I am seriously considering taking an early retirement from driving. The irony is that I actually enjoy driving, I find it therapeutic but I have become increasingly frustrated with driving in Lagos. Matters came to a head at about 8pm last Tuesday when I was driving home after the days job. My friend and colleague was in the car with me and we were actually not too far away from our destination when we heard a loud bang out of nowhere, the car came to a sudden halt. In my shaken state, I looked around only to discover that an oncoming Honda car had crashed into mine. The driver of the car had swerved into us and gone ahead to hit the Jeep coming behind my car! The impact was so loud that it sent the women selling by the roadside scurrying in different directions! By the time we all stepped out of our cars to try to make sense of what had happened and assess the damage done, we discovered that the architect of the accident (the driver of the Honda car) was drunk! He reeked of alcohol through and through! Now, the question was…how does one begin to reason with an intoxicated fellow? Our drunk friend who kept on saying what could only be summarized as gibberish ended up getting a good beating from the driver of the Jeep. The annoying part for me was that he had only N1,500 and 2 miserable looking-seen-better-days Blackberry Bold 2 and Nokia Phones on him but I was consoled by the fact that he got a few blows for his troubles.
When I started driving actively, I always made a conscious effort not to get into any squabbles or confrontations, I wanted to be the model driver who wasn’t quick to get upset or hurl insults at the slightest provocation- needless to say my willpower fell by the wayside pretty soon. On the densely populated chaotic streets of Lagos, I soon found my car being scratched either by a reckless motorcycle rider, tricycle rider or commercial bus driver. Soon enough, I joined the bandwagon of angry motorists who would insult and curse other drivers out of frustration. Of course I didn’t like the fact that I had become like that but the more I tried to hold my tongue. the more it appeared as though the demonic forces that rule the streets conspired to frustrate my resolve. The most painful part is when I am just leaving church on a Sunday feeling all holy and spirit filled only for these trouble makers to cross my path as if they had been sent to me by the devil himself. I would have said something untoward only to feel guilty about “sinning” so soon after leaving the house of God.
The streets of Lagos can best be described as a battle ground for the survival of the fittest. The faint-hearted are unfit for the full blown war that takes place on our brutal roads each day. It is only in Lagos that a crazy commercial bus driver cuts you off your own lane in the most brazen of manners and dares you to do your worst in the process. It is only in Lagos that a cart pusher occupies the whole lane meant for car drivers and keeps moving along at a snail’s pace not giving a hoot about the the many cars and legitimate owners of the right of way honking their horns at him out of frustration. It is only in Lagos that the now ubiquitous tricycle riders leave an unsolicited strip of yellow paint on your car as a parting gift which you would only discover when you get home, just after congratulating yourself on having avoided any incidents on the road that day. In Lagos, you as a driver have to contend with different uniformed men ranging from the bribe seeking Police officers to the hungry looking and (faded) orange shirt wearing Traffic officials aka Yellow Fever to the uncouth Lastma guys to the fault finding FRSC men and worst of all the relentlessly unforgiving Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO). There is no sugar coating the situation…driving in Lagos is a nightmare!
I was reading a tweet by a lady where she opined that anyone who’s 40 years old and above should not be driving in Lagos so as to reduce their risk of getting a heart attack. I am tending towards agreeing with her at this point. I am nowhere near 40 but sometimes I feel like pulling out my hair due to all the madness I experience on the road each day. Spending 3 hours in traffic for a journey of 30 minutes, contending with the one-way loving Okada riders (yes, they are back on some Lagos roads) who for some strange reason believe they have nine lives, and dealing with miscreants who are on the prowl looking to rob motorists at night, I tell you driving in Lagos is certainly not a walk in the park.