Before I got the idea of blogging from a correspondence that I received from the BBC World Service, I used to type down my thoughts and musings and would either send them off to some newspaper or magazine publisher or I would just save them in my pc, with no particular idea in mind. Some of the things I have written about have ranged from family issues, relationships and comments on society in general, such as this one below that I did sometime last year. Not much has changed since then and this week I have been reminded of several things that I noted then, by the behavior of my fellow Ugandans on our public roads.
In the days to come I hope to share with those who visit this spaces some of the thoughts I have typed down and stored away in my pc. Here is the first one, if you will leave a comment when you done with reading.
Someone once said that if revival won’t come to the church, there is no point in blaming the unsaved, for the condition in the world reflects quite accurately the condition of the church.
We may deplore the terrible conditions around us. We may cry about the awful moral standards, the drinking and drugs, the gambling and the pleasure seeking, but all these things are restrained or not according to the measure of the spirit of God upon the church. If the world has forgotten God it is because the church has permitted her to do so.
And the condition of the church is traceable to her leaders. Revival must begin in the church (Ref. Herald of His Coming).
If we may apply this analogy to the condition in our taxis/roads today and the mentality of some of the people who ride these taxis every day, we might find some very striking similarities.
Rarely does the public fail to place the blame for accidents and the lack of discipline on the roads on taxi drivers/operators especially in and around Kampala. I think, though, that sometimes the public ought to have its fair share of the blame if sanity is to prevail on our roads.
Lately, there have been unusual morning traffic jams Kampala, at least that is the case on the road that I travel. One mid morning I was in such a jam when suddenly some of the passengers begun to complain and jeer at the taxi driver. Soon, the jeering and complaining turned into loud insults. Omusajja ono talina amagezi (This man has no wisdom), shouted one lady. Another one went on to tell the driver that he was dull and without the right survival instincts, for this a world the sharp witted. He was therefore unfit for life.
Did the poor man deserve all these insults for patiently staying on the lane he was supposed to be on like any other driver in his right mind? Thank goodness the gentleman kept his cool, save asking for what he could do in such a situation other than tow the line and wait for other vehicles to move. Anyway, the irate passengers would have none of that cool headed stuff. And at the end of journey the conductor was given less fare than what was initially agreed upon despite the fact that that figure agreed upon because of the long traffic jam.
By all appearances, this was a good taxi driver who should have been applauded by his passengers. He did not play football with his omnibus by swerving it from one lane to the other; neither did he attempt overtaking in all the wrong directions. Taxis playing football is how one terrified Ugandan described what he saw when he first rode in a Kampala omnibus after three decades living overseas.
If and when a taxi driver commits a traffic offence and is apprehended, should we not probably stop and think before we apportion responsibility. Well, some might just shrug it off with an he has kisirani(bad luck) remark without realizing or acknowledging that somehow someone else might have influenced his behavior on the road even though he is the man in charge. When passengers encourage taxi drivers to deny other road users the right of passage, however late we might be for work or whatever business, we are as guilty of selfishness as every body else, and may be responsible for whatever negative things that behavior might result into.
Sometimes, I have waved a taxi to halt only to realize that it is already full. The driver however chose to stop to take in another passenger. I have often declined the offer but sometimes at a prize of jeers and unsavory comments from the conductor and even some passengers while they should have been glad that I declined the offer. When shall we pay heed to the adage, “do not keep all your eggs in one basket?” Not long ago did a ferry capsize off the coast of Senegal resulting in a loss of about eight hundred lives – more than twice the number of passengers it was authorized to carry. Often a taxi conductor or driver asks passengers in an already full to capacity omnibus if there is anybody whose destination is before town so that he can let in an extra passenger. Sometimes passengers just keep quite and sometimes they do answer in affirmative, which to the conductor/driver is permission to overload. In such a situation I am oft to wonder if to these fellows, the traffic laws are only applicable in and near the city center and approaches to traffic police checkpoints? Or is it just the passengers’ state of arrival in town that matters and not the way they travel the journey through?
The encouragement of people to do wrong is not limited to the roads, though. Straight out of college, I once had the weird opportunity of receiving advice from a very wicked old man. He asked me whether I was minting money in the company I had just joined or I was just sleeping while others had their share of the national cake. Well, your guess may be as good as mine as to the meaning of his advice. When the humble go on the right course, however hard it gets, we say they are unrealistic but when the so-called sharp get caught we say they have kisirani. Should we not have applauded the upright and scorned the crooked.
Whether we talk of taxi or bus drivers or conductors or any other road users, they are all extracts of the society we live. And if the society is unwillingly to take a look at itself and think, it will be sheer hypocrisy to expect the man in the mirror to have a different appearance. It is time we applauded to the hero and crucified the villain rather ridicule virtue instead of vice.