Skip to main content

Post from Lagos

Posted in

Lagos has a lot on its platter that cannot be quite described in a single post so here goes my first…
For a newcomer, the first greeting of Lagos is the roads and the driving. It makes you dizzy. For Indians, the dizziness is amplified twice over. You are driving on the wrong side of the road; it gives you a feeling of morning sickness in pregnancy. Yes, it can get you that sick.

Today, I am simply taking up the most fascinating aspect of Lagos – driving. Driving in Lagos is not for the weak-willed. It is vital you familiarize yourself with the uniqueness of this nerve-wracking phenomenon before you take the dare of driving yourself. The road tempts you to take up driving; fast cars, that are ancient, say, forty years old, speeding with a fancy, just-out-of-the-showroom BMW.
Lagos is acclaimed to be one of the most exciting cities to drive in Nigeria. I affirm it. In fact, it is one of the most exciting cities to drive in this world. At least, that is my opinion. For those of you who think driving in London or NYC is stressful, trust me, the dose of stress is bliss. Here one measures the stress at a different prominent level.
One must firstly know the brigade one belongs to. Are you a Mercedes driver? Are you an ancient Peugeot driver? Are you the tiny Beetle driver? Are you a Honda driver? A Hummer? Or, are you an Okada driver? Okadas lead the brigade. They are the motorcyclists who have a pact with suicide and must be avoided at all costs. All regiments of Chinese motorcycles, mopeds and scooters form this brigade; rash, obtuse, guts that make you label them as the true daredevils of the roads. In the unending vicious war on the road, these warriors win hands down.
The second brigade is led by the commercial vehicles. These are mini-buses known as Danfo, Molue (which literally means “I go beat you”), Bolekaja (means “Come down, make we fight”) Kabu-kabu etc. As these names imply, they are not the smartest variety on earth. Avoid them. They have the talent to make you cry, swear, and still be frustrated at the end of it. A smile in retaliation and a peace sign works better (provided you have very long fingers and both of them are visible to the driver else… It makes them think you are a silly dumb Oyibo (white man). Let them presume so. You don’t want to lose the opportunity they give you to over-take them. Be sure to give a thumbs-up after you cross. It makes them feel good. Your safety on the road depends on their feel-good factor.
The third unit is noisy. They are the “Siren Men”. Men in Black we call them - escort riders, bullion vans, trailers, and endless security mobile vans, all with immunity from death. They are the harbingers of every scratch in your car. What becomes a source of expense and frustration for us is an achievement for them. Every scratch and dent earns them a medal and a certificate of bravery for every bash. It’s needless to ask you to stay away from them. They come to you, no matter how far you drive from them, home in to the shiny, well maintained exteriors of your car to give it a discernable dent to keep the evil eye away.
The fourth battalion has people like me, daring to defy, no rights and yet driving…which is kind of fun really.
I made this sound ominous…
I love the rules we play by because these rules really can get you to drive and enjoy Lagos – a city I love. It’s like a virus…grows on you.
Make it a point to not drive behind a person whose skull does not get to the top of the steering wheel and is not visible from your vehicle.
Danfo drivers believe they are immortal. Don’t yield to the temptation to teach them otherwise. You need to learn to swerve abruptly away from these Danfos and from the potholes as well. Most of these potholes are tactically placed to test your reflexes.
Taxicabs should always have the right of way. If you are bent on suicide, it’s ok. If not, avoid them like the plague, especially those that need extensive body work. The car you would normally find in a junkyard in other parts of the world is speeding faster than your sleek shiny Camry.
Get used to Okada riders saying things like “Commot that scrap for road,” “Mister, I go drive myself”. It is normal and should simply be ignored. These okadas are also the heavy-duty machines; carrying multiple passengers; husband and wife. Seemingly, they do not have complaints as long as the woman is in the middle.
Parking spaces are as scarce as the electricity and water supply. The first parking space you will see is the last parking space you will see, so grab it! Remember that it is the survival of the fittest and the fastest.
Traffic comes in all directions from all directions. No sign that states a lane as “One Way” actually means you are safe and can let your guard down for a second. There is no such thing as “One Way” in Lagos, only “My Way. Do not waste energy trying to explain otherwise. Avoid the breakdown lanes in case of a breakdown. These lanes are in truth speeding lanes for the daring, especially during rush hours. Be cautious. Be extra cautious.
There are no shortcuts in Lagos. Ten minutes to a heavy traffic hold-up on the main road is indicative of a bigger hold up in the shortcuts as every commuter decides to take a shortcut. God forbid if you stopped to seek directions. For your own safety (if you were brave enough to ask for directions), ask three different people. Lagosians think they know every part of Lagos – even the areas they have never been to.
Never use directional signals since they only serve to baffle and confuse other Lagos drivers who are not used to them. Similarly, never use hand signals. Lagos drivers, unused to such courtesies, will think you are making obscene gestures to them. This could be very bad for you in Lagos. A normal wave of your hand with an open palm could translate into the foulest of abuses. A thumbs-up is really safe in comparison.
Hazard lights, popularly called “double pointers”, do not indicate a hazard. It is a warning to you that he is an established Lagos driver, headed straight, and will not stop under any circumstances and you better get out of the way. Hazard? Right! Take him extremely seriously especially if he backs it up with a continuous blast from his horn. You do not want to be at the receiving end of obscene gestures.
Speed limits are posted only to make you feel guilty. If it’s a weekend, watch out for the uniformed. They are on the prowl for compulsory charity donations to pull them through to Monday.
Remember, every driver’s role on the road is to get to the destination (and beyond) in the fastest possible way. Their single-minded focus must not be mocked and must be duly respected.
In Lagos, every stop is a potential bus stop. You need to be in a constant state of ying-yang to balance when to keep your distance and when to be close to another vehicle. If you have mastered this, you are the king of the road and the entire city’s lanes and expressways your kingdom.
Above all, keep moving – even with a flat tyre.

Your rating: None

what a great blog!

I'm glad that I've found your web site.
What a fantastic blog!! I loved how detailed each of the entries were. They were well balanced - fun and informative - and the pictures were great too.

Post new comment

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <img> <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

Humans welcome! Spam Bots and Aliens Sorry!!
Fill in the blank