For the third time in just one month, trailers and tankers have vacated Apapa roads and bridges in deference for the on-going general elections in Nigeria.
The first time was a couple of weeks ago when President Muhammadu Buhari came to Lagos to canvass for votes as the presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC). Dramatically, all the trucks left every route to Apapa for the visiting president to have free unencumbered access to the Teslim Balogun Stadium, venue of his campaign rally.
The second time the Apapa roads and bridges experienced relief from the heavy load of the trucks was Saturday, February 19 when the presidential and National Assembly elections were scheduled but postponed. A visit to the port city on that day showed clearly that it was also shocked by the news of the unfortunate postponement. The city was not only quiet, but also deserted.
The situation in Apapa that fateful Saturday underpinned the depth and dimension of that postponement which many described as a national tragedy. All the rampaging trucks, their starry-eyed and aggressive drivers, and the security agencies for whom Apapa’s misfortune has become a great opportunity, were quiet.
Both the bridges and the roads were empty yesterday such that, save for a few security personnel manning the entrance routes, it was quite scary driving through the bridges.
That was all for the elections. The question that readily comes to mind in these developments is ‘where do all these trucks disappear to on these remarkable days?’ Again, ‘who gives this instruction or order that is comprehensively obeyed without exception?’
In August last year, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo came and gave a 72-hour presidential order for the trucks to vacate the bridges and nobody listened to him. The order was flatly disobeyed and disregarded. The question people have asked and continue to ask is whether the vice president is a toothless bulldog or he, like politicians of his ilk, never meant what he said, or did not say what he meant.
Deliberately, the concerned authorities in Apapa case have been punishing residents of this port city along with business owners, motorists and sundry stakeholders who have been denied access to all the routes to this city by a tiny fraction of Nigerians whose business interests are the cause of the suffering that has become a major feature of life and living in Apapa.
“When I came to live in Apapa some years ago, it took only 15 minutes to go to Awolowo Road in Ikoyi. Today, I am afraid to go out because I may not be able to come back because of the trucks on all the routes that take me out and bring me back home”, Sola Ayo-Vaughan, chairman, Apapa GRA Residents Association, lamented.
Increasingly, it is becoming clearer to all, especially the residents of Apapa, that their case is not helpless. It is also clearer now that if the trucks have chosen to ‘live’ on the bridges, it is not because they have nowhere else to stay. It is simply that they feel there is nothing the core stakeholders, which include primarily the residents and businesses, in the port city can do.
If the trucks can leave the roads and bridges when VIPs are just visiting, it means that the lives and comfort of over one million residents and businesses in Apapa who have invested in this city and legitimately pay their taxes to government mean little or nothing to the same government.
Since it is clear to everybody now that each of these trucks has a place to retire to when the need arises, time is now for the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) and the relevant stakeholders, particularly the transport companies, to start implementing and enforcing the call-up system that will ultimately bring sanity and relief to Apapa and its environs.