I have travelled wide but Nigeria remains one of the few countries where mentally challenged people are allowed to roam our major roads. In view of this, the driver is faced with the dilemma of ‘navigating’ our ever present potholes and the mad people who work freely along the kerbs of our highways. These mad people can cross the road anytime; hence, the onus lies on the driver to apply sudden brake even if that will have some deleterious effects to both the driver and his passengers. Travelling from Port Harcourt to Umuahia through the Enugu-Port Harcourt Highway every day, one can count at least thirty mentally challenged people walking freely on the kerbs of our deep-potholes-stricken Federal Highway. I still wonder if there is a special Psychiatry school that teaches these mad people on how to walk on the kerbs of our highways .
I now ask: who are the relatives of these mad people? This question is important because an Igbo adage says that one does not know that a mad man has relatives until the mad man is knocked down by a vehicle. I trust my people because if any driver falls into this trap set with these mad people, then the driver will be made to understand that the mad man has at least four children he is training in the university, among other developmental projects the dead mad man was carrying out before he was knocked down by the innocent driver. Expectedly, the driver will pay through his nose if he does not want to be prosecuted, failure of which the law enforcement agents will charge him for murder and our press will turn the incidents into juicy headlines on the national dailies. It will take series of court adjournments and legal battles for the driver’s lawyer to commute the charge to Manslaughter .
Come to think of it, what is the role of our social service in the ministry of women development/affairs both at the state and federal levels? Are they not supposed to ensure that these mad people are cleared off our highways and sent to where they can be taken care of medically and socially? Who feeds on the money earmarked for such a programme in our budgets? I still wonder what these mad people are doing on the kerbs of our highways. Some of them equally walk freely on the centre of our highways. The presence of these mentally challenged people on our highways should equally be a source of concern for our law enforcement agents in this period of security challenges. What if some criminal elements cash in on the ubiquity of mad people on our roads to perpetrate their crimes? The case of Clifford Orji and his like is still fresh in my memory.
Dr Paul John
Port Harcourt, Rivers state