Metropole Magazine

Today's Weather: Abuja NG: Partly Cloudy, Day 360|Night 260

27 Sep Written by  Ladi Opaluwa

Incidences on the Highway

A car must have run itself into a ditch. The traffic on the Mabushi express road was unusually heavy. Cars, anxious to get ahead of one another, had split into five or more tributaries but remained stagnant. Some in their manoeuvring risked slipping into those open ditches that seem especially built as receptacles for straying cars, of which there have been many. Worse, it was raining and it was the end of a work day. It would be a while before getting home, I thought, and resigned in silence to my fate. But some others were not so reserved. The car filled with murmurs, hisses, and other sounds of disgruntlement.

A car had indeed run into a ditch. Pitying eyes stared from various windows, imagining what might have happened to the victim, seeing how squashed the fore-part of the car was. There sympathy though was diluted with homilies on the etiquettes of driving, and perhaps a small mix of antipathy. S/he, beyond being an accident victim, was also a culprit who has held up a quarter of a city.

Once a driver wriggled himself out of the situation, the speed demons possessed him. He took advantage of such wide, sleek roads as can hardly be found anywhere else in the country. Their velocity proves that man will take whatever chance he has to get ahead of his mate.

Two cars were locked in a competition for supremacy, catching up and overtaking each other even in the tightest corners. These would be adults who berate Abuja’s juvenile stunt drivers for their irresponsibility, alas, they as well harbour the fantasy of man on the freeway. As they outran each other, snide remarks were left behind. This is road rage, the enmity between strangers. More insults are traded on the road than between Nigerian political opponents.

For the advantage of a few metres they continued to chase each other until they collided, and then both alighted from their cars. Ordinarily in these situations, the person with the posher car has the right to aggression because he would have suffered more loss. He would rant and threaten to call someone important. So in the confrontation that ensued, when the posher car man dipped a hand into his pocket it was expected he was going to bring out a phone to call the commissioner of police. But no, it is the pleasure of man to intimidate his fellow however he can, and what better tool of intimidation is there than a pistol wielded at the slightest irritation?

Clearly, two sets of people exist in the world: those who have guns in their pockets and those who do not. The cars which had begun to slow down accelerated immediately. It was entertaining somewhat, in the way horror movies are, you want to watch, but from a safe place.

A young man in his haste to leave the scene spilled the content of his duffel bag on the road. Cars slowed for him to pick up his items, which were, among other things, a mobile phone and a face powder. Powder? That got people talking. Some said he was a woman-man, for lack of an appropriate vocabulary, others said he was a jobless gigolo, and so on and so forth.

Thus continued the speculations about the sexuality and lifestyle of the man, long lost in the crowd by the roadside. Each supported his/her assertions with logic, because, come to think of it, one reasoned, if he had a job, he would have no time for makeup. No one was willing to budge or let the subject pass. The story of the gay/unemployed gigolo would accompany us on the rest of the trip.

Listening to that was at least more entertaining, more tolerable than the moral debate that is easily begun by the mere sighting of a lady in mini skirt, or the criticism of government that is begun without provocation. Commuters are incredibly bored folks. It is understandable that with nothing to do but sit still among strangers, there is the urge to find a topic to harp on till each reaches his/her destination.