Transportation system of Lagos still needs to be worked on. You know, the moment I acquired a car everything changed.
In my neighbourhood, I went from the guy who just wakes up, eats and sleeps to the guy who wakes up, eats, sleeps and rolls with some cash. People who had no business with me, people I had no business with, started calling for my attention and talking to me. Landlords insisted I attend the weekly community meetings.
Sigh. All I did was get a car.
I realised that no matter how forward we like to imagine Nigeria is, there are things that are still looked at in a certain manner. For the average Nigerian, a car is much more than a tool to take him from point A to point B. A car is a status symbol.
Where that mentality came from I have no idea. We all know people who have up to three cars but still live in a rented apartment. Like Jay Z (in his Water for life documentary) said to a girl who possessed a smartphone but had to walk miles always for water, “It’s amazing where our priorities lie”.
Now I know not to judge; it’s none of my business what people decide to do with their money. I cannot just help but wonder how public transportation will work when the general public sees it as something meant for the poor – and nobody, no matter their circumstance, wants to be seen as poor.
So is it really surprising that in a state like Lagos, we have almost as many cars as we have people? Is it any news that we do not, and cannot, have a working transportation system when the idea of public transportation clashes with the ideologies of the city’s residents?
People clamour for a better transportation system. My question as always is: “Are you ready for what you’re asking for?”
There’s a BRT garage not too far away from my neighbourhood. This garage is for housing those Red BRT buses – those ones that usually go from point A to B with no stops in-between. They start their run as early as 5:30 am, so people who work on the island come there to get buses to work.
An interesting phenomenon, however, is that due to its large size, commuters drive cars from their homes, leave them at this garage and board the buses to work. “It’s convenient and safe,” one of the regulars said when I asked him, a really large fellow named Bayo. Bayo works in Marina and lives in Berger, and the BRT stop under discussion is at the Toll Gate.
As far as I’m concerned, the first thing a vehicle means is convenience. Its first purpose is to make life easier for the owner. So if it’s more convenient in a given situation to take public transportation, why not?
The people need a change of orientation, for sure. But I cannot say which is to come first – reorientation for the people as far as cars are concerned or a working and efficient transportation system. I do know we need both at some point or the other, something to make life much more bearable for the citizens of Lagos State.
It has become normal to experience traffic on some major roads every workday of the week, and, sometimes, even on weekends. Nobody notices anymore. It has become the order of the day.
How will we survive such madness?
Can we, as a people learn to be more responsible about our life and living? Can we pay more attention to the way we use our cars? People keep saying the government should widen the lanes so that the traffic will reduce, but how sustainable a solution is that? In spite of the number of cars seen on the streets daily, it should be noted that the proportion of the population who don’t own cars is higher than that who own one or more. And if we consider that everyone wants a slice of the “happy” feelings and status associated with owning a car, then the future of public commuting is bleak.
The economy of a state and the country will always be hit by hours rendered unproductive due to traffic snarls.
The BRTs in Lagos came in to help rectify this problem, but it cannot stop at that. Orientation on mass commuting and collective public and economic interests should be done in perpetuity. It should be repeated so many times till the message resides comfortably in the psyche of the Lagosian.
So, the next time you want to buy a car, you might want to slow down and weigh its benefits outside the status it will confer.