Full confession: I did not learn how to drive until I was 25 years old.
Ehn, and you call yourself Mayor?
Calm down na, I was not a Mayor then.
Charles, my late brother, kept telling me “Oya, enter motor make I teach you.”
I kept saying “Broda, when I buy motor I go learn.”
It was funny because my brother learnt to drive at 12 and my father gave him a car at 13. So, he used to drive to school in a 504. So, you would think that me I would want to learn fast.
I had taken a few lessons at Unijos with my friend David Njoku as instructor but something kept telling me that “driving no too hard.”
So, one day, long before I was made editor at Hints, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu said they should give me a car, a Volkswagen Jetta.
Now, back in the early 90s, a Volkswagen Jetta was a beautiful car, so you would think that once I got it I would dash off and start painting Lagos red. Not so fast. Remember, I was 25 and I couldn’t drive.
So, I parked the car in the office and in the evening after every one had left, Eric, one of the drivers drove me to the field inside Ojodu estate and we did some practice. I knew how to clutch and brake and change gears. All I needed was how to reverse and how to the keep car straight on the road.
So, Wednesday and Thursday night, me and Eric drove round the field then on Friday evening after collecting N5,000 for my first Thrills and Boom novel, I called my crazy friend Ralph Bruce and said “Let’s drive home in my car.”
If you know Ralph you will know that Ralph is always up for an adventure so even though he knew I couldn’t drive, Ralph got in the passenger’s seat and said “Let’s go, brother.”
As we were leaving, the woman who cooked for us asked for a ride and I said “Jump in”
That was how these two foolish 25 years olds entered Lagos traffic at RUSH HOUR.
Ojodu estate to Berger wasn’t so bad. There were shaky moments but I did not hit or kill anybody.
From Berger we got on the express and that was when I started shaking. My guy, if you see plenty cars for road won’t you shake? By the time we got to Ojota, the woman who said she was going to Yaba begged to come down. She did not want to come and go and die!
So, it was now me and Ralph. He couldn’t drive then either so he just sat there and gave me moral support. We made it all the way to Yaba, turned at that spot where they now have Domino’s pizza and then past Atan cemetery, past Customs, turned towards Unilag then drove to Akoka – Pako, Chemist, CMS and then we turned towards Bariga on our way to Ladi-Lak.
My Brothers and Sisters, the car had a functioning AC but I was drenched in sweat. I had only one prayer – God if you get me home, I will never sin against you EVER!!!
So, we came out of the street and as I cut to go left, one million Okada riders appeared from nowhere like demons out of hell. I braked. Phew. Close shave. I waited for the bikes to move or park, then I wiped my face and stepped on the pedal.
DON’T CRY FOR ME ARGENTINA started playing in my head.
Now, I must have missed that part of the lecture that says – If you turn your steering this way, don’t forget to turn it that way if you want to go straight.
I forgot to, as Lagos drivers say, “return my hand” and so once I stepped on the accelerator my car ran straight into the bikers. And you know when that happens you will forget everything you learnt in driving school.
By the time I turned my engine off, one okada driver was on the ground and his front wheel was bent.
To cut a long story short, Ralph and I placated the okada man and I paid for a new wheel (thank God I had cash) then I tried to start the car but my hands were shaking like mad. I tried and tried o. No way.
That was how Ralph Bruce went to my house to call my big brother who now came and drove us home.
When I got home, my mother who had heard the story of our misadventure looked at me and pinched my ears. “You, that’s the kind of foolish thing you will do.”
The next morning after breakfast, my brother drove me to Gbagada estate and asked me to get in the driver’s seat and once again my hands were shaking so bad I could not get the car to start.
My brother looked at me then said “O boy talk true, na who drive this car reach Bariga?”
I don’t think he fully believed me until he died in 2009.
Next week, I shall tell you about “The Day I met an Angel in Lagos.”