I had car trouble on my way back from church, one Sunday afternoon.
As soon as I made the turn at Motorways to hit the Alapere express way, I felt the car shake; my first thought was, Peju you have driven over something on the road. Then as I hit the express to join the rest of mad driving Lagosians, I felt the car wobble again. This time, the steering wheel almost slipped off my hands. It was a scary experience especially as cars wheezed past me at breakneck speed.
I didn’t apply the brakes, no, I simply pushed the hazard light button and guided the vehicle to the left side of the express. I knew there was trouble when I began to smell burning rubber.
My daughter, who was in the passenger seat and lost in cyberspace as she hunched over her phone, didn’t notice anything odd.
‘We are in trouble,’ I told her.
Only then did she raise her head from the phone to look at me to ask, “Are we safe?’
Thankfully, a few meters ahead was an FRSC van with about 4 or 5 officers, so I stopped a few meters away from of them. In my mind, I thought they would provide the security I needed.
Why security, you say? At 10 a.m in the heart of Lagos, gangan.
It’s not bad belle that we were ranked 3rd worst city to live in according to the latest 2018 Global Liveability Index. Yes it was at about 10 a.m, I still didn’t feel safe stopping on the express. Lagos has been known to be very unkind to troubled motorists, no thanks to thugs who take advantage of distressed drivers and rob them or stab them or out rightly kill them by tossing them off bridges.
My heart was racing as I parked, my eyes were wide, scanning 360 degrees and my ears were pricked to the first sound of trouble. I had my child to think of.
I wound down the glass to view the problem, the back tyre was dangling off the rim; if I hadn’t stopped, chances were the trye would simply have rolled off the rim! I sat there wondering what next I should do…make calls.
My mechanic lived far, my partner was in church. I still didn’t feel safe parked by the road, FRSC or not. They too sat and watched from a distance.
Then came a man in jeans and jacket. He knocked on my window and asked for my jack. I was instantly frightened. The several stories I’d heard of motorists being murdered on the highway didn’t help, so I didn’t respond to him. I told my daughter to remain buckled. If I felt threatened, I would hit the express, tyre or not!
Then, I looked around to see if the FRSC men were still there… looking on.
Shuo! So these men will sit there and watch me being robbed!
But the man by the road kept knocking on my window, ‘wind down’, he insisted. ‘Where is your jack, open your boot.’
I sat there, still scared not trusting his offer of help besides, I didn’t even know where the jack was, certainly not in the the boot.
Then I called my partner. Of course he didn’t pick. He was in church. I sent him a text. Urgent, car tyre off!
That did it. His response came. Wait for me, don’t move.
So, I stayed put. I took a photo of the man offering to help, took a photo of my surroundings and sent to partner…just in case.
The man wouldn’t go away. So I inched the window down a wee bit and told him I had called for help, he shouldn’t bother.
He didn’t seem to hear me.
‘I can change the tire,’ he told me. ‘Thank God you stopped o, you for don get accident.’ he continued. ‘Your rim don go.’
I sat still…until one of the FRSC men came by.
‘You need help madam?’
Only then did I scramble out of the car and point to my tyre. There I was in my fancy church gown, heels and hair flying in all directions from the heavy wind raised by flying cars. I looked the picture of a damsel in distress…only the person willing to help was the one I didn’t want to.
Would you believe, by this time, the man in jeans was on the back tyre, removing the twisted bolts dangling off the rim…the other bolts and nuts had dropped off on the road.
Then I softened. May be he is just a kind Nigerian. Maybe he is not a thief whose gang will suddenly emerge from under the bridge to attack my daughter and I while the FRSC men flee to safety…
Then the FRSC van began to pullout!
What! I panicked and ran after them.
‘Don’t go. You guys are security cover for me here.’
They laughed and replied
‘That is a police officer, o. You are safe’. They took my number and promised to call me again after reassuring me I had nothing to fear.
My doubts lingered still.
But I began to cooperate with the ‘police officer’ who wasn’t in uniform. The one who had offered to help me as soon as I parked and I refused to listen to. The one who’s photo I had sent out just in case it turned out his identity would be needed by forensics. Yes, that same one.
Unbelievable! I have had too many bad encounters with our uniformed men to trust them.
Anyway, somehow, we located the jack and in about 10minutes, ‘officer’ had re-fitted the tyre with what was left of the bolts.
‘Oya, dey go small small. No speed o,’ he advised and with that, he dusted himself and headed for the opposite side of the road.
The officer was for real! He was genuine! He didn’t want to harm me. He truly wanted to help!
His name is Olasunkanmi Agunloye and he hails from Akoko in Ondo state. He is attached to the Lagos state government in Alausa and still patrols the Ojota/ Alapere axis of the express road.
Thank you officer, you deserve some accolades.