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 livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Advertisements

Another Day in Tolerance

another day in tolerance

Now that winter is almost here, I have ditched the bus, tram, and train in favour of my car. Away from Potential Bestfriend, Regular Joe, and Young Generation, music accompanies my solitude. My heated interior obliterates memories of last year’s winter, of waiting on bus, tram, and train platforms, whipped by the wicked North Sea wind. In spite of this, I am still having another day in tolerance. Let me introduce you to the characters on my way to work.

The Nerds

People who drive 30km/h on a 30km/h road. To drive behind people like this is to simmer with the pressure of wanting to pee with no toilet in sight. They do not realise thirty is the new sixty. However, they know what it is to pay a 320 Euro traffic fine. You cannot meet their slow-motion stare as they crawl past, moments after you sped past them and the police flagged you down. After you calculate how to pay the fine and still lead a normal life, you laugh aloud at the idiot who just zoomed past you.

The Jokers

People who overtake you with zeal, and then slow down, forcing you to overtake them. As if on cue, they overtake you again and then slow down again. For them life is a game of chess, they have captured your pawns, knights, rookies, and queen too. You know how to beat them nonetheless. After a couple of moves, you decide the game is too juvenile to play. You slow down until they lose interest and speed off to court the next player.

The Sadists

People who drive slower than you do, so that you are right to overtake them. The minute you exert pressure on your accelerator, indicate, and switch to the left lane, something in them comes alive. They pick up speed to match your speed. Since you are already on the left lane, you increase your speed to overtake them. In turn, they increase their speed so you cannot overtake. Riding side by side, you sneak a peek. They are a study in casual concentration. You know people like this in real life, people who had a deficiency in childhood. Maybe it was potassium or vitamin K. Their motto: if I cannot get to heaven, then neither will you. You take the high road and follow lamely behind them, shaking your head as you whisper, “Life is too short; life is too short.”

The Non-Conformists

Aka the motorcyclists. They sneak up on you in traffic, stealth is their middle name; they love the strip of asphalt between two cars. You would too, if you have been moving at 10km/h for the last hour. They whiz through the narrow space and nearly take your side mirror with them. Your mirror bends to the limit of its elasticity and returns to its place. Your blood boils and refuses to cool until you remember that lottery-winning numbers are yet to be announced. You let your car roll and slap your ear as if brushing away a zizzing mosquito.

The Bullies

Aka the excursion bus drivers. They do not think the signpost that limits trucks to the slow lane applies to them. Maybe they are right. You passed your driving exam long ago. They obscure your vision, not only of the road and vehicles ahead, but also of the sun, the moon, and the stars. As you drive behind them, you wonder when you will see civilisation again. With nothing to do, you read the bus; you read about all the trips the company offers and commit the website to memory. As soon as the road widens, you change gears, enter the fast lane, and forget all you have read.

The Snakes

People who snake from one lane to another as if they have diarrhoea of the brain. Your head aches from watching their spiral, and it’s no wonder, they remind you of boyfriends that cannot commit. Oh, there they go again, searching for the next best thing. You let out a hiss that is longer than a snake’s, “Hisssss!”

The Lions

The Ferrari-like drivers who would rather be on a German autobahn, but a 70km/h road constrains them. They breathe down on your trusty Toyota, lights menacing, as you overtake a truck. The second you inch back to the right lane, they vroom vroom past you, leaving a trail of imaginary smoke in their wake and drag that causes your car to vibrate. When you catch up with them at the red light, the roar of their engine sounds like the bleat of a frustrated goat. The smug satisfaction on your face says it all. There is a god. No matter how rich and powerful some people are, we still shit the same brown shit. All hail traffic lights, the great equaliser.

Recognise any of my fellow travellers? What’s commuting like for you? I bet not as bad as Lucy Martin’s travails in Dubai.

©Timi Yeseibo 2013

Image credits: all people illustrations, animes, avatars, vectors by Microsoft

Background: lovely pink and gray card design by VisionMates in backgrounds/wallpaper http://www.vecteezy.com/backgrounds-wallpaper/47521-lovely-pink-and-gray-card-design

design: ©Timi Yeseibo 2013

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 livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Naija in My Blood

naija

A lot has been written about hazards such as driving in Lagos and on Nigerian roads. I do not mean to flog the issue, but it was this very thing that revealed some needed home truths.

You see, I am not one to allow my blood pressure levels rise over a little thing like another driver cutting into my lane without permission. The lack of simple courtesies that supply grease for smooth driving relations leaves me unruffled. Watching other tense drivers gripping their steering wheels for dear life as they struggle not to be outmaneuvered, provides witty relief from the unending traffic.

These hooligans—both the ones in black suits and the ones sooted from the ash heap of life—have shown me that aggression is the normal way of life here. The proximity of Lagos to the serene breeze from the Atlantic has done nothing to cool the pepper that burns in their veins.

On the roads, tempers edge dangerously close to boiling point, so, loud arguments and disputes settled with fistfights are not uncommon. No wonder I gave up eating pepper long ago, cucumber is more my style. But, I was soon to discover that the cherry does not fall far from the tree.

NAIJA

Nigeria, a place we all call home

Anger that constant simmering over decades of rape

Independence, a cherished hope; the impetus to rise again at 4 a.m.

Jaded after half    a century of promises unfulfilled

Affection, a feeling that continually binds us to the Motherland

Two weeks ago, my driver was going nose to nose with another vehicle. Normally, I would have cautioned him and asked him to yield to the yeye driver, but that day was different. Whether it was the roaring inflation or soaring unemployment, I cannot tell. It may have been the cumulative effect of bumping my head against the car window as my driver navigated one pothole-ridden street after another. Perhaps it was the sinking feeling that yet another con artist promising much and delivering little had swindled me. Whatever, I was tired of being a fool. My redundant aggressive genes surfaced. “Do not give him any chance,” I warned.

Both their countenances showed strong determination. A mad rush of blood had made the veins visible on their hands and temples, a sign that neither wanted to lose this race for survival. As my driver and I struggled to gain supremacy, he from behind the wheel, and me a cheerleading accomplice from the owner’s corner, the inevitable happened.

An ugly screeching sound rent the air as metal kissed metal. I had a taste of nauseating reality as the beat of the ancient talking drums in my head ceased. My driver jumped out, his rage fuelled by the sudden remembrance of his N5, 000 accident-free monthly bonus.

As he sparred with the other driver, I realized that their loud voices were a mere whisper in the buzz of a Lagos that never pauses. My car had finally been baptized with the telltale marks around the fender that speaks of a skirmish or two in traffic. After both drivers traded sufficient insults, they unanimously agreed that the scratches were not worth coming to blows over.

Rhetorical questions swirled in my mind as I tried to make sense of what had just happened. What was it that made my blood boil? How could I have Naijanized so fast?

Back home, my resourceful driver applied a little brake fluid to the scratches and the car looked almost as good as new. I guess it was a little insurance to secure his bonus. It reminded me of the shoddy patch jobs on our roads that are exposed by heavy rains. Yes, Lagos is getting greener on the outside, but true redemption must go beyond skin-deep.

As for me, years on foreign soil only camouflaged my leopard’s spots. The power of Naija, as the large billboards scream, can never be underestimated.

Pride Power Naija

Yeye: a derogatory term used for an annoying person, thing, or situation.

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

Photo credit: author- Darwinek
Title: Flag-map of Nigeria
Page URL: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AFlag-map_of_Nigeria.svg
Image design: © Timi Yeseibo 2013

Photo credit: e.r.w.i.n. / Foter / CC BY-NC
Title: PRIDE POWER NAIJA
Original image URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/eherrera/4950205845/
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 livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.