Monday 27 October 2008

A road runs through it

A birthday song

I called my father yesterday morning to wish him a happy 69th birthday and regretted the fact that I had not followed a musical career whereby I would have been able to sing a birthday song.

He humoured me by asking me to sing anyhow; whilst I do remember being a chorister many years ago and do have a baritone kind of singing voice, having never developed or practised the art, it could well be frogs croaking down the phone.

He was just getting prepared for church as it was harvest Sunday and he happened to be one of the convenors of the harvest.

At our adopted hometown, my father’s status derives from his selfless community work going back over 40 years rather than the ephemeral and gaudy show of wealth – time and again, he has been honoured for his service and I am greatly proud of him.

The road through

Talk then got to the matter of the building of a dual-carriage way which is to run through the centre of the village, this plan has been in the books for decades, it now appears it is coming to fruition.

I wondered about how a major road might affect the dynamic of our village, the paternal part of my family hails from the north of the road, the maternal part from the south, the cemetery and market are on the north, I would suppose the king’s palace is in the south.

One thing they did to reduce pedestrian traffic crossing what would be a busy road was to sink another borehole in the northern part of the village but I was not satisfied with that arrangement.

Bridges of safety

I felt that planning should have included at least one pedestrian bridge but my father said after speaking to the contractor what I considered a critical safety feature was not in the planning nor was it budgeted for.

I suppose that leeway accounting for safety had been consumed in the kickbacks that smoothed the allocation of the project to the winner of the contract.

I then recounted to my dad one occasion where I could not be bothered to do a 1.5-kilometre walk when it could be done by crossing an expressway and save me 1.1 kilometres under the Isolo Bridge on the Apapa-Oshodi expressway.

I heard a lot of shouting and warning sounds none of which I thought pertained to my crossing, I was blind-sided and oblivious to the fact that a car doing about 120 kilometres an hour was about to whiz past me and I was inches away from being splattered across the road like minced meat.

You could hear my father sigh and whisper a prayer, it brought home the point I was trying to make without going down the extreme of how if a burial were to take place in the north of the village from residents in the south.

The safety deficit in development

As I pressed home that point of the criticality of safety, especially when the road was still being built, my father interjected with the comment that it would not been considered and finished with the comment – Omo Oyinbo – (meaning white boy.)

It was not so much a derogatory statement as an acknowledgement of the difference of thinking we have always had for a long time, when many years ago he opined that I have always thought like a Westerner and more recently that I was never good at sport by a very good conversationalist.

On a more serious note it highlighted the trade-offs people were willing to make for development in developing countries; the implementation of grand projects without the considerations for adaptation, integration and safety for the persons the projects are to serve.

A big road would eventually run through my village, splitting it in half and maybe we should be the first to put speed bumps or traffic calming devices on a dual carriageway to slow drivers down for the sake of keeping the village folk from unnecessary sorrow.

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