Okada In Lagos, A Metaphor Of Atavism, By Dele Omojuyigbe - THE DAILY CRUCIBLE

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Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Okada In Lagos, A Metaphor Of Atavism, By Dele Omojuyigbe


Okada is taken off Lagos roads; perhaps, temporarily; perhaps, permanently. Nobody knows yet. The Lagos State Government says it is forever. Time will tell. People are groaning; trekking long distances and asking desperate questions. The State commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, has been struggling to provide answers to the hard questions on behalf of the government. I don’t know how close his answers are to being satisfactory. 

But let’s face it; okada in Lagos is an insult to Lagos. It is a metaphor of atavism, a journey to the miserable age of naivety. Forget its temporary comfort of rapidity and pretend that it constitutes no security risk; it is an eyesore in a smart city like Lagos. Ironically, the buses just rolled out by the Sanwo-olu government as succour will serve no end. Metroline is the long-term answer; forbearance is the option for short term. But is the state government thinking along that line? 

Cancelling the metroline project was the biggest tragedy of the 80s. Luckily, Buhari is in government now. Sanwo-olu can go to him and demand the resuscitation of the project. It will be like the reparation which MKO, in the late eighties, demanded for Africa from our colonialists. He had argued that Africa’s backwardness was due to her historical experience of colonization and insisted that the demand for reparation was based on the trivet of moral, historical and legal arguments. A metroline in Lagos since 1983 would have accelerated the state’s development one hundred times over. 

How can you cancel a project that can ferry thousands of people within minutes and opt for an okada which carries only two passengers at a time? In a state of about 20 million people! That is ludicrous. Luckily Alhaji Jakande is still very much around. He can be consulted. I wrote on this on March 31, 2018. The views still stand. Here is it: 

“It is a twist of fate that Mohammadu Buhari who in 1985 cancelled a multi million naira metroline project in Lagos as military head of state had to come to the same Lagos 33 years after as civilian President to commission a bus terminus. I could audibly hear the hushed lamentation of Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande who initiated the metro project in 1983 as Lagos State Governor. There is transportation connection between the two schemes but bus terminus is incomparable to metro-scheme in terms of effect and impact. Jakande’s lamentation, one could guess, bordered strictly on the unbridled celebration of relative nothingness on Thursday by a cheated state which ought to be bubbling now in the reality of a super metro scheme. You can’t cancel a big metro project in a state and come back decades after to commission a small bus terminus! 

Buhari stopped the project two years after its foundation was laid when Jakande had projected 30 trains in phases for the scheme from Marina to Agege, through Oregun and Ikorodu, carrying 88,000 passengers within an hour and 2, 288, 000 in 16 hours. Such number of passengers, by WHO’s reckoning, was half the population of Lagos at that time. Jakande believed that 100 years after its completion, the scheme would fetch his government gratitude from appreciative Lagosians for its wisdom and effort to ease transportation in Lagos. Sad that the opportunity to thank him and his aides never came! 

However, we cannot crucify Buhari now for doing what was in the character of the military to do each time they seized power. They were ever quick to cancel all projects which they didn’t understand, suspend the Constitution of the country, promulgate laughable decrees and rule by the decrees. They were the wisest in the universe, they always thought.

Today, Lagos prides itself not as a mega city anymore but as a smart city. But a smart city shouldn’t just be celebrating bus termini, though commendable; it should be working towards having a metroline. That’s the answer; the only one that can demystify the impossible Lagos gridlock. Buhari scrapped the Lagos metroline as head of state; Buhari should bring it back as President. It is worrisome that civilian administrations after Jakande didn’t think about the project which by now would have put Nigeria on world map and made Lagos people happier. I am amazed that leaders who supported Buhari to be president in 2015 never thought of negotiating the metroline issue with him. Politics is about negotiation. Unfortunately, political leaders don’t see beyond their small circles. They consult rarely, assuming that the wisdom of statecraft resides only in them and their associates. Buhari will likely seek a second term with the way he is going. No problem. He is entitled to contest as a Nigerian but let the Lagos State APC make metroline resuscitation a condition for supporting him. That’s the way to go for a smart city.“

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