I got my official car a couple of weeks ago but only started using it yesterday 15 May. The reason was simple. And no, it is not because I can’t drive or I prefer okada. I had promised myself that there was no way I was going to drive inLagos. Not for all the amala and ewedu soup inIbadan.
Eish, the trotro drivers we curse inAccra, who think they are the terrorists onAccraroads will wet their pants here on Eko roads. The driving is not bumper to bumper; it is side door to side door. Who asks about following distance here? A friend told me that in Eko, whoever gets to a point first has right of way! Don’t bring your rule book here saying that the person in the inside of a roundabout has right of way. What way? I feel that passengers in adjacent cars could even reach out and shake hands in traffic! They drive that close. My colleague Mr T told me that if you are in traffic and you want to change lanes, the worst way to do it is to indicate with your trafficators. That is the sure way to get the car behind you to honk incessantly and fill the space on your right or left. And when the car behind you wants to get in front, he sort of pushes you out of your position literally from behind, instead of driving to your right or left first and getting ahead of you. Eko driving, na wao!
So I was waiting to get a driver. The transport office facilitated it. He came around on Monday 14 May and we agreed terms. Nasiru started working for me on 15 May and our first day was spent driving to Ikorodu for a meeting. We returned to the head office at Ilupeju in the afternoon. My usual closing time is around 6.30pm, but can sometimes stay beyond 7pm. On Nasiru’s first day at work, I decided to ease him into the job and ramp up eventually. As he lived at Ikorodu and wasn’t too familiar with my area, I wanted him to close early so he finds his way home whilst it was still not dark.
He drove well on his first day. He was cautiously confident behind the wheel, and didn’t indulge in any expression of road rage. The previous week, the pool driver taking me home engaged in a Tom and Jerry race and naming calling, and, yes, insults with a damfo driver. I had to reprimand him, explaining that his conduct showed disrespect to his passenger and to the company, whose logo he had embossed on the breast pocket of his shirt. Nasiru was markedly different. More like a gentleAccratrotro driver.
Today, Nasiru reported around 6am, we ate breakfast and by 7am as usual, we were on our way. The journey to the office usually took 25 minutes max.
Even though I had been driven on this route since 2 April, I hadn’t particularly studied all the turns. However, on Nasiru’s first day, as we set off, when I asked him whether he knew how to get us to Ilupeju, he replied in the negative. Eish!
‘Well, let’s go. We will see how we do it together.’
I respected the power of the brain, in storing information, even unconsciously. I was able to direct him to the office.
So on the second day, I didn’t pay attention, assuming that he would remember the route from the previous day. I spent the time reading. Just after 7.15 am, Nasiru said ‘Oga, I missed the turn.’
We had failed to spot the right turn we should have made at Oworonshoki to get onto the 3rd mainland bridge. Measuring about 11.8 km, built by the firm Julius Berger and commissioned in 1990 by Ibrahim Babandiga (on his birthday), the Third Mainland Bridge is the longest of three bridges connecting Lagos Island to the mainland, the other two being the Eko and Carter bridges. It is the longest bridge inAfrica. The bridge starts from Oworonshoki which is linked to the Apapa-Oshodi express way and Lagos-Ibadan express way, and ends at the Adeniji Adele Interchange onLagosIsland. There is also a link midway through the bridge that leads to theHerbert Macaulay Way, Yaba.
I told him not to worry and to find a way to turn around. On our way back to join the mainland bridge, Nasiru stopped by the highway and looked in the inside mirror.
‘What is the matter?’ I asked him.
‘Oga, I missed the turn to join again.’
It was about 7.45 am, and we were again at Oworonshoki.
‘What do you want to do?’ I asked, in slight alarm, as I sensed what he wanted to do. Nasiru wanted to reverse.
To reverse?! He nodded yes. No way!
I have seen a couple of people do that on the motorway betweenAccraand Tema and thought they were mad. I wasn’t about to classify myself in the same category, and definitely not going to do such an unsafe act. I am sure it would be against the law too, for sure.
Again, I told him not to worry. ‘When you miss a turn once and you rectify your mistake, you won’t repeat it,’ I encouraged it. ‘It is better to arrive alive and late than early but in heaven,’ I added. Or hell, I should have added, depending on your reservation.
We took a drive through a route unknown to me, and made a turn at a point where there was a traffic warden allowing U-turns besides a No-U turn signage. I trusted that, as happens inGhana, the traffic wardens could override the traffic lights, but well, I wasn’t complaining.
We made it to the Oworonshoki turn at 7.58 am.
One wrong turn had led to another and we had spent about forty minutes finding our way back to our starting point. That is the sense of wahala in navigating through the labyrinth of Eko roads. My boss told me one of the reasons why a driver was advisable is that I would be frustrated with the routes to use, especially if there was hold up, defined by my humble self as gargantuan traffic, and there is the need to explore alternative paths.
I am always impressed with the road network in Eko. The plethora of flyovers that link with each other like taalia on my favorite waakye. And I am amused then when I think of the euphoria and political counterclaims and ramble rousing that greeted the commissioning of the N1 highway in Accra. Only one more to add up to Tetteh Quarshie and the smaller Ako Adjei (here I smile when I recall that Sheiks I C Quaye was rumored to have said that Ako Adjei was named after the interchange!), Tema/Ashaiman, and Nima/Kanda interchanges. Our leaders should do more! Roundabouts are so 19th century now. We need interchanges and flyovers at the Tema motorway roundabout, for instance. That is long overdue. Our cousins in Eko and beyond certainly beat us in this regard. And, oh ok, in this,Nairobi lags behind paa.
We eventually got to work at 8.08am. An hour after setting off for my 20 minute drive to work.