I relocated back to Nigeria a few years ago but I honestly do not think that is the reason I became a target for robbers.
I just think robbers look for soft targets; women drivers, women alone in their cars, women and children. They try their luck, sometimes they succeed, sometimes not.
The first attack happened on my way from Apapa. I drive a manual car, a Volvo, it’s a like a bull dog that car. I was in traffic and because I had been schooled on safety tips, particularly as a woman driving in traffic, I was always careful not to let my guard down when I am alone and driving in traffic.
That day, I was approaching the bridge and because there were soldiers and police check points it gave me confidence that all was well. It was about 6 or 6.30ish in the evening that day.
As I climbed the bridge, a vehicle, I think a Toyota Corolla just drove past me and sort of blocked the road at the descent. There was a trailer ahead. I saw nine men by the car; it looked like the car had developed a problem because they were talking to the driver on both sides and the rest were just idling by.
Immediately my head began to work; this was unusual, how can a car that just passed me suddenly slow to a stop and the occupants starts talking easily with two men? Something was off, so I approached gently, I looked in my rear mirror, no car was approaching. But as I slowed towards the Corolla, suddenly, the men I thought were idling suddenly disappeared. I began to blast my horn to get them to leave the road, just in case this was no robbery, just in case this was a driver asking directions from the men on the road, you know?
Like I said before, the other guys had disappeared but next thing I knew, two appeared on each side of my car, the one at my side commanded me to wind down my glass, he was banging on the glass window, I refused and kept moving my car, remember I told you I was driving a Volvo? So I changed gear, from gear 2 to 3 and revved the car. That’s how I began to push the Corolla roughly down the bridge, I burnt out my clutch that day but didn’t care, I was intent on getting away from there!
Of course at this time, the robbers had broken my window with just one blow with something that looked like a mallet; and as soon as the window shattered, he just reached between my thighs as he asked: ‘Where is it? Where is it?’
I had no idea what he meant by that, (it was later when I retold my story, someone said they know women always keep their phones on their thighs while driving) I just shoved my foot down the clutch and accelerated even more and managed to push the corolla down the bridge and as you know, once I was able to push to an extent, gravity took over at the descent, it just rolled on and almost crashed into the trailer ahead, I zoomed off with my legs shaking violently.
This happened on a Thursday and by Monday, when I hadn’t even got over the shock of the first attack; I found myself in traffic, again. This too happened on the Apapa- Oshodi expressway side.
This second time, I was still jittery from the first attack, and yes, I had fixed my window over the weekend following after the first attack. That Volvo is my ride to work, school runs, market days, side business, so I couldn’t afford to let one small broken glass stop me from going out; I still drive that car.
This time around, I was in the car with my husband. We were not talking to each other, something happened and I was boning for him. He was sitting in the passenger seat but had reclined the seat and was pressing phone; so when we got into traffic, the fact that my husband was there was still no comfort, my ears were pricked, my eyes darted around.
I was checking the mirrors, watching the hawkers and suspicious of every one walking on the street and yet, I didn’t see the thief that stole in beside me that afternoon!
As soon as I felt him beside me, I raised my voice to alert my husband, he sat up and said, ‘Babe cooperate with them.’
In my head, I was like, cooperate with robbers? How, give them my bag? It was hidden out of sight, give them my phone? That too was out of sight, so how do I cooperate?
I just kept revving my Volvo and at the same time telling the thief that I didn’t have anything on me, all the while I was watching for vehicles to move so I could rush forward and soon enough, as the thief began pounding at my new glass window, he raised his shirt to show me something, I didn’t look! My eyes were on the road, I saw an opening in front and took off, almost slamming into the car ahead of me.
Meanwhile, other people in their cars, buses were just watching us! My husband was dazed, he kept saying, ‘That was very foolish, that was very dangerous, that was…’ I looked at him like, come, how else would I have done it? My bags and phone were in the boot, should I have stopped to go get it for him? Please leave me alone jare!
The third incident happened when I was coming from our old students’ reunion. I had in the car with me, four other ‘old girls’. They were much younger girls to me, though. They didn’t even meet me in school. Anyway, after laughing, gisting and catching up on old times, we left the venue, this was at Ire Akari estate.
It was a few minutes to 11pm…yeah, I know it was late but I am an exco member, I couldn’t leave before the others. Anyway, so we were heading towards that bridge in Isolo, you know when you come out from the estate, heading towards Ikeja/ Oshodi axis, the bridge can be confusing; you follow the left, it takes you back to Isolo, middle takes you to Oshodi, right takes you to Badagry…
So, I got confused and took the Badagry path, but as soon as I drove a few meters into the road, I realised my mistake and therefore slowed down. Since it was late, I figured I could just reverse to the beginning of the three paths to get the right route to follow….big mistake!
As soon as I stopped, immediately we were bombarded by stones and sticks and boys crawling out from everywhere! And we were an all-female riders…no way!
But at first, I was so confused, so scared, my mind was just racing, what kind of wahala is this? Why am I attracting robbers to myself and come and see my Volvo, it’s the old battered type, nothing fancy about it, so why was I calling thieves to me like magnet to iron?
Anyway, I began to back out, you know when you are reversing, your hand goes either way, thankfully the road was free, I was just backing into the thieves like…this way, that way, until I got to the beginning of the road, changed gear and fired up the bridge to Oshodi!
All the while they were throwing things at us, stones, sticks, iron…we escaped! I was driving like a mad woman, all the girls were just shrieking in the car…hummn!
And no, I didn’t feel like James Bond, or Jane Bond or Wonder Woman, o. I was scared shitless, my sis, I was just running from danger but I know I left many of them badly bruised. My legs shook till I got home that night and even before then, I still had to drop my old school girls at their homes, there were four of them going to different places, Sabo, Iwaya, Yaba and Maryland that night. I trembled till I got home.
These days, it’s just God o. Cause I was almost robbed during the day and at night as well, so really, it’s not by time, just God keeping me!
(series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)