Going Nowhere Fast


No, that’s not the sound of the police – thankfully.

But that was the sound of the horn of the biggest trailer I had ever seen.

Only in Nigeria would a trailer or tanker driver honk his horn and “trafficate” furiously to indicate he wants to overtake a sports sedan? Funny enough the tanker driver had a “Speed Kills” sticker with a huge skeleton head on his rear bumper. What a bone head.

Where is everyone always in a rush to? Obviously there is work to be done, bills to pay, places to go, people to see. But I am sure you will agree with me that some people rush for the hell of it. Some drivers seem to have a thing against allowing other cars into the space in front of them.

Sometimes  if you stop to ask for directions, the chap in the car behind starts blaring his horn incessantly. The look on their face when they overtake your car for time-wasting is like Medusa’s stone cold stare. There was this Indian expatriate worker who experienced this behaviour. He got lost in Lagos Island while trying to get to an appointment. He stopped several times to ask people for directions, much to the irritation of the cars behind whose drivers rained insults and tooted their horns loudly. On one occasion, the driver of a taxi-cab who got tired of the Indian’s stop and go driving, angrily over-took him, and gave him the waka sign. The Indian chap thought the taxi driver was saying hi.

The impatience of our dear compatriots is the stuff of legend. I once saw my friend off to Gatwick airport, to the Nigeria departure section of the then Virgin Nigeria, and did a double take :  the queue there  was as long and as rowdy as the final scenes from the movie 2012 where hordes of people were scrambling on top of themselves to board huge ocean-liners.

What was even more surprising was that a reservation agent would tell someone to go and re-pack because their luggage was over-weight, and the person would refuse to step aside from the line, to let other travelers be attended to in the interim. And I am like dude; everyone will eventually get on the plane. You have paid for it, and you are on time. Relax, no “one-chance” exists here.

Once at Mr. Biggs, in Surulere, a chap came with a petit framed girl to order some take-away. Once the girl stepped into the place and got a whiff of the freshly made spread, she started acting possessed. Every item she ordered was in plural form: 3 chicken-pies, 4 scotch eggs, 2 sausage rolls, 5 tasty fiestas…

The attendant packed everything in to take away; then the girl saw freshly roasted pepper chicken. Turning to her date, she said ” ‘Oney (honey), I don’t want chicken part, I want whole chicken” as she gesticulated curving her hands in front of her like a horse does standing on hind legs only. She was imitating the figure of a chicken grilled whole on a spit.

At this point the mammoth crowd that made up the queue waiting to be served had had their patience tested to the limit. People began shouting “Abeg make you comot for there jor! You wan order the whole UAC!!!!”

In this instance, maybe their impatience was justified.

I mean seriously, I have had my car paint redesigned by horizontal marks caused by okada handle-bars. Sometimes they squeeze into your front or between 2 cars! Let’s make a motor sandwich, shall we?

Bus drivers are from another planet; I have seen buses do a 120 degree tilt, driving down pedestrian kerbs on full speed just to beat traffic and maximize profit. Lewis Hamilton has nothing on these drivers!

The concept of personal space is a myth at any service till. You are surrounded and smothered by M.O*, B.O*, H.O* (yes it exists), bumps and lumps as people squeeze inside any queue to gain an undue advantage so as to get fast service. Only in Nigeria, can a 3-person queue in a spacious banking hall be tight and sweaty!

Fuel scarcity periods are worse; I have seen a car shove another car away in bumper car fashion, in order to move closer to the gas pump? It was like watching a NASCAR rally. Or playing Motorstorm on PS 3 with real cars.

Meanwhile a couple of motorists were having a scuffle with the petrol pump attendant with like 15 people all trying to grab the nozzle. Fuel was flying everywhere in spurts. All that was needed was for that Indonesian 2-year old chain smoking toddler to appear with his lit cigarette, to create a big action movie blow-up scene by Jerry Bruckheimer. Patience, people.

Sometimes the same person who over-sped recklesslyor swerved and overtook your car, as he blared his horns impatiently, is likely to the same person you see holding up traffic up the road without any consideration, as he stops to buy Gala from a roadside hawker or chat with a pedestrian friend.

But really how much of a hurry are you in, to risk your life or everything you own and love? Is it worth it, trying to cut off a 1000 tonne sand tipper who is trying to enter your lane in go-slow. Back off before you put your family in all black everything.



Life is every man’s kingdom, a dying man’s past/
and a newborn’s, first time to be here at last/
And shouldn’t have to grow up fast, and suffer our pain/
Hustling harder than the generations here before he came/

Nas (Ghetto Prisoners, 1999)



*Hair odour




4 responses

  1. I’m guilty as charged. Everyone is in such a hurry that it becomes the culture on the road. Sometimes when you try to allow someone in front of you, the person behind you starts honking impatiently. God help us on Lagos roads. Thanks for speaking my heart. Very well written article.

  2. Hahaha…All Black Every Thing… Good one… Then there’s also shouts of “who give u liscense” or “who give you motor” if u dare slow down at all… Good piece!

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