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Category Archives: Urban Culture

Lagos traffic…the never ending story!

  Sorry I’ve been off radar for a while. The hassle of moving towns, getting a new job and developing a whole new routine got me busy as a bee with my mind doing cartwheels. I still had time for a mini-vacation in Benin tho’. 😉 That town does things for me that the hustle and bustle of Lagos could never do. Everybody needs a rustic getaway every once in a while, won’t call it a vacation per se cos vacations imply laulau spending and please note I wasn’t talking about your village, that would be too cliche! 😉

Of course I’m gonna miss Abuja and all the family and friends I left behind not to mention the peace and quiet and obvious laid back attitude everyone has. Even the hustle is done in slow motion unlike Lagos. Too bad Boko Haram has got everyone there living in fear. Every public place has become a checkpoint for our Naija bomb squad. Even women’s handbags are no more sacred, they get to be brutally ransacked when visiting some government offices. I heard the outgoing corpers in Abuja won’t be getting a POP in Abuja for security reasons, ah well they are better off stressed than dead. Was reading in the papers that MEND sent a letter that they plan to bomb Eagle’s square on Independence day and I found it amusing. The MEND group like a second wife are obviously bemused that Boko Haram has stolen all their shine and public spotlight. I guess no matter how full of terror a terrorist is, he still needs attention like a diva on a red carpet! 😉 May God protect us all as MEND and Boko Haram fight over the coveted most feared position this Independence day. Truly I pray for a peaceful 1st of October. Enough lives have been lost and our land stinks of shed blood. GEJ we need to get you some Redbull so you can put more energy into curbing this menace. Meanwhile your people are solidly behind you.

One thing that will always make Abuja seem attractive to me is the lack of traffic. It took me more than an hour to go from Ozone cinemas to UNILAG yesterday and I silently told myself ‘Welcome to Lasgidi!!!’ Anyone who lives in a major city knows there’s a price to pay. Whether you are a pedestrian, cyclist, motorist or molue-ist every morning, every evening and sometimes in the afternoon just when the sun is hottest, the combo of blazing sun, blaring horns and speedometers reading 20km/hr (sometimes less) is as common as NEPA taking light and the sacrifice you pay for being urban!

I thought about making a list of the things that cause traffic, but that wouldn’t be quite an interesting list since the causes are usually the same. The biggest in my opinion being some impatient person usually a danfo driver who breaks a traffic law, tries to overtake and ends up facing on-coming vehicles and has his band of follow-follow goons behind him thereby causing a traffic jam cos the cars can neither move forward nor backwards. Other common causes are jalopies breaking down, flat tyres, LASTMA and MOPO picking the wrong time to do their jobs, accidents, floods, bad roads, armed-robbers and pedestrians competing with cars for road space. Many times the people would prefer to sit in their cars cussing and complaining rather than getting out of the car and tryna solve the problem. Thank goodness for the Lagos agberos who are God-sent for such a time as this. They immediately take on the role of traffic-warden aka yellow fever when the uniformed, pot-bellied men have gone AWOL!

So, instead I thought about the funny stuff you see people do in their cars or while sitting in a bus, when stuck in a traffic jam, things that you’d only see done in Lagos traffic! Naija 😉 Here are my top ten!
10.) Pinging/Tweeting: Since blackberries became pure water, Lagosians have made it their duty to update their status or tweet about traffic. Giving a second by second account of how hot or annoyed or late you are thanks to traffic has become the most common Lagos status update followed by ‘MTN ooooh’ and ‘Nepa please bring light’ and of course the occasional ‘Baba God noni!’ Usually one eye is on the phone and the other eye on the lookout for LASTMA or theiving agberos depending on your current location!
9.) Get out of the car to see what’s going on. This is a favorite for most men in traffic. They usually do it for aproko reasons though a select few do it to go pee in the gutter or hail the gala man or fan ice-cream seller for some quick chops! Usually they aggravate traffic cos they are not in the car when the cars begin to move leading to more horns honking. Other times, they cause unnecessary panic by peddling false rumours i.e thieves operating in front!
8.) Become the DJ of Club ‘Eko bridge’. Yeah everyone has a radio in the car, from the cab guy to the guy in the S-class and when the traffic’s heavy and cars are crawling, radios blaring usually substitute for car horns. From owambe songs to hip hop to gospel to hausa music, everyone has a radio and wants his neighbour to know that regardless of the way my car looks, I beta pass you! Some motorists even go as far as dancing in the stationary car which often looks like a raucous from the outside.
7.) Nose picking. I know all of us have seen this, and most of us have done it. But when traffic is at a stand still, it’s like everything becomes so much more extreme and so much grosser! I guess because you can REALLY see the person digging and scraping and twisting that finger up there and with bated breaths we look to see what will be done with the newly discovered treasure! Ewwww…
6.) Make-up application. No matter where a woman is heading, whether it is home or the office, traffic always provides an excuse for her to look into that tiny visor mirror and re-do her makeup. We could swear that some women pray for traffic to give them some extra time to apply the pancake and to keep the car in one position so the eyeliner doesn’t run when applied.
5.) Eat gala. Trust me if there wasn’t a huge market for gala fostered by the constant Lagos traffic, the street vendors wouldn’t consider it their number one merchandise.
4.) Sleep. Yes traffic in Lagos can be that bad. And after a long day at work, it isn’t unheard of to have to wake the man in front of you with your horn when the cars start moving and he has dozed off. After all there’s no traffic in dreamland…
3.) Honk the horn with all the frustration you have piled up. Who are you honking at? Nobody’s going anywhere. It won’t make the goons causing the hold up in front to get a brain and the noise aggravates the heat so just relax ok…
2.) Make advances. This is ridiculous but twice I have been asked for my number while sitting very bored, in traffic. Usually by the guy in the adjacent car who believes in making the most of a bad situation. I never gave ’em half a chance but I’m sure somewhere in Lagos, a couple are thanking Lagos traffic for leading them to true love!
1. ) Make out. If you haven’t witnessed a horny couple making out in Lagos traffic then you probably haven’t been stuck in traffic enough times at night! From kisses to suspicious female heads bobbing below window level, Lagos is a place where nothing is strange just look and you shall see… 😉

Anyway we Lagosians have learnt to adapt. We sweat less, our blood pressure shoots up less in response to the traffic and generally we have learnt to take all the stress in our stride. After all who wan die on top traffic? It is an evil that is here to stay and we are ready to combat, avoid, tackle and bear it any way we can. Many have resorted to waking at 4am, getting to work before 7, dozing in their cars till work starts and then after work, chilling at city mall or silverbird till around 10pm when the traffic eases up. Say ‘amen’ if I just described you! Ah well, it’s all part of the hustle. 🙂

May God bless our hustle, have a great night peeps…xoxoxo 😉

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Posted by on September 29, 2011 in Memoirs, Urban Culture

 

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LASTMA is your friend!

photo courtesy dailytimes.com.ng

Growing up there was this jingle on TV I loved, ‘Make una call police oh, make una call police oh!’ It ended by saying, ‘The police is your friend!’

In kindergarten our teacher, Mrs F always emphasized that the police was our friend. We always preferred to be police when playing ‘police and thief’ and after traffic wardens, police were the next set of people I loved to randomly wave at while my mom drove by in her white peugeot 504. Those were the days.

As I grew older and became cooler, I wondered why Lagos didn’t have cops or bobbies, we had olopas and mopos and our traffic controllers were called yellow fever! Why give such disrespectful names I wondered? Did it have anything to do with their shoddy appearances and shifty eyes?

Everyday I was regaled with tales of evils done by the very people supposed to protect us from crime. Tales of bribery, thievery and harassment. I couldn’t believe my ears or eyes. Even my friend Y who wanted to be a police officer back in primary school promptly gave it up. No one wanted to be part of the oppressive lot that asked for your particulars and after asked for your fire extinguisher and chasis number only to beg for something for the boys after delaying you for several minutes.
No one wanted to be associated with law enforcement agents who’d kill a man over 20 naira.
The police force became on the most part a band wagon of half-baked, barely educated riff-raffs who smoked igbo on the job and were as trigger happy as the number of bullets in their fire arm allowed!
There were a few good men no doubt but somehow the bad cops always craved the spotlight!

People quivered as they neared a police check point. Frantically searching for the photocopies of their car documents and any lose change and silently saying a prayer to God and on the flip side, the police seemed to quiver at the sight of actual armed criminals remembering suddenly that they had kids at home and a wife to feed.
Citizens learned quickly that running to a police station for help when a house was being robbed or when they needed a hero was the most futile of attempts.
The Government continued to loudly air on government-sponsored stations that the police was our friend and there to serve and protect while ignoring the plight of the police force, leaving them under-paid and desperate despite the potential risk their lives were subjected to on a daily basis.
Yes the police was our friend. Our friend, the thorn in our side and just another on the lists of menaces to our increasingly corrupt society.
In lasgidi we thought things couldn’t get any worse. Most of us had even mastered how to handle these uniform men and some of them were actually nice and helpful till the governor at the time introduced LASTMA, the force to be reckoned with!

If you’ve never driven a car in Lagos or been in a car that got flagged down by LASTMA, you can stop reading now.
LASTMA is unique because these blood-thirsty law enforcement agents don’t carry a gun or any form of ammunition yet they are feared above the police by majority of Lagosians.
Yes they are supposed to be there for our own good, afterall road traffic accidents have sky-rocketed and obeying traffic regulations goes a long way to ensuring preservation of motorists’ lives but like every common man given power, the average LASTMA guy has seen it, tasted it and gotten drunk with it.
It has become a very lucrative job!
It pays the bills, puts food on the table and pays for shayo whether the government pays their salaries or not.

Their highest number of victims come from the group comprising of johnny just come motorists. Drivers not familiar with the Las gidi terrain, who look frantically for the no U-turn sign and find none only to be shown a barely visible, crooked, half-buried sign by an over-eager LASTMA guy with a wide grin on his face! “Thanks for falling into my hands” he seems to say.
After you stop sometimes you are unfortunate to have left the back door open and a Lastma guy jumps in. Following this are the two longest hours of your life as you beg, bargain, reason, beg again, scream, cry and eventually part with an undisclosed and usually exorbitant sum of money and you never got a ticket cos they make you believe they did you a huge favor by saving you from paying the hefty sum charged to offenders at their office. You feel frazzled and far from ecstatic and the Lastma guy can barely contain his excitement as he counts your hard-earned cash, promptly pockets it and bids you a good day as his mind wanders to Mama Eze’s bukka and the huge plate of food he’ll order not to mention that bringing money home to the mrs tonight means he may be getting some! So yes you’ve given to charity, a bitter lesson learnt and the LASTMA office non the wiser!

I’ve gathered some tips Lagosians swear by in tackling LASTMA!
I call it my LASTMA-SURVIVAL GUIDE:
1. Makesure all your doors are locked.
2. If they flag you down, speed off unless you are on Ozumba where there’s a traffic light every 5 minutes or if you can spot a LASTMA vehicle.
3. If they ask for your licence, always give a photocopy.
4. If they are hell bent on taking you to their office, immediately beg. If that fails, speak their language immediately (please tell me you know I’m talking money)
It costs you less in the long run.
5. Watch your car key like a hawk, they’ve been known to snatch them from the ignition in the twinkling of an eye.
6. If your seat belt is bad put it across you and sit on it.
7. If you see them afar off, double check your seatbelts and reduce your speed. Also look out for easily broken traffic regulations and avoid falling for ’em.
8. If your car lacks air-conditioning still wind up the glasses when approaching them. Some say it is better to keep a barrier between them and you even if you die of heat!
9. If they are in your car and are acting unreasonable, scream at them and threaten to drive to a destination unknown. (I must warn that this only works on rookie LASTMA guys)
10. Pray against LASTMA as you leave your house!

As a doctor, much as I hate to be on their side, especially with the level of corruption amongst their ranks, I must warn that they were put there for a good cause.
Everyday the average emergency doctor sees at least three victims of road traffic accidents and only one out of three survive.
The commonest causes of such accidents are drunk driving, exceeding speed limits and ignoring traffic regulations.
LASTMA is actually here to help.
Better your money, than your life but to ensure they do a better job;
1. Ensure they give you a ticket if the money they are collecting from you is exorbitant. Caution fee is 15,000 naira. That way the money doesn’t enter their pockets.
2. Be vigilant. Some armed robbers disguise themselves as LASTMA guys.
3. Most importantly, obey traffic rules.
-Use your seat belts
-Don’t run a traffic light or a stop sign
-If you’re not sure a U-turn’s allowed or if it’s a one-way, slow down and ask, don’t drive head-on into their hands.
It’s christmas season and Maga must pay!
Help them help you.
Don’t be the maga.
LASTMA is your friend and speed kills!

May we all live to see 2011. Amen.
Have a great day peeps and merry christmas! Xoxo

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2010 in Uncategorized, Urban Culture

 

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