I love driving. Yes, mad as Lagos roads are, I still enjoy driving myself. Once in a while; I join the general madness we all swear we hate yet truly love.
Every Lagos driver will tell you how mad our roads can get, what they won’t tell you is that they are also, in their own way, contributing to this madness.
First, let’s start by identifying the mad men that roam our roads:
The Danfo/Molue drivers are unbeatable; in fact, they are at the top of the chain. In reality, these are the Czars of Lagos roads; there’s no traffic law they won’t break just to get one passenger and I mean, ONE passenger.
They’ll stop on the highway, they’ll pull over on the bridge, they’ll cut across lanes without a glance in their rear view mirrors, (most don’t have rear or side mirrors anyway), they’ll block an entire lane just so ONE passenger can cross over into their buses.
Go on soun to the Tanker/Container/Tipper drivers, these are a little better than Danfo drivers. They are the Princes of Lagos roads and are always red eyed from substance abuse or something. I’m guessing they need more than their normal faculties to drive those huge vehicles around.
Have you ever observed that most Tanker drivers are either chewing goro or fanning themselves because of the heat emanating from the huge engine in the vehicle. These set of road users have killed more people than cancer. They still go around town with un-tensioned containers that fall off and crush other road users to death. So far, no law has been able to enforce compliance or punish non-compliance.
Move down to the BRT drivers and those private bus drivers that usually have – “If my driving is reckless, call xxxxxx.” That sign means nothing because they always drive recklessly and no one ever picks the calls when you try to report, so who’s fooling who here?
Anyway, BRT bus drivers are the captains on our roads and these are very unruly captains, too. Though they have designated lanes, yet many do not comply, instead, they struggle for the strip of road left to the rest of us. It’s no wonder their lanes are messed up and the buses, allegedly purchased as second hand from day one, have all become a sorry sight on Lagos roads.
Ease down to Keke Napep and Okada riders; these are the Jagunlabis, the Otunbas, the Ezes, the Waziris of Lagos roads. You can also view them as the ‘gallant’ horse riders who think themselves invincible. How else would you explain this: you look in your rear view mirror, there’s no okada in sight, then you try to make a sharp turn to avoid those nasty VIOs, alas, one idiot rider zips by so fast you slam your brakes and look heavenwards. You could have killed two people just now, you murmur to yourself as you watch in horror as the ghost rider struggles to pick himself and his bike up from the ground as his shaken passenger rains curses on you for your ‘recklessness’ while ending with the popular: I no blame you, na because say oga buy you big car. (why oga always has to buy the big car beats me.)
You would be smart to zoom off before the VIO approaches you with a menacing look and swagger. Now those VIOs are a topic for another day.
Cruise on to the average private car owner. Picture this: there’s a bad traffic going on, everyone is in a mad rush, as we often are in Lagos. You indicate where you are going, wanting to change lanes or simply to turn into a street. As soon as the next driver who has been idling, sees your lights, he immediately accelerates preventing you from entering his lane.
Hey! Did he think you’ll go with the road when you move into his lane?
No, he’s saying to himself; “You think say I come Lagos come count bridge; abi I wan sleep for road? Gerrout joor, suegbe!
Incidentally, the first words you learn as a Lagosian/ road user, are swear words!
Everyone wants to outsmart you here. So, you roll down your window and plead for space but he looks ahead, dead pan. Out of frustration you curse him; he replies with a barrage of pent up rage. He curses you so badly his words are still ringing in your ears hours later.
Still determined to change lanes, after all, you can’t drive past your destination. Behold it’s a Danfo driver, (every driver knows danfo drivers never allow any other vehicle apart from their kind to change lanes in front of them). Well, his conductor gives you the eye and tells you: “Wo, je ki ori e pe, o. oj e lo yo glass oju e” (Better be sensible here and go get rid of the glasses you are wearing, can’t you see us on the road?)
There will be consequences and repercussions if you fail to heed his warning. He would gladly deliver a dent to your shiny car, leaving a smear of yellow paint.
Idiot! You mouth as you let him pass while giving him the Waka sign.
Move on to crazy Lagosians, the ones we call pedestrians, the ones who will dash across the road without warning and curse you for wanting to kill their dreams; the ones when they fall off an Okada will rather blame the car driver than the mad rider. The ones who will mouth off to other motorists in support of their half-drunk Danfo drivers from hell; the ones who will cross the express roads, right under the foot bridge and blame the devil for such foolery; the ones who will wait at odd places for buses and yet complain about the lawlessness in Lagos.
Lastly, LASTMA/the Police/ VIOs. These occupy a category of their own and we won’t talk about them today, their story deserves a whole article. Awon oloshi!!!
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photo credit: Author