The Adventures of Tola

okada-blog

IMAGE from: omgvoice.com- Jide Odukoya

In this country, a boss should always be bald and have a big belly. My uncle isn’t bald, he hasn’t got a big belly, and you don’t realise, the first time you see him, that he’s the actual boss of a big office in the centre of town. I have been to his office only once, when Mummy could not pick me up from school. Uncle Ahmed unlike many bosses in Lagos did not even have a car of his own. On this day he came to get me not with his car but with an okada. Uncle held both my food and school bag and the okada man propped me right in front of the handle bar, while Uncle sat behind the okada man. I imagined I was the one riding the okada alone as I placed my hands on the handle bar enjoying the wind brush my face and dry my sweaty uniform. It did not bother me that my feet could not reach the pedal or that we were not wearing any helmets, or how upset mummy would be if she found out Uncle had not used a taxi as promised.

 

The Okada man did not know his way around, so Uncle had to direct him through narrow streets to avoid the traffic, the okada man whose attention was divided between my Uncle and the road did not notice the black jeep at the junction. It happened so quickly. I found myself in the middle of the not-so-busy street.

 

My Uncle and the okada man had fallen off the okada a few metres from where I was lying.

The jeep drove off as if nothing had happened.

 

“Uncle Ahmed” I said in a whisper as I tried to get up.

 

The okada man was already on his feet as if this was normal, he helped my Uncle up and picked up my bags from the road. Uncle’s shirt was torn at the sleeves and his blue tie was stained.

 

“God go punish that man!” the Okada man cursed loudly. He picked up his okada and inspected it.

Uncle walked towards me, pulled me up and hugged me. He looked at my face and touched my forehead

“Tola, you are bleeding, I need to get you to the hospital.”

 

“Oga, one hospital dey for the next street make I carry una?” the Okada man cut in starting his motorcycle.

 

“No. No. You have done enough for today no worry, we go use leg.” Uncle said quickly.

“Haba Oga, no be my fault na, make I at least drop you there for free.”

 

“No worry ehn, thank you”

Uncle picked up my bags and carried me gently over his shoulder.

 

“Tola, I’m so sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking. What will your mum say? I wanted to make it back to the office in time…” Uncle Ahmed went on, sobbing lightly as he carried me in his arms to the hospital.

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I wrote this short story as an entry for the AFREADA writes Tomorrow I’ll be 20 competition with Alain Mabanckou in June 2017. I stumbled upon it recently and I absolutely loved it! So I am considering doing a mini-drama series out of this (“The Adventures of Tola”). Did you like it? Please share your thoughts below.

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Driving in Lagos

Someone once told me that if you can drive in Lagos, you can drive anywhere else in the world. For a long time I believed those words because it is only logical that if you can do something in the hardest or toughest conditions, you can do it when things are easier. In the past few weeks I have decided to re-evaluate whether this is true. 

What makes driving in Lagos truly challenging is quite complex and difficult to explain. One reason I say this is the fact that there are too many cars and not enough roads; hence most of your driving experience is spent in traffic (‘go slow’), and I have to say that driving in traffic is an art. It is a story of near misses and dodging of  potholes, danfos (commercial busses) , and broken down vehicles. It is one of patience when there is grid-lock and gruesome aggression when the traffic eases up. 

There is also the competing modes of transport. In some parts of Lagos okadas (motorcycles), kekes (Nigerian rickshaws) commercially  operate simultaneously as well as danfos, let us not forget the occasional bicycle rider. What this means is that the average Lagos Motorist has a lot to pay attention to; you can not make sharp turns or fail to horn or use your pointer( “traffigator”), You have to communicate effectively with your lights to not only other private cars but other road users (pedestrians inclusive) to avoid accidents.

There is also the number of trucks in Lagos. For a long time, I remember avoiding roads that had too many big trucks and tankers. I soon realised that the only way to avoid them was to move out of Lagos; they are everywhere. The hardest part about driving next to an average 7.5 tonne truck in Lagos is the ‘road-bullying’. These truck drivers are in a mad rush and will do anything to get you out of the way. With a lot of horning you can overcome your fear and overtake a truck (but please don’t overtake them on a bend).

For the most part driving in Lagos is tough, however just because you can drive in Lagos does not make you a better driver, in contrast I think you become a horrible driver. The driving environment in Lagos does not foster good driving habits, such as, waiting at a zebra crossing, or giving way for traffic on the left. It is almost impossible to observe any of these traffic paradigms because of the fear of causing an accident when you slow down suddenly or the simple fact that there is just too much traffic to slow down any further.

Driving in Lagos is no guarantee that driving anywhere else will be easier, for the most part it is harder to drive else where because there is a lot more to driving than just competing for space, road raging and horning!lagos-traffic