“Against stupidity [of Nigerian governments] the gods themselves struggle in vain.” Frederick von Schiller, 1759-1805. VAGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATATION, VBQ, p 235.
WARNING TO ALL NIGERIANS
Unless your life absolutely depends on it don’t go to Apapa Wharf for the next nine months. That place is now the closest thing to a mad house on any working day.
When Alhaji Aliko Dangote announced a few weeks ago that Nigeria is losing about N30 billion a day to the lock down of Apapa Wharf, my reaction was one of disbelief. I thought that Africa’s largest investor was exaggerating for a purpose undisclosed. First, I must apologise openly to Dangote who might not even be aware of my private doubt regarding his estimates. Second, permit me to state that even Dangote underestimated the loss per day to the Nigerian economy of this totally avoidable devastation. Like the flooding in most parts of Ajah, Victoria Island and Lekki, we, meaning the governments elected since 1999, are the architects of our own misfortune. As Oliver Perry, 1785-1815, said, “We have met the enemy and they are our own people.” (VBQ p 48). The people who are destroying businesses in Apapa Wharf area today are not outsiders; they are our own people.
Tuesday, July 18, 2017 is a day that will live long in my memory even if I live as long as Methuselah. I set out two hours earlier than usual to attend a meeting at Apapa with a prospective client whose staff we want to train to sell Made In Nigeria products. Nothing can be more patriotic than that. After all, buy Made In Nigeria has become the new mantra of the government after wearing out the CHANGE slogan in a record time. The first signs of disaster appeared as I approached Seven-Up premises at Ijora. All the trailers and tankers were forcefully parked on both sides of what used to be an Expressway but now turned into the world’s biggest parking lot for articulated vehicles. Smaller vehicles, cars, delivery vans, small buses etc, were allowed to pass through the one lane left unoccupied by the behemoths. That at first appeared like a sensible approach and inwardly my heart prayed for whoever thought of such a plan to relieve tension. But, reaching Leventis Motors and looking forward to Flour Mills factory, less than 200 metres away, then looking backwards at the vehicles lined up behind me, my heart gave way. There were no roads left and right for diversion. We were at standstill for forty minutes while the construction crew went about their business – unmindful that they were ruining those of millions of Nigerians. Then the road was opened for about twenty vehicles to crawl through. This was followed by another road block and twenty five minutes wait. I lost half the lead time built up in the morning attempting to negotiate only 200 metres of Apapa road. But, horrible as that was, it turned out to be child’s play compared with what followed. At the Flour Mills roundabout, all traffic was compulsorily diverted to a side street which was totally blocked because a vehicle had broken down half way down the road. Twenty minutes was dissipated in the collective effort to get the fully loaded sales van out of the way so we could proceed on our slow march. For those of us who don’t work in Apapa and who were not prepared for the horrors, little did we know that we were never going to reach the offices we were aiming for around the Apapa Wharf gate.
At various intersections, those of us who thought we knew short cuts in Apapa tried our luck only to return to the point of diversion and to start the slow march to nowhere. From 9.45 am in the morning, driving, and stopping more than driving, most of us eventually exited Apapa area at about 4.30 pm. We escaped courtesy of the Lagos State LASMA officials who were drafted into the area when everything came to a standstill including bullion vans, police escorts vehicles, Army and Navy officers, but most heart-rending, ambulances. There were, at least, three of them caught in the bedlam with patients fighting for life and those accompanying them in tears. And, there we were unable to move out of the way for them.
By the end of the first hour, and having given up hope of getting anywhere, the media economist in me took over. I at one point stopped the car to buy a notepad and to start recording businesses which have been rendered comatose by their irresponsible governments which allowed the roads leading to the nation’s two most important ports to get so bad as to require a total lockdown to effect repairs. It was heart rending. Virtually all the bank branches were operating at less than twenty per cent capacity. Forget activities at the ports. Any organization which chooses Apapa Wharf or Tin Can as the destination for their imports might as well forget the consignment. There is simply no way of getting the goods out of Apapa Wharf for the next six months or more. Forwarding agents are now on forced long holidays. Only God knows how much in billions is lost on account of goods not cleared and tariffs and duties not paid and uncollected Value Added Tax, VAT. One thing is certain, Nigeria’s monumental loss running into billions every day is already becoming the gain of our neighbours in ECOWAS.
However, one day turned out to be insufficient to assess the damage that governments since 1999 had done to the Nigerian economy which is now amply manifested by the lunacy in Apapa Business District, ABD. So, on Thursday, I returned – this time with an Okada Driver hired for the day. That is the only way to get around and avoid getting trapped or getting stopped by the Police or Local Government officials.
From my findings, if any of our former Presidents and Ministers of Works should show up in Apapa and identified, he might not get out alive. Lives have been ruined and the end is not in sight…