Thursday, April 21, 2016 12:53 pm
A roundabout is a very simple device for traffic control and throughout the length and breadth of this country, there are many thousands of roundabouts in our major, and in some cases, decidedly minor urban centers. A roundabout is no more than a round cement or concrete structure set at the junction of at least four roads where traffic chaos is more probable than possible. All roundabouts are by necessity quite round, but whereas some have a rather large radius, often times with some pretentious shrubbery or even a statue or more in the middle, others are quite small and have flimsy claims to beauty or elegance.
An example of those in the first category stands very proudly on Awolowo Way in Ikeja. But for all its attempts at prettiness, it is by far, less efficient at carrying out its main and indeed singular duty of eliminating the frustrations of traffic pile-ups than the unpretentious little roundabouts which make the Ring Road in Ibadan such a pleasant thoroughfare for motorists. Some roundabouts are stuck in little out of the way places where pretty or not, they are no more than mere decorations. There are others like the one in my hometown, complete with a statue in a dramatic pose which mark the very center of town and is therefore a place of compulsory pilgrimage for all motorists passing through the town. A roundabout is simply put, something that cannot be ignored.
The result of their attitude is very predictably, solid chaos. Very often traffic at this roundabout, is at a stand-still with angry drivers glaring furiously at each other from inside their overheated vehicles, their sweat-beaded faces stony with the determination not to give an inch to any other fellow sufferer. The effect of this unhealthy stalemate on the blood pressure values, already on the high side from a combination of effects of life in an overcrowded third world city is better left to the imagination as it is beyond the pale of accurate description. Traffic around roundabouts in Lagos is often snarled up for hours on end and the wisdom of using roundabouts, as a means of regulating traffic in this city is, even at the best of times, eminently questionable. In other words, a roundabout in Lagos is a useless extravagance.
The situation in Lagos is brought into sharp focus by what obtains in Ibadan where probably the only place where you will find sanity on the roads is at roundabouts. The brash visitor from Lagos sticks out like a sore thumb in Ibadan because he is the only one careering around the roundabout without any regard for any vehicle on the left or right. Motorists in Ibadan, some of who are probably ignorant about every other rule in the Highway Code make it a point of honour to give way to traffic on their left. Unlike in Lagos, traffic in Ibadan is usually smooth even at peak periods.
It is often said that to every rule there is an exception but this is hardly true of the iron rules of nature. It is certainly true that there are some exceptional people who reject the shadow cast over their lives by man-made rules but even such people are subject to the immutable laws of nature. One of the tragedies of human life is that we cannot all be made to bow to societal rules as we all must do to the laws of nature. As social animals, our lives are governed by certain rules for the simple reason that disorderliness, which is the desired status of all systems, is incompatible with civilised conduct. There must be law and order or if you like, a set of rules in operation within any given society if life within it is going to be of a higher quality than what you can get in a forest teeming with wild animals.
Nobody in Nigeria can dispute the fact that there is a multitude of written and unwritten rules, which are meant to regulate social intercourse within the country. Unfortunately however there are far too many sacred cows that are firmly convinced that all our rules are made for lesser mortals than they. For such people all the rules that govern civilised conduct are strictly for the birds.
The inevitable consequence of this cavalier attitude to rules is that traffic at our national roundabout is at a standstill, with tailbacks many kilometers in all directions. From time to time we get self-appointed traffic wardens who are convinced and spend most of the time trying to convince the rest of us that they have the ability to get our vehicles on the move once more. None of them has enjoyed an appreciable level of success. The only way for us to get our vehicles moving again is for ALL of us to obey the simple rules of civilised behaviour. The rules are simple and the rewards of obedience are obvious and immediate. It cannot be said too often; rules are meant to be obeyed at roundabouts and places beyond.
There is great need to get movement at our national roundabout and you can help to realise that objective by giving way to traffic on your left. For goodness sake, start doing so TODAY!