..reflecting on the different personalities that shape the Lagos driving experience
Driving on Lagos roads constantly makes me feel me like I am rehearsing for either the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix or Grand Theft Auto. Why must driving in Lagos be an extreme sport?
Lagos is filled with many mad drivers and it doesn’t matter whether they are speeding down the Third Mainland Bridge or navigating the Apapa- Oshodi Expressway, manoeuvring through Apapa or taking a leisure drive through Ikeja. You will find them speeding, beating traffic lights, zipping through zebra crossings, overtaking without signalling, breaking the roundabout rule, and driving in between lanes.
Many of these drivers, private or commercial, never went to driving school and see no reason to either. I often wonder how they even got their driver’s license. Many of them probably don’t have one! As far as they are concerned, the crash course they took from the local mechanic, the driver, daddy or whichever family member, is enough to certify them fit to drive.
Ignore the fact that they were only taught how to move the vehicles from point A to point B. That their instructors did not know road signs nor understand speed limits. The Lagos driver will give any Formula One driver a run for his money. Any wonder why many Nigerians abroad complain about failing their driving test?
If you need to drive in Lagos, make sure you don’t take the driving class on the Island except you want to limit your driving to those parts. If you want to be a proper Lagos driver, you must enroll for classes in Agege or Oshodi. How else would you learn the appropriate hand signals instead of using your “trafficator”?
Who would teach you in VI that begging to change lanes is more effective than signalling? How else would you build your lexicon of appropriate swear words?
To be fair to all Lagos drivers, the level of madness differs dependent on who is doing the driving. The highest levels can be found among the okada riders. Oh, in Nigeria we don’t ride bikes, we drive them! Lol.
As far as they are concerned, their bikes are invisible and they are invincible. Without helmets and safety jackets, they snake through the tiniest spaces in the tightest traffic, speeding towards a destination they very often are ignorant of.
The okada riders are very closely followed by the keke riders who consider themselves superior to the okada riders. Rather than drive in the same lane with motor vehicles, they would rather want to drive in between lanes expecting that drivers would part the way for them like Moses parted the red sea.
Ride-hailing services have given the yellow cabs a run for their money. Whilst those drivers are often well-behaved, the same cannot be said about the yellow cab drivers. Many of them are first cousins of danfo drivers and those are in a world of their own, ably supported by their wingmen, the bus conductors.
One can never expect danfo drivers to act logically and they are best avoided. They have nothing to lose and thus, no shame. Don’t bother getting into fights with them. How can you even fight drivers who strip naked when arrested for traffic offences?
As for the BRT bus drivers, no one can convince me that they weren’t danfo drivers in their former lives. Just take a look at the average BRT bus. One would assume that having a dedicated BRT lane would make them disciplined but you would still find them “dragging” the normal lanes with other road users.
Truck, lorry, and trailer drivers are in their own world. They believe they own the road and there is absolutely nothing you can say to convince them otherwise. Those who drive long distance are the worst of the lot, who certifies them fit to drive anyway?
Last but not least are the private drivers and these come in three forms: the one who owns the car, the one who loaned the car, and the one who is paid to drive the car. Each of these three sets approaches driving with a different level of “crase” depending on their level of exposure, the nature of their work, and the level of responsibility they have for the car.
One cannot drive in Lagos and escape non-vehicular road users such as hawkers, beggars, thieves, agberos aka National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), and road traffic officials. This category of people contribute to the Lagos driving experience as much as other vehicular road users.
Hawkers are amateur athletes. If you don’t believe me, just ask yourself when last you saw a fat person hawking in traffic? Never! A certain skill is required to meander through traffic with a tray on your head or a box in your arms whilst simultaneously offering your wares to drivers.
The beggars come after the hawkers and can be found around traffic lights or slowly moving traffic. If they are infirm, they would have an assistant. They don’t pose much trouble to road users except if they are thieves masquerading as beggars. Driving in traffic, especially at night, offers a chance for thieves to thrive. Many people have been robbed while other road users looked on. Some have even been hurt or lost their lives. These occurrences would be limited if all the roads were well lit.
Agberos are the tax masters of commercial transporters. Many of them work for the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and can usually be found harassing bus conductors or racing after okadas and kekes. They are an absolute nuisance in my opinion.
Finally, the various road traffic officials notably FRSC, Police, LASTMA, and VIO in increasing order of wickedness. Their approach is typically punitive and rarely ever corrective. If you have ever dealt with representatives of any of these officials, you will know what I mean. Never ever let them get in your car!
Above all else, what irritates me most about driving in Lagos are the selfish drivers. I have mulled over different strategies to address them. I have considered shooting at them with a water pistol but a friend reminded me that the other driver may think it is a real gun and bring out a gun too! I quickly dumped that idea.
Another thought I have is to make placards with generic statements such as “your destiny is not on the road”, “why so selfish?”, “give way, it won’t shorten your trip” but it would be difficult to display the placards and drive at the same time.
Every day, I pray not to react badly while driving in Lagos. However, if you ever see me fighting in traffic, just know that I exceeded my patience threshold!!! And that would be the way I see things today!