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Lagos traffic- a commoners perspective

Updated on September 17, 2017

Traffic and anger

A regular rush hour on the streets of Lagos
A regular rush hour on the streets of Lagos | Source

In defense of anger

I am a strong defender of anger, well that is not entirely true; but I am a believer that all characteristics of the human psyche have an evolutionary reason for existing- yes human beings are profoundly flawed and deeply self-defeating but I am trying to make a point- anger has a bad reputation. If as a collective society we are honest with ourselves, anger- a dangerous emotion with as flirtatiously difficult to wield as a double-edged spear- in the right hands can be cleansing.

Whose idea it was that the entire population of Lagos (17.5 million people estimate) could travel by land I do not know, but how the citizens of Lagos are fine with it must be a feat of human beings accepting their fate. Seriously- at the risk of turning this rant almost unread-ably pretentious- who took a serious look at a budding state and decided to model it after Los Angeles. Why?! I mean the obsession with suburbs as the ultimate living space (affordability be damned), the cultural and seemingly legislative infatuation with cars so that anyone not willing to drive receives a big middle finger, the shroud of smoke reminding your arteries of the impending stroke.

Interviews from drivers in the traffic of Lagos

The true problem

With all this- and the fact that most Nigerians seem to learn to drive through trial and error- Lagosians unapologetic-ally hit the road all day long, and importantly never complain. Okay sometimes they complain, but it really is more aggressive insults colorfully across the cars to bystanders and fellow drivers. Really it is more camaraderie building than complaints. This I feel is a problem. The general Nigerian spirit seems to be- Everything is crumbling but save money, pray and get on with it. This humble narrator (or maybe essayist, not sure that applies to this piece of work) sees this as a problem. Do not misunderstand me (he writes trying to desperately keep the dangling thread of this pieces’ train of thought together) the almost zen like ability of Nigerians to get through anything is a gorgeous testament to human resilience. I even find myself getting swept up in the infectious nature of the optimism that informs the attitude- however here is the thing about things with an infectious nature- a lot of them are deadly and this is one of them.

The possible solution

There is a running joke in the church I frequent, that if you can drive in Lagos traffic without losing your mind- you have Jesus. I am finding the sentiment of this joke truer and truer every-day. Population to government feedback is integral for a democracy to function, the “get on with it” attitude is partially preventing that from happening (we’ll talk about the Nigerian government at a time when I have acquired enough assets to hire a good lawyer). Suffice to say that whispers, silent insults and passive aggression on a whole will not work anymore- at least since it seems we are sticking with this democratic experiment. We need to get angry- and at the risk of sounding like some young, naïve anarchist- we need a revolution from the gutters, to the streets, to the palaces.

The collective voice of Nigerians as a unit is hard to ignore. And as bad as our leaders can be (an understatement but let’s keep this as concise as possible) scream into the void long and hard enough, and eventually it would echo. So here is to the hope that the thought I put into this is not pointless, because I want to be able to get home without a traffic induced case of PTSD(post, traumatic, stress-disorder).

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© 2017 Samuel


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      Yemi Shodimu 7 months ago

      My personal fear. There is a segment of the coming generation that will put a stop to all these our "rakatia" How they will do it? Dont ask me. This article is a warning signal. My ten kobo.

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      Funke Egbemode 7 months ago

      Wonderful job. We are all suffering from impotent anger in Lagos.