The Obanikoro area boys


The Yoruba are really losing it, and it appears that those who run Southwestern states are not aware of the level to which things have degenerated, or they simply cannot be bothered. The bad news is that anarchy has taken over the streets of Lagos.

The banshees jump over you and instead of assisting you to get your vehicle off the way to ease up the traffic, they talk as if you committed a crime because your vehicle broke down. They try to browbeat you in order to extort a “fine” from you.

The street is not smiling and those who trade in violence and scare mongering have taken over the streets. And many commuters in the Lagos metropolis are moving about with their hearts in their mouths. It’s tough out there.

If your vehicle ever breaks down around Obanikoro corridor of Ikorodu Road in Lagos State, you are going to be at the mercy of hoodlums who run a fear racket, using violence or threat of violence to extort money from motorists.

To be sure, Obanikoro is not a peculiar case, it is no more than a metaphor for the demonic scourge that has taken over Lagos. And it’s increasingly looking as if the government cannot, or does not want to, resolve the issue.

There are suggestions that these boys are allowed to run the streets because they are enforcers for the political class who they help to intimidate political opponents and railroad voters. Also, they harass commercial bus drivers without consequences.

The other day, a friend offered me a ride back home, and his vehicle suddenly sputtered to a halt. The gentleman called a straggler to help push the vehicle off the freeway. Surprisingly, the straggler agreed and joined in pushing the disabled vehicle.

But after the vehicle was safely removed so that it would no longer obstruct the traffic, the straggler stayed on, obviously in the hope that he hadn’t “worked” for nothing. To his credit, he never asked for money. Eventually he was paid.

Before that, a host of “area boys” came with all sorts of harassment, posing as if they were some kind of law enforcement officers who were in mufti. The biggest and most menacing of them hurled a barrage of questions.

“Who parked this vehicle here? Did it break down? Where is the key to the car? Did your driver park the car?” Finally, he announced, “A towing vehicle has just arrived to tow your vehicle away.” But there was no towing vehicle anywhere in sight.

The idea was to scare us into submission, as he finally announced, like a mafia boss, that the mechanic that was brought to fix the car would not be allowed to work unless he and his boys were paid a ransom money of N20,000!

Even bystanders gasped, wondering if it was a grievous offence for someone’s vehicle to break down. The hoodlum and his cohort tried their best to look and sound menacing. You could see that they were sizing everyone around up. Just in case one could be a military officer who was in mufti.

The men of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, whom we thought would come to assist us, basically ignored us, to the extent that we concluded that they probably had an understanding not to interfere with the business of the area boys as long as they too did not interfere with theirs.

We, however, invited the LASTMA officials to intervene and save us from the menacing lot. They made some “correct” noise, and added that they thought that we were soliciting help from the area boys.

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But they soon left us once again at the mercy of the hoodlums even after we had sought protection from them. This conduct of law enforcement agents that are paid by taxpayers brought us to the unpleasant conclusion that the LASTMA officials were neither interested in the safety of commuters nor in ensuring the flow of traffic.

This led my friend and I to the conclusion that the plight of Tope Mark-Odigie, of “Your View,” the all-female talk show on Television Continental, that was widely circulated in the media late 2021, did not impress the hoodlums or the law enforcement agents in Lagos State.

They are only out to trap motorists, impound vehicles and exact fines. Which reminds you of the suggestion by General Olusegun Obasanjo that maybe the government of military President Ibrahim Babangida had no human face.

When the hoodlums knew that they had tough customers to deal with in us, they backed down and began to beg for alms like the shameless louts that they were. How they thought that harassing us would make us part with our hard-earned money was a really big surprise.

After the mechanic looked into the engine, he discovered that the problem was that water in the radiator had dried up. We allowed the radiator to cool off, put some water in it, and started the engine. It clicked one time and we roared off!

And the disappointed area boys who got nothing out of us could only remark in a snide manner, “A se ee tie l’owo,” meaning that we were poor, even as they restrained themselves from hitting the vehicle. Our “street credibility” smarts paid off.

The mechanic thought we were lucky the vehicle didn’t break down in the night. If things could really get worse when it gets dark, you can only imagine how many Lagosians have been killed, maimed or robbed in the dead of night in that corridor of the Ikorodu Road and other dark spots in Lagos.

But do Lagosians have to assume the swagger of street urchins to be able to live peacefully? Think about it: Your vehicle breaks down. Instead of the state coming to your rescue to get you out of harm’s way and ease the traffic for other commuters, they ignore you.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State and his Commissioners for Transportation and Information and Strategy must hear this, and do something about it swiftly. Ditto for the state Commissioner of Police and the police command. Something must be done before things get from bad to worse.

This Obanikoro black spot and other black spots in Lagos must be identified, monitored and controlled so that commuters within the Lagos metropolis can feel safe whenever they are on the road. Let Lagos not be the wicked place that Niyi Oniororo said it was in his Lagos version of Onitsha Bridge Literature book.

Recall that Obasanjo, as a democratically elected President, once described Lagos as a concrete jungle. Yet he never thought it fit to redeem the promise made by Babangida that Lagos would be treated as a special case when he was moving the Federal Capital to Abuja.

Former President Obasanjo is not too far from the ballpark, though. The rules on the streets of Lagos resemble those of the jungle, where might is right and every animal, including the lion, the King of the jungle, is ultimately a prey.

It’s no consolation, as some seem to insinuate, that there are area boys or motor louts that the Yoruba call “agbero,” in other regions of Nigeria. Lagos is Nigeria’s face to the outside world.

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