Recall my guest columnist, a Briton who has lived in Nigeria for nearly a decade, and his sarcastic take to driving in Nigeria. Well, I promised you a concluding part some weeks ago. I was, however, interrupted by other matters along the way – Valentine, the Super Eagles, the irritating display of bums, etc. Here is Bob Arnold in the third and final part:
1. For real “big” Nigerians, they ignore the police signals anyway (For a quick measure of the contempt that drivers have for the police – stand at any road junction in Abuja in the early evening and watch a young traffic cop attempt to stop a line of traffic. They will hold their hand in the air and at least 4 or 5 or 6 vehicles will sail past them. The only thing that eventually stops the flow is when the line of traffic called forward encroaches far enough to stop the onrushing miscreants!).
2. If a senior figure (this concept is amazingly elastic) is travelling, then their convoy clearly has right of way over every other road user – irrespective if this means breaking every known road rule.
3. The convoys may sound sirens, drive other cars off the road, speed, push their way through traffic jams in a manner totally impervious to the fact they are often carrying the elected “public servants” of a democracy.
4. Members of the convoy may intimidate anyone else on the road by waving weapons, beating other road users’ cars with long batons or swerving aggressively.
5. Obviously, convoys should be as big as possible because they are unrelated to safety concerns, economy or sense and have everything to do with the inflated egos of the prime passengers and the toadying of the accompanying “attendants”.
6. On rare occasions when a convoy is moving on a major inter-city road at speeds below 100kmh, do not think that you can overtake. The accompanying vehicles will swerve in such a manner that makes it impossible to overtake.
7. The general rule (which I have finally understood) is that any form of driving is acceptable as long as you don’t crash – if your driving means other road users are inconvenienced or that they have to brake violently or they are scared out of their wits, this is OK.
8. What you need to remember is that you must drive as if you are the only driver on the road and if you can’t manage this conceptually, drive as if you are the most important person in the world and everyone else is simply a mollusk.
9. It will also help if you lodge in your mind the principle that you are actually not responsible for anything anyway but it is all “God’s will” – this will absolve you of any responsibility.
10. A word of warning for all European and US drivers: when you return home, it takes quite a lot of conscious readjustment to drive at home.
As a culmination of all of the above, whenever in conversation with Nigerian friends, ensure that when the question of road safety and particularly road deaths is raised that you blame the state of the roads, the bad driving of the “green taxi drivers” in Abuja (or Okada riders elsewhere) or the state of the vehicles that “other” people drive. On no account accept any personal responsibility for the nightmare, which is driving in Nigeria (nor expect them to accept any responsibility).
It would be incredibly rude to point out that poor driving is not a function of road surface quality (How do you explain the multitude of accidents in Abuja?); that it is not a function of poor vehicles (check the new BMWs, Land Rovers and their drivers doing all of the above listed things); and that it is not a function of ignorance (for many drivers in the aforementioned cars have driven in many other parts of the world).
It would also be incredibly rude to speculate that without a proper system of licences (only attainable after a credible driving test) or car registrations (that could be tracked to a location where an individual could be arrested for traffic and road violations), the free-for-all road carnage will continue.
It is also inappropriate to point out that Nigerian driving and corruption are close corollaries for each other.
· Crazy driving (like corruption) is anonymous and often impossible to pursue and lay at the door of any one individual.
· Crazy driving (like corruption) is essentially a personal selfish act that imposes social costs on the whole society.
· Crazy driving (like corruption) is something other people do.
· Crazy driving (like corruption) is something that can be checked and changed but it needs mass social consciousness to effect the change.
· Crazy driving (like corruption) has disproportionate impacts on the people who can afford it least (the wealthy can always rise above the obvious disbenefits of both).
· Crazy driving (like corruption) is particularly pronounced amongst the Nigerian “elite” – check out convoys.
· Crazy driving (like corruption) portrays Nigeria and Nigerians in the worst possible light.