Archive for March, 2012

Driving Encounters in Lagos

Posted: March 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

THINGS YOU WILL MOST LIKELY ENCOUNTER WHEN DRIVING IN LAGOS

In my last post, I promised to share specifics on my driving experience in Lagos. My only experience of driving in Nigeria has been driving in Lagos, but I’m sure it may apply to some other Naija cities.

FORGET YOUR BRAKE…

Forget your brake because, your horn is your best friend (ok well…don’t forget your brake, but you get the point). And make sure your car horn is nice and loud. It amazes me that in Narobi, Kenya it’s considered rude to use your car horn at a fellow driver. In Nigeria, be heard or be SMASHED. It will save you and your car. I recently had the opportunity of driving a car that the horn volume level was low/muffled. I promise you, it was a very frustrating experience.

LANE STRADDLING-

Lagos drivers don’t stay in one lane when they drive. So I call it “Lane straddling”. Don’t be fooled that the people driving are just trying to switch lanes. You may witness cars straddling the line that separates lanes, the whole stretch of third mainland bridge.

Therefore in cases like this, I am passionate about giving fellow drivers advice on their bad driving habits. If after blasting my horn they don’t adhere to the simple traffic rule of “stay in one lane”, I will happily drive by such drivers and yell out “Stay in your lane!”, although it’s usually quite ineffective.

DANFO BATTLES-

I think I have to save this experience for a different post. Be aware that you WILL get in a danfo altercation.

It will happen.

Best scenario? You will go away with your car unharmed only having lost your voice from a screaming match with the “danfo driver” or “danfo conductor”. Worst scenario? Your car will be dented and the “danfo” driver would have sped off failing to account for their crime.

PEDISTRIAN UPRISING-

With close to 8 million inhabitants, Lagos is the most populous city in Nigeria. As a driver, you will compete with pedestrians for road space. The sidewalks are not big enough to contain the amount of people that navigate by foot through the streets of Lagos. Besides, sometimes, random cars choose to park on Lagos sidewalks, especially in busy zones, so pedestrians may be forced to maneuver themselves besides moving cars on the roads. This is definitely dangerous for pedestrians but as a driver, especially when I first began…I was so sure I would run over an unsuspecting pedestrians’ feet. Which is why I’m an avid believer in the use of a car horn to get them out of the way, even though I absolutely hate it when cars horn at me when I’m walking on the streets of Lagos.  Hypocrite much?

CHAUVINISTIC DRIVING ADVICE-

If you are female, driving in the streets of Lagos, you will often have men determine that your driving ability is below average. You may hear statements like;

“E mo motto wa! E lo gba driver jare!” (You don’t know how to drive! Go get yourself a driver!).

Or if you are young lady, fellow drivers, sometimes even pedestrians will make comments such as, “Omo keke re, ta lo fun yin ni moto” (Young girl, who gave you the car you are driving?)

OKADAS-

Our infamous okadas aka Commercial  Motorbikes.  After standstill traffic in Lagos, Okadas are your worst enemies when it comes to Lagos driving. Wondering how you got that random scratch on the body of your car?? It was most likely an Okada’s job. Also, they drive like they and their passengers have 7 lives.  For some Lagosians, okadas are timesavers and for others they are a no go area. No joke…unfortunately, I’ve seen some ghastly accidents caused by okadas.

INCONCLUSIVE DIRECTIONS-

After getting lost soo many times in Lagos, I‘ve concluded that I NEED a reliable GPS system in Lagos. Many people have sworn to me that Google maps works fine here but I’m yet to try it out. My smart phone doesn’t support that app. So for now, I will be relying on getting my directions from fellow  Lagosians on the streets. The problem is that, my sister and I noticed that most of the time the directions are…well…rather inconclusive. Let me draw out a scenario;

“E ka son sa” (Good afternoon sir!) (A nice greeting is necessary, especially if you are young. If not you’ll be challenged with a “Can’t you greet [your elder]??”).

“E jo, ba wo ni mo ma de third mainland bridge?” (Good Afternoon, pls how do I get to third mainland bridge?)

“ahhhh O ji no” (oh no, It’s too far).

 “E ma worry, ki ni directions?” (it okay, pls what are the directions) .

And then it gets interesting:

“E ma ya bai . (“Turn like this”. He turns his hands in God only knows what direction).

“ E wa ya bai ”,(“Then turn like this”. His hand is pointing up. And I’m thinking…”Do I go left… right…straight…or back??)

I’ve hardly had someone give me directions on the road with them using the terms, “go left or go right”. So how do I maneuver my way around Lagos? Let’s just say 30 mins journeys have turned into 2+ hours journeys…due to bad directions…and my poor sense of direction.

RANDOM POLICE CHECKS-

“Aunty how weekend na? Show for your boys na”!

I talked a bit about this last week. Basically the police will stop different drivers…they pick them randomly…or so. There is major ‘profiling’ when it comes to how they select who to pull over. And then they’ll request that you reward them with money. Why…Don’t ask.

And last on my list but most certainly not least is TRAFFIC.  In fact you are sure to encounter this whenever your drive, unless you are only driving a 10 meters distance.

TRAFFIC.

TRAFFIC.

TRAFFIC.

Yes, that repetition was necessary.

I remember reading an article that asked people what their least favorite thing about living Lagos is, and 99.9% of the people said, Lagos Traffic. Lagos without traffic would be like…Nigeria with constant electricity.

BLISS.

Some people leave their house by 4am to get to their place of work by 8am. Some people leave their place of work by 5pm to get home by 9pm. Also, wrong turns can’t be afforded in Lagos. You might just end up in stand still traffic that will make you want to pull your hair out.

So there you have it guys. My list of things that you will encounter when driving in Lagos. Please note, this is only a summary. Lagos driving always promises to be eventful and “exciting”. So get your license, get in your car and enjoy the bumpy ride…and I mean that literarily.

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