02 March 2006

Yippee tomorrow is saturday! - An Update

Alas, its not a flyover going up at Alapere, its a pedestrian bridge! (See my earlier post ) In theory, this is supposed to help ease the congestion of vehicular traffic by removing the steady stream of human traffic crossing the expressway. In practice however, the government are in the process of creating a new overhead market and as with all markets, people will come to buy, sell and window shop. All this activity will further increase human traffic which will further impede vehicular traffic, and at the end of the day we are worse off than when we started!

I recall the first 'overhead bridge' market/mall I encountered. Prim and proper secondary school student, I needed to cross Ikorodu road at Obanikoro and instead of making a quick dash across a major express way like my fellow Nigerians, I decided to use the pedestrian bridge. What was the hurry really, I could see a long line of empty buses across the road, I wasn’t in any danger of not getting a bus. This particular bridge was of the metal variety and as I approached the stairs, I began to question the need to cross the expressway at all! The very first five steps were so badly bent/broken, it just made sense to not attempt to test them so I reached out for the banister to steady myself as I attempted to start climbing from the 6th step. Recalling the vivid description of the banister by Ayi Kwei Armah in his book ‘The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born’ (recommended reading in secondary school), my hand recoiled. I looked in the direction of the banister and it wasn’t there! Propelled only by the desire to walk the talk, I ascend the remains of the original (staircase).

The view upon completing my ascent was impressive; thinking about it, it brings to mind an article I had read by Olatunji Dare when he wrote a column for the Guardian. I do not recall the title, but it was about street hawking and the notorious Lagos traffic. He narrated the possibility of actually renting and furnishing a house, from chairs to crockery to clothing to food stuff for the pantry to getting a generator while stuck in one of Lagos' famous traffic jams assuming word got to you that your house and all your posessions had burned to the ground. Of course the Fire Brigade could not get to your house on time to save your property because they are stuck like 100 cars behind you in the very same traffic. The hero of his narrative also managed to buy a car which he drove to his new house after his old one went kaput in traffic (I am guessing its a Mercedes Benz, probably a 190)! Reconciling my experience with the article I had read, I realized that Mr Dare didn’t have to rely on his imagination when he wrote his article. It was possible to start my journey across this particular bridge a pedestrian and end it the proud owner of a BMW. In the process I would also have done all the things Mr Dare’s hero accomplished and more, without paying a premium no doubt. Afterall this is not Leventis or Kingsway, I would only need to put my bargaining skills to good use! Keeping a firm grip on my money stuffed in my pinafore pocket, I proceeded to window shop. I could have easily cooked a pot of soup with local or agric chicken, or perhaps ‘awo’ (guinea fowl), fresh fish, beef or goat meat. Of course I would have bought the pot, stove etc right there. If for some reason the new pot sprung a leak, the trusty pot mender was but a step away (precariously perched next to a gapping hole on the bridge right above the fast moving traffic). While my stew cooked I could get my hair loosened, and plaited, braided or even permed and set. After completing the purchase of my BMW, mechanic shop was nearby so I could just carry out the requisite oil change ('toks' baby, not 'tear rubber'). Whatever ailment might befall me, the trusty pharmacy was open, selling their wonder cure-all drug. Is it ‘warapa’ (epilepsy), ‘iba’ (fever/malaria), ‘aito ato’ (low sperm count)? Perhaps the ‘village people’ were on my case, all I need do was produce the token fee and use the drug as per instruction my ailments/afflictions would be a thing of the past. Did I forget my textbooks in school? No problem, the bookstore was open and I could just pick up second hand copies of my books. What is a market without the ‘alabaru’ (porter) and the ‘alajo’ (Credit Cooperative Collector)? I came upon the dress store and if it weren’t that I was already far enough from school (I bailed out after exams) I could just buy a whole new outfit and stuff my incriminating school uniform in my bag which I would have also color coordinated and bought at the dress shop!

Sadly I have reach the end of the market and saying a quick prayer began my descent. Of course I was accosted on my way up and down by beggars thankfully not area boys. Finally I am once again on firm ground; I had to pause for a minute to get used to walking on a surface which was not visibly vibrating/moving. I can’t believe it, there is not an empty bus in sight, maybe I should have made the dash like the other ‘sensible’ Nigerians, and get splattered by a car and then have my family be obliged to pay my killer N5,000 (the fine imposed by the Marwa administration for those whose ‘jay-walking’ ended on a fatal note). I think not besides I enjoyed my window shopping!

No comments: