It is conventional that, whenever we, as Nigerians are confronted with challenges, the usual mantra that is invoked is: “Prayer to God is the solution.” It is believed that “prayer’’, “prayer” and nothing, but “prayer” is the solution to our numerous problems. But, can our resort to “prayer” without pragmatic efforts solve problems? I doubt if it is the panacea for every challenge. Two instances readily come to my mind.
In the early 1970s, my radio-mechanic assured me that, if he retired into seclusion for prayer, he would successfully accomplish the task of repairs. Instantly, I concluded that he was incompetent and a failure. The second instance was a student who confidently told me that if she prayed on to her bath- water, she would succeed in her examinations. The lazy drone spent hours praying in the bathroom, but failed her examinations. I have it on the authority of the ancient Romans: `Ora et labora`, meaning. “Pray and work”. The Romans did not exhort us to pray, and fail to work. Therefore, actions and not prayers alone can solve our problems. It is against this backdrop that our public utilities are examined.
A case that is in view is the appalling condition of transportation in Lagos State. Do we need to pray to keep our utilities in clean order? In Lagos State, there are privately and government-owned transportation systems. This writer is more concerned with the privately owned buses, than the modern Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) owned by Lagos State government. The none-government buses are so horrific and terrifying. The BRT buses have their deficiencies, notwithstanding, I shall touch upon them later. The long and big buses are in my focus. Thousands of commuters live in Ikorodu city, and its environs. By environs, it’s meant that apart from Ikorodu city, there are many satellite towns and villages around it. Because of the basic necessity for accommodations and work, people come in droves to these surrounding locations. Besides, Ikorodu city itself is a developing commercial centre.
Therefore, commuters come in and out every morning for work and other transactions. They do these through messy and untidy buses. These buses are not cleaned for years or months, and the upholsteries are in tatters. What with the conductors and fares collectors who may number up to four in some cases? They look filthy in appearances, uncouth in behaviour and uncivil in their tongues. I have occasions to caution and castigate these conductors: “Please, be civil in your tongue with me .Comparatively, I am as old as your uncle. After all, I am entitled to collect my balance from you”. I try to avoid the use of “father”, so as not to incense him; two wrongs do not make a right. There is what is described as “polite insult”. So, I must be polite in my insult to the bus workers.
The stenches emanating from their bodies are so intolerable.. Do the commuters have to pray to God to have the buses in hygienic condition? Definitely not. The seats’ heads-rests cause cancer of the hind-heats. The floors of these buses are like dung-hills or refuse dumps: empty plastic bottles of water roll here and there. One day, I was startled like a rabbit to stand up, because I had a feeling that a snake was coiling around and meandering on my legs. “Danfo” mini-buses are not exempted. These are good for carrying goods, but not human beings.
Do we need prayers to keep these buses clean? Is it not the supervisions of Lagos State Transport Ministry officials that are required? The concerned transport operators must not continue to treat the paying passengers like animals. In the process, the clean outfits of passengers are stained and smeared with coloured substances. Worse still, the seats are so compact that you feel cramp on your legs. Lagos State Ministry of Transportation must see to the cleanliness of these buses by punishing the operators to ensure compliances with rules of hygiene. No prayer to God, with this end in view.
Furthers medicine and drugs peddlers abound inside these buses. These peddlers begin their sales gimmicks by regaling the passengers with the sexist comments, jokes and stories for customs and encouragements. These sexophiliac tendencies send the passengers reeling in nauseating laughter and guffaw, to the annoyance of other serious and cool-minded passengers. Theses drug-peddlers in the buses must be banned forthwith with stringent penalties, because the drugs are not prescribed or recommended by doctors. These peddlers are dangers to the gullible and fickle-minded buyers. Prescriptions must be according to doctors, diagnoses of patients’ ailments. Unrecommended drugs sold inside buses are dangerous to buyers’ health. Therefore, drug sellers must be banned from inside buses. They do not operate in BRT buses, however.
What is more, inside the small coaster buses, besides that they are equally filthy, five instead of four passengers are jam-packed like sardines in a row, and they are compelled to pay fares as much as N250 to Oshodi and N 250 back to Ikorodu. There is no human feeling .The Lagos State Ministry of Transportation must look into these overcrowding, with exorbitant fares and discomforts
For the BRT blue buses, there is comfort, because these are air-conditioned. But the snag lies in the ageing buses which often squeak, causing trauma and the fear that something un-toward is about to occur. Besides, the BRT drivers do not care about what befalls the passengers whenever they are crossing the kyphotic sleeping-police. God knows how many pregnant women, aged and physically-challenged passengers who are in the buses. There must be element of care, in the interest of the afore mentioned categories of passengers.
On the whole, what I am advocating are that the buses must be clean, and the politeness of the conductors /fares collectors, the regular maintenance culture and moderate transport fares in Lagos State. After all, there is no increase in petrol prices to warrant increase in the bus fare. These considerations require deliberate efforts with determinations, but not “prayers”.
Oshisada, is a veteran journalist, wrote from Ikorodu, Lagos.
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