Opinion: Nigeria Just Seems In Love With White Elephants
by Chukwudi Madu
I came across a report in December which stated that the Lagos State government plans to get commercial bus drivers to start wearing uniforms and I burst into laughter. Even more surprising were the comments some people wrote supporting the move; some claimed it will help in identifying bus drivers who lie about their true vocation, others said the uniform will help make drivers more responsible as uniforms tend to have that effect psychologically, it went on and on! Before I continue let me query the two examples of the comments I mentioned above –
1. How does a driver lying about his vocation affect the price of garri in the market or affect poverty in the land?
2. Uniforms make people responsible, abi? All the federal and state uniform wearing miscreants who harass Nigerians daily, why haven’t their uniforms made them more responsible?
Sorry to say this, but the behavior of the average Nigerian can be likened to that of a dog that plays the ‘fetch’ game. Just like a dog is happy to run after a Frisbee, fetch and return it, only for it to be thrown again by the Oga and the dog happily runs after it again while Oga and his crew enjoy a good picnic; so do Nigerians blissfully laud and run after the irrelevancies our ruling elite toss like Frisbees from time to time while the elite lounge and have a good laugh.
This is not about PDP or APC and yes I’ve heard before, Fashola is practically the best governor (going by the prevalent mediocrity in our clime), I am just curious as to what inspires the plague of white elephant projects (and white elephant policies) in a country that is fraught with a plethora of serious problems?
I see the bus drivers’ uniform thing as just another avenue to settle another party faithful with a juicy contract; because someone has to deliver the uniforms of course. For those who think the uniform thing is cool, please tell me how efficient the LAGBUS and blue BRT are? In this case, the staff have branded wears and even the buses are branded uniformly. Folks come out to bus terminals by 6:00am and stand (sometimes in the rain with no shelter) till 8:00am or 9:00am before they board a bus which is at best 90% immune to hold-up. So you leave home very early and make it to work late or barely on time. Based on the foregoing, dressing is the least of the problems of our transport sector so why burden the commercial drivers with a uniform that will only enrich someone and probably give our esteemed uniform wearing folks like LASTMA and police a new avenue to harass poor drivers who are barely managing to make ends meet?
How about focusing on building new roads and making every existing one pliable, thus creating alternate routes to decongest the few pliable ones? How about creating a regular forum for parley between our uniformed men and commercial drivers to reorient each on their responsibilities and consequences of failing in those responsibilities as well as to get them off each other’s throats (let the uniformed officers stop seeing drivers as meal tickets and let the drivers stop seeing officers as predators that must be thwarted and undermined). How about eliminating touts and syndicates who extort money from the drivers? There are many things that could be done to revolutionize the commercial transport sector to the benefit of the drivers as well as the commuters and the government, but honestly I don’t see how turning them into uniform-wearing school children would help. It rather seems like adding insult to injury.
If it’s not duplication of duties, it’s a complete white elephant. Checkout some remarkable duplications and white elephant projects/activities –
- The debate in the Lagos assembly sometime about brothels – With lots of weighty issues begging for attention, one wonders whether this issue really deserves the attention and time of serious minded people.
- The recent approval of a bill banning gay marriage and same-sex partnerships – Seriously? Well I guess Boko Haram, ASUU, power, corruption and the rest are secondary issues. Our senate knows best.
- Ministry of Niger Delta and NDDC – With lots of functional government agencies and parastatals, do we honestly need either of those talk more of both to take care of the Niger Delta where most of our wealth comes from? (E no mean say I no go gree work in any of them sha. Hahahaha).
- ICPC and EFCC – Yet our fight against corruption is outsourced to the likes of UK crown court.
- Rivers State and many other states’ monorail project – Maybe the problem is that I don’t get it but perhaps someone can help enlighten me. Why would billions be sunk into projects that are solely dependent on power when Nigeria barely has enough power to chill water to quench our thirst in these hot tropics? I get the need to improve transportation but I think better roads will suffice for now so that those billions can be put to more urgent relevant use.
- Satellites – We are yet to conquer earth, what are we looking for in space? The funniest part is that the satellite project is managed mostly by foreigners. Can you imagine America, Russia or China, outsourcing stuff as serious as the manning of their satellites to foreigners? Why not wait till we are really ready?
- Carnivals – Donald Duke brought a meaningful tourist innovation to Cross River state and suddenly millions is being sunk replicating it all over the country and taking the shine and substance out the innovation as well.
- Flower planting – A commendable, well executed initiative from Fashola which some states have diminished with their pathetic attempt at copying.
I can go on and on. Meanwhile, I read somewhere that Nigeria is planning to delve into nuclear research. All I can say is, please my beloved country, stick to agriculture for now. With the way we manage things here, if we get involved in nuclear research, the world should just prepare for the beginning of a nuclear winter!
In conclusion, the Lagos state government should please shelve this bus drivers’ uniform inspiration, the poor drivers are being terrorized enough already. Please let’s slow down with all the Lagos this, Lagos that, or we’ll soon start hearing things like “Lagos Residents’ Uniform” or “Lagos Residents’ Face cap”.
Chukwudi Madu is a writer focused on creative writing, copywriting and technical writing. He is a proud alumnus of the prestigious Government College Umuahia (following in the steps of great Umuahians like Chinua Achebe, Vincent Chukwuemeka Ike, Elechi Amadi, I. N. C. Aniebo, Ken Saro-Wiwa and Christopher Okigbo) and an alumnus of the University of Nigeria Nsukka. He tweets @maduchuddi. His Facebook page is HERE. You can buy his books HERE.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.