The evidence is screaming. Most of the narrow winding paths that are pompously referred to as roads in this country are death traps by any other name. It is also a fact that before independence, whose fiftieth anniversary was celebrated with near idiotic fanfare, certain roads West of the Mungo were better off than they are today.
What beats the record of the poor state of roads in Cameroon today are the fleets of luxurious cars, whose monetary worth could have constructed modern highways in every part of the Republic light years ago. But as it stands, Cameroon is like the very rich man with so much meat to spare, that he seeks the stomach for this meat, rather than seeking meat for his hungry stomach. These cars, that cost the tax payer hundreds of billions of dollars, litter the landscape, plying on roads that existed in other poorer African countries in the past tense. Even as we write, roads are still being constructed in tandem with old technological conceptions, tastes and exigencies, with a hell of noise regularly made at end of year speeches that have long become broken records of Quixotic achievements.
Besides the death traps that authorities insist on referring to as roads, there is the deliberate manipulation of a desperate people; there is this persistent chicanery and other Good Friday pontificating about so called New Deal achievements, even in the face of precious life and limb being lost daily in highway carnages on account of other greedy and corrupt-prone tendencies of the apostles of the grand stands.
Whereas very poor countries like Mali and Niger had long built third and second bridges over the River Niger years back, it took litanies of promises, foot dragging and political pimping for Cameroon to start building one over the Wouri. To make matters worse, when it was about to start, national business came to a standstill; hundreds of millions of tax payers’ money was spent in unnecessary spin-doctoring for the Head of State and thousands of man hours were frittered away, all in the name of laying a foundation stone. Talk of spending the pound to catch the penny!
While this grandstanding continues, vehicular flow in pot-hole riddled towns like Bamenda has culminated in harrowing, albeit, avoidable traffic jams. The attendant regime of misery is manifested in stress related ailments and deaths.
To add insult to injury, road safety administration in the country is a bazaar of sorts; a meal ticket for fawning cheer-leaders and Man Fridays and publicity stunts for army Generals and others ranking as such, who, occasionally line the highways in the name of ensuring road safety measures. Occasionally too, officials of the Transport Ministry hit the roads, checking speeding drivers; converting traffic crimes into fines and boasting about it. We are not forgetting those who offer bribe here and there to get off the hook...
Hardly any thing concrete is done about setting up a credible road safety administration and management to, at the worst, render the already precarious highways safer than is presently the case. Take a town like Buea with relatively good roads. The Council is doing something to instil order. But it is, at best, sporadic and sadly not enough. The Mayor needs to, as a matter of policy, work hand in glove with the police, to render the newly built roads here safe for both motorists and pedestrians.
Road users ought to be constantly educated on traffic discipline. Apparently the Buea Council has too many idle men on its pay roll. On a daily basis, they hover around the Mile 17 motor park area, fleecing bribes from illegal transporters. They could be redeployed to ensure law and order along the stretch from Mile 17 to the Governor’s office. Driving here is provocatively chaotic. Taxi drivers are a disgusting nuisance on this stretch of the boulevard, where life and limb and other property are daily destroyed by their callousness. They pick up passengers in the middle of the road. It is that bad! They are having a field day, having converted the slow lane into a parking lane, short and simple. At the rate by which they are going, Buea streets should become un-pliable in a matter of just two years from now.
That said, rather than resorting to the burnt out tantrums of road safety campaigns, The Post suggests a well defined sustainable policy that can stand the test of verification. We suggest that rather than reduce road safety to the intermittent campaigns at Christmas and “Rentrée Scolaire” periods, holistic action as could permanently address the wanton carnage on our roads be adopted and sustained.
Obstructions that are left on the highways for days, weeks, months and even years ought to be done and dusted. Road signs that are sometimes mounted in English speaking zones in French only are, to say the least, common sense, turned upside down. Issuance of driving licences to unqualified persons is, as it were, sadistic and should be checked. It is, at best, tantamount to licensing killers on the highways. Mobile phone usage while driving should be discouraged by way of fines and prison terms.
The Generals and their associates might have succeeded to some extent in checking excessive speeding; but that’s not all. Many other components that make for road safety have to be considered as a matter of prime importance.
This is our verdict!