I’m glad I learnt how to drive in Nigeria. I keep wondering what it would feel like to be thrown onto the road after driving in other civilised countries. Would be nice to have someone give you some orientation, no?
You can choose between two styles of driving: fast and furious, or pastor style. I alternate between the two on a daily basis (pastor within my company premises and in the church parking lot, fast and furious elsewhere). If you don’t know who a pastor is or how he’s supposed to drive, or you haven’t watched the Fast and Furious films, well keep reading, you’ll get the hang of either style by the end, I hope.
Everyone on the road is your enemy. The commercial motorbikes and rickshaws (keke napep), pedestrians, and other car drivers have to be bullied off your space or you will not get to where you’re going on time. Don’t be scared of hitting anyone. Step on the pedal and there will be a way where there seems to be no way. Flash your headlights too while you’re at it and blare your horn if need be. Be afraid only of trailer/tanker drivers, and pedestrians crossing the road. The first set believe they are immune to death and will execute any manoeuvre that comes to their mind regardless of any other road user. The crossing pedestrians run onto the road and then when they see you coming, dare you to kill them by ignoring you and initiating a stroll as though they were on a zebra crossing. Please do not be the one to finish them off.
As a pastor, everyone on the road is your friend. You stop for others without right of way to go on first, you allow cars from side streets enter your front in your great magnanimity, you stop for school children to cross, you obey the zebra crossings, you allow other drivers overtake you at will and you do not overtake unless the other car is stationary. You have a reputation to protect and the great cloud of witnesses to impress.
Look out for cars driving against traffic. Many times Nigerian drivers would miss the u-turn and decide to reverse against traffic to the spot they wanted to turn off. Some would actually come head on with headlights on to alert you of their presence. The law enforcement agencies also drive against traffic most times to avoid being stuck in traffic jams on the right lane. For this reason, please do not overtake round a bend, even if it’s a dual carriageway and even if you’re in the fast lane where reversing cars are not likely to be. The person you’re overtaking may suddenly see a car going the wrong way and swerve into your path instead of applying his brakes. Sighs.
On the type of car to buy, please do not buy a car with manual transmission. It’s just torture to drive such a beautiful machine in a traffic jam. Make sure your car side mirrors are flexible and would swing with any impact from the front or the back. Trust me, almost every Nigerian driver has had a side mirror incident.
In Nigeria, you will have potholes on the road. We do not try to dodge potholes, rather we select the ones we fall into. Perfection is often the enemy of greatness (Janelle Monae, 2012). Also predict the behavior of other drivers with respect to potholes. If there is a pothole on his side of the road, your lane no longer belongs to you alone. Somewhere in the Nigerian constitution it is specified that in the event that a large pothole occupies one lane of a public road, the other lane assumes the status of simultaneous right of way for both going and coming vehicles. So now, you’re watching against potholes not just for yourself, but for other drivers as well. Just look at yourself. Congratulations, you just became a Manual Avoiding Pothole System (MAPS). You have to ask yourself, what would Efe do if he were in the other car? Act accordingly instead of being upset when the other car swerves into your lane.
What to do in the unlikely or likely event you have a scratch or dent? Well, if you have comprehensive insurance you can just keep driving, no need to come down to rant. Especially if it’s raining and most especially if you’re oyibo. If you don’t have comprehensive or first party insurance, ask for the insurance papers of the other driver since it’s his fault. It’s never your fault when you have a dent, I thought to emphasize this although it should have been clear from the beginning.
Police and traffic wardens are a tricky lot. Always have your complete vehicle papers with you. If you are not sure you’ve got everything, you can stop any uniformed police man or woman and ask them to check your papers for you. Whatever they claim you don’t have, please go get that paper in advance for the day of reckoning. If you are stopped, do not offer a bribe as a pastor. You may however offer refreshment money to the officers at the checkpoint. Think of it as a gift of encouragement. The Nigerian Sun is not very kind. Whatever other police trouble you get into, your posh foreign accent and witty charm should be able to save you.
I don’t think I missed anything out, did I? Please help me fill in the blanks if I did. Drive safe and stay alive. See y’all tomorrow.
Above all and before all, do this: Get Wisdom!
Write this at the top of your list: Get Understanding!
(Prov. 4 vs 7, The Message)