Happy New Year. I wish you many breakthroughs in your life and business this year with a word of caution. Please don’t move too fast so that you don’t miss the details, make mistakes or even crash. You have to be alive to tell your story, anytime, any day.

Why do I say this? The world is moving so fast. If we all don’t slow down, we may all be heading for a big crash. You can learn something from the synthesis of information about my country Nigeria on moving too fast. See whether there are comparable experiences in your own country.

The brief

I have been commissioned to prepare a study about mobility in Nigeria and the sustainability of 2008 travel. This is the brief.

People are traveling very fast these days. The tempo of mobility is going on at dizzying speed. Why are people traveling this fast? Where are they rushing to? Please initiate a study and prepare a report that will address these issues; identify the causes of the fast pace of travel; answer the questions above; and design a storytelling programme that can report regularly about the changing dynamics of traveling this decade.

Issues to consider

Do not ramble, but tell us a great story about how people are moving. Not only tell, show us. Do not attempt to use the world as your study centre. Your report will be unwieldy. Besides, you do not have the resources and the global reach to do so. Take an emerging market in Asia or an African country as your case study. Study the rail, road, sea and air transport and tell us a good story we can use to change the fast tempo.

Do not over emphasise a particular transport sector. Give all of them equal attention; dissect the problems, trace developments over the years, relate how the fast tempo is affecting lifestyles, do a comparative analysis, draw parallels from a few foreign countries, then prepare an agenda-setting report that has universal application. Remember not to dwell too much on the past. Simply trace the build-up to our fast tempo today, and do not forget to make recommendations. The issue is not just that we are traveling very fast. There are matters arising. Where are we rushing to? Is the world getting smaller? Are the 24 hours each day and night no longer enough? Many questions demanding answers.

If you choose to study Nigeria, take these hints and observations from me. Do not concentrate on Lagos, the commercial nerve centre, or Abuja, the nation’s capital or the oil city of Port Harcourt (PH). Study from the northern city of Sokoto near the Sahara desert, to Calabar in the south near the Atlantic ocean.

Do not depend so much on secondary research data. Do an original study. Visit Nigeria’s 19 airports. Some of them are international airports. Find out how international they are. Check out the functionality of the Instrument Landing and other facilities there. Do not forget maintenance and safety of the airports.

Move on to the cities during the rush hours. It is a bedlam. People rush and get stuck in the traffic. No movement. In Lagos metropolis alone, more than $500 million is lost annually to traffic jams.

To make your work easy, these are the signposts to look out for. Traffic jams, ports congestion, electric power cuts, dilapidated roads and the boom in executive travel between the city trinity of Lagos-Abuja-PH. These three cities command the greatest pull for professionals and corporate executives as they chase top government functionaries and chief executives of oil companies for contracts and jobs.

There are more

There used to be the odd-even number car travel rule on Lagos roads. Night travel in luxurious buses is booming though there are hazards. Some factors are responsible for this. Air travel is going beyond the reach of many professionals. They want to want save hotel costs. So what do they do? They board a 52-seater luxury bus at 9pm and arrive at their destinations 5am following morning. Some of the bus companies offer business class services complete with air conditioning, on-board catering services, toilet facilities and in-flight entertainment.”

Night travel by bus is risky in Nigeria. But luxurious bus operators are doing roaring business. There is big demand for their services. Travelers want to save on cost and time. It is as if they are moving to different time zones. Plenty of road hazards. Many reported cases of accidents, buses plunging into rivers at night, many passengers die. Do not forget to factor in safety against the background of rising wave of armed robbery. There is no stopping the luxurious buses and passengers. For safety, every night bus carries two armed escorts, soldiers in mufti, armed with automatic guns. Going faster…where are we rushing to?

In Part 2 of this brief, we shall discuss the state of highways, seaports, regulation and crime. Plenty of stories to tell in the fast tempo of today’s travel.

Eric Okeke is a storyteller, editor, business writer, motivational speaker and author of the best selling book: I Want a Husband. He is one of Nigeria’s most experienced financial journalists. He has published several articles in local and foreign publications and in websites such as http://www.ezinearticles.com, www.ezinearticles.com and www.writingcareer.com. He is currently running Infomedia Company, a media consulting and information marketing company. Visit his blog at http://sallywantsahusband.blogspot.com

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