The driver of my bus and a young man in a white Toyota Camry were engaged in the ultimate Lagos-road test-of-verve. Side by side, they moved as part of the throng of vehicles on the Badagry-Oshodi expressway, their bumpers almost touching, none ready to concede space to the other.
The driver of my bus gained an advantage and consolidated it by moving within breath distance of the bus in front. The driver of the car did not give up. Traffic lurched forward and they both made a run for the tiny space. The bus kept its position and thwack! The side-mirror of the Camry came off the iron door of the bus. The bus stopped, traffic lurched forward again. The car rushed ahead and parked in front of the bus. The passengers murmured in unison, “These people will waste our time today.”
The young man driving the Camry was dark-skinned with well-toned muscles visible under his tight-fitted white polo t-shirt.
“Mr Man, come down and see what you’ve done.”
The passengers laughed at this statement. He was at fault, but still wanted to exert his power as the big-man in the situation. The driver alighted from the bus, and was docile–a strange attitude for a Lagos bus driver. One of the passengers in the bus joined the driver and made his case. The young man picked up his broken mirror and drove off angrily. The situation was over under two minutes. The was no harm done to the bus–not even a scratch.
This is not the usual resolution to incidents like this. The bus driver often has to plead and grovel before the big man. He has to curse himself and his ancestors for his bad luck, lie on the hot tarmac and hope that his dramatics will inflate the man’s ego, or invoke his pity enough to prevent him paying out of his nose or having his bus impounded.
Let’s flip the situation: the big man is in a hurry and he bashes the bus. The bus driver insists on having his bus repaired by the big-man. The big-man is unfortunate to be on the road with fewer cash than will effect the repair. The big-man starts to plead and… This is just wishful thinking. In Lagos, as it is in the rest of Nigeria, the big-man is always right.
Let’s stretch this further: What if people start to drive carefully on Lagos roads? What if they stop to spitefully cover up spaces once they see another trafficate? What if, when they do inevitably collide, drivers come out of their cars, inspect damage, exchange contacts, and allow their insurance companies handle the damage done? Nah, that’s just impossible.