I will not be saying anything new if I say that traffic control in Owerri is very poor. What is strange about it is that the situation more often is compounded by the personnel controlling the traffic. It is also nothing new if I say that the concerned authority plays no supervisory roles to ease the situation, if there is a supervisory Unit that is. It cannot be strange because all our institutions are dead waiting to be buried. What is it that works in Imo, you would ask? In other countries things that work and are taking for granted are usually big issues here.
When we talk about longevity and span of life there are small small issues we can handle to eliminate stress and anxiety, which are causative factors that ebbs life away. These are little things that matter but do we reckon with them? We can enjoy a blossoming and blissful life if we can reduce tensions and worries from our lives. Some of the things that weigh us down surprisingly are things that are not difficult to manage but consciously or unconsciously we suffer under them through our self-imposed actions and lack of effort to deal with them.
Strictly speaking there should be no traffic issues in Owerri. The availability of cars and vehicular movement in Owerri is nothing compared to such cities like Port Harcourt, Lagos, Onitsha etc. And so the capital city is not expected to have traffic stress but for poor management of traffic controls. In Owerri hold ups are experienced around the Control Post, Wetheral Road with the MCC/School road junction as the major flash point. Other places include the Emmanuel College by Wetheral Road junction, Ama Jk, Akwakuma junction and few other places.
At each road junction you will always see up to nine traffic control personnel but they are not helping matters. They are many but very ineffective. They are more in women each time. They are a combination of the police, the Civil Guards and the other state security outfits I cannot remember their names but always clad in a khaki outfit. Traffic men and women are not business like, engaging each other in chit chats and abusing road users. They are selective in the manner they pass the traffic depending on which lane they are called to receive some hand-outs.
For motorists who have mastered the tricks, the catch to pass the place is to squeeze something into your hand, beckon on any traffic officer and hand it out and promptly your lane will be passed. This attracts the anger of other drivers who try to resist it by not respecting the stop instruction. The end result is a jam where nobody moves again. This is a recurring decimal. The hordes of traffic control officers there have no impact except their begging and extortion to impact their pocket. It is surprising that nobody cares nor asks questions.
The motorists again help to compound the problem. Majority of them have no respect for traffic officers. Would you blame them? Who would ever have respect for anybody who engages boldly in open indecent behaviour? When they are stopped they will ignore the instruction and drive the vehicle close to the officer who will be forced to give them way to avoid being hit. The only reaction would be curses and abuses from the wardens.
If you do not know the meaning of corruption in Nigeria and how it brings us down as a nation just take a walk to some of the traffic points especially the ones at the MCC/Wetheral Road, the Cherubim and the Emmanuel College junction. These are regular routes for me. What you see there is a dramatization of corruption. Each junction is like a small Nigeria where the inhabitants (wardens) are seeking survival by all means including compromising their values.
When a line is moving and one of the traffic warden sights a sharp ride from another lane. It would approach the vehicle and ask to pass it for a fee. Promptly it would halt the flowing traffic and lead the vehicle that have ”settled” across off the traffic. Sometimes you find three of them involved in this action simultaneously seeking to pass their ”clients”, what you see is a jam, conflict of interest and other vehicles behind would like to take same advantage and in the process everywhere is locked up.
This is done without shame because from my observation this practice is now entrenched in their psyche. None of them cares that their preference for flashy cars is an injustice to others not so privileged. Same way in Nigeria, those who engage in open corrupt practices do they spare any feelings for anybody? Sometimes the effrontery with which they do this extortion makes me wonder if they don’t render account to superior officers as the police are alleged to do. We hear that postings to bits attract some amounts to superiors who do the posting.
They say that it takes two to tango. If there are no buyers there will be no sellers. The actors in this show of shame appear comfortable, the giver and the receiver. Those who also witness it are also comfortable because all of us perhaps may have accepted it as our way of living. People who witness this and the consequences hardly react, meaning that they too are capable of same indulgences if they are so approached. We are promoters of evil when we see one and do not rebuke it.
The installation of the traffic lights as witnessed in Owerri currently is somewhat helping to improve the traffic controls in the city. This is because the road users have no choice than to wait till they are flagged on. It will be heart-warming if it is made to go round and sustained. Traffic light has the tendency of inculcating the virtue of patience among motorists. Simple life styles that promote healthy living in other lands should also be allowed to operate here. Those who control and manage the traffic wardens have a duty of growing some skills in their workforce. So many things are lacking. A preliminary investigation indicates that these wardens especially the Civil Guards are not remunerated and are not motivated. Their remuneration is nothing to write home about. This is pointed at as the reason for their extortion. There is indeed no justification for this. While we frown at the behaviour of the wardens we call on the authorities to do what is necessary on their own part.