have forgotten that he is dealing with two different capital cities here-one is the capital of Federal Republic of Nigeria and the other for the People’s Republic of Nigeria. The first one is for those who enjoy the luxury of sirens and have the liberty to violate every single rule of safe driving. To this class the minister himself belongs as evident in the way his convoy drives around the city without any proof that he has ever called his people to order the way they drive. The second city is for the everyday citizens for whom “Operation Sanity” is meant to deal with and they are the one who must be made to conform to traffic rules to leave for rooms for the convoys to manoeuvre.
Has Senator Mohammed gone to the Federal Executive Council and inform his colleagues about the need to call their stunt drivers to order? A friend recently told me about how President Goodluck Jonathan’s convoy will not drive against the traffic around the Women Development Centre in Abuja even when it was the easiest thing to do but you will scarcely hear such stories about the convoys of ministers and lawmakers.
This is where the FCT Minister must focus his attention; he must first call the real violators of traffic rules to other. The same message goes to the man who conceived “Operation Sanity”, the FRSC Corps Marshal, Osita Chidoka. The FRSC must send a clear and strong signal to the principals and drivers of convoys, the commercial drivers and public office holders by making examples of those who violate traffic rules. If any class of person is exempted in this attempt to sanitize the roads then authorities would only be ‘enforcing impunity’ as the average road user would always follow in the footsteps of his leaders.