• Sunday, May 26, 2024
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Beyond the bad roads: Shouldn’t we spell Kano correctly?


The choice of this article’s title might come to mind as flabbergasting, for, if nothing, one might find juvenile the existential locus or nexus that sandwiches the phenomenon of bad roads and the ability to spell the word ‘Kano’ correctly. But as is apparent in life, at given moments in our lives, one finds out that some lively phenomena that were thought to be exclusively dissimilar to each other are, after all, analogous. It is in this context that I found the contributing link between our bad roads and the ability to spell Kano correctly very essential as much as it is perplexingly hilarious.

In my father’s active working life as a civil servant, he was privileged enough to have a driver who took him on official assignments across the country. My father’s driver was born and almost certainly raised in Kano, one of Nigeria’s commercial centres. One day, my father told me that his driver couldn’t spell Kano correctly. He spelt it ‘Knao’. Now this is amazingly shocking. Someday, with the driver who couldn’t spell Kano correctly, my father was involved in a road accident. The crash was serious, and my father and his driver sustained injuries and fractures.

But road accidents are a normal, everyday occurrence in Nigeria, and it is very observable that by now we have assented to this as an inflexible part of our daily lives. Where we are lucky to show up at our destinations safely, we thank God for journey mercies; where we bump into the con of death, we lay blame on God for the mischance by soothingly bolstering ourselves that we died because we had to die, because God, in His high places, issued the diktat.

The dismal factor of our lives is our inability to map out resolutely the root cause of road accidents. To put it modestly, road accidents cannot be expunged completely, but it can be allayed, at least in the best way. Forget divinity – generic knowledge of life expresses road accidents as a conclusive consequence of carelessness. In serious countries that abhor carelessness, road accidents are a very rare occurrence.

In Nigeria, it is quite unexpected for road travellers to arrive at their destinations in one piece, without a scratch. With this, it is even more difficult to begin to itemise the causes and the instigations of these accidents. Because these causes are often bottomless and unlimited, any attempt to even delineate what triggers such might be just a futile exercise. Take a journey within Nigeria, in a public car or bus, and notice the detectable evidence of an unconditional carelessness in road use. Highway ethics are practically a zilch to the usually illiterate drivers on our roads. Try to ask any of the drivers some simple car travel and car use procedures that scale from basic road use to essential mechanical and/or electrical maintenance and notice how dippy the state of our drivers’ alertness is.

Study the mental complacency of the ordinary Tashan Bama commercial car driver who routinely travels from Maiduguri to Yola and notice the miserliness in thought. On leaving Maiduguri in the late hours of the morning, all the driver wants to pull off with is to observe the Zuhr or Asr prayer in Yola. How he achieves that? Simple! He speeds at a tempo that is capable of breaking recommended speed limit, unmindful of the sorry shape of our roads. But the logic in the speed to meet a prayer time is, then again, depressing. It is ironical that a man could opt for a giant race only to stop to offer prayers to God. In essence, God and speed shouldn’t be drawn to a parallel since it is highly problematic reconciling the reality of fidgeting with people’s lives, on the one hand, as a means to achieving steadfastness in prayers implored to God, on the other hand.

But to leapfrog from this unpromising start, it is imperative that we take a detour from our collective culture of perceiving destiny in an off-putting sense. It looks like all the while we have conceptualised and even dwelled unswervingly in a destiny that comforts our doggedly idealised parochialism; a sense that self-soothes this national guilt of ours. Is it not high time we understood in plain terms what destiny is, what it is not, what it should and shouldn’t be? When do we start accepting road accidents as occurrences that follow from consummate recklessness and carelessness on our part? When do we stop seeing God the Creator as causative for our purposeful inanities, weaknesses, disabilities, and our often avoidable misfortunes?

In Nigeria today, it is apparent that car driving as a job has been left for the untrained and the unschooled. Again, little wonder why one of my father’s drivers couldn’t read a diversion sign on the road let alone comprehend what it depicted. Shouldn’t car drivers in Nigeria be at least educated enough to be able to read just basic English words? What about the car drivers that find it herculean a task – owing to illiteracy – to operate car air conditioners or stereos? Shouldn’t they be clever enough to act upon basic automobile tasks like reading and understanding car manuals to allow for complying with simple DIY procedures just so they could benefit from that in the event of breakdowns, emergency maintenances and/or improvisations?

Lastly, shouldn’t we insist that our drivers be just a little proficient in the sense of being ‘intellectual’ enough to be able to spell Kano correctly knowing that there is really no complexity involved in spelling it? If you’re driven by someone who could barely spell Kano – a word devoid of any twists and turns – even though he was born and raised in that city, what guarantees have you that while he drives he could manoeuvre out of complex encounters in road use? What hope is there, really? 


Aminu writes from London, United Kingdom.

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