The cross junction at Pako Bus Stop, Akoka, Lagos, is famous for its early morning chaos. Being a major road that leads to one of our nation’s first generation universities, the University of Lagos, and the Federal College of Technology, Akoka, and a host of other schools and work places, it usually attracts a lot of traffic.
Vehicles coming from different directions converge at the junction, causing a long queue that sometimes sneaks into the otherwise quiet residential streets of Akoka. At such times, the sound of vehicle horns becomes the music in the air.
To bring some form of order to this scene in the absence of the police, Federal Road Safety or LASTMA officials, requires some level of bravado. On that note, Segun Obafemi is one brave man. Every weekday morning, he is seen at the bus-stop controlling the surge of vehicles.
He has been at this task for many years, he says; he can’t quite remember when he started. “I noticed that there is usually hold-up at the junction every morning because there are a lot of schools and offices here, and there will be nobody to control them.
Sometimes, because everyone is rushing, they will hit each others’ cars and have accidents. I started controlling the traffic because I didn’t have anything to do and nobody was doing the work,” he explains with a mix of Yoruba and English words.
“When I started, I wasn’t doing it every day. But now I come to the bus stop every morning except on weekends, and I stop when the traffic stops. The LASTMA people were not coming here before but now they come here often,” he said.
‘The motorists obey me’
Mr Obafemi is not always alone. Sometimes, he is assisted by a man who is deaf and dumb. In a city where traffic regulations are easily disobeyed even in the presence of a uniformed officer, Mr Obafemi says he has no problems getting compliance from the motorists.
“Everybody knows me here. All the bus drivers that use this road know me very well and they respect me whenever I tell them to stop or to go. I have been doing this for many years and even those people living in the area know me also.”
Despite the fact that he isn’t paid for the job, Mr Obafemi isn’t fazed by this and says he will continue doing it until God gives him something else to do.
“Nobody pays me. I am doing this work for God. Sometimes, the rich drivers who appreciate my work give me something when they are passing. But I don’t beg for money. I just control the traffic, that’s all.”
Friday Arinze, a resident of Community Road, Akoka, said Mr Obafemi’s volunteer work has been instrumental in controlling the traffic.
“I moved to this area in 2007 and I have been seeing this man here every morning when I’m driving to work for the past three years. He has been doing a good job controlling the traffic in this area.”
A commercial driver, who simply identified himself as Babs, also corroborated this view.
“I wonder what this road will be like if Segun was not here. I drive from Unilag to Bariga many times in a day and the holdup is usually tough, especially in the mornings. The man is really trying. If he is not here, people will just be driving anyhow.”