Lagos Monday? Insert Nigerian Police


If I were asked to pick a day to hole up indoors and write work from the comfort of my couch, it would be Monday each time, clearly enunciated and escorted with emphatic gestures. You should see the look on my face just thinking about it.

Why? Did you really want to ask? You don’t live in Lagos, I take it?

Blessed is the Lagosian who gets to rest during the weekend. Weekends are for leftover work and workouts, for events and errands, for church and chores. That’s why public holidays are gold. And when there are two of them, back to back? See Lagosians looking like they just returned from ‘the overs’ (overseas).

Okay, now you get the picture. On to the gist.



From the moment I squinted into my phone veeeery early this morning (for some reason I manage the dark room-bright screen contrast by reading first with one eye), I could feel Monday in the air. Perhaps I should have just stayed in bed.

Instead, I got up, got dressed, skipped breakfast and jumped into my car. I had a lot to do, biko. I was in Atoke mode. There was drive-car-halfway-across-Lagos-to-auto mechanic-to-check-out-these-noises (the combination of whistling brakes and weird wobbling sounds was a musical titled, Don’t Drive Me to the Island, Baby) dash-to-the-island-to-get-my-results (you will hear more about this matter in another tale), hitch-a-ride-back-with-friend-heading-to-the-mainland, do-something-about-your-hair (second trial of this newfound salon), go-back-halfway-across-the-state-to-get-your-car and of course, find-some-food, all before weave-your-way-through-rush-hour-traffic-to-class in the afternoon. Small somtin.

9:50 Calling the alignment people. No, their brand new machine still hasn’t been calibrated yet

9:55 Buying some hot breakfast

10:35 In traffic en route the auto repair shop

10:45 In front passenger seat, pointing out sounds to auto mechanic

10:55 Eating while waiting on auto mechanic who’s made a quick stop

He dropped me off somewhere I could ‘easily’ get a taxi. I stood in that sun wondering why we wear blazers in this country and shooting admiring glances in the direction of the people on the quiet queue for buses near me. Hm.

11:50 Tearing open the envelope to see my results sheet

12:00 Standing under the tree by the gate, scoping both sides of the street for friend’s car

12:05 Friend texts me to ‘Come outside’. Mtuu

12:07 Friend arrives

12:14 Spotted a bookstore! I love me a good bookstore

12:50 Back on the mainland; auto mechanic not picking up his phone

So I had friend drop me off at the salon. They had trouble with their generator today. By the time it came on and stayed on, I had chucked my jacket, since nothing will stop this posh salon from robing you with all sortsa protective waterproof (equals airproof) garments. One soothing scalp massage later, with the fan sending generous air my way, this Monday began to feel different after all.

“Aunty, you are tired?” It was my hairdresser. I had dozed off.

14:40 In a phone shop on the same street asking a few questions; hair on fleek

15:00 Auto mechanic finally calls back to say car’s nearly ready. Wondering if I can make it, but my teaching materials are in the car….

15:15 In the sun, again, waiting for a Lagos taxi

In his effort to justify his high fare, one taxi driver I’d met months ago made disparaging reference to ‘those old men and their dirty cars – you won’t even want your hand (he meant arm) to touch the door….’ I brushed it aside that day as rubbishing the competition and just good old Lagos yamayama (rubbish) talk, but today, I’m wondering. Is it to do with failing eyesight? Because older people are not dirtier, at least in my part of the universe.

16:03 Sitting in a grimy, tired-looking fast food outlet, carefully holding my skin away from any surfaces and willing the auto mechanic to arrive nownownow

He arrives, finally, and I am so pleased to be out of the restaurant and to be done with the suntan sessions that I shell out his fee without bargaining. I am even prepared to give him extra for transportation back to the auto shop, as he agreed to meet me at this point to cut off some traffic for me, but he doesn’t ask, so I let him go with a wave and a promise to use his services again.

16:15 Negotiating my way through Agege, and noting that I still do not like this part of Lagos, twenty years after I first visited it

16:17 Thinking about the gorgeous pots I just saw in a shop window; I might be persuaded to drive by this area again…

On Oba Akran Road, I have several reasons to do the scowl+roll eyes+give evil eye routine. Plus the danfo bus drivers who cannot decide which lane they want to drive on, and the drivers from Mars who suddenly hit their brakes at a stop before signalling with their indicators, all of this is distracting me from the real issue – which is my exit? And there’s no time to call my mom.

I’m being careful now. Exit too soon and I might enter that tricky Acme Road/Wempco Road network that I have yet to master; exit too late and it’s the dreaded Ikeja under-bridge and Awolowo Road. I start to prophesy: I refuse to get lost.

And like the return of NEPA in the night (I know, I know, but PHCN doesn’t have the same flow), this truck ahead of me pulls away and yes – this is my exit! I see the same three women police officers in their traffic booth I had passed in the dirty taxi, all three now with their backs to me. I honk to get their attention: is it my turn, ke? No other traffic line is moving, it must be my turn. The truck had gone on straight, but the car ahead of it had borne left, I was sure.  I decide, and curve left. In that precise millisecond, the police officers turn around, and, even worse, the oncoming traffic begins to move.


One officer waves her baton to stop me, but I have already stopped. I’m not of them who weave through oncoming traffic.

Another shouts unheard things at me and points toward the sky. I follow her hand and see, for the first time, traffic lights high up in the Adeniyi Jones sky. Which engineer…? Ah, Fashola!

I smile at my own obliviousness, and wave an apology to the officers. By this time, all three are advancing towards me, like awon vampires in a dark alleyway.

I let the front passenger window down, remembering some advice (“never let traffic police into your car”) but having no recollection of the giver. Then the drama begins.

“Sister. Good afternoon, o.”

“Good afternoon. I’m sorry, I didn’t see the lights.”

“Driver’s license, madam.” This officer is smaller, but not smiling at all.

“Okay.” I reach for my bag.

Oya, let’s talk, woman to woman.” It’s the first officer, the one with the baton. I know what that means; all I have in my bag is the thousand naira note I didn’t give the mechanic.

“Your license!”

I reach again into my bag for my purse.

“So you want to beat the light, abi?”

“No, o. I didn’t see it. I even honked to ask you people…”

“How can you not see it? Oya, open your door.”

“I’m getting my license; she asked for it.”

“Park well!”

I continue digging in my bag, trying not to take out the bright blue purse that contains my license in case the designer label kuku spoils the case.

“Open your door! Ah ah!” The third officer pipes up. The first, plumper one is firmly planted by the front passenger door, hand on handle.

I concede.

16:37 Officer has asked me to cross Oba Akran and park at the top of Adeniyi Jones. She asks over and over why I decided to beat the lights. I retell my story: I didn’t see the lights, I honked to confirm, I stopped when I realised my error, even before I was asked to, I apologised.

“Where are you going?”

“I’m going to class, to teach.”

“Are you a learner? How can you not see the lights?”

“No, I’m not. I didn’t notice them, that’s why I honked to get your attention.”

“No way. No way! You can’t be asking us. Every trained driver will know where the traffic light is. Even my small baby at home knows the lights and when they are red.”

Haba, madam. This route is not one I take often, and traffic lights are positioned differently across Lagos….”

Oya, let’s go to the station. They are calling me.”

“Madam, there’s no need to go to the station. I’ve apologised for the mistake.”

“No, o. You committed a traffic offence, so you have to write your statement.”

“I didn’t commit an offence; I made a mistake, and I stopped before beating the lights.”

By now she was agitated – more, I think, by the open manhole in front of us and the traffic speeding past our precarious position – and began to yell at me to drive to the station. I had little idea what to do, but one thing I wasn’t going to do was go to that station. I drove up the road until we were at a less dangerous spot and parked again.

“You are refusing to go to the station, abi?” She took her phone and rang her colleague to report my refusal. I made out a little of what the other officer said, but the summary was, Woman, handle your business!

“I say let’s go to the station!” She seemed a little desperate now, and even less willing to reason with me.

“I don’t see any reason for the station, madam. When I parked, even you were smiling at me and saying let’s talk woman to woman, because you knew I didn’t commit an offence.”

“No, you committed an offence. You will go to the station, and….”

“I did not, ma. I made a mistake, and I stopped. Everyone makes mistakes. Is this the sort of thing we want to do to our drivers? That’s not what traffic laws are for. I made a mistake, I stopped, I owned up to it. As an officer should you correct me and warn me or harass me until I decide next time I would rather drive off and risk other people’s lives than stop and talk to you?”

At this point, my voice had broken. I was genuinely upset.

“Ehn, if you run, it is your luck.”

“Oh, really? Really? I am a teacher, and that’s not how people are taught. You have a child, so you know.” I looked away to hide my wet eyes. Don’t cry, don’t cry!

“Yes, but you should have seen the light. Now you don’t want to go the station.” She picked up her phone again.

“Hello? She say she be teacher, o, and she dey go class.”

I had won.

Sixty seconds later, I had driven her back to her post, and she and her colleague were stopping traffic so I could back up and turn into Adeniyi Jones.

Six minutes later I was at the venue of my lessons, and my thousand naira note was still in my designer purse.

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