What I did after a Traffic Warden seized my Driver’s Licence

traffic wardenWhen I was learning to drive in my late teens, the ‘qualified’ driving instructor advised that while driving I must assume that everyone else is drunk. Why? The logic was that if they were actually drunk then they wouldn’t drive properly. This would mean that they could run into me so I would have to be extra alert and preempt unforeseen accidents or close shaves. Unfortunately these words of wisdom didn’t pay off when I (allegedly) beat a non-existent traffic light and got stopped by a drunk traffic warden.

The uniformed clown had actually beckoned the vehicle right in front of me to drive forward so I tailed it closely. Obviously I wasn’t close enough else I would have smashed the warden’s legs. I said to him, ‘But you told me to come’. However he denied it and said he told me to stop. He looked at me in shock when I started raising my voice and so he directed me to ‘park well’ (away from oncoming traffic). He came to the front passenger window and started to engage me in shit-chat (no typo) which I’ve heard all before. It started with, ‘Let me see your driver’s licence!’ Then after I handed it over and he pretended to understand what he was examining, the next thing he said was, ‘Open your door.’

‘What the hell for?’ I retorted.

‘Look here, if you don’t want me to take your car to the station then open your door now’

I turned away from him and stared intently at my two hands firmly placed on the steering wheel, like a racer waiting for the starting pistol to be fired. I weighed my options: He gets in. We drive to the station. My car gets clamped. I pay a heavy fine and bank account bleeds. Total time wasted = 45mins to 1 hour.

I decided to go for my next option – I sped off and let the traffic warden choke on my dust! No money lost. Car is safe. Total time wasted = 3 mins. But as I let the adrenaline wear off it suddenly dawned on me that my driver’s licence was still in that traffic warden’s hand! not a photocopy…MY ORIGINAL DRIVER’S LICENCE – DAMN IT!!! (To be continued)

The Initiation: What it means to cut your hand in Nigeria (Pt.1)

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Dear readers, As I think back to the time when I returned from London after ten years of work experience to settle in Nigeria, I marvel at how much of the local lingo I’ve learnt e.g. To ‘trafficate’ is to … Continue reading

How to cope with Traffic on Third Mainland Bridge

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Mindfullness_angry_driverDear motorists of 3RDMB,

When I see you in traffic every evening during the week I see the frustration in your faces. I see the hurt in your bloodshot eyes (from staring too long at brake lights). I feel the pain in your arms (from latching unto your steering wheels for 2 hours). It’s insane to say the least. On 3RDMB rush hour in the morning is between 5.45 and 10am while in the evening it’s typically between 6.30 and 9.30 pm. After 7 years of being a victim of locomotion (loco as in ‘crazy’ in Spanish) and getting high on ‘secondhand exhaust fumes’ I believe at this point it is my civil duty to share how you can cope with the menace that is the traffic on 3RDMB:

Rule 1: Wise up

I hate unpleasant surprises; 3RDMB being in my top 3. That’s why I log in to GIDITRAFFIC, TSABOIN TRAFFIC TALK and TRAFFICBUTTER APP on Twitter for the latest updates on all my routes out of the Mad Arena more commonly known as the Marina. These info sources are a Godsend if you have access to the Internet and want online real-time news about the state of traffic on all major Lagos routes. If you’re more of the radio listening type you can tune in to 96.1 Traffic FM and get the scoop there. Even if all your other alternative routes are experiencing traffic at least you’ll know which one has that broken down trailer blocking two-thirds of the three-lane road!!! Don’t drive off without getting your traffic information right or you’ll be singing ‘Bumper to bumper’ @wandecoal

Rule 2: Snack up

If you’re driving a brand new car and your rule of thumb is never to eat in it then think again. Motorists would agree that by the time you’re motionless on 3RDMB at about 9.30pm and you start nodding off to sleep on the wheel, you’re gonna need more than your stereo to keep you awake. But help is on the bridge. They roam the tarmac with multiple bags of popcorn, cartons of plantain chips and other munchies. I call these heroes Teenage Hell-bent Ninja Hawkers. Have you seen them run after motorists to make that sale? Usain Bolt aint got nothing on these guys and I say that boldly because he’s not running between the narrow spaces of moving trucks and danfo buses. If you haven’t noticed them by now then they’re better ninjas than I thought. The first set of hawkers when you get close to the UniLag waterfront section of 3RDMB sell Popcorn. A few 100 metres down the bridge you begin to see plantain chips and the occasional coconut chips and chin-chin. If you still haven’t made up your mind about what snack you want after this point then get ready for…(drumroll)…Rat poison. I still don’t get the connection and I’ve debated this severally with my passengers. Why have snacks, drinks and rat poison sold in that order? Don’t ask me. Ask the Teenage Hell-bent Ninja Hawkers. I’m yet to see a rat invasion at the end of 3RDMB so for now I ain’t buying.

Rule 3: Wind up

Last but not least, switch on that air conditioning and wind up your windows. Why? Because this is Lagos where open car windows are an invitation to robbery attacks. Some of the hawkers I mentioned earlier are informants and robbers in disguise. That said, keep your windows low enough to let your snack have easy access into your car and then wind up immediately you’ve paid the hawker. This is no time to be a cheapskate with your fuel consumption. ‘Ember’ months are in and the armed robbers are out. So unless you’ve got a car with external gadgets to apprehend or maim your attackers, EVERYBODY’S WINDOWS GO UP!….AND THEY STAY THERE! AND THEY STAY THERE! AND THEY STAY THERE! NOT DOWN, NOT DOWN, NOT DOWN or all you do is SCREAM, SCREAM, SCREAM lol.

Even as I type this article on this fine Saturday I’m already dreading 3RDMB blues which set in round about 5pm every week day. Well, it is what it is. Remember, Wise up, Snack up and Wind up.

Till Monday when I see you on the bridge, this is the Crazy Nigerian zooming off!

There’s always a right time to do the wrong thing

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Morals…some people have them and some others don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. This is currently the situation in Lagos, Nigeria where I reside: In the daytime you find most motorists obey the traffic lights (because they don’t … Continue reading

Why my mechanic should be jailed!

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Looking around the city of Lagos alone, one could argue that Lagosians lack a maintenance culture. Though, the federal government in August 2012 decided to maintain/repair expansion joints of the heavily strained Third Mainland bridge – the longest bridge in … Continue reading

The Nigerian Way 101

Are you thinking of travelling to a place where you can sunbathe in scorching temperatures close to 40 degrees centigrade this Christmas? Are you looking for a place where you can enjoy delicious African cuisine, ice-cold beer, and transportation for less than $1? Are you looking for a place with zero snow, zero earthquakes, zero hurricanes, zero volcanic eruptions and zero riots? Are you looking for a haven where everyone who serves calls you Chairman (or Madam, as the case may be) and treats you like royalty? Then look no further – Nigeria is your ideal travel destination!

Nigeria is a vibrant counrty which is located in West Africa close to the equator and boasts of a population of about 150 million people – but never fear, there’s plenty more room for tourists! One of the great things about my country is the warm reception you get when you arrive at Murtala Muhammed International Airport, literally. There is no air-conditioning. Whilst you wait for your luggage on the ‘sushi’ conveyor belt, the blistering heat helps you to burn a few calories and to prepare you adequately for the sunny outdoors.

When you exit the international airport don’t be alarmed by the eager unlicensed taxi-drivers who grab your luggage – they’re only trying to help ease your burden. They may want to test whether you’re familiar with the Nigerian way by charging you like they would an aristocrat. All you have to do is to start your negotiation at half his price and work from there. They may also want to engage you in some ‘small-talk’ because we’re generally very chatty people. Do take advantage and get to know the hotspots around town so you can plan the best way to enjoy your stay. There’s a whole range of hotels to choose from, depending on your taste and your budget.

After you’ve had a good night’s rest in your air-conditioned room and enjoyed a generous helping of yam and egg-stew at your affordable hotel, you will be ready to hit the road (or hit the bed again if you had too much yam). Make sure you carry along a bottle of cold water to hydrate yourself during the course of the hot day. Getting from A to B is easy. Go to the nearest bus stop and listen carefully to the destination being screamed out by the bus conductor – otherwise, your 3-minute journey into the next town could become a 3-hour journey into the next state.  Alternatively you can save a lot of money by just waiving your hand at the oncoming commercial motorcylists and shouting ‘Okada’. You’ll soon be whizzing through traffic jams whilst enjoying the humid breeze.

The first sensible place for you to go to would be one of our many hospitals. Why? You would need to get anti-malaria treatment so that you’re rest assured of not having a restless holiday. If your’re squeamish about taking injections then there’s tablets that the doctor can prescribe. Pre-treatment is far more recommended than buying a couple of Baygon or Raid sprays and fighting an uneven battle with the non-relenting population of mosquitoes. Wear long trousers at night when you’re outdoors if you want to keep those legs spotless and to avoid being mistaken for a former military officer with an involuntary reflex – ‘Attention!’.

There’s so much to see and to do, especially if you’re in Lagos. If you’re in its capital, Ikeja, there are many malls and eateries that could entice you. If you decide to go to Victoria Island you could tour The Third Mainland Bridge – the longest bridge in Africa. You could also see the magnificent toll gate structures at Lekki Phase 1 and these should be operational by the time you make your way over to Lagos so get your petty cash ready. The are so many shopping complexes and food markets boasting of unique bargains so I’m very confident you’ll find something worthwhile to buy (Remember the 100:50 pricing rule!).

There is a sense of security in Nigeria as you will notice the unprecedented number of checkpoints virtually every 5 miles of your journey by road. We even have a saying, ‘Police is your friend’. They may stop your vehicle but all you have to do is smile, stay calm, lock your doors and ignore any requests other than producing your driving licence and vehicle particulars. That said, some habits you may want to abstain from (but are by no means limited to) include: Walking in dark alleys late at night whilst talking on your mobile phone; Arguing with a gang of drunk Man U fans when you’re clearly a fan of the opposition and; urinating on walls that have ‘DO NOT URINATE HERE’ boldly printed on them.

You would be surprised to learn that our internet connectivity has gone from ‘good’ to ‘good grief!’ but recently the introduction of Wi-fi has elevated the browsing experience by a big notch. Just ask your hotel receptionist for the password and you’re wired in. And for those Blackberry users most of our telecom providers have made affordable BIS available to the pubilc. You don’t have to carry so much foreign currency since there are Mallams in the black market who could strike a good deal, although I would recommend dealing with banks as they do not exhibit normadic behaviour. Most of the retail outlets in the city have Point of Sale terminals which accept foreign credit cards…point of correction, foreign VISA and Mastercard credit cards. Sales assistants call the attention of supervisors and delay you when they see an American Express card. 

Do try any of our renowned beaches which include the critically-acclaimed Bar Beach, the breathtaking Tarkwa Bay, the mysterious Alpha Beach and the mesmerizing Eleko beach.  Nigerians know how to party too. You have a choice of painting the town red at any of the nightclubs on the island or mainland – yes, we uphold the ‘Happy hour’ tradition but not so much the ‘Dancing on the bar’ tradition. But if you’re more interested in souvenirs then you can find ethnic memorobilia in City Mall, Ikoyi if you want to leave Nigeria with a traditional caftan or blouse and wrapper. Our array of woven head gear is also a must if you are going for that regal look. By the time you’ve maxed out your credit cards, gained a tan and picked up a bit of the lingo, also known as ‘pidgeon english’, you’ll be sad that you had to leave.

This is the unique experience that awaits you. This is the life that so many expats enjoy but may be keeping from you.   

This is My Nigeria 😀

Big Flood in Little Lagos

Yesterday could be summarized by one word – Wet. But I wouldn’t be doing a tenth of justice to Sunday the 10th of July 2011…the day Lagos was soaked in over 12 hours of non-stop torrential rainfall.

Apparently the heavens opened on the island in the early hours of the morning. By afternoon some of the streets were covered with over 3 feet of filthy water. Many homes were flooded, with tenants put under house arrest. Some cars lost their second-hand value as water got as high as the side windows in some cases. This rainfall stole the front page of all the local newspapers today and it was a stark reminder of Mother Nature’s awesome power (and sick sense of humor).

I decided to share some of the horrors of yesterday:

The sea-level has risen and so this as well as the poor drainage in some areas could account for this biblical flood (Where’s Noah’s ark when you need one?). In other news, sale of umbrellas, raincoats and wellies have skyrocketed overnight. That’s odd isn’t it 😉

Life is a beach

Last Saturday I got a taste of what I wanted early retirement to feel like. I was whisked off by speed boat to a secluded beach house not far from Ikoyi motor boat club in Lagos Island. My party of friends were a crazy bunch whom all had busy, demanding jobs. This was our chance to let loose and party…hard.

We had a DJ onboard and there was enough alcohol to open up a mini bar. There was spicy barbecue turkey with a variety of sauces for dipping. We were about 20 people in total, both men and women, and most of us came prepared with swimming gear to test the nearby pool.

The beach house had two floors all made of solid dark chocolate coloured wood. Nobody stayed on the ground floor though. The action was upstairs where the DJ set up shop and blasted tunes from Hip hop greats to Local legends. The top floor had a mini bar (empty on arrival of course) and a balcony with five single foldable beds to savour the ocean view. There were also two open bedrooms with single beds. There was a centre table with colorful plastic chairs. The toilets and shower rooms were downstairs next to the beach house, along with the barbecue stand. It was indeed a sight to behold.

We commenced drinking at about 1.30pm and danced for the first hour before some of us decided to disengage for other activities. Some went to play volleyball in the swimming pool, some went for a walk along the beach shore, and some others went to check out swords being sold by a scary looking Northern Nigerian warrior (bizarre, I know).

There was dancing, drinking, laughing, swimming, jumping, singing, hugging and posing. We took so many pictures and recorded quite a few crazy videos which I would only upload if given general consent. I made some new friends and got a few more blackberry contacts. Something tells me this won’t be the last encounter. Enjoy the slide show!

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Entry #76 – Three words

In the course of work and life in general I have come across some statements that are concise yet powerful. The implication of such verbal statements is usually what deters the recipients from challenging them in the first place. I have been at the receiving end of some of such statements and I have also gotten accounts from friends about short statements that can send shudders down the spine of the average Nigerian. I took it upon myself to dig deep into my past experiences plus those of others and decided to share some of my observations with a few illustrations:

1. The economy is still suffering the aftermath of the global meltdown and everyone is struggling to make ends meet. You arrive at the office one day and notice that all your colleagues looking deeply worried about something. You dare to ask and then one of them whispers to you and says ‘They’re sacking staff’. Now you’re not sure whether your precious job is going to be yours much longer. Everyday is like a game of Russian Roulette and you consider joining some of your colleagues in ‘Brown-nosing’ your boss.

2. Imagine you are driving back late at night from work and you are stuck in traffic. You decide to wind down your windows for some air (because on this particular day there happens to be a petrol strike, remember?) but you failed to notice a motorcycle coming from behind with two suspicious passengers on board. The next thing that happens is that the passenger at the back of the bike grabs your neck through the window opening and says ‘Bring your bag’ or ‘Bring your phone’ or ‘Bring your chain’ or ‘Bring your wallet’. In your presumed state of shock you have no choice but to comply. You look around for someone to come to your rescue but all the other drivers in the traffic jam are busy winding up their own windows (as they are actively learning from your ongoing experience). After your ordeal those are three words you’d never forget.

3. You are just arriving in London after a succession of disappointing runs with the British Embassy in Lagos whilst trying to obtain a visa. You are standing in line with the other passengers waiting to check out of the Immigration point. You are already thinking about all the gear you’re going to spend your traveller’s cheques on when suddenly a hefty Immigration officer sneaks up to you and says ‘Step aside, please’. It’s embarrassing. It immediately puts you on the defensive since you are 100% certain at that point that you are not guilty of anything. What’s worse is watching some of the ‘holier-than-thou’ passengers shake their heads as you are escorted off to a nearby interrogation room for some grilling.

4. You’ve had a long, hard day at the office and you’re looking forward to closing time. You decide to call a colleague whose had a head start on the road and you want to get a traffic update since he/she is on a similar route home. The response you get is ‘There is go-slow’ (Go-slow is a popular term in Nigeria which is a substitute for the word ‘Traffic’). You’re mood changes. You become restless because you can already feel the body aches and tense muscles from 3 hours of driving nowhere fast.

Please note that not all the experiences are mine but they are all true. Also, this is by no means an exhaustive list so if you have any dreaded ‘three-worded statements’ which you or others wouldn’t like to hear then you can share them here 😀

Entry #75 – Fuel my hunger

I barely slept last night. Why? Because my subconscious was worrying about the low fuel level in my car tank. I could see the fuel gauge (in my dreams) hovering above the ‘E’ until my journey came to an unexpected halt in the middle of Third Mainland Bridge at 8pm when 3 ‘Samaritans’ offered to assist me then brought out guns, robbed me and threatened to make me swim with the fishes…I think that’s the point when I woke up at 4.27am (Note to self – Don’t eat sugary cereal just before bedtime…ever!)

Just 2 days ago a 7-day nationwide strike was announced by the ‘association of corrupt fuel tanker drivers’ in the country which meant such tankers would not deliver fuel to Petrol/Diesel filling stations, which in turn would not sell fuel (or would sell at an inflated price if you were desperate enough). Today the strike was abruptly called off and I was relieved since I had sped past 30-something queuing cars at 5.15am around a filling station on my way to work. My fuel tank just made it to the office without putting me through an embarrassing ordeal of ‘pushing an automatic transmission car’ (yeah, think about it). 

My fuel gauge is now resting firmly on the ‘F’ and my air-conditioning is back on full blast!Needless to say that whilst I had fed my car I was tempted to feed my belly too as I drove past the best surprise that is now 2mins from my street – KENTUCKY FRIED CHICKEN (KFC)!!!!. The ‘Colonel’ arrived in Nigeria earlier this year and opened 2 outlets – one in Ikoyi and the other in Victoria Island. Now I’ve got one within walking distance from me in Ikeja! I think its time to grab a bucket. MMMmmmmMMM!  😀