This article is a tribute to Professor Jenkeri Okwori, my classmate, brother and friend in A.B.U Zaria, whose brilliant life was cut short by an accident on the Abuja-Zaria road two weeks ago. My brother Jenks as he is fondly called survived the accident but later died in hospital while three of his colleagues from the same university; Professor Kawefo, Dr Ayegba and a postgraduate student, Ayesha Nana died at the scene of the accident. This is a sad testimony to our bad roads and our dastardly driving habit. May their souls rest in peace, Amen.
It’s been a long time since we talked about our driving habits and our roads. Maybe six months or thereabout since we talked about this but it is becoming increasingly difficult to be quiet in the face of suicide, tyranny and murder on our roads.
I have chosen to return to this topic again because of the carnage on our roads; accidents that shock you and rip your heart out. Babies and their mothers, pregnant women, young men and women, old men and women, school children and our best and finest, ran down by a bad driving culture which has increasingly become endemic.
I have seen too many corpses by accident that my stomach churns and my head spins and only questions attack my being about how we live our lives and how citizenship, peoples, humanity are buried in the face of selfishness, impatience and sheer stupidity.
You, yes you, why are you driving at top speed in an estate of maybe twenty houses; a community road where you can never tell if a little girl clutching a stuffed toy lazily crosses the road. How would you feel if you killed a young man, uncaring, music in his ears strolling in front of his house? What is your take on bone – crushing accidents where your foolishness is responsible? What will you do if an entire bus bursts into flame killing everyone in the vehicle because you overtook another car recklessly and caused the bus to swerve dangerously?
The roads are bad, true, but our driving culture leaves much to be desired. We drive like there is no tomorrow. We jostle, we hoot, rather rudely, I daresay, our horns blaring to high heavens. We stick our heads out of cars as we hurry past, we gesticulate, we abuse, we shout ourselves hoarse and if there is bad traffic, we block all roads and are unreasonable like a bunch of persons from a lunatic asylum. I often marvel at how eight cars want to go at the same time on a four lane road and yet we know it is impossible. Coming from the back, we try to obliterate those who are orderly and act like we are in a bigger hurry than everyone else. On a free road at a weekend, I cringe, when I see where some Nigerians are still driving like maniacs, impatient and ridiculous. I have often wondered about what chases us and drives us to be unperturbed about hurting our fellow human beings through impatience and sheer carelessness.
Some luxury bus drivers and tanker drivers are still abusing psychopathic substances and putting us all at risk. Can you imagine sharing the road with a fuel tanker driver who is high on all sorts of things, tired, sleepy and uncaring? All he needs to do is to swerve dangerously at a pothole, tipping his tanker and burning everything in sight. This driver’s sense of judgement is already blurred by substances and from his vantage position, your car looks like a bug to him, in addition to which he does not care about your life. I have spoken at length about our siren culture and even that needs to be addressed.
What ails us on our roads is within us. What kills us is around us. What is undoing us is our very hands, our insensitivity. Daily, families lose loved ones because of one person’s rediculousity on our highways. Are you one of those who seek to hurt people by your driving habit?
In 2014, tell yourself that you will be more patient, you will not cause the death of another, and you will wait for your turn in a go slow rather than jumping the queue and causing confusion. Tell yourself you can treat each other better on the highway and mean it. Slow down for a pedestrian; be courteous to other road users. Respect pedestrians and the traffic warden. Pay attention to your car. It’s a machine, maintain it well so it can serve you well and not cause you to commit murder or commit hara-kiri. The blood of another man on your hands is not worth the speed or that place for which you are already running late.
By: Eugenia Abu