WWN Guest Blogger Series: Traffic Tales from Lagos: “Wish I Could Do Without it” by Chinenye Umeike

Anyone who’s ever driven in Lagos will totally relate to the article below by our guest blogger, Chinenye Grace Umeike. It was originally posted on her Facebook Page (on August 9, 2011 at 9:18am). It is shared here with permission from the author. Enjoy! 🙂


Wish I could do without it!!
Lagos Traffic


This should be natural, right? I mean, I do it almost every other day but you know what? It hasn’t made it easier to cope with. Before I embark on it, I hope that today will be a good day. Unfortunately, more often than not, it is a bad one (but it doesn’t stop me from hoping).

The distance is short today, probably not more than 3 km but boy! Am I exhausted by the time I reach my destination. At some point in time, I just want to give up and not move any further. I practically freeze…it is just pure chaos and I am scared of possible damage or hurt.

This is a description of my daily commute in Lagos. My thoughts are running amok. All senses are on full alert; they just have to be. I now wish I had an extra pair of eyes and hands; it would go a long way. I recently carried out a full bodywork on my car and there were varying opinions.

The general consensus however was “why bother”? The risk of being hit as I drove out of the auto shop would be almost 99.9%. As expected, I smashed one of my headlights on a motorbike (popularly known as okada) while trying to avoid a car which seemed to lack brakes.

Las Gidi

Tailgating is a skill you just have to pick up in this town (well, ensure your brake system is in tip-top condition before you try this). If not you will get nowhere. Leave what should be an otherwise decent gap between you and the car ahead of you and you risk a whole tanker and two okadas fitting in there. Don’t accuse me of exaggerating; wonderful things do happen on the roads of Lagos.

Selfishness is another necessary skill. In short, driving here reinforces the fact that “no good deed goes unpunished”. I’ll cite an example. A car wishes to turn into your lane and the driver has been decent enough to use his turn signal (popularly referred to as “trafficator” in Naija). It’s only proper to let him, right?

You do and before you know what’s happening, you are properly edged off your lane because other drivers, who apparently are “smarter” than you are rush in. So you can see why the next important skill to acquire is blindness. Pretend not to see anything but the road ahead of you.

Now, the acquisition of these skills shows your willingness to take risks (albeit foolish ones), so you would agree that driving in Lagos deserves a surgeon-general warning: it is truly suicidal but then what options does one have? Unfortunately, unlike any worthwhile workout, which should stimulate the flow of good hormones, you pump so much adrenaline, you end up totally stressed, cranky and willing to take more stupid risks (the vicious cycle continues). Who needs that? Life still has so much to offer me.

Eko Oni bajeOne of the major evils of being stuck in traffic means you are sitting duck for any “individual who has decided he/she has every right to reap where he/she has not sown”.

If the person is “kind”, a knock on your window is a quiet indicator that you should wind down and give freely of your personal effects.

For a “lesser kind” person, simply smashing in your windscreen or windows (thereby showering you with glass confetti) guarantees he/she will definitely have all your attention and anything else he/she may desire.

Despite the traumatic side effects, it is too addictive a habit to give up. I like the ability to go and come as I please, without having to stand for too long under the hot African sun, waiting for the next available bus to come along (I am indeed grateful).

Oh well, I will keep you updated on my love-hate relationship with driving in Lagos. I’m interested in hearing about yours.

[Images Source: From google images and Gidicouture.com]


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