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Drive Nigeria

Drive Nigeria

My favourite pop group ever is of course Madness, and one hit of theirs, “I like driving in my car” will always be a favourite track, however driving in Nigeria will forever be an experience and will never be something that one does for fun. The whole concept of a “Sunday Driver” would never exist here. It has to be said right from the start the roads in this country are awful.

However the issues and excitement of driving here are not just because of the state of the roads, albeit that they do play a major factor. The excitement also comes from the natural way the locals drive. Fast and furious, and the bigger the car the more right of way the driver feels he has. Oh and yes I say “he has” because to date I really don’t believe I have actually seen a woman driver, yet.

Another element of driving in Nigeria is the Police Check Points, or should that be Police Cash Points. On any journey through Nigeria, between city and city, you will pass at least 5 of these. The reason given for them is so the police can insure that only people with the correct paper work are on the roads, and yes that makes perfect sense, however the reality is that at any of these, a few thousand naira is all it takes to drive through, and so what tends to happen is that nearer the weekend, or maybe near to pay day, more check points are in operation. Buts that Nigeria for you, and their love for a free market and cash generation.

Another wonderful sight and cultural aspect of life on the roads is the motorcycle. They are everywhere and are easily the preferred form of transport. But what is superb and amazing to behold is the amount of Nigerians you can get on one. The most I have so far seen myself is five, but a friend swears she has seen six people on the one bike. Equally, it is what they will transport on a bike, with my favourite image thus far being a guy on a bike, carrying home a new mattress, it was an amazing balancing act, but to him, just the way it is.

Of course there are the sad aspects of all this. Accidents and deaths are all too common. Serious crashes litter the roads on any journey, burned out cars and trucks are line the sides of the road, each a reminder to the passing driver, however all ignored.  

I am very lucky with my life here, I have a car and driver assigned to me and so when I am heading on a long journey I don’t drive, equally while I remain in Cross River State I very rarely stop at the check points, this is due to my car being a CRS Government vehicle, a nice big 4x4, and even out of State we rarely stop, so that aspect is not something I have to concern myself with.

One aspect of driving through Nigeria that I do like is the sights you see along the road and as you go through the towns and villages. My favourite is the guys on the side of the road who sell the bushmeat. It is not quite like a McDonalds drive-thru, it is however very Nigerian, and is a sight you should really see if and when you visit the country.

So if you ever do come to Nigeria, bear it in mind, driving is an experience. The way they drive, the sights and sounds of the journey itself, all play a part in this amazing aspect of life in Nigeria. You may never just drive for pleasure here, but as long as you get used to the manner and style of the driving, then a drive through this wonderful nation can be a pleasure, in a weird sort of way.

 

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© 2008 Paul Kavanagh. All rights reserved.