The historic visit of France president, Mr. Emmanuel Macron, to Lagos State was expected to elicit some excitement for its significance as a first-rate state visit and more importantly the symbolism of his choice to visit the new Afrika Shrine in Ikeja.
The new Afrika Shrine was built after the original shrine by Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, which was burnt in 1977.
Macron’s choice of the shrine came as a surprise to many, given its nostalgic association with the anti-establishment hero.
Beyond the accolades that trailed the visit notwithstanding, Macron’s itinerary in Lagos caused many residents a traffic nightmare.
The state government had earlier announced a 12:00p.m. to 12:00a.m. restriction of movement on routes leading to Afrika Shrine, on Tuesday, but the half-day restraint was more than the city’s insufficient road network could handle.
Chaotic traffic scenes occurred not only on the restricted roads but also at adjoining and alternative routes.
The first sign of a hectic day was the decision of the state government to effect the road restriction hours before the announced time.
Citizens who would make use of the restricted routes before the hour mark were surprised to be caught off-guard by the ‘Road Closed’ barrier.
There could have been more to the restriction. While the inexplicably long closure lasted, personnel of the Lagos State Public Works Corporation (LSPWC) were seen making quick fixes to roads leading to the Shrine.
For motorists along Kudirat Abiola Way, Allen Avenue, Opebi, Toyin and Obafemi Awolowo Way, the traffic gridlock experienced as a result of the road closure is better told than experienced.
As motorists groaned about the road closure, traders in Ikeja were not spared the hasles of the Macron’s visit.
While Macron was still in Abuja meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, the traders in Ikeja were instructed by the government to close early and security operatives ensured all shops at different sections of Ikeja, Allen, Opebi, Alausa and environs, were locked up.
As though the lockdown was not enough pain to bear, the select citizens who trooped to Afrika Shrine for the special moment with Macron had to endure an idle wait of more than five hours due to a combination of African and French time.
The event was advertised to begin by 7:00p.m. with guests expected to be seated by 4:00p.m. but time was frozen until the arrival of Macron a few minutes before 10:00p.m.
One frustrated motorist, Gbenga Ajiboye, managed a sarcastic remark: “Macron should please visit more often.
We are seeing streetlights getting fixed, roads being tarred around Agidingbi and refuse being promptly evacuated.
After Afrika Shrine, he should visit other parts of Lagos, particularly Ajao Estate and Isolo, because we need to fix the many potholes on Lagos roads.”
The traffic menace was described by a seasoned journalist, Steve Osuji, as the “bandit of a Lagos traffic.
I live in Idimu area of Lagos, and going to work in Matori, which is between Oshodi and Mushin, has become the most punishing act one ever undertook.
“There are three approaches to Matori from Idimu. One is the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, which has been turned belly up under massive but slow-paced reconstruction.
Second is through Ejigbo-Canoe bridge, where two filial potholes have sprouted around Chivita factory areas to render the road hellish and impassable.
And the third alternative is through Jakande-Isolo-Mushin road, which is so riddled with cantankerous potholes. Either of the three options take at least two hours to and fro.
But that may be small matter, if you open my lungs now, it’s sure to look like the inside of an old exhaust pipe because of what I have to inhale in traffic daily.”