Monday, September 25, 2006

Driving In Lagos: A GUIDE

I got this funny mail (yes, it was a forward) and thought I should share. Its an interesting read and a guide of some sort to drivers on Lagos roads. Also, here is a write-up on public transportation in Lagos.

Lagos is often acclaimed as the most exciting city in Nigeria in which to drive. Who would argue? For those of you who think that driving inEngland is stressful, herewith, for newcomers and visitors, here are a few basic rules of the road for driving in Las Gidi:

First of all, know which battalion to which you belong. There is an unending and vicious road war in Lagos.

In the first battalion, are motorcyclists popularly called Okada.They have a pact with suicide - avoid them at all costs.

In the second battalion are commercial bus drivers. Their buses areknown by various names including -Danfo, Molue (literally means "I go beat you"),Bolekaja (means "Come down, make we fight),Kabu-kabu, etc.As these names imply, they are not the smartest specie onthe face of the planet. Avoid them.

In the third battalion are the "guys of the siren" escortriders, bullion vans, trailers, etc. They have immunity against death.Besides, they get a medal for every scratch, and a certificate of bravery for every bash.

In the fourth battalion are private guys like me. All we have at our disposal are big talk and empty threats - we have no rights. Sometimes we employ what is called "Ogboju"(bravado) to get by.

Further rules:

- Danfo drivers believe they are immortal. Don't yield to the temptation to teach them otherwise.

- Get used to "Okada" drivers saying things like:"Commot that scrap for road", "Mr. I go drive myself". It is normal, just ignore them.

- The first parking space you see will be the last parking space yousee. Grab it.

- Learn to swerve abruptly. In Lagos, potholes (and sometimes car-holes) are put in key locations to test drivers' reflexes and keep them on their toes.

- There is no such thing as "one-way" in Lagos. Expect traffic from any direction at all times.

- Never get in the way of a car that needs extensive bodywork.

- It is traditional in Lagos to honk your horn at cars that don't move the instant their bumpers are not touching the next car.

- When asking for directions, always ask at least 3 people. Lagosians claim to know every inch of the city - even newcomers.

- Never use directional signals, since they only confound and distract other Lagos drivers, who are not used to them.

- Similarly, never attempt to give hand signals. Lagos drivers,unused to such courtesies, will think you are making obscene gestures to them. This could be very bad for you in Lagos.

- Hazard lights (popularly called "double pointer") is not, (as commonly supposed) used to indicate a hazard. It is a warning to you that he is a bonafide Lagos driver, and as such, will not stop under any circumstance.Take him extremely seriously especially if he backs it up with a continuous blast from his "horn".

- At any given time , do not stand on the zebra crossing expecting traffic to yield to you, else you will have to explain to the oncoming traffic that you look like a zebra.

- Speed limits are arbitrary figures posted only to make you feel guilty.

-Remember that the goal of every driver is to get there first by whatever means necessary.

- Above all, keep moving.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Clean up your act!

British Council in Lagos, na wa for una o!! In case you don't know which one I am talking about, its at Thompson in Ikoyi. I have had to go to the council quite frequently in the recent past as my M.Sc exams hold there. On the first day I went (sometime in April), I wrote my exam and left. No drama. Day 2, I was with a classmate so after the exam I decided to wait for him in the reception area. Nature called, so I asked the only customer care staff on duty to direct me to the bathroom to ease my self.

Me: Hi! I would like to ease myself. Can you please direct me to the ladies?
She: (Long Pause as she looks at me up and down, up and down)
Me: (Slightly amused)
She: (Deigning to speak to me) Why did you come to the British council?
Me: I beg your pardon?
She: What did you come to the British council for?
Me: (Slightly upset at this point) I came to write an exam.
She: O.k, its down the hall to your right.

I went off thinking that "this has got to be a joke".

After doing my business, I went back to her and asked her why she had to look at me that way and then ask me that question before she could point me to the right direction. She then went on about the way people just come in for the sole purpose of using the loo and then messing it up and leaving. How they (customer care personnel) get into trouble with management as a result.

Me, I kept quiet and listened, thinking about the procedure for entry into the compound. First of all, a guard standing outside has to ask one sitting inside to "Open gate 1". You come into a cage of sorts and you are screened/wanded. Then your bag is thoroughly searched by a second guard, you are given a tag, asked to sign in and only then will the guard say "Open gate 2!" to let you into the premises.

As madam attitude spoke, I thought to myself, yeah, right!!! People go through that just to take a leak! She then went on to say, "O! I hope I did not embarrass you". I assured her in a quiet voice that she did not, but that I was suprised and midly upset at her rudeness and that there would have been a better way of handling the situation even if I had lied my way in to take a leak. Having said my piece, I walked away.

Fast forward to August 23rd. I had another exam to write and since you are asked to call at least 3 days ahead to confirm, I did just that and asked for the contact person on my letter. The lady that picked up the phone told me that he was on a lunch break. Fine. I asked to pass on a message about my confirmation for the exam. she agreed to and then I asked her when he would be back so that I could call back. Next thing, I can't hear a thing, just background noise. I kept saying "Hello", no reply. I passed the phone to a friend who was next to me and she said that she could hear people talking in the background. apparently madam was done with the call and just took off. Mistake? I don't know, but it was not nice. Especially as I was calling from my GSM phone. That's premium rate for a landline call. Not funny

August 25th: I land there for my exam and the guy at the desk is on the phone. I stand in front of him waiting to be granted audience. I realise about 10 seconds into the call that its a personal one. He's going on in his local dialect which I understand. He was nice enough to motion to me to give him sometime. 1 minute... 2 minutes...3 minutes...I was rescued by the invigilator who had come looking for me. My guy was still on the phone as I walked away. Hmmm.

Less than a week later, I was back and my chic from the first episode was there. A man who had a form to fill was right in front of me and asked if he could use her pen. In a rather brusque manner she said " No, you can't, because I am going to use it soon". I cringed visibly and without saying a word started rifling in my bag for a pen for the bobo. After that, I went for my exam.

I have to say that I am sorely disappointed in their behaviour. It costs absolutely nothing to be courteous. Like I pointed out to my sister when I told her about it, the very reason why these people are employed is so as to deal with enquiries and assist customers. If there were no customers, there would be no work for them and hence no salary. I pay £65 for each exam and I believe that if you can not be courteous naturally, then you should be because my money pays for it. I was actually going to complain to "management" the following day, but ended up not going.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Celebrating disasters

I will not take a single thing away from the way people feel about the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Indeed that day and those that followed have been marked indelibly in our minds.

My quarrel with this date has to do with Nigerians. We remember to celebrate other people’s tragedies and make a lot of noise about it, but I do not recall anyone every saying anything about the carnage that took place in our very own Lagos, Nigeria on the 27th of January 2002.
To read a brief account of what happened that day, please read here and here. Pictures are available
here. My own account is that I was home when the ground started shaking…tremors? an earthquake? Planes throwing down bombs? We had absolutely no idea what was going on. Bear in mind that I live at least 20 minutes drive away from where this was occurring and yet, we could feel a lot of what was going on. My mom was already reaching for the bags of salt that she keeps in case of war times (a throwback from her experience in the Biafran war).

We closely monitored the news channels for any clue as to what was going on. Finally, Channels TV came through and explained that for an unknown reason, high grade munitions and explosives stored at the army cantonment in Ikeja had somehow started exploding. I am not sure the root cause was ever communicated.

Obasanjo who happened to be in Lagos at the time, turned up and in the face of an angry mob demanding answers, said something along the lines of " You should be lucky that I am even here". Yes siree! Your charisma was really came shining through and you showed how much of a people's person you are. (in case you missed it, this was dripping with sacarsm)

At least 3,000 people were displaced or died. Loads of people drowned in a canal at Isolo. A situation that occured because of the lack of knowledge about what was going on. People just wanted to escape and ended up drowning instead. A lot of them were children.

Till date, children are missing. Families are hopping from house to house seeking shelter as they attempt to rebuild their lives. Families are no longer whole. They have been ripped apart and have had no chance of being put together again. They cannot even end up in therapy. Our society simply does not condone such tomfoolery. And you can trust that the displaced people have not all received compensation. Those that received something got a pittance. The saddest thing is that no visible lessons have been learnt. Till date, Lagos lacks any sort of emergency response to disasters.

So, my people, that is the story of how our very own Lagos scattered not long after Sept. 11. Not even in Lagos is it really mentioned. Certainly I have never read any blog that remembered this day.

Why did I go through all this trouble? To raise awareness and also so that we can "celebrate" our own tragedies as well. This is important so that lessons can be learned from the disaster and mitigating factors put in place to avoid re-occurence. If no-one is talking about it, the government and other bodies that are involved will feel no pressure to ensure that it does not occur again. I am sure no-one wants a situation where there will be no Nigeria to come back to.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Sister speak

For those of us that love magazines, this is a Nigerian webgazine that appears to have some promise. Nice presentation and all. Enjoy!

Yanga na pain o!...just rambling

"There are no ugly women, only lazy ones." -Helena Rubenstein

It rained this morning. Actually, no. It rained all the way from last night till this morning. A constant flow that it didn't let up for a second. I was worried about the floods that would surely come about and how they would affect my ability to get to work, so bright and early (earlier than usual) this morning I left my house so that I could beat the mad rush for a cab. I was wearing my black heels which are fast becoming my knock-about. I love them because they give easy glamour to whatever I am wearing. I walked to the major road in search of a cab, stood for a few minutes but there were absolutely no cabs so I decided to walk down the road, a bus-stop away. Chei, mistake... The shoes chose just that time to show me pepper. Every step was pain.

I hobbled and hobbled for over 10 minutes. I can usually make the trip in 5 minutes, but I had to count every step. Lookers-on would have seen a girl walking elegantly (heels tend to do that for you). It was excruciating though. I saw an okada pass by and actually allowed myself to contemplate it then shrugged off the thought as quickly as it came. Abeg, life isn't that bad. Not that i have never ridden on bikes o! When I lived in Eket there was no other means of transport. But I digress.

Anyways, I started thinking about the pain and work that goes hand in hand with looking even passably good. I had gone to the salon last week to do my hair. Normally I have braids on because I can not afford the hours it takes to groom my hair to every week. Anyways, there was this chic there. I came in as she had fixed false nails on her hands and toes. She then had her hair done and at the time I was leaving, she was having false eyelashes attached. Lots of work, but man, she looked beautiful. I had to compliment her on my way out. She probably does that every week-spending a minimum of 4 hours at the salon. Then probably go gyming to maintain her figure. Eat only protein for weeks to stay slim. Wax to get rid of unwanted hair. Spend unmentionable sums of money on clothes. And at the end of the day, some one will say: She's effortlessly beautiful. Hmmm. Or even worse some guy will ask her why she does not more of an effort. Double hmmm.

This post is fast not becoming what I had in my mind, so I'll stop. See y'all.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Music, Food for the Soul

For a long time now, I stopped listening to music at work. You know, the sort of I-have-earphones-in-my-ears-leave-me-alone listening. Well, I did it today and man, what a buzz! Music is really food for the soul. I was so productive!! I sorted out all my outstanding projects, a policy I had written and basically sat on for 2 months got whisked out of my drawer and worked on, all you-have-to-think-and-type-related things were finished and I was just there twiddling my thumbs looking for more work that would keep me on my seat and listening to the songs and perpertuating the high I was getting from it.

I have always loved music and even have an eclectic taste in the thingy,. I listen to classical, rock, r&b, hip-hop, pop, new it I am there. However, I have found myself giving excuses about listening to music. No time. No light/power. I have to read. I need to concentrate. No more. This is too good not to do!