It was a rainy Sunday, the roads were very wet and we couldn’t wait to get home. We were at the entrance of our house when it happened….
An Okada rider (motorcycles used for public transport in Lagos) on top speed rammed into us; his passenger flew over our car bonnet and fell into the gutter. At first we were shocked, but the shock soon turned to anger as we tried to understand why the rider would be going at such top speed under the rain.
Leaving his passenger in the gutter, the Okada rider quickly ran to the nearest police station to lodge a complaint. While we were trying to help his passenger, the police arrived and asked us all to follow them to the station. At the station, the Passenger, my friend and I had the same story to tell. It was at that point that the complainant (the Okada rider) became the accused. His excuse for riding so recklessly was,
“After all, I was shouting for the driver to stop for me to pass”.
The police officer calmly informed him that laws exist for a reason and he breached so many traffic regulations by speeding excessively under the heavy downpour, not using his horn as required and endangering his life and that of his passenger.
When we finally returned from the police station, although I was still angry at the recklessness exhibited by the Okada rider, I could not help but wonder how many times we have wilfully disobeyed the laws of the land and cited numerous excuses that seem “reasonable” to us.
In Lagos State 13, 398 road traffic accidents were recorded from January, 2012 to March 2013. While vehicles accounted for 7, 267 cases, Okada accidents recorded 6,131 cases. One of the reasons cited for this is, our refusal to use the available pedestrian bridges.
Everyday, pedestrians (myself inclusive) would rather cross the major roads than take out the few minutes needed to climb the pedestrian bridge which was constructed for that specific purpose and could ultimately save our lives. Most times, I win the debate against my conscience by stating that I was already late for work and the walk down to the pedestrian bridge was too far and would waste my time. At such times, I ignore the fact that if I had woken up when my alarm went off rather than try to steal those few moments of sleep, I would have been early enough to use the bridge.
I also (consciously)forget that the last stop for the bus is very close to the pedestrian bridge but instead of alighting there I prefer the stop before last because once I cross the major road at that point, I am closer to the office. Thirdly, I forget that climbing the bridge would help with my weight loss goal which I have neglected completely because I cannot seem to find time for exercise.
Apart from the offence of willfully crossing the road, I have been in situations where I went to buy some household items and a staff member of the establishment (who was also a friend) thought she was helping by boosting me to the front of the line without considering the other people patiently waiting their turn. Her excuse usually is that her position would be useless, if it does not provide certain perks to those close to her.
Well, I have also been in situations where I had been standing in line for a long time only to be told to wait some more because some person’s relative or friend had to be attended to. It is never a nice position to be in but we always do the same whenever we can get away with it.
Corruption and inefficiency reign supreme in Nigeria today because we seem to have forgotten the importance of “merit” and “doing the right thing at the right time”. It is therefore important to note that every time we violate the laws of the land, regardless of what our excuses might be, someone somewhere suffers for it.
In the accident between the vehicle I was in and the Okada rider, the major victim was the passenger who paid the okada rider to take him to his destination on that beautiful Sunday morning.
In road accidents caused by citizens’ refusal to use the pedestrian bridges, the major victim is the pedestrian who most times loses his or her life. However, it does not end there, his or her family would be left to suffer the death of a loved one or bread winner/caregiver and let us not forget the other costs that death brings.
In the event that the victim might still be alive, the family would have to use resources meant for other investments to cater for his or her hospital bills and rehabilitation fees, among others.
There is another group of victims who are often forgotten. These are the motorists who are usually put in precarious situations because of the actions of others. Most times this group of victims are blamed and asked why they did not slow down. But people forget to ask also,
“would this have happened if the victim had just obeyed the laws?”
There are many other excuses out there why we or people we know fail to abide by established rules, I would like to hear more about them as we sit around our virtual table to further explore this topic.