The Pycho Ward Called Lagos Ports Access Roads

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That you might commonly find the mentally-challenged running destitute on Nigerian streets does not mean that psychiatric problems are treated with levity by the society generally.

The issue of persons whose “heads” might have “turned” or “scattered” is real serious business among many of Nigeria’s tribes. Madness is such a forbidden topic among these tribes that it is such a great burden of stigma for the family of the afflicted. Due diligence for possible history of insanity in a particular family is a priority for determining whether or not marriage proposals be followed through or aborted in a number of tribes. Add to this records of such acts as murder, suicide, rape and theft.
Unfortunately, while psychiatric matters may be serious issues in Nigeria, it is doubtful if practitioners of psychiatry have been enjoying a business boom, knowing the stigma attached to those undergoing psychiatric evaluation, observation or treatment. In Nigeria, whatsoever the strides in the various spheres by her citizens across the globe, the average person will not willingly consult a psychiatrist; not even a psychologist, for all it is worth. It is often a topic of avid debate and a favourite conclusion by discussants that any person merely consulting a psychologist or a psychiatrist, be it voluntarily, under referral or involuntarily, is readily labeled a lunatic. A piece of (fake) news item that makes the rounds at supersonic speed, rubbishing whatever is the social standing of not just the person directly concerned, but those of the other members of the family and even the circle of friends or any other linkage to the particular party.

Out there on the streets, though, the tag of madness may not only be negative. It is quite common to overhear opponents in a face-off boast of harbouring madness to gain that critical strategic advantage. In those instances, madness or craziness becomes a badge of honour. It is, therefore, not surprising hearing words such as these spewed out: “You think you are crazy, wait till I show you real madness!”
Strange? Two sides of a coin. Madness could both be a burden and a blessing. A burden when it is a medical condition for real for the afflicted, translating into bothersome social condition for not just that afflicted, but the family, friends and acquaintances. A blessing for the adept who would adroitly use furiously-voiced claims of an intimidating degree of insanity to browbeat an opponent into submission, gaining a much-sought advantage.
And talking about the burden and blessings of madness draws the mind to the psycho ward called the Lagos ports access roads. The zone is one burden that weighs heavily on those unfortunate enough to deal with the roads. On the Lagos ports access roads, a trip that would normally not take more than 10 minutes could easily turn into hours as one stews in the ubiquitous gridlock.

Several efforts have been made, and continue to be made, towards resolving the Lagos ports access roads impasse. The madness of these efforts are that the more they are made, the more seemingly terribly intractable the situation gets. But in this lurks the crazy reason for the mad nature of the Lagos ports access roads have always been reaped, and continue to be reaped, for purely pecuniary purposes for selves and overlords by the army of real and fake officials of local, state and Federal governments that haunt the zone, ostensibly to help restore and maintain order on the roads.
While an age-long lack of expansion in existing infrastructure, particularly the Lagos ports access roads even in the face of ever rising profiles of cargo throughput and road traffic, is largely to be blamed for the great headache these roads are, the antics of haulage trucks and their operators, the so-called Kings of the Roads, are also critical factors in the equation.

Growing up in Surulere the nightmare-inducing sight of a powerfully-built fully-grown patently-lunatic male in the full glory of his birthday suit for many years haunted many a location in the then relatively-sedate Lagos neighbourhood.

Many were the afternoons, probably his full moon days, when the violent antics of the man threw the Alhaji Masha Roundabout location into a state of confusion for hours while both the young and old ran helter-skelter for their dear lives.
Infamously known as King of the Road, even the mere mention of that moniker of the fearsome creature’s was traumatising for yours truly in those years of innocence while attending Elizabeth Fowler Memorial School (EFMS), Mercy Eneli Street, Surulere. It is not wrong comparing the depravity of Lagos ports access roads’ Kings of the Roads to his. Perhaps, the only difference is that sometime during my secondary school days and, of course, an “improved” me in street-smarts, King of the Road, reportedly got “cured” and became “normal”. If King of the Road, who had been in turns described as allegedly the scion of a Yoruba family, which name one of Surulere’s most prominent locations bears, as well as an indigene of a certain state (name withheld) in present-day Nigeria’s South-South geopolitical zone, could be divested of madness, maybe, just maybe, miraculous healing could just be in transit, headed for the Kings of the Roads.

Kings of the Roads is a popular Nigerian parlance that captures the tendency of many a heavy-duty road haulage truck driver to play the roadhog. The phenomenon that is the Lagos ports access roads gridlock has, however, redefined the definition of Kings of the Roads. Kings of the Roads are no longer just the uncouth segment of truck drivers. Kings of the Roads have mushroomed and thrive among other maritime industry subsectoral stakeholders in Lagos. And notoriously so! The population of heavy-duty road haulage drivers in Nigeria, it could safely be stated, is deprived of womenfolks. But those other subsectors are filling the gap, offering us the Queens of the Roads too. And the female species are as imperious as they come.

The potentates of the Lagos ports access roads are personnel of the Nigerian Navy (NN), the Nigerian Army (NA), the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Security Department, the local governments and local council development areas, the Maritime Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MWUN), the National Union of Petroleum and Energy Gas Workers (NUPENG), and of countless groupings encompassing road transportation, respectively. Throw into the ugly mix the ubiquitous area boys, street toughs, very active co-conspirators with the equally rapacious security operatives and unionists, real and fake, driving the heavy-duty extortion industry haunting the roads and make traffic buildup there a veritable unavoidable constant.

• The original version of the above piece, reappraised and updated, had first been published in the February 27 – March 4, 2012, edition of a specialised medium I edited then. Yours truly penned similarly titled and sequentially numbered follow-ups in a series that offered varied perspectives to the nagging subject matter. The articles each were stand-alone independent entities that also blended wholesomely with each other as a collective. Ten years, and counting, after those articles flew, the Lagos ports access roads still contend with the lingering madness. The matter of the Lagos ports access roads lend credence to the popular saying: the more things change, the more they remain the same; the only constant in life being change itself.

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