Travelling from Jos to Abuja today, traffic came to a standstill about a kilometre from Bwari roundabout. Knowing there was a military checkpoint ahead, we stopped and waited in line hoping that movement would resume.
I later observed that the only cars moving were those that swung into the lane meant for oncoming traffic leaving the silly ones like me in the queue. After some 45 minutes of watching at least a hundred unruly drivers (police cars, military personnel, taxi drivers, civilians with sirens, civilians in plain cars with and without religious stickers) go by, I got fed up and asked my wife to take the wheel so I could go find out what exactly the soldiers at the checkpoint were doing to manage the situation.
It turned out that the shunters had formed 2 extra lanes of cars and blocked all oncoming traffic. At a point, the third lane which completely cut off oncoming traffic was headed by a Honda Accord with Kaduna plates (DKA 940 AH) and a NAVY sticker. Shockingly, the driver of this car (presumably a naval officer) had the effrontery to alight from his car and threaten the rightful occupant of the vehicle lane, despite being the one obstructing everyone coming from Bwari.
Eventually, I got an overwhelmed soldier from the checkpoint at Bwari roundabout, and we were able to clear the road for oncoming vehicles while working the mad people into a single lane. A uniformed naval officer (whose Oga was also stuck in the jam) joined us later. Of course the naval officer left us once their car was free but I worked with the soldier to go all the way to the beginning while warning everyone to maintain a single line.
Clearing up the mess took less than an hour and nobody was whipped in the process. People just needed to see the prospect of discipline to behave themselves. A few were the initiators of the mess while the rest just joined because lawlessness appeared to be more rewarding.
Among the mad people was a senior police officer with his family in an NPF marked jeep and I told him I was disappointed that someone like him was setting such an example. He stuttered and said he had been in the line for about an hour before he gave up. I was in the line for longer. What was the difference between us? Rather than try to join them, I looked for a solution.
It pains me that every day, we cry for a better Nigeria but we cannot be disciplined enough to form a line.
Those that have been given a bit of power think they have become superior beings and should be exempt from any attempt at lawfulness or order.
We should also learn to go the extra mile; The soldiers concerned themselves only with checking whatever cars go to them at the checkpoint regardless of how they got there. They probably said to themselves “traffic control is not our duty at this post; who is going to thank us for getting them in line”.
As I say on an almost daily basis, we have lost too many values in this country. There are not enough rewards for doing good; at the same time, there are rarely any consequences for misbehaving. Until individual discipline and responsibility become widespread one way or another, this country remains at the brink of failure.
I hope that wherever you find yourself from now on, you will go out of your way to be the one that helps others do the right thing.