People who work in engineering or programming are familiar with the terms unit testing and system testing.
Unit testing is when you take a particular piece of equipment, machinery, or code, and you test it alone independent of everything else.
Once it has passed that test, you put that piece in the context that it will be used, in an engine or a process, and test the entire thing to see if your small piece works in the big picture. Sometimes things that work well as a unit fail when you move them to system testing.
Nigeria as a society contains a lot of systems, many of them broken. Take road transportation for example. Within that system, you have the roads, the vehicles, and the drivers as units.
The first of these units, the roads, are bad. If you want a real laugh, take a map and calculate the relative distance between any two points. The distance between Lagos and Abuja is about 500 kilometres (approx 300 miles.) That should take you less than 5 hours going at a little over 100 km/hr in an ideal world. The trip normally takes eight to ten hours, and there are no really terrible roads on that stretch.
If you want terrible roads, try Mokwa to Bida in Niger state. At only 60 miles, the trip should take an hour. Even if you were able to complete the ride in two hours (an unlikely possibility), you would be in so much pain from the jostling and bumping that you would be physically unable to go on.
And I have heard stories about roads in the South-East that so bad the stories are like legends. They are myths that I cannot speak of until I verify them with mine own eyes.
The vehicles are supposed to be governed by a very loose system of determining road worthiness that isn’t taken seriously anywhere. I’ve entered buses held together by paper tape and chewing gum. Twice this week, two different taxis to work have broken down and I’ve had to get down to push them while the driver mutters to himself that this always happens to him at the worst time. My apologies for inconveniencing you, sir.
All these vehicles pass through the Federal Road Safety checkpoints smiling as they are waved on. Thumbs up, you are road worthy.
Most motorcycles don’t have license plates or any visible registration, and some of them are ridden by children.
And the drivers? The licensing is a joke. If I was sufficiently bored, I could get four driver’s licenses for myself in the same or as many states all in different names. Hell, I could get you and your toddler drivers’ licenses as well, and I don’t know you, don’t have to meet you and don’t care if you can drive.
As expected, when you combine all three of these units, bad roads, poor cars and untested drivers, you get an alarming number of accidents.
Someone releases the statistics under the headline “Accidents have increased by a million percent in the past ten years!!” Everyone panics, makes a lot of noise and a bold voice in the government comes up with a solution that looks pretty.
The problem is that every proposed solution is a unit fix.
They come up with something ridiculous like the seat belt law. All drivers and front seat passengers must wear seat belts. Sign it, stamp it, and all parties responsible for the law get their pictures in the newspapers.
No one suggests that we also tighten the vehicle safety checks to confirm that the seat belts function as a proper restraints in an accident. You can put an unattached seat belt across your shoulders and tuck it into your trousers to pass through all police checkpoints. Hurray for safety.
And have you seen these vehicles that you are asking us to strap ourselves to? In an accident, I would much rather be thrown out of a burning wreck, doused in petrol, into heavy traffic, than safely secured in the front seat of most buses. Definitely not one of those buses without windows whose exhaust pipe is feeding smoke back inside for the passengers to enjoy.
Then there is the motorcycle helmet law without the accompanying law verifying that the helmets work.
One time, I was on a bike wearing my helmet, the driver took a sharp turn and my helmet flew off my head into a ditch. The driver stopped, retrieved the helmet, and insisted I put it back on so “they don’t catch us.”
Just in case you are uncertain, I guarantee you that none of these unpadded helmets without chin hooks is going to save your life in an accident.
You can take that statement to the bank, or the hospital, or wherever you end up after the crash.
Soon, a government official will show up on TV with a confused look on his face counting off, on his fat fingers, the things they have done and wondering why the accident rate still hasn’t gone down.
Don’t look at me, man, I am just as surprised as you are.