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Fashola, megacity and the death of Baby Njama

Published by Tribune on Fri, 13 Jul 2012

I was never a fan of Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola of Lagos State, and was never in support of his candidature as the standard-bearer of his party prior to the 2007 general elections. As a keen follower of politics in the state, I felt the pain of other candidates who openly disagreed with Bola Tinubu over the choice of Fashola. He didn't appear the best among them all. What followed and happened thereafter, all that is history.I remember sending a text message to Governor Fashola in the course of his first term as the Governor of Lagos. The text was a confession and commendation. I opened up to him that I never supported his election because he wasn't better than the others, but I also commended him for making me regret such action as he had wowed me with his performance, which became the reference point for good governance and developmental democracy.It is noteworthy that the governor (or one of his aides) promptly replied my text and acknowledged receipt. But what strike me most was when he added in the response, 'I salute your courage; choice is the essence of democracy'.Since that time, I became his alloyed fan, supporter and defender. I supported his re-election and told anyone who cared to listen that Fashola was the best thing ever to happen to Lagos. Finding out that the governor also supports Manchester United (the most successful football team in British history) also increased my affection for him. Our blood is RED, as we say at United.However, it is that notion of democracy being a government of choice that made me think if Mr and Mrs Njama made the wrong choice as they watched helplessly, the passing of their three- year-old baby, partly due to the irresponsibility of the government they chose to elect.The Njamas are one of the many thousands who reside at the Agric-side of Ikorodu. They, like many others, have been left to live like foreigners in their own land! Foreigners, because every known development in Ikorodu are channeled to Ikorodu town, where the Dabiris, Ogunlewes, Bensons, and many others originate from.On June 3, 2012, while the state and nation awaits information on the Dana plane that crashed that afternoon, baby Njama developed a seizure at home in the presence of her parents, which required urgent medical attention. Living in Ishawo, the extreme end of Agric, the parents quickly applied first aid, knowing that the nearest well-equipped hospital, the General Hospital, is at Ikorodu town, which is just some three kilometres away, but ordinarily would take you about one hour in view of the breakdown of law and order at Agric bus stop.Having concluded the first aid and the young child still finding it hard to breathe, the family decided to move quickly to the government owned hospital. As I drove the parents and the sick baby towards Agric, traffic on this road was almost at a standstill. Everybody was driving in different directions; commercial buses, private cars, okadas, tricycles in their hundreds, all locked together with no one to instill some decency. The traffic policemen usually around the bus stop were nowhere to be found. It was what my friend would call crisis and chaos, on a Sunday for that matter! As we tried to find a way out, with this poor girl, the only product of a seven-year-old marriage, struggling for life, so many things crossed my mind.Why is there no alternative route out of Agric' Why should someone living in Ishawo travel to the Agric bus stop to move out' What happened to the Ishawo-Berger road project, which we were told by one Ayo Gbeleyi, that it has been awarded' If such road exists, we can access Berger from the Njama's residence and go to other hospitals in the heart of Lagos' Is it true that Oba Oyefusi of Ikorodu stopped the project because it will benefit the settlers living at Agric and not the indigenes who are mostly found in Ikorodu town'What if there is another road linking Ori-Okuta to Benson bus stop' Which will enable us cut away from this madness at Agric bus stop' What if the local government had fixed the Ajose-Mount Camel road just like the state government did to Adeola/Fela Hammed, which leads out to the expressway'Perhaps, if government had built a General Hospital in Agric too, there may not be need to be held up in this man-made crisis, while one of Nigeria's future is struggling for life' Maybe if the local government had demolished the market at the bus stop and stopped all forms of street trading, we would have had an easy passage' Maybe rather can collect N50 from street traders, the local government puts on their 'thinking caps' and design how to generate more money in view of the high population of this area.As I ruminate over all these thoughts and the partiality of a popular government, I was jolted by the cry of Mrs Njama! Her scream was so loud that even bystanders wondered what was amiss. 'Don't let my baby die', she yelled at no one in particular. Tears trickled down my sweaty face, as we are stocked almost at the same spot for almost 40 minutes. The father of the dying baby jumped out of the car with the child, climbed on the nearest okada and beckon on the rider to move as fast as he could towards Ikorodu to the hospital. Even the okada could hardly move; the road was almost impassable. We were just approaching the Ogolonto axis to meet up the man at the hospital; we dare not follow Ikorodu garage, when the poor man sent me a text message that the child had died! The message sent cold shiver down my spine as the mother was behind me in the car and I must not betray any suspicious emotion. When we eventually met the father at the hospital, he told me the first thing the doctor asked him was why it took him so long to bring the child. So long, too long! Remembering that we spent almost 65 minutes within a five minutes radius!Since that day, I've not stopped thinking of what makes us so unfortunate a nation and people' That in the midst of plenty we suffer and in the midst of surplus, we beg' Each time I move from Agric-Ikorodu towards Ketu and vice-versa, I imagine how a government can be insensitive to the plight of its citizens. Insensitivity and cruelty if a resident of Igbogbo town, which is overlooking Victoria Island and Lekki across the river, would still have to travel round the whole of Lagos to get to his destination. Why Owode and Mile 12 markets would exists within the city, causing avoidable traffic and loss of productive hours, yet government is helpless'What sort of mega city would have a single road leading to the fastest growing area of the city' Hosting more than 50 communities and over one million population' Whereever you may be working in Lagos, if you live around Ikorodu, Imota, Ijede, Ogijo, Agric, Agura, you must get to Ketu before finding your way home. Pathetic. The rehabilitation of Adeniran Ogunsaya, Adelabu and Bode Thomas, all in Surulere by the best construction company in the land shows the true impartiality of government. The entire population of these areas is not more than half of Agbede community in Agric, has about eight smaller communities with over 100,000 inhabitants, yet there is no single road fixed by government in this area. After all, they are yet to produce a governor. The plan to expand the Mile 12 - Ikorodu road is just an exercise in futility as it would not solve the problem of traffic if the Mile 12 and Owode Iron markets still operate on this route. It is just rather unfortunate that all the sanity and rule of law championed by the Fashola administration goes to sleep once it is 6pm and insanity and lawlessness takes over. However, if the Governor decides to do something positive for us, life will become more meaningful and purposeful for residents of this axis. Perhaps, the untimely death of baby Njama may spur the hard-working Governor to take urgent steps to address the issues affecting us.Ajayi wrote in from Ikorodu.
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