Lagos traffic saga: Can Sanwo-Olu pass the litmus test?

One insurmountable challenge of cosmopolitan cities around the world is road traffic. Notable global smart cities like New York, London, Beijing, Paris, etc. are still battling with this common challenge on daily basis. Once it is dawn, every major road networks in these cities are bedeviled with long queue of slow moving vehicles, bumper to bumper.
Several man-hours are lost in transit by workers and businessmen. The same situation replays itself during the evening period when workers return from work. The traffic situation in urban smart cities has given rise to establishments of technologies (traffic lights), organisations and agencies to tackle traffic problems. For instance, radio stations dedicated to traffic issues are established in big cities around the world. ‘Traffic FM’ or Traffic Radio’ are now well known by motorists as they are used to monitor vehicular movements in town.
The city of Lagos, Nigeria, established the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, during the Raji Fashola administration as Governor of the State, a move that other states are taking cue from. The Edo State government has also replicated such agency. All these are frantic efforts made by government of big cities to tackle traffic problems.
Lagos metropolis, as the financial and business headquarters of Nigeria, wakes and sleeps in outrageous traffic on major roads across towns. The presence of traffic lights, LASTMA officials, police officers and on some roads, military men, did not change the situation. Some Lagos residents daily seek relocation from the city to other towns with lesser population. The situation is so critical that some fathers barely relate with their children as they wake up as early as 4 a.m. and return home by 11 p.m. everyday. Lives were reportedly lost in traffic hold ups where ambulances got stuck on the way. All these challenges caused by road vehicular movements has elicited unspeakable damage to urban dwellers, no doubt.
It first came as surprise when the Lagos Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, after winning the gubernatorial race. declared he would solve the Apapa way traffic problem in six months. His declaration came as a surprise to many Lagosians as they believe the Governor made a promise concerning a notorious highway. If he could do it, would he accomplish that feat in six months?
People were left in doubt and others in mixed feelings over the possibility of the Governor solving that seemingly benign problem. When journalists probed the Governor over that resolution, he assured them in the affirmative. On the night of his inauguration, Babajide Sanwo-Olu made headlines as he stopped his convoy to intercept a commercial bus driving on a one-way lane..
This unexpected action drew many people’s mind to his earlier promise. Soon after that incident, the Governor visited traffic agents and charged them to carry out traffic rules without fear. In his first week in office, Sanwo-Olu ordered that the dreaded Apapa port be rid of illegal truck parked by the roadside. A female LASTMA official was crushed to death by a reckless truck driver in the first few days the clearing exercise began. Though, some users of that road axis claim they felt relived from the menace of the truck on that road, the traffic situation has not changed marginally.
In couple of days past, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu made a bold move to empower officials of LASTMA by doubling their pay. The Governor said in his visit to the agency’s headquarters in Oshodi that there would be a 100% increment of their allowances plus free medical treatment for them. In return for the juicy pay, which will be effected by July ending, the officials are expected to do their job effectively and be courteous to motorists.
He warned motorists to abide strictly to traffic rules or face the penalties. The Governor disowned his staff, associates, friends, and family members who break traffic rules, explaining that such erring affinity should be dealt with by the traffic officials without reservation. While such popular cause is a good move in the right direction, many are still waiting to see the impact of this strategy.
Some experienced citizens still looked on with jaundiced eyes as they only hope the Governor would succeed in his plans. How and when will he achieve results on the streets of Lagos, where there would be free flow of traffic? These pessimistic views are the effect of long time ritualized promises of politicians to solve a common problem, only for the problem to persist.
The Lagos traffic situation is often caused by people of different making. For instance, the agents of the National Union of Road Transport Workers of Nigeria and the local motor park union touts, popularly known as Agbero, constitute a major barrier on the road as they stopped commercial vehicles to collect dues.
These set of people are regular party supporters, who mobilize massive voters to the ruling party during elections. Their leaders are friends with the Governor and could easily approach the Governor to tone down government’s action against the Agberos. Hence, most Governors are always in dilemma to do their job or compromising on the side of these erring supporters. Will Sanwo-Olu escape this challenge? Another human factor contributing to the crazy traffic are some public officials, who drive their private cars on one way lanes to escape minor traffic. They believe they are powerful because they know those who matter in government coffers and could easily get away with their obnoxious acts. When such people commit traffic offence, will Sanwo-Olu leave them to the arm of the law?
Preceding Governors have attempted to provide alternative routes like metro rail, waterways as well as construct wide lane roads but were mostly frustrated by other elements in in the system. Like his predecessors, can Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu resolve the Lagos Traffic against all odds? How are his chances of passing the litmus test?

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