The Sacred Zebras and Nigerian Driving
Regrettably, there is a zebra that almost all drivers violate every now and then on Nigerian roads, in particular those who drive in the cities. In fact, so many people do not even realize that they violate this zebra, and that they do it without scruples or inhibitions. Now, it’s important to point that just as cows are sacred in some places notably India, this zebra is recognized as sacred in all cultures across the globe. Surely, you would be wondering where people violate this zebra since this animal is naturally found in certain countries.
Interestingly, this zebra is man-made. Again, you would be wondering how easy has it become it for animals to be cloned since ‘dolly’ the sheep, after all, the animal in question seems to be ubiquitous. Well, so much for the riddle, this animal is simply our zebra crossing. Man-made isn’t it; and of course made sacred-not to be violated. But rather than be venerated it is always desecrated.
Consequently, the zebra crossing is so endangered in that it is mercilessly despised by motorists, and with impunity: it gets little or no concern and sympathy from the motorists since as once see it they just mow it down, oblivious of the fact that the violation of the zebra crossing is especially outlawed on our streets. And though it is an offence to desecrate this zebra, people still get scot free with the crime, and almost all the time: maybe because they do not recognize the zebra or they simply don’t know that it is a sacred animal-sacred zebra- and thus sacrosanct. But then my main problem is that this zebra gets mowed down together with its users or riders.
Parking on a zebra crossing
Interestingly, it is when the users or riders get on the zebra crossing that their lives are really put at risk. This is because the motorist seems to be zebra-oblivious, blind or insensitive. Thus, as the zebra crossing is being preyed upon, those on it are equally victims. And the main concern is the people who regularly use this zebra, and this is simply because people tend to be violated together with this animal.
The main problem is simply that people do not recognize this zebra, let alone respect one when they see it. It is as if when they see the zebra they just want to kill it-.road hogs, one would call them. The road traffic officials equally don’t seem to help matters because they mostly, if not all the time, don’t give any form of penalization to the drivers. On side B, to coin a phrase, most people who use or ride this zebra are naïve. I mean they just climb this zebra and think the motorists will equally respect them. But unfortunately, this is the time you have to scram for your life or scream blue murder because of the seemingly disrespect and disregard the motorists have for the users of the zebra: they just come at you as if they really want to get at you or kill you. After all, I had thought that the zebras were a very decent means to cross the road, as they are particularly suited or built for that purpose. So, it becomes a disservice to use or ride one when crossing the road. Just imagine how such a convenient means of transportation is being denied people.
However, one should never assume that the motorists have road sense or know a thing. It is therefore recommended that one should simply mount the periphery of the zebra crossing and test the waters as it were: if you see a vehicle approaching and then reduce their speed then one knows that they recognize the zebra crossing, but if they don’t,you had better not attempt to cross the road; for I have once seen driver’s even shout at one pedestrian to clear off the road. This is particularly the case with commercial Motorcycle riders - notorious Okada: it is almost as if they should crush you for ‘trampling their rights’ by crossing on a zebra.
Ideally, once drivers see anyone mount the zebra crossing, they are required to grant safe passage, for this is a means of passage. Thus, vehicles are expected to grind to a halt once anyone mounts, or indicates intention to mount the zebra crossing. In developed climes, one can almost cross with the zebra crossing with one’s eyes closed. The norm is that you cross with a zebra without asking for it .But here, it is as if, even if you cross at all- the number of times one does this-is like a drop in the ocean. And mostly because such people have been abroad and have come to recognize and respect one, once they see one. But then, kudos to the few who observe it though not yet travelled.
Thus, one could get crushed if you simply imagine that the average driver knows the road rules and understands. This is particularly so when people come from other countries, and just think that because the zebra is available that people could freely cross with one. The result could just be manslaughter; and this would have terrible implications for the image of our country. After all, if a road sign is put up people expect that other road users would respect it.
Regrettably, this problem is particularly observed in down town areas where it is even expected that people should know the rules. To illustrate, the other day I saw an expatriate Caucasian woman almost get knocked off a zebra on Ajose Adeogun in Victoria Island, Lagos: she saw that vehicles were coming at her at full speed instead of slowing down; she then had to raise her hand toward the vehicles and demand that they should stop, but alas! they continued and she could only leave the road for them, by jumping off the zebra crossing - her right to cross the road being denied. And just imagine the scandal this would have caused us in the foreign media if they had knocked her down.
Some people, on the other hand, do not realize the importance or purposes of this zebra. They just stand at the side of the zebra crossing or and remain there. Also, others will see the zebra and decide rather to go and cross the road just a meter or so away from the zebra. This makes for bad driving as people who recognize the zebra just expect that people will cross the road with one. Unfortunately, if such people get knocked down, people would blame the driver. This phenomenon in our society- I mean the non-observance of these civilized rules- is what my lecturer in public administration called the prismatic society syndrome: it’s about people who are coming out of rural or rustic settings and are mostly boorish; but they find themselves in a highly developed existence and then they are torn between the two kinds of existence.
In view of the foregoing depiction of life on Nigerian roads, I am compelled to voice out my concerns for the authorities to take action. Really, what is required to tackle this problem is enlightenment; for people need to get information as to the purpose of the zebra. If they don’t, how are they to recognize or respect one in the first place? But regrettably, the Nigerian society is a place where people, many people have a driver’s license without having gone to the driving school nor taken a test.
Furthermore, what baffles me about this attitude of drivers is why they do not respect simple rules set down for sanity in society .I wonder that we just cannot exercise the simple discipline of just respecting the pedestrian right to cross the road more so in a place that is particularly unsafe for pedestrians to normally cross the road. Somehow, I think it is generally in our character to disobey rules, particularly those that do not benefit us directly. Contrariwise, we tend to observe such rules when we know that there are people watching-how unfortunate. For example, one place I have seen motorist respect the rules more often than not is at the Lagos state secretariat. Since they know they are being watched, most motorists just pull to halt at the zebra .But at other places the opposite is the case. So, we at best they do it in place where we know people are watching .Thus, we know how to observe the zebra crossing!
In this regard, given the delicacy of this traffic provision and its implications for pedestrians, people could be easily maimed or even killed if hit by a vehicle. I want to propose that a fine of N10,000 for those who violate the zebra crossing –State governments take note, especially Lagos state government. This should be included in the new traffic laws. I mean I do not see what is there for motorists to wait at most 1 minute for people to cross. Rather, it is sheer selfishness and above all gross irresponsibility and indiscipline when people violate traffic such laws.
Beyond sanctions, there should therefore be a systematic and sustained campaign to ensure that people get to know where this zebra is found, its characteristics, and so on. To this end, there must be jingles about the need to respect this zebra in the different media options such as the radio and television, and in the different languages. Importantly, the road authorities and road officials must ensure that before licenses are granted motorists they are asked road rules about this zebra.
Thus a full blown campaign should be immediately embarked upon by the different State governments especially in Lagos state government-for it is the Peoria of Nigeria. Also, Federal road authorities should join this campaign. Corporate organizations should also come in here as well as other road related business to enlighten the public about the need for people to respect the zebra crossing. Importantly, traffic authorities should take on defaulters or zebra crossing offenders and bring them to book, in order to make examples. Also, since offenders can be recorded in their act with phone cameras and so on, the authorities should build their systems in such a way that such footage can be used to determine culpability. Also, CCTV cameras can be deployed at places where the zebra crossing is stationed so as to take shots of offenders and then go after them .The public should also be made to know that that there is surveillance and that people can report offenders as well. Thus, with time, this menace on our streets will be drastically reduced if not eradicated. Furthermore I want to advocate for a Zebra crossing day during which the benefits of crossing this zebra will be brought to the fore. Although there is a road safety day during which this zebra issue can be brought to the fore. I think considering the distinctiveness of the zebra being the right of pedestrians it should be given some exclusivity. Also, because this is a serious problem on our roads it should be given prominence as it can get overshadowed by other road issues on a regular road safety day. Long live the zebra crossing!- the sacred zebras.