P.M.B. 700, Akure,
16th March, 1978
Dear Professor Soyinka,
At last something is being done about the disasters on our highways. The criminal actions of our drivers together with the apparent lack of the authorities (the police and road engineers) has given me cause for concern for more than a decade now. In terms of the raw numbers, accidents resulting into deaths on our roads can hardly be matched anywhere in Africa. The disasters and accidents continue on the increase everyday.
In my little way, I thought I have identified some of the causes way back 8-10 years ago. I do not subscribe to the stereotyped police warnings and regulations which have no meaning to road users especially illiterate or naive drivers. Such repetitive expressions as drivers not observing traffic signs and road safety precautions are not relevant today.
The real problems are:
- Nigerians drivers especially those handling heavy trucks, tankers etc. do not give way to lighter vehicles on the highways. They haul their loads at a slow pace and do not give a damn whether they caused queues of impatient and faster vehicles behind them. As a result, drivers who cannot hold on longer to the slow pace and longer queue opt out of the queue, and in an attempt to catch up invariably lead to head-on collision with on-coming vehicles.
- Heavy vehicles, trailers, tankers etc. break down on the highways and stay there long enough to cause multiple accidents, invariably necessitating several deaths. These vehicles are only moved away after they must have recorded several deaths.
- Our new roads, especially those being built by the Federal Government, have asphalt covers which makes them slippery and dangerous even during dry weather. These roads do not grip on tyres and are terrible death-traps during the rainy seasons when you cannot apply your brakes at 60km/hr without spinning.
- The Police have a penchant for arresting criminals and not preventing crimes. Sometimes the real offenders who can bully their way through are let go while the minor fry are manhandled and bullied.
What is(are) the way(s) out?
- The Police or whatever body is charged with cutting down deaths on our roads should organise clinics at lorry-parks and such other places where drivers can be found in large numbers. The clinics should involve short speeches made through loudspeakers to drivers, reminding them of the necessary precautions that should be taken as they set out on their journeys. The Police of the Road Safety campaign personnel should tell drivers to keep strictly to the right and allow other road users who have faster and lighter vehicles to pass through. They should be told that their failure to move slightly to the right of the road is responsible for majority of accidents on our roads.
- These clinics should be done regularly throughout the whole country with a special fund provided by the Federal Government and disbursable through the State Government and the Road Safety Bodies and Police Commands.
- The Police and the Road Safety Bodies should have their operations towing vehicles to move broken down vehicles from highways at the shortest notice. No broken down vehicles should be allowed on the highways for more than one hour. The vehicles should not be towed away, rather they should be pushed to the bush since the drivers who desert them are social pests and are almost as dangerous as highway robbers. If the Police and the Road Safety Bodies take on these assignments, several heavy trucks will be destroyed with the resultant effects that drivers whose vehicles are about to break down would always manage to move them out of the mainstream of traffic, thereby removing hazards and head-on collisions.
- As parts of Europe and the Americas, roads should be constructed in such a way as they will grasp tyres properly and would not be slippery on the slightest application of the brakes. Examples are the Autobahns and the Motorways in Europe and Express Roads in the US.
- The Ife-Ibadan road should be turned into a four-lane traffic, thus enabling vehicles to move on in one-way directions only.
- The Police should be orientated to total commitment to helping the public, and total commitment to arresting and getting punished recalcitrant and nonchalant drivers.
I saw you on television a couple of days ago while you were talking to drivers. We need such clinics throughout the country and possibly with full-time people to take on the job.
Finally, I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation for your deep concern for humanity and one hopes that in no distant future more and more of us in this country will come to accept our social responsibility as we accept those of our immediate families and neighbours.