Of rains and roads

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WHAT we might have today in Lagos is a return to the singsong of childhood. The first of course is “Rain, rain go away/ come again another day…”

But this is no child’s play. The roads in Lagos, in dips, pockmarks, potholes, gullies and sometimes craters, call for a way out of the ditch. What many, especially the chief executive of the state, must cry for now is for the rains to come again another season. The country’s iconic city has crawled for close to two years with roads turning commuters into snails.

Gradually, they scraped, then they dipped, then they potholed. Ordinarily, the government should have turned into a palliative mood, sending the works department into frenzy. But we had a city in which flyovers, bridges and big-project infrastructure took precedence over the basic work of governance like the old, boring road maintenance.

So, Lagos was like a maiden or a dowager dressed in gorgeous satin, or Miss Havisham in Charles Dickens’ classic, The Great Expectations. The dress is benumbing, but the wearer is sad. So, we had the big project on the dowager but sores are all over the body, especially the limbs. Beautiful covering, but ulcerous legs. What a ghastly beauty. Ornament on a leper. Road sores; sour mood. Father plans for a big party, so the kids must starve for us to afford it.

That was how the BOS of Lagos, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, met the city as governor. It turned out it was a rainy season. We had to see if the rains could let up. They didn’t. When it seemed they would, respite was a trap. Especially in August. The rains ran back, in torrents. It felt like flood by instalments.

So, Lagos became sog capital. Vehicular traffic, the marker of infrastructure woes, thickened. One-hour journeys became three-hour odysseys. In spite of that, some work has been going on gingerly, but it had to be without doing major damage to an already capsized order. Even as this essayist put finger on keyboard, the window panes bear witness to a cloudburst.

The clamour, though sometimes muted, has been for the governor to put the men to work, immediately. The pains are deep, man hours evaporated, profits washed away. Indeed, I said to a group of people, the palliatives are necessary, but how do you do that on a gully without making matters even worse? If you filled the bad roads on a major intersection, at I pm, and the heavens poured at 5 pm, we shall have to come again another day because the man hours, money, time expended would have been wasted away.

It is like applying Panadol twice for one headache. The governor explained the point in his recent outing at The Platform, not TVC show, but the October 1 programme by the Covenant Christian Centre. But it is not the nature of the people to listen to such explanations. Governance is not about future to many. It is the fierce urgency of now, to quote Obama. The issue brings to mind the popular Yoruba song, “Ojo Maa ro/ Ojo maar o/ Itura loje,” (Rain keep falling/ Rain Keep falling/ You are a blessing.”

No one burst into such rhapsody to the clouds in Lagos these past months. To demonstrate the flexibility and cunning of the Yoruba Language, those same words, can mean the opposite with a tonal twist. Ojo maa ro could now mean, Rain don’t fall.

Such verbal craftiness reflects the ambiguity of the moment. So to approach the rains is like Shakespeare‘s words in The Hamlet, “To be or not to be.” This is the rain that gives us sustenance, water to drink, food to eat, even gravels and sands need water to nourish them, for roads and housing. In the Bible, rains symbolise blessing, but it also wiped out the first world.

The governor has set out, as he has said, with an emergency on Lagos Roads. But emergency can create its own emergency, and that is why Governor Sanwo-Olu is making haste slowly. Emergency also means taking the most crucial intersections and arteries first, and this may lead at times to duplication if not handled with delicate wisdom. The Governor has made this clear if not in so many words.

Patience is what it calls for. He is about to take over a sort of war zone. The roads were devastated as though Lagos was at war by his predecessor. So, to restore is looking like rebuilding. In some cases this is what it will look like. That means when it is , a furious speed will ensue. But for now we can follow what Chaucer wrote when he said, “patience is a conquering virtue.”

In spite of all this, Lagos entry points still buzz. Many people are rushing into Lagos, not to visit, but to nest and thrive, to find job, brides, renew their and fine-tune ambitions. It is perhaps the first in the rankings in that that department in the world. It is testament to failed governance in the country. From east, west, south and north, Lagos is the big, bright Babylon, their city on the hill. It absorbs all, and that means more traffic, more pressure on the road, more potholes even when the rains do their own.

Housing is becoming a big issue. The city cannot expand beyond itself, its boundaries. Rents are rising as the poor are rent. The master plans of the city, after being disrupted for four years, beckons for renewal.

The budget the governor has sought is a mere N250 billion, which cannot handle the humongous appetite of the city for development. That is why Lagos still needs a special status. It is carrying the burden of governance in other states. Its journey to great status on roads requires rail and waterways transportation to soothe the burden of roads.

The governor has vowed to do this, and we just have to take him at his words. No one should blame you for what you inherit, so long as your inheritors don’t blame you when you are done. That is the burden of legacy and the BOS of Lagos is up to the task.

Who judges the Judges?

ATIKU and company have brought a new dimension to the law. They have now become judges of judges. They rolled out a list of judges they want to adjudicate their appeal of the verdict at the Supreme Court. Lawyers say, in their Latinised fancy, that you cannot be a judge in your own cause. Atiku and his men want to upend the cause of justice by calling for who must sit on the bench. So, they want to determine the cause by determining the justices. It is the judicial equivalent of double jeopardy. This is a first for a desperate coterie of politicians who should be scheming for the next cycle of the vote rather than labour over a vegetable case.

If they have money to pay lawyers and a tribe of hangers-on advisers who would lap up cash for meaningless advice, Atiku is entitled to his own profligacy. But he should not turn our judiciary into a selection committee by a failing petitioner.

Original Article

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