Hardly a year passes without a renewed call for “deregulation” in one sector or the other of the Nigerian economy, especially the oil sector. Concerning the oil sector, it is not certain what they are they are now doing right, or wrong, or not well, or not even at all. Most importantly, it has been quite a while since we have been faced with our seasonal – yes, o! – “fuel scarcity.” You have not lived in Lagos if you never experienced one of those. Overnight, petrol stations become car parks, and their attendants double as security officers and traffic wardens. A second-tier market emerges in petrol and other petroleum products. In many parts of the city, lanes on the apologetic tar coloured mud tracks called roads are reduced into one. It will be understood if you are finding hard to associate the concept of lanes with our roads.
“Lanes,” in Lagos experience, are simply the motorist’s estimate of how many cars can be squeezed side by side on the road. This could be two to five, depending on whose judgment you are basing this on. For example, the “danfo” driver is unrepentantly convinced of the absolute malleability of the panel of which his vehicle’s body consists and therefore believes he can fit into any available space or gap in the flow of vehicles. Of course, if you are a “big man,” a middle lane always exists, irrespective of the dictates of prudence, no thanks to the ubiquitous accompanying Hilux with their compliment of oft sleeping security.
I cannot help feeling that the argument for moving over to “market pricing” a.k.a. deregulation, misses the whole point. The problem is deeper rooted than it seems. We need to revisit our values, our ethics, and our whole mores. For example, are we short of water because we are not paying “world prices” for water? Is the absence of deregulation the reason why telecoms companies’ ruin roads to lay their cables? The number of roads rendered unmotorable appear to be a primary medium of advertising their presence in the cities.
Paying New York prices for refuse disposal, will not reduce the heaps of refuse that have become the cheap adornment of Lagos roads, even in the most beautiful residential estates, who are not spared their share of shabby lawns and refuse stuffed drains. No, it is not about market pricing or deregulation. The truth is that we need to look within us for the answers. Our administrators and lawmakers need to lead the way. Law shares a circular relationship with society, its culture, and politics; indeed, they are one continuous whole. The laws of any country must reflect the values, culture, and its society, not just its politics. The former can, and must, be shaped by the law. There are norms and standards of orderliness, discipline, and order, which need to be incepted by appropriate laws and policies. This is the challenge that both the executive and legislature must face and innovatively address in the present and future administrations, at Federal, State, and Local Government.
Meanwhile anybody (Nigerian) remember the Operation W.A.I. (War Against Indiscipline)? Or, even Andrew, the hero-patriot of the mid-80’s?