‘The important thing is not to stop questioning,’ Albert Einstein once commented, ‘…never lose holy curiosity.’
Every working day of every week in Lagos, an estimated five million people commute twice by car, bus and trailer across the Lagos Lagoon via three bridges—one of which is the 11.6 km Third Mainland Bridge. These people, mostly residents of suburbs generally referred to as the Lagos Mainland,have to travel for up to three or four hours every morning to their jobs on the more metropolitan Lagos Island because of the heavy vehicular traffic. Then, at the close the work, an even more vicious gridlock of vehicles ambles out of the city’s commercial centre, resulting in some folks reaching their homes as late as midnight for a commute that could have lasted thirty minutes had Lagos been possessed of a robust bridge network or high speed rail system like some of its ‘demographic’ peers: Beijing, Brasilia or Johannesburg.
Some people have often said that necessity is the mother of invention, to which I promptly disagree. Impoverishment by itself has never led anyone to create anything. Rather, the questions individuals asked of themselves, of others and their environment more often than not, have led to discoveries that created some of the inventions we enjoy today.
For instance, it was Steve Jobs’ curiosity that made him drop in on calligraphy classes, allowing us to use different types of fonts today. You see, computers didn’t have features that allowed for different types of fonts until Apple started building its own computers. Microsoft and other computer operating system makers simply copied this feature and today, every computer on the planet can allow you to alter the fonts with which you write.
Why is all of this important, someone might ask. It is important because asking questions is what provides answers.
Imagine how much time would be saved if Lagos had seven or more bridges linking its Mainland to the Island. Time that could be spent on creating something valuable; being a more present parent by not having to leave home so early or come back so late because of traffic; time enough to set up a side gig that fulfils you in ways that the quest for money cannot.
Or imagine that it only took you ten minutes to commute from Oworoshoki to Lekki by high speed rail. Wouldn’t life be grand? Wouldn’t it allow you drop your kids at a near by school before taking off to work if living in Oworonshoki and working in Lekki were your circumstances as is for so many?
I ask these questions because questions change things. They push the human race forward. They query the status quo. If life is about constant change, then questioning gives us the power to make the changes we want to see.
There is also the carbon emissions question that no one seems to be asking. Wouldn’t more bridges or high speed rail reduce the damage we are currently doing to the atmosphere above us? It definitely will. Reducing commute time will significantly lower emissions which for us, and this should now be a priority.
South African-American billionaire and electric car maker, Elon Musk recently made a comment that, ‘unless there’s sustainable transport the future is going to be terrible.’ The question of how future generations are going to cope with the current transport system in Lagos should now matter a lot to us because it will directly impact on our national economy as a whole. And then, there is the Apapa port trailer/tanker question that beckons a resolution in the short, middle and long term.
When we decide to saturate the public space with these and many other questions about our transport system, the answers will show up.
Remember, the important thing is not to stop questioning…never lose holy curiosity.