Saying Yes to Nigeria [4]

Naija in my Blood

Perhaps nothing reveals the spirit of a city like the attitude of its drivers. Do not even speak of the courtesies you possess until you have driven in rush hour on the streets of Lagos, where every hour is rush hour.

“Foolish man, can’t you see I’m indicating?” she cast a sideways glance at the offender. 200 metres later, with one hand on the steering and the other on her temple, she yelled at another offender, “Are you mad?” A minute later, she placed her hands on her horn repeatedly in bursts, peep, peep, peeeeep, “Stay on your lane!” And at the roundabout, looking less confident, she let out, “If you scratch my car, you will pay o!”

I watched her chest heave and dip, heave and dip, as we rode from Victoria Island to Lekki, while she continued her monologue with drivers who couldn’t hear her because we were cocooned in air-conditioned comfort in her car.

“They can’t even hear you,” I said.

“They can,” she insisted, but changed tactics, making me the subject of dialogue. “Timi, see what that driver is doing? That’s the problem with—”

“You’re going to give yourself a heart attack at this rate; can’t you just drive without the commentary?”

“You don’t understand, wait until you start driving.” She was darting in and out of lanes, “You can’t stay on one lane in this Lagos, you’ll never get anywhere . . .”

Famine brings out our worst instincts and the famine in Lagos is severe—lack of good roads, petrol, patience, politeness, empathy, sanity, alternative transportation like trams, trains, or water transport, diligent traffic wardens, and a responsive government.

Driving in Lagos has not changed. But I have. Or do I still have Naija in my Blood 

Read about my former experience, which is still relevant today here.

© Timi Yeseibo 2016

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


27 thoughts on “Saying Yes to Nigeria [4]

  1. Haha. Watching my parents drive in Lagos has made me desire it less.

    Naija in my blood eh? Lol, I always side-eye my Dad when he insinuates something like that – especially when we are not in Nigeria.

    Let me go and read the original or at least revisit it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. There’s a huge forestfire 800 km. north of our city. Several thousand people drove (when the fire wasn’t as big 4 days ago) or flown south to 2 other cities, one of them being ours for temporary housing, food, etc.

    It is a disaster situation right now. And some people have lost their houses and belongings. However this still isn’t a war situation.

    Anyway, sadly 2 children (firefighter’s children) died on the car drive south in people’s attempt to flee. The traffic was actually quite orderly…so not sure what happened. But very sad and unnecessary.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have driven in some pretty dicey places in the world and the worst was in Puerto Rico. A close second was Nairobi. Pretty much every man for himself and total chaos as one dodges the matatus which have accidents nearly every day. As you say each city is defined by its drivers. Louisville has its problems too. Careless drivers who pull out with out looking. Distracted drivers who are on their cell phones. Gives a whole new meaning to “defensive driving.'” Stay calm and drive.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Timi,

    This was a great read. I laughed a lot as I recalled my daily commute on the battlefield that camouflages as Lagos roads.

    I pondered this- “Famine brings out our worst instinct” and felt pensive for a bit, sad for Nigeria. The pieces of rot gradually contaminate our morale till it crumbles. The situation has escalated into a society with its people comparable to walking time-bombs, who will explode at the slightest hint of provocation. Expectedly, pent-up frustrations eventually find an outlet, whether justifiable or not.

    “Do not even speak of the courtesies you possess until you have driven in rush hour on the streets of Lagos” Spot on! XD

    I am usually well-behaved but once I get inside my car, my crazy alter ego automatically takes over the steering wheel. Driving defensively with anger slowly bubbling is so draining.

    For added measure, I also blast my car horn to match the syllables in my commentary. Ah, they can hear me o, well-well. Lol

    Liked by 2 people

    1. @ the battlefield that camouflages as Lagos roads, I know! It reveals so much about our society. Some say the problems and solutions to Nigeria’s issues can be found in traffic!

      It’s as if one becomes ‘possessed’ by Lagos driving spirit. Yes, even the gentlest souls have found redundant aggressive genes on the road 😉

      I hope the other drivers can hear your horn in the mix!
      Drive safe, Nedu. Thanks 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Driving 60 years in various parts or the US and riding around Europe and the UK seems like it’s not a particular city or country, it’s the increase in number of people and particularly people driving cars.
    It’s become every “man” for “him”self. I see the same kind of obliviousness to others in grocery stores. Everywhere is crowded and everyone’s life is overloaded, so we are all in a hurry.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, we all seem to be in a hurry… And ‘full’ of ourselves ….

      I’ve never seen the Nigerian brand of chaos anywhere else. The aggression and lack of courtesy, well… But with no one to enforce the rules as sometimes happens, it is a free-for-all mayhem!

      I guess the difference is having an authority that can enforce compliance. This forces people to ‘behave’ and eventually informs what is acceptable behavior ….


    1. So what’s their excuse in Chicago?

      Perhaps I should clarify as someone mentioned that famine evokes a certain image. Not famine in the traditional sense of lack of food and severe hunger, but a lack or scarcity of patience, alternative means of transportation, etc. I placed a hyphen linking both sentences. I hope it’s clearer.


    1. People who give running commentary as they drive? Or do you mean the general craziness?

      Sometimes all the drivers are driving as though they are all in a hurry and no one wants to yield. In the absence of traffic lights or wardens, a junction can become your worst nightmare.


  6. The more I read about Lagos living and driving the more I’m inclined to think maybe some are ‘genetically’ wired to live in that city.
    I also think the famine in Lagos paints a general picture of the country .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Tamie, Lagos takes some getting used to.

      I highlight one crazy aspect of the city, but it isn’t the only story of Lagos. Lagos is vibrant, exciting, fun, cosmopolitan, a cultural melting point, and a city where something is always happening. Her people are warm and cold like city people are, sophisticated, and they are hustlers!

      There is ‘famine’ in other parts of the country too, as well as other stories.

      If you have friends who could act as tour guides and ‘chaperons’ come visit. Don’t venture here on your own though… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah I know the city is a lot of other things. I do get some ‘I wish I live in Lagos ‘ moments. Cos there just seem to be more to explore in Lag.

        Lol, thanks for the warning.. The few times I’ve been, I didn’t even dream to venture alone.
        I love the vibrancy of the city sha….from a distance.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Hi Tamie,

          Yes, more to explore, the social scene in Lagos is vibrant, but sometimes one arrives at the fun spots feeling rather frazzled because a journey that should have taken no longer than 30 minutes got so well fed by traffic palava, that it grew into 3 hours. 😀

          Liked by 2 people

  7. This piece reminds me of Nedoux’s Valid.

    I’ve never thought of Lagos’ situation in terms of famine. The feverish energy we all seem to possess in this city runs counter to the lethargic image of people struck by famine in my mind. But again, Lagos is always a crisis close to apocalypse, and I’ve watched too many end-of-days movies to know what that might look like.

    I do think Lagos has been a bit fortunate though. In spite of the ways things could be improved, compared to the rest of Nigeria, the state is getting people who seem to have a sense of the way government should work.

    BTW, I do that talking at other drivers too when I drive (even in Ibadan o, with ac on), and I join that sister in saying they definitely hear. The must to, because it’s not like I’m a crazy person or anything. Shouting at okada and keke riders just works, even when they are just reading my lips.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Now you mention it perhaps famine is not the best metaphor I could have used. And yes, Lagos has made giant strides, but the driving madness persists. It brings out the ‘beast’ in us …

      Ah so you also do the ‘commentary’ thing, lol! 🙂

      Lagos is always a crisis close to apocalypse …. hmmm …

      Liked by 1 person

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