Malpraktis

 

 

I know the answers; I am just cross-checking - honest

 

Confusing title above, isn’t it?

I apologize; I have not just started taking Greek lessons or anything. “Malpraktis” is actually not a Greek word; it is pidgin English for malpractice.

Ok let me cut to the chase; Nigeria is fast becoming a haven for all kinds of malpraktises, sorry malpractices. However, chief among this seems to be the type occurring in our schools and colleges.

In my time, the most that courageous but olodo students may attempt was the smuggling of tiny notes filled with scribbled answers into the test centre. Yes, way before Intel and Microsoft, Nigerians were manufacturing micro-chips, which were small handwritten solved answers on a tiny piece of paper only readable by the cheat himself.

The even more desperate ones went to the test centre the day before and wrote down the answers on a desk in tiny codes only legible to them. Someone I knew at university actually used this method till he graduated. He would go to the exam hall the night before, and do “till day break” scribbling down random pieces of information from the semester coursework in his native vernacular – a dying language only spoken by a village of about 230 people somewhere in the Middle Belt. That chap, I hear is now an architect and the police are looking for him now due to a series of collapsed buildings which he designed. Oh well.

The repeat offenders always amused me. There were people who carried note-books or wrote answers on their body parts and got caught in one paper, reprimanded or penalized but still tried to cheat in another exam and were discovered again.

In school, there was this girl by the name of Sola who was caught cheating in 3 consecutive exam days. The penalty then for cheating was an “F” grade and as we were in final year that meant a carry over and an extra year in school. She cheated in the first exam and was caught and penalized with an extra year, but still tried two more times! It was funny because invigilators and lecturers profiled likely cheaters and usually asked them to sit at the front desks, and monitored them specially.

34D - Multiple choice questions

The final time, she was caught, she tried to apply the code of Mission Impossible on the micro-chip. This message will self-destruct. Well she actually tried to destroy the chip by chewing it. Unfortunately the examiner’s hand was still holding on to the micro-chip for evidence. She ended up chewing his hand too. Now she was guilty of exam malpractice and attempted man-slaughter. Well, maybe she would be allowed to spend her 2 year prison term at Reddington Hospital VI, as she obviously wasn’t well.

Now the rules of the game have changed, even the players now have the bit between their teeth. I don’t want to go into the whole nine about our education system, and how universities, colleges and polytechnics need proper funding from the government; I am sure a visit to ASUU’s secretariat would suffice for the intending researcher of the above.

To each his own. Some have cheated in exams, some have even forged certificates but my loudest applause has to go to those who lie about attending a school. The University of Toronto scandal of a few years ago where a now deposed Speaker of the House of Representatives falsely claimed he attended, has now ensured that the name Toronto would now unfortunately live in infamy in Nigeria.  Why on earth did he use a school like Toronto which had proper records and could verify who were legitimate alumni. If I were him, I would have claimed a school out of bounds like Zamfara Polytechnic or a dangerous university riddled with cult activity like DELSU Abaraka.

In our dear Naija, some politicians would even claim they attended Unipetrol just to be able to contest political office and make some cool millions from the public purse.

I remember when I was still in Form 5 in secondary school. My folks decided I should write GCEs just to get me academically prepared for my school SSCEs the following year. I was posted to a centre in a dilapidated secondary school somewhere near Clegg Street in Ojuelegba. On the first day I arrived there, I noticed that I was one of the smallest and youngest persons in the whole centre. Everyone there was old, muscular and tall or were re-sitting GCE for the umpteenth time. English and Mathematic papers were the biggest stumbling blocks for most repeat sitters. The school canteen also sold and served beer. Outside the centre, a woman was making brisk business selling paraga and Alamo bitters to nervy candidates about to write the Math exam. Rather than reading or going over their notes, most people stood around in groups, in a coded manner whispering and looking around suspiciously.

Then there was a huge 6 foot 6 tall chap nicknamed Apollo Creed, whose arms were thicker than my neck. I heard that they called him Apollo because his eyes were always red like he had permanent conjunctivitis, but obviously the guy smoked weed like it was prescribed by his doctor. Apollo was the first chap that I heard defend weed-smoking like it was a cause to die for. He argued that there was nothing wrong with drug use; what was dangerous was drug abuse, drug over-use or even drug refuse. Hmmm, he had a point there…Besides I couldn’t argue because he was high when he was saying this and flicking his pen-knife key holder nervously. Anything you say, boss.

 

Well, the most difficult paper we wrote was the Biology practical exam. Once the question paper had been distributed around, whistles of doom echoed round the hall. One girl broke down and started crying. Someone was trying to console her, saying that there were other papers to write. She broke down even more, wailing aloud with her teeth baring, as she shrieked “I wanted to read medicine, and you need to pass biology!” Not in Nigeria, you don’t, I wanted to tell her. All you need is money and connections.

When I looked at the paper, I swallowed. One of the questions required us to identify parts of a lizard. Easy, I thought to myself as I started labeling the diagram – red neck, eyes, nose, fingernail, chin…

Smiling to myself, I looked over to my right to check out the other candidates; Apollo was scratching his head like Moose in the Archie comics. It was obvious that he was staring at a paper that had overwhelmed and over-powered him. It was like asking Hanks Anuku to solve a calculus equation.

As Apollo made to turn in my direction, I quickly put my face down and acted like I was concentrating on my work. A desperate man is a danger waiting to happen.

Then the invigilator, who was overseeing the two adjacent classrooms serving as exam halls, walked in and announced that there was only 45 minutes left for the paper.

Frustrated, Apollo bolted to the front of the centre where everyone had left their bags and possessions, and yanked a huge Biology textbook from someone’s bag. Can you guys remember that very thick Biology textbook that had the picture of a long insect on the front page? Apollo took the textbook, opened it on his desk and was filling in the answers on his sheet book verbatim including the thick Latin scientific names for plants and animals. For the question about identifying the parts of a lizard, Apollo even outshined seasoned biologists. He even labeled the inside of the lizard’s body. He was unstoppable.

At that moment, the invigilator walked into the class and saw him. The invigilator was afraid of Apollo and even enlisted him to help invigilate the exam and make sure no one else cheated because the external invigilator from WAEC was around the school monitoring and inspecting the centers room by room! Apollo was now a king. He quickly finished his paper, which he was able to after copying everything from the huge textbook; and started walking around the test-room slapping and harassing people he thought were cheating.

He came up to my desk, and since he knew me, he asked me how the exam was going. I was about to answer that it was alright, when he retrieved and dropped the huge Biology textbook on my desk! His words were “Make you no worry; you fit copy from my textbook. No wahala. Nobody fit harass you.”And I am like, nah mate I have got it really. Well I didn’t say that aloud – I politely declined. Someone next to me grabbed the textbook and copied everything even the author’s name and year of publication.

Nothing do me. See as I smash that Biology paper.

I hear Apollo got an A2 in Biology later, and is a former Commissioner for Education from one of the Southern states – I am not saying which state.

He also recently got married, and the reception was held at the “Expo Hall” of Eko Hotel. How apt.

The whole malpractice situation is now so bad that a cult guy threatened a professor by warning “Oga professor, I never read but I wan pass.” Make of it what you will.

And the knock-down and multiplier effects of exam and education malpractice are there for all to see in our society today. Nigeria is producing half-baked graduates who do not do what it says on the tin. Some graduates cannot even speak proper English. They “commit” grammatical blunders mixing up their tenses and pronouns. How can someone’s pidgin English be bad too? “Make you help buy me two dozens egg crates for market?”

Back when I was doing NYSC, some corpers used to take ages to write down their names or fill a simple bio-data form, holding up a queue unnecessarily. I once even helped someone in my CD group write a job application because she didn’t know how to structure a simple letter and kept on making grammatical errors. She was applying for a teaching role; how I pray now that it was for a driving school instead. At least then she could kill herself too if she was teaching someone nonsense.

           

Psss....please what did you write under Name and Matric No?

 

If our schools are producing “miseducated“ graduates by the truckload due to falling educational standards, corruption, the high incidence of exam malpractices and loopholes in the education system especially our tertiary institutions, then there is deep cause for concern. It is all well and good having bad graduates of the Library Science or Music Education departments as a book can be left on the wrong shelf in the library and we can stomach bad music (see Jim Iyke’s album), but surely there will be far reaching consequences if Dr. Who is poorly educated and doesn’t know all he should before he treats a patient. This is a recipe for mishap as a surgical device can be forgotten in a surgery patient’s torso.

Far-fetched? Maybe, but let me tell you a true story.

I had a bout of malaria and went to a nearby hospital/medical centre. I was ushered into the doctor’s office, and walked in to see a light skinned, slight framed man in his mid to late 30s. He looked a bit like Sam Loco to me, but it was all good. He was drinking zobo from a sachet; not so good.

After telling him the symptoms I was feeling, he asked “Do you have any medication or drugs you are allergic to or react adversely to?”

I replied “Quinine or chloroquine. Basically any drug with quinine in it.”

He probed further “Just quinine? Any other drug?”

I affirmed “None that I know of. I definitely do not take quinine.”

He scribbled on his note pad for a while, and when he looked up, he said he was prescribing some injections and drugs for me. Sweating with a fever, I nodded, stood up and made for the dispensary.

The matron nurse there looked like she was in a bad mood, and showed no mercy when pushing the needle into my backside. She was like a cheeky 8 year old with a pin in a room full of balloons.

After the injection, I took the other drugs and left.

When I got home, I started itching badly. It was like I took a bath with a huge bucket of yam and cassava water.

After 45 minutes, I couldn’t bear it any longer as I was scratching every inch of my body red with any sharp object I could find. That darn doctor must have prescribed a quinine injection for me. I was going to strangle him with his stethoscope when I get there.

I drove to the hospital like a crazed banshee, interrupting  changes of gear to scratch throbbing bits of my body, including impossible places to reach like behind the knees, between my big toe and the next one, between my a…

I parked badly on the side-walk not caring about LASTMA, dashed into the hospital and barged into the doctor’s office.

The doctor looked up from his desk; he was reading Hints Magazine and munching on popcorn featuring epa.

The conversation between me and “Dr. Loco” the medical practitioner went:

“Doc, what the hell did you prescribe me? What was the injection I took…?”

“Chloroquine”

“I remember telling you that I react badly to any quinine drug. I am itching violently now.”

“Ok o, sorry about that.”

Sorry? Eh, thanks but, hello I am err, still itching.

The menacing look on my face unnerved him, as I continued performing my robotic dance due to the itching.

He looked down, and started scribbling another prescription on his note-pad.

That had better be Botox or something.

I asked “What’s that you are prescribing? Is it some anti-itch medication like something to ease the itching?”

He replied very softly “Nah, I am prescribing Alagbin.”

I shouted “Ala wetin?!! I have already taken something for malaria!” Ala gbabukwe gi.

“Oh, sorry.” He looked more confused, with beads of perspiration around his face. Nepa had just taken light in the hospital and his room was now stuffy.

I was contemplating what to do next when the matron barged into the room without knocking, with a worried look on her face and her voice trembling “Doctor! Doctor! Please come quickly, the patient in Ward 13 has fallen into a coma!”

The doctor looked at me and then looked at the nurse, with a lost expression “Comma?”

When I heard that, I decided to leg it. A 7 year itch is better than a fatal case of medical malpraktis.

Malpractice.

 

I ain’t go to high school/.

I went to school, high/

 Sheek Louch of The Lox (Recognize, 1999)

Weird World

Good morning…

polite words said, not always meant

still! life will be the same

although we thrive to live and accept

dwelling in a centre of comprehension

every giving day never stops nor change

for me ‘living is all I embrace’

should have been born a woman

let my mind wonder towards comfort

and bring life into the world, a simple pain

I remain tormented by facts of existence

maybe I need helpmates to my uncertainty

I know I will be judged, bruised with mercy

a part deep inside wants to be heard

but somewhere between secret and silence we are pleased

many questions with answers un-given

plain to say reality is inexplicable

we stay alive to rest eternally

we cry in order to ease sorrow

the brave man destroys with his sword

the betrayal always with a kiss

some flatter or just stay vicious

it is sad love and life can never be fair

even in hunger we remain content

there is always a burden of weight to carry

the quiver of curiosity surrounds us

but deliver testimonies to look un-craven

the righteous says redemption is the price

parables are taught and most are misled

sometimes in misunderstanding we remain blessed

so we continue to leave footprints choicelessly

a predictable journey, it will always be

once we stood desperate, young and restless

then a time to watch, teach and take

eventually the bright light ending the tunnel

all measured by a twist of faith

knowing dreams can always redeem

whist, fed up of opening my eyes to everything

feeling trouble that cannot be named

are we the disease or could we be the cure to nothing

sometimes I cannot wait to die

Goodnight……………………………………..

(INSPIRED BY THE VIEW OF LIFE AS INEXPLICABLE, UN-BELEIVABLE BUT PREDICTABLE TO AN EXTENT)    “AN ODE TO A WEIRD WORLD”    JIDE SHADIPE

The Snake, The Rat, The Cat, The Dog

Scrappy doo - but scraps won't do

Our dear country Nigeria is a cauldron of extreme loves, habits, cultures and sensibilities.

Nigerian cuisine is no different. Many types of meats and plants are consumed here – roasted on a spit, fried with different kinds of fats and oils ranging from mmanu groundnut-nut to ororo and epo, or are ground into powdery forms and are used as stock to garnish dishes.

Nigerians would consume most forms of meat, or fish, or snail – mammals, reptiles, amphibians and crustaceans (crabs and lobsters) are fair game. I have even seen someone wait on the rain, not for water or irrigation, but so that he could get his hands on a kind of edible termite which loses its wings after a heavy storm. People gather the termites, roast their abdomens and stuff their faces with them. Yes, even Atom Ant wouldn’t be safe in some parts of Nigeria; neither would any of the characters from the movie “A Bug’s Life.”

So we like animals as a source of food. What I am now interested in asking is: Is Nigeria a nation of pet-lovers?

In Western countries, people keep pets for companionship, even housing and feeding them like they would do their own kids and in some extreme cases bequeathing an inheritance to them worth millions of dollars. Dol wetin?

This is definitely alien to the traditional Nigerian man.

Oyibo people love their pets so such that many prefer them to humans. I was at work somewhere in London some years back, when our manager asked someone why she hadn’t shown up to work for 4 whole days. The person who missed work said that her cat died a week ago and so she had been depressed and couldn’t work. The management empathized with her, and offered to refer her to Human Resources for counseling of bereaved employers. I was like what the…I mean, my catfish once died but I still had to turn up at NYSC Orientation Camp.

Oyibo people even have their pet dogs or cats sleep on their beds. Some rich people even build a large dog-house as huge as a BQ in Lekki Phase One for their pets.   

In this country, Bingo the dog belongs outside. If it is lucky or if its owners are minted, it would have a rudimentary shed built for it that would offer scant shelter from Nigeria’s extreme sunshine or monsoon rains. Bingo can expect a staple diet of remnants from the kitchen, including chicken and fish bones which have been stripped of all calcium and flesh by the house owners, eba, amala, fufu and even agonyi beans. Most Nigerian families would not care to buy Pedigree Chum or our local Jojo Dog Food for their dogs.

In Naija, if Bingo wants a dog-house as big as a BQ, it better know how to fetch lucrative multi-million naira contracts, not just sticks or Frisbees, and it should be able to catch and apprehend AK-47 wielding armed-robbers and thieves in the dead of the night. Or it would have to be able to make its owners a fortune by entertaining crowds like the Chuckle Hounds.

This is a far cry from my days on the Lion King

No doubt, the inflation and the cost of living severely prevent most pet-owners from taking already hard enough having to cater for the needs and health of yourself and your family without having to buy canned pet food or take your K-9 to the veterinary’s for his anti-rabies injections.

Apart from that,  pets may poo all over the place until they are trained, they climb the furniture and slither about.

In the olden days, dogs were bought to consume human excrement. Wait until the United Kingdom’s RSPCA catches them! Sad but true.

We may love pets but feeding them is no joke. Even trying to secure scraps off bones and flesh from your local ele eran for your dog is costly business. Unfortunately, we Nigerians eat almost all the parts of a cow or goat, so unless your dog likes cow or goat horn or hair, there is no free animal part to get off a butcher.

And buying the pet cans of Pedigree Chum, Whiskas, carrots or sesame bird seed requires deep pockets, the type only people who steal government money may usually have. How many pet-owners, faced with the option of buying Jojo Dog Food for Lassie their dog, or purchasing a carton of Indomie Noodles for the child’s dinner would buy the former? Is a dog man’s best friend? Well I don’t think so, unless your name is Tarzan and you live in the Jungle. Or unless you are making a fortune exporting 404 meat to Europe and North America from your base in Calabar.

I have seen people feed their pets substances that the pets themselves never knew they could consume. In Naija, I have seen pets eat foods that will confuse the biologists on the National Geographic and Animal Planet channels. Canivores have been transformed into herbivores due to Naija’s harsh economic climate.

Oh so you think that a cat can never be convinced to eat roasted agbado (maize)? Think again.

Some years back, I was working at an office somewhere in VI. Sometimes, I would get to work quite early to beat the morning traffic, so I would go to this small provisions shop right next to the office to get a Coke and some biscuits. The shed was owned by this huge black Yoruba woman who had a huge gob on her and was always mouthing off to customers about her business.

One particular day, I noticed a cage at a corner of the small shop, with a large white rabbit in it. I asked her about it and she said, it belonged to some expatriate who normally stopped by her shed for a quick cigarette. Apparently the expat had to go on a business trip to Holland, and had begged the lady to help him keep and look after the pet rabbit for 3 days.

Three days had turned into three weeks, and the expat had not shown up or returned to collect his damn bunny. The shop woman said that anytime she tried the number, it was switched off so the man wasn’t still back from the Netherlands.

While the woman cursed and cursed the expat in her local dialect, I looked at the rabbit and gasped as I saw a quarter loaf of Agege bread in its cage!

I was like wow! I turned to the woman and told her that she really shouldn’t be giving the rabbit white bread, as it was processed food and could kill it.

The woman sighed and shrugged her shoulders. She retorted that the man only dropped money enough for three days, and she had had to feed the rabbit from her own pocket. Fair point.

She then asked me what type of foods rabbits ate. As soon as I opened my mouth to answer, I realized how unrealistic I sounded: “Lettuce, carrots, cabbages…”

 The woman looked at me with an irritated expression on her face as if to say “Fuji cabbage…”

Taking a blunt stick, and poking the distressed rabbit through the cage hole, the woman proudly told me that she had been feeding the rabbit agonyi beans, a delicacy which she claimed the rabbit now loved and looked forward to. I then noticed the red palm-oil stains on the bunny’s otherwise snow white fur. At that point, how I wished I had the services of Dr. Doolittle so I could know what this rabbit was thinking.

I have seen someone feed their pet parrots – Harry and Harriet, udara (agbalumon) seeds! Talk about bird seed! Harry later died, leaving Harriet a widow.

Imagine giving the stray horses on Lekki road a lump of sugar while stroking their mane. The agitated horse would be sure to kick lumps out of you.

Like everyone, I was amazed when I saw pictures of the stranded whale carcass being carved into chunks on Oniru beach about a fortnight ago. I know about point-and-kill catfish, but this is pointless. Whales are mammals, by the way so the people actually ate whale-meat! Ewww!

 

 

 

Moby Dick don enter naija o

 

Some pets have been known to turn against their owners due to ill treatment. I even know Nigerian pets that “rack” Naija sense. It must be something in the water.

There was a time a friend of mine was travelling out of town for a week, so he left some money for the gateman to feed his 2 dogs – a pair of Alsatian breeds. Soon as he was out of the door, the gateman pocketed the money, and only gave the dogs some remnant chicken bone on the 3rd day. Then the morning of the day, the house-owner was due to come back, the gateman decided to buy some cheap food from a nearby buka  for the dogs to give some semblance that he had been feeding the dogs.

As soon as the gateman stepped into the dog cage to feed the dogs, one of them, a very feeble female called Sheba quickly snuck behind him and bit his bum -without barking or giving inkling as to its intent.

The gateman had to use the remaining money to get a rabies shot at the doctor’s. That is what I call canine justice.

But the weirdest case I ever heard happened somewhere in Lagos. There was this family that had a dog called Diego had started becoming a bit erratic. It barked at visitors, was aggressive if someone was eating a steak at the dinner table and didn’t throw it the bones; it even stationed itself at the gate, putting its snout under the gate to bark at who knows what passing by on the street. It even got irritated by gushes of wind. It even barked at the rain once, and nearly got electrocuted snapping and growling at a NEPA power cable connected to a sparking transformer as it bit at it furiously. Atomic dog.

Then there was a day when a business partner came to the house somewhere in Surulere to see Raymond, the dog’s owner.  At the gate, the visitor asked whether Raymond had a dog. Being the confident owner, Ray replied in the affirmative, but proudly assured the now shaken visitor that the dog will not bite him because they were together. He told the visitor to walk behind until they were both in the house.

Diego who had been watching the proceedings, from his spot under a car in the garage was already growling. He then bolted from under the car, and bit, wait for this, Raymond! The dog was now officially uncontrollable!

The visitor dashed into the house when he saw Diego biting Raymond, and shut the door. Ray was trapped outside with the errant dog; Ray was mighty embarrassed.

Ray had had enough and the next morning, he called his driver and instructed him to take the dog to Kuramo Beach in VI, where some people were in the business of putting down dogs and making them into pepper-soup. He also handed the driver some cash to pay the dog-bashers.

The driver drove down to VI with the dog in the back-seat. However, when he got to the beach, he decided he could make a quick buck by releasing Diego, driving away and keeping the money for himself.

He did that, and drove off. He had a couple of errands to run in Lagos Island and Ikoyi. He then went to pick up the children at school around 2pm

When he got back to the house, Ray was on the dining table eating rice and chicken.

He looked up from his meal, and stared directly at the driver, as he asked him“Oh you are just coming back now. Did you give the dog to the dog-killers to kill? And did you pay them the money? I hope the money was enough?”

The driver lied “Yes sir. Dem kill the dog for my front, and I carry three thousand give them.”

At that point, Ray visibly frustrated, sighed and looked at the driver again, as he pointed “If dem kill am for your front, then what the hell is the dog doing here!”

Diego was lying under the dining table, with a half eaten bone next to it. Please refer to the lyrics section at the end of this article.

 

 

  

Get at me dog

 

 I hear that Diego inspired the storyline for the horror dog movie “Cujo”.

The economic hardship in Nigeria has made families look for different ways to survive. The middle class is being eroded, and the worldwide-recession, bank crisis and crash of the stock market have not helped matters. If people cannot feed themselves, how can they have any regards for pets or animals? Economic hardship can turn your bosom friend into your enemy. The crab in the bucket theory? Some Naija people may take this too far.

I mean, when does your pet hamster begin to look more and more like bush meat (ara oke) to you?

 It is not an excuse though.

A cleaner that used to work for my uncle once told me that he used to catch pigeons, kill them, fry and eat. I was shocked, and wondered how he managed to trap them. He said he would mix granulated sugar in a bowl of water and place it on a verandah.

According to him, and I stress that, the pigeons would fly in and take sips of the water. Later on, when they flew elsewhere and drank water, it would taste bitter because they were used to the sugary water. So they would fly back to his verandah, gathering in flocks as they tried to sip out of the sugary water. He claimed that at this point, he would pick them easily as they would offer little resistance! Keep this dude away from Trafalgar Square, I say!

Of course, there are Nigerians that love their pets.

I know a landlord that never charged rent for the use of his Boy Quarters. All he asked was that Major, his dog was fed and groomed daily by the tenant. The only thing was the Major was thick set, heavy Rottweiler with a bad temper, big sharp teeth and a long leash. Well the BQ was in Abacha Estate, Ikoyi.

And of course to some Nigerian people, a pet is a status symbol. If you owned an ekruke (local dog), you would not want to take it for a walk. But watch some people walking their Spaniels or Bulldogs!

I remember back in the days, when some people would lie that their mongrel dog was half or quarter Alsatian. Some people used to lie that they had “police dogs” or “German Shepherds” which you would never get to see when you stopped by their house. I remember someone claiming his dog was half Alsatian, quarter Doberman with a little bit of local dog (one-eighth according to him).

I highly doubted that when I saw the way the dog demolished left-over fufu on the kitchen floor.

Give a dog a bone/

leave a dog alone/

let a dog roam and he’ll find his way home/

 DMX (Ruff Ryders Anthem, 1998)

Yellow Light, Red Light

Make our day, all we need is just one motorist to enter a BRT lane

You would usually see them in their yellow and red, under the hot Lagos sun and they are usually full of beef. I am not talking about the popular sausage roll snack known as Gala.

Now I actually have your attention, I was referring to Lastma agents – Lagos’s infamous road and traffic marshals.

Like LASTMA officials - gala are fitted in like colors and are also full of beef

They are more feared and hated than parking wardens are in London. Their weapons of choice are the words that no vehicle driver would like to hear “Why you use one-way?” or “Oya, park and open ya door.” And if you are street smart, you would refuse to hand over your driver’s license as it is usually seized by the LASTMA agent and used as a lien until you “settle”.

Where do I start with regarding the various indiscretions of Lastma as they go about inflicting pain and discipline on Lagos’s traffic ridden streets? Everybody agrees that many Lagos drivers should have their brains scanned, because you see different dare-devil stunts every day. Please explain to me why a petrol tanker would swerve unto a “one-way” lane and face on -coming traffic, driving like he had the right of way and abusing other stunned drivers.

I have even seen the driver of a school bus conveying primary school kids, swerving and overtaking smaller cars recklessly as he also chatted on his mobile phone. The kids looked scared to death. One of them was sobbing with his yoghurt spilled all over his uniform, as the driver barked at him to shut up and sit tight.

I have seen a danfo driver get so impatient with the stuttering bus in front of him, that he bumped into the bus and was shoving it forward. It was like being in the GET Arena all over again while playing the Naija hit “Bumper to Bumper” on the car stereo.

When LASTMA was introduced by the Tinubu administration, some road users hailed the initiative. At last some law and order on the roads where N7, 000 and a passport photograph could get you a driver’s license to operate an 18-wheeler truck if you wanted.

I mean, in Benin City some years back, an intra-city bus was involved a serious accident, skidding off the highway as it ran into a ditch. It was discovered that the driver was only a boy of 14 years. When the police asked him why he was driving a bus when he was underage, he opined with a serious face “The motor nor get brake, that na why e get accident.” As if.

In those early days, LASTMA officials were like Judge Dredd, formulating and interpreting the traffic laws and dispensing justice on the spot. If you used a one-way road, your case was summarily forwarded to Yaba psychiatric hospital for psychic evaluation as Lagos State reasoned that the only way one could drive against traffic was if they were insane.  P.R.I.C.E.L.E.S.S.

Your car was impounded in LASTMA’s lot, and your 17 inch tires were introduced to a nail. The resident vulcanizer on the LASTMA lot got a lot of referrals as his business was a monopoly in the area.  After your evaluation, you paid an amount almost 3times the going rate elsewhere to get your tires pumped up by Rasaki – the only vulcanizer for miles. You also paid a fine to Lagos state and also footed the bill for your mental scan.

It was a beautiful scheme though: The erring driver was humbled, rehabilitated, punished and taught a lesson on the Highway Code and other traffic laws. Hell, the driver even got to find out whether madness was really in his family after-all. Many a driver found out that they were actually related to Clifford Orji and that they really should not be operating a vehicle.

LASTMA were a godsend. Their sparkly yellow shirts and maroon coloured pants made many a Nigerian child want to join the force. Ok I kid, I lie, most kids want to be corrupt politicians not traffic marshals but you get the gist. LASTMA were so efficient that their predecessors the much derided “Yellow Fever” corps were relegated to manning posts at busy road intersections and soliciting for N10 tips from empathic drivers.

Some LASTMA officers even shined their boots for work, and that is saying something.

But something changed and LASTMA agents became tyrants. Sometimes empathy is needed when dealing with members of the public. The following examples may have been real events but are now urban legends:

A girl called Nkem, 25, was driving to a job interview in VI on a Monday morning. She was not sure of the directions to the venue of the interview and ended up mistakenly turning into a one-way street. Before she even realized her mistake, a LASTMA officer had thrown himself in front of her car spitting fire and brimstone, and quoting all the traffic laws she had broken.

She calmly explained that she was on her way to an interview, and that her offence was an honest mistake as she wasn’t familiar with the area. The LASTMA officer had naira signs on the brain and refused to budge, as he pointed a “one-way” sign on the road which was hidden among some thick shrubs inconspicuous to road-users. The only way anyone would have seen that sign was if they were a billy-goat feeding on roadside grass.

Nkem started sobbing because she was already getting late for her interview which was for a bank’s graduate recruitment scheme. The LASTMA guy now seemingly empathized with her and offered to direct her to the venue of her interview. She unlocked the front passenger door to let him in, and he got in and started giving her directions.

After about 5 minutes, she realized that the officer was actually leading her to a major junction where swathes of LASTMA officials usually congregated, a central command if you like. Annoyed, she started abusing the officer who replied with insults himself. He confirmed that he was taking her to his area commander, and told her that her offence was a N50, 000 one. Of course, she was also given the option of a discount if she paid early enough with minimum fuss.

Pissed off, Nkem quickly swerved off the road and parked in front of a nearby bank. She then asked the LASTMA officer to get out of her car, so that she could be on her way to her interview. The agent refused knowing that he had her in a tight corner because of the short time left for her interview.

They were arguing at the top of their voices, causing a scene, when one of the soldiers who was attached to the bank came and asked what was happening there. Apparently he had escorted a bullion van to the bank and had been waiting for the van to be loaded.

After hearing both sides, he asked the LASTMA officer to get down from the Nkem’s car as she was already late for the interview. He also asked Nkem to apologize for shouting and abusing the agent which she did. But the LASTMA chap refused to get down from the car. The now irate traffic man was insisting that Nkem follow him to his central command where he would hand over to his superiors.

At this point the soldier got annoyed because the LASTMA man was aggravating the situation, which was attracting passer-bys to the front of the bank, which itself was a security risk. Even passer-bys were imploring the stubborn LASTMA chap to get down and forget about the incident since the girl had an interview.

The soldier then ordered the LASTMA man to get down from the car, to which the latter blatantly refused.  Not good – that was an order not a request, and soldiers don’t like when people do not follow orders.

The soldier suddenly swung his fire-arm and dazed the LASTMA official on the head with the butt. Bleeding, the LASTMA chap got down from the car clutching his forehead and started crying and bellowing, as the happy public clapped with joy.

Nkem got into her car, started the engine and drove off, leaving a very dazed LASTMA officer behind humiliated and sobbing.

The soldier shouldn’t have struck the traffic officer, but whatever happened to showing empathy and using your discretion in dealing with traffic law defaulters. Surely, there is room for flexibility. The LASTMA man wanted a 47k bribe but instead got an AK-47 whack on the head.

I remember going to drop my mother at MM2 airport on Boxing Day last year because she had a 7am flight to catch. I was with my sister and my girl, and we dropped off my mum, and were on Mobolaji Bank-Anthony Road just after the airport when we noticed a batch of policemen and LASTMA officers flagging us down. The car ahead of us stopped, so I pulled up as well asking what the matter was. As soon as I parked, the policeman opened my car door and asked me to get down.

Apparently Boxing Day which fell on a Saturday was an environmental day!! Can you just imagine how a public holiday on a day just after Xmas could be declared a day for the monthly environmental clean-up exercise. I got down to explain to one of the officers that I had no idea about the clean-up exercise, and was just coming from the airport. I even offered to drive back to the airport to wait till the end of the exercise as the time was just a few minutes past 7am.

I looked at the road and saw commuters driving, and it seemed obvious that very few people knew about the environmental sanitation exercise. The policeman refused to listen, and before I knew it, the LASTMA man jumped into my car and sped off with him sister and girl inside the car! He didn’t even tell me or them when he was driving off or where he was going.

My sister later told me that he nearly spoilt the car, trying to change gear on an automatic car! I had to call my girl on her phone to get a description of where the LASTMA chap had taken them to – their area command off Oba Akinjobi Road.

I got there very upset but in time to prevent them from deflating my tires. Their resident vulcanizer didn’t look too pleased at the loss of business for him. I raked, I pleaded, I hassled, I used ogboju, I negotiated, I argued, I insulted…

I finally got everything sorted and drove off eventually but that’s all beside the point.

 I hated the red and yellow corps for a while after that.

A guy once drove past a traffic light just as it turned from yellow to red, around the 1004 Estate intersection on Ozumba Mbadiwe Road.  He sped up the road and ran into a bit of traffic just before Mobil filling station. As he slowed down, an okada rider carrying a LASTMA officer pulled up to his side, and without saying a word, opened the passenger door and got in. The officer then accused him of running past a red light, and told him to drive down to the Lekki Phase One junction where LASTMA had a batch of officers waiting. The guy refused, so he and the LASTMA guys started struggling for the car steering wheel, and the vehicle was swerving from side to side, meandering dangerously and nearly colliding with passing vehicles! 

I was driving behind the car, listening to my Eedris Abdulkareem CD, and nearly ran into the swerving car! I shook my fist at the LASTMA officer who by this time, was holding the steering with one hand and trying to call his officers for back-up on his mobile phone with the other hand.

Do these officers know when to back down – especially when an arrest or apprehension would cause a danger to other road-users or greatly inconvenience the general public? Or are they instructed to infuse the Naija X factor in confronting defaulters with aggression and cunning? I mean, why should a traffic officer hold up early morning traffic because he is trying to force his way into a car whose driver was chatting on his phone?

I have seen those Local Government officers in green and white uniform, yank out an okada rider’s key from the ignition, to prevent the okada rider from evading capture for payment of a local government tax!

I have even seen officers throw a metal device with spikes on the road to catch escaping bike men who were riding without helmets or in restricted zones. Surely that is barbaric, as no traffic law is worth a man’s life. In a country where people still, kill and destroy but get away with it, it beggars belief that breaking some obscure traffic law could get you into a dangerous high speed chase or a deadly game of hide and seek with over-zealous marshals in mustard coloured shirts.

spike lee - stop or I will, err, chook

I never thought I would ever say this, being a health buff and all, but I really prefer Yellow fever.

 

So I…pull over to the side of the road/

I heard “Son do you know why I’m stopping you for?”/

..Do I look like a mind reader sir, I don’t know/

 Jay Z (99 Problems, 2003)