The convoy was intimidating, people scampered for safety, other road users veered off the road in what looked like a scene in Hollywood movies. If you thought it was a war scene, you were wrong! And making use of that narrow way that day was not a military head of state but an un-elected wife of a political office holder!
In a story that circulated on the internet recently, one Ola Adeosun narrated how he became a victim of the over-zealous security officials of the Oyo State governor just because he happened to share the road while the governor’s convoy at that time. More worrisome was his allegation that the show of brutality and naked force was supervised by a senior police officer.
According to him, for daring to challenge the security officials on why his vehicle was hit, he was beaten blue-black, dragged on the floor and hurled into a police truck where he was transported to the police station. This is one of such executive lawlessness that has become part of our political space.
Alas, the whole nation was to be put in mourning mood days later when a vehicle in the convoy of the Governor of Kogi State, Idris Wada somewhere along the Lokoja-Abuja expressway, crashed into a Toyota Hiace bus conveying an erstwhile President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Prof Festus Iyayi, to the proposed ASUU NEC meeting in Kano, killing him on the spot while two other ASUU chiefs were critically injured.
According to the Kogi state sector commander of the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, Mr Olatunde Motajo, the recklessness of the governor’s convoy drivers led to the fatal accident that claimed Iyayi’s life. According to him, the last vehicle in the convoy of the Governor made ‘’wrongful overtaking’’ thereby ramming into the bus conveying the ASUU chiefs.
Intimidations of the Nigerian citizenry by the political class as well as influential public figures when making use of our roads is fast becoming a shame that we should be ashamed of. Ours is about the only country in a democratic setting where political office holders not only use public funds to acquire excessive security vehicles but also use same to oppress its citizenry. The sight of drivers in the convoy of politicians, escorts, bank officials and the ‘fat-cats’ in the society breaking traffic rules is a regular occurrence that not only elicits anger from the citizenry but also causes accidents that claim lives.
In a bid to impress their masters, over-zealous ‘monsters’ in uniforms intimidate other road users whenever they make use of the roads. They flagrantly abuse the rights of other road users, forcing other drivers off the road while those who have the guts to argue with them over their right to also use the road are molested and physically abused. It is important for us to remind ourselves that this is a democratic setting where the leaders have an obligation to serve the people. The government has a sacred duty to ensure the security and welfare of the citizenry (the very essence of Government), it is thus unthinkable that these same people who should be the ones protecting us are sending a lot of us to our graves prematurely.
Just when one thought the Iyayi’s case would be a call for caution for political office holders, another tragedy happened on Wednesday, less than twenty-four hours after the accident that claimed Iyayl’s life. According to The PUNCH, a convoy of seven vehicles consisting of three escort vans conveying policemen caused an accident in Lagos. It was reported that the convoy connected the Lagos-Abeokuta expressway recklessly without checking for oncoming vehicles, and unfortunately a tipper on high speed, in a bid to avoid the convoy, swerved off the road and lost control killing two persons and injuring several others.
The recklessness of drivers attached to political office holders has caused untold hardship and pain to many families. The recklessness of an individual has caused the indefinite suspension of the National Executive Council ( NEC) meeting of ASUU, where votes to end the over four months ASUU strike was expected to have been taken, thus shattering the hopes of million of Nigerians who hoped that the industrial action would be suspended this week.
Public officials should as a matter of urgency reduce the long list of vehicles in their convoys. It is totally unnecessary. Apart from the fact that their maintenance amounts to a waste of tax payers money, it is a show of intimidation on hapless citizens who service these vehicles with their taxes. Political office holders and all those who are entitled to use of escorts should curb the excessiveness of their security details, after-all, the drivers and security escorts do all these to impress them.
It should be noted that the drivers of these vehicles are not immune to prosecution and so the traffic compliance agencies should step-up their job and bring erring drivers to book. Also, we should strengthen our traffic laws such that any offender, no matter how highly placed is prosecuted duly. All these will put recalcitrant drivers in check and ensure sanity returns to our roads.
In as much as the political office holders do not repair our roads and make it motor able enough, then we should all ‘enjoy’ the hold-up and the attendant hardship, after-all none of us has two heads.
This carnage in the name of convoys must stop and the time to end it is now!
Professor Festus Iyayi will always be remembered for his doggedness, activism and the struggle for the revitalization of our public institutions. He has left an indelible imprint in the sands of time and his legacies will continue to live on. RIP, Prof.
Abiola Solanke writes from Abeokuta, Ogun State. Follow me on Twitter, @abinistyy or reach me via email@example.com