11 October 2017

Nigeria: 'Oshodi Oke' and the New Aesthetics

opinion

Users of the Apapa - Oshodi Expressway must have noticed the new attention the Oshodi axis of the road is currently receiving as the Lagos government, it seems, is now determined, more than ever before, to give the whole area the much-desired and perhaps long-overdue facelift. The pace at which the project is moving particularly the rate at which workers at the site focus all their energies on it suggests that the contractor(s) must have been given a time lag for completion and so are trying hard to beat the deadline.

And perhaps due to inadequate information as regards the Lagos government's intention, some people are already speculating that the massive construction are modern shopping complexes to replace the old market demolished several years ago by the last administration. But as it is now, it is only when the project is finally completed that everyone would be able to see quite clearly what the government has done.

In the meantime, and perhaps to discourage and prevent a possible disturbance at the site, the whole area is being barricaded and the popular Oshodi is no longer what it used to be. Even the so-called relaxation centre built by the last administration is now no more than a dumpsite for construction materials and from every indication, the present government must have decided to jettison whatever idea the Fashola-led government had had in mind in putting in place what many must have considered a novel idea at the time. Perhaps lack of patronage was responsible for the Lagos government's new stance about the Oshodi Heritage Garden.

Or of what benefit is a relaxation spot which has inadvertently turned to the home of touts and guttersnipes? In the first place, those who conceived of the idea of making that particular spot a relaxation spot must have either been foreigners who did not understand that particular terrain sufficiently, or local idealists living very far away from reality. How an area populated mostly by criminals of all sorts is expected to function as relaxation centre is hard to understand. In any case, the citizens knew better as they shunned the place like a plague!

Now, while the renewed efforts by the Lagos State government to build Oshodi into something of very high taste which, by and large, will be the pride of everyone is commendable, there are some aspects the government needs to take a second look at so that these innovations may not result in more hardship for the citizens. To start with, considering the large density of vehicles plying that particular road and even all Lagos roads for that matter, more efforts ought to be made at road expansion and not reducing road space as it is currently happening in Oshodi. In the past few weeks, motorists have had to cope with severe headaches in trying to pass through Oshodi as traffic build-up begins as far back as Bhojson bus stop.

The large iron mesh used to block both sections of the road starting from the front of LASTMA office possibly to discourage pedestrians from crossing from one side to the other has somehow reduced the road space and snarling traffic congestion is now the latest experiences of motorists. In putting the iron mesh in the first place, no provision was made for vehicles that may suddenly break down at that spot. Nowhere such vehicles can turn and park for the owners to check and get them fixed.The meaning is that any breakdown of any vehicle at that spot will result in more traffic gridlock. Again, to make matters worse, the police officers manning the area also set up their own barricade and put their patrol car on top of the bridge thereby creating a further reduction of the road space.

Apparently, some urgent steps need to be taken to reduce the stress being undergone by motorists and commuters in recent times. First the iron mesh can be shifted backward in a manner that can create more road space. The whole former relaxation centre can be scrapped off to make provision for driving in and out of the area so that commuters wishing to access the Agege Motor road can alight and trek few metres to join their next busses. Right now, no provision is made for such category of people, and they go through much pains having to trek long distances from down Oshodi Oke inner service lane back to the other side.

Such a drive in and out space when created will also afford owners of problematic vehicles a chance to check and fix their vehicles. Moreover, the police vehicle stationed on top of the bridge and the barricade set should be urgently dismantled to create more spaces for vehicles. There is nothing wrong in policemen standing by the roadside to watch out for whoever contravenes the traffic laws, not necessarily sitting down majestically like newly-enthroned emperors the way they do now while motorists crawl through.

- Oyewusi, a director of education, lives in Lagos.

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