A reporter’s 7-hour trek in Ibadan traffic

April 3, 2021
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Actually, this piece would have been titled ‘A DAY I WILL NEVER FORGET’ were it to be a secondary school composition. It was March 26-27, 2021.

The day I trekked a 13-minute distance in seven hours. I have never been in that kind of traffic within Ibadan since I got here some 26 years ago.

We had attended a women Easter Retreat conference organised by Foursquare Church Women International (FWI) around old Ife Road, Ibadan and I needed to see someone around Challenge.

I told my driver to go home and park the car, planning to follow my husband home later. I discovered that he had left his office. Then he called asking if I had arrived home saying there was a terrible traffic out there. I laughed, telling him to go home, that by the time I was ready to go, the traffic would have cleared. Ase na lie.

The couple I was visiting released me around 8pm and I was like, the man should not bother as I only needed to get to Orita Challenge and take a single vehicle home. The husband insisted on dropping me off at Orita Challenge and that was where I knew there was trouble. He wanted to go further but I insisted that he went back home to his wife.

I got to where I was to take Marwa (tricycles) but there was not a single one. I was ready to pay any amount, but none was willing to risk the crazy traffic to my residence.

I eventually got another who charged N50 whereas the usual fare is two naira (Lagos and Abuja residents are already envious. Don’t come here o). I then took the one hailing passengers to New Garage. That is one of the locations where you can get vehicles going the Eastern part of Nigeria in Ibadan. Then my driver called me that he was still trying to find his way to my home. I couldn’t believe it. That was about 9pm when I had released him around 6pm.

I got to New Garage, thinking “let me just cross the roundabout on foot, on the other side after the new garage junction, I should be able to get marwa.” For where! I trekked further, further, then further. The Lagos drivers were crazy. They abandoned the blocked Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and took this route.

One wondered if the Lagos State government’s much-touted measures on traffic regulation was attaining any success in taming the drivers. They obviously aren’t imbibing anything new. Their effort in Lagos seems not worth all the enlightenment bills picked if what happened on Friday March 26, 2021 in Ibadan was anything to go by. The so-called dignitaries made it all worse, blowing their stupid sirens, sending other drivers scampering for cover without due regards for pedestrian traffic. They clearly forgot, or rather deliberately obsifucated from their memory that the bad roads are a reflection of their irresponsible behaviors through which they acquired the beasts they ride and terrorise the people, for whom they are supposed to provide direction and development.

I eventually trekked to Podo. All this while I was tracking my husband. He was still in traffic somewhere on the expressway after fleeing the madness on the old Ijebu-Lagos road axis which should have peacefully led him come. Time was 10:30.

By this time, my driver called to despondently inform me that the street gate to my house was being locked, wondering rhetorically if they would allow him passage out with his bike on his way home. I was laughing so hard I couldn’t provide an answer. He dropped the call and I had to call him back. I told him that even I, the Boss, was on my way home on foot at 10.30pm. I was later to find out the cause for his ‘insubordination’. He was caught in traffic here, his wife was also caught in the same traffic at the Iwo road end. Iwo road under bridge is a crazy confluence for vehicles going North, East, South and even other South West states and towns.

If you know Ojuelegba and Oshodi in Lagos, or Berger in Abuja of those days, you have a fair mental picture of what I mean. Meanwhile, their two-year-old son was still in school stuck there! I told him that if he had any issues with the guards on his exit, he should flash me. (That is what you do here, call without calling) I would call him back to talk to the guards. Meanwhile my husband, by this time, had just been able to travel like two kilometers since the last time we spoke. ‘I am opposite BAT (British American Tobacco) now, he mournfully intoned when I called him back. “Pele oko mi”(translate or transliterate if you have a Yoruba friend, if not, just waka pass), I tried to encourage him even though I needed some of the dose I was prescribing.

By this time, I had removed my “35k shoes” (only my family members will access the meaning here). It was flat but there is this pain in my leg so I trekked bare footed from New Garage to Podo over 350 metres. My husband instructed me to sit there and wait there until he came for me. I sat on the kerb, not minding my University of Ibadan awarded Ph.D, et al. By this time, groups of people were passing me, walking and talking. I was alone. The distance looked very far now. I sat there. I was hungry. I rummaged in my bag and found some biscuits. I chewed on it. Lamenting that I had left my water bottle in the car.

‘Mummy’, someone who recognized me in the dark called. It was my husband’s tailor who lives in my area. His family had trekked on but was taking a rest. He told me he was tired, I assured him my husband was coming for me as he was already opposite BAT (British American Tobacco company complex) on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway. He waited for about 40 minutes but when my husband was still at BAT, he greeted me and trekked on. I sat alone. No, not alone. There was this young man also sitting on the kerb, I looked at him. And looked away. Then his phone rang, and he started speaking Hausa. I jumped up, don’t ask me why.

I trekked further and soon l saw three girls coming with their (obviously) mother. I recognized them from the light of the deviant drivers who had left the tarred portion, or rather what remained tarred of the real portion of the road (if you know you know), shining on their faces. The Obiajulus. I called out to her.

Of course, she was not able to recognize me, not expecting to find Oga madam trekking like ordinary plebeians barefooted. An irresponsible political class is always a leveler. That is something cute about governance in Nigeria. I gave out the last shred of assurance l had with me that Dr Lewis was on his way to get me. The next time l called my husband, he was now sounding really frustrated. As soon as he picked the call he asked me to go and stay in Mount Pleasant Hotel if the place l was waiting was dark or lonely. I told him the Obiajulus were also waiting with me.

By the way, he suggested the hotel because it is owned by his uncle. I told him l would be trekking forward to wait for him at an intersection linking the expressway to the old Lagos-Ijebu road. By the time we got to the intersection, he was still at BAT. The area was very dark, filth invested, and remembering that a slum had recently arrived that side of the road after the expunge of the Northerners from Sasa following the recent crisis, l didn’t need any encouragement to trek on. I had strapped my shoes back and at some 15 minutes to 12 midnight, l finally arrived Odo Ona Kekere.

I certainly couldn’t move again from there. I called Dr Lewis again. He was just turning back to the toll gate after fruitless efforts to make a headway home. Even returning to the toll gate was a herculean task. I gave up finally. I then called on a younger brother who also happens to be a landlord. His wife will understand. Hello Arii, lbo lo wa? O ti sun abi? Yes ma, ki le fe auntie? Egbon e wa legbe titi Ibo le wa? Odo Ona Kekere Mo ti mbo He came with his buscar to pick us at Odo Ona kekere.

There, another pathetic story happened. A woman with a very heavy luggage begged to join us. But as soon as the car arrived, others joined us into the car and it got filled up. There was no space left for her. She had trekked from Mamu in Ogun State to Ibadan. According to her, there was a royalty tussle over the area where the popular farmers’ market is located in Mamu village.

That particular Friday was market day. One of the contending ‘Royal fathers’ came into the market for whatever transaction and some members of the opposing camp removed his cap, aka, crown. Trouble erupted and the village got scattered. Her lamentation was not just the trekking she had to do, but that she was famished. Anyway, we had to leave her behind. I finally arrived home 15 minutes after 12 midnight while my husband came in around 1.30am.

As of about that time, an Ibadan based lawyer posted on Facebook: “I left office 7.30pm and l am still on the road 12.39am. A journey of less than 30 minutes. “Much, much later just before dawn, he triumphantly posted “I got home”. What a tale! What a day! So, what caused the gridlock? Nothing. Just some drivers’ craziness. And it lasted for 24 hours-easing out around 4pm on Saturday.

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