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Funmi Iyanda
Lagos, Nigeria
Funmi Iyanda is a multi award-winning producer and broadcast journalist. She is the CEO of Ignite Media and Executive Director of Creation Television
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Monday, March 26, 2007

Driving Thoughts

So, I’m driving the shrimp to school in the lemon, its usually a 10
minute drive but it had rained all night and the traffic was worse
than usual. By those lights at the Nitel junction in GRA Ikeja, which
were installed in memory of Bioye Taiwo the 24 year old, only
daughter, lawyer child of the still grieving Mrs Taiwo Taiwo who was
killed at that point a few years ago, all hell was let loose. Somehow,
everyone had decided to ignore the lights and there was a gridlock at
the junction with all manner of vehicles coming from different
directions attempting to perhaps piggy ride one another.
A police vehicle cut in front of everyone in the wrong direction and
assaulted motorists off the road. I am unemotional and deadpan as l
firmly but calmly block any offending car and do that carefully
choreographed brake and accelerator balancing, bumper to bumper
driving that only years of driving in Lagos can teach you.

25 mins later we are through and the shrimp who had been strangely
quiet through it all suddenly pips up;
S: Mummy, why were those cars hitting your car and why did that man
thump our car like that.
FI: Because they are naughty.
S: But why didn't you hit them back?
FI: Because it is unnecessary bad behaviour.
S: What mean "inecessary"?
FI: Something that you don't need.
S: But they were bad to you too.
FI: Yes but you don't have to be bad because other people are bad.

She paused for a while with a frown parting the braids falling forward
on her 5 year old brow then asked,

S: But why didn't the police irrest them, l saw a policeman there, why
didn't he irrest them mummy?

I am stumped as l hurriedly willed my brain to produce a dream
preserving answer, eventually l murmured an unconvincing, 'well
sometimes the police are not able to do their jobs well'.
She looks at me in disgust and l realized that she already knows that
the police cannot enforce or uphold the law in the city of god.

I drop her off at school and as l drive back l thought of my mother
who taught me to slap harder, bite deeper, run faster and give as good
as l get. My mother was kind and compassionate but she was a warrior,
a product of her environment. I am also a product of my environment
but have often accusingly been called "oyinbo" (westernized) in my
ways as though disorder and dysfunction is our way (or is it? perhaps
the joke is on me.). I subscribe to universal laws of humanity, good
society and human conduct. Often misinterpreted to mean "mumu"
(retard, idiot, fool, pushover, you get the drift?) behaviour here.
Once a friend questioned the wisdom of raising our children to have
values and modes of behaviour that work in a structured lawful society
when in fact they will be living in a lawless jungle and would be
better served with corresponding instincts, values and behaviour.

This has nothing to do with raising some ghastly female with
pretentious "lady" behaviour, which camouflages such manipulative and
vindictive spirit that its full force can deflate a FIFA approved
football. Just raising a human with independent thought, a happy
spirit and a deep awareness of her privileges and responsibilities to
the universe and her society, surely that's the way it should be? Is
it, my inner id asks as the crazy person who had chosen to drive
against the traffic whizzes back onto the right lane behind me and
miscalculates, ramming right into my rear. My neck jerks back and my
back groans, l know l have whiplash. He, of the badly cut suit,
clown's tie and toad like bloating gets out of his car, inspects my
car on my behalf and being judge and jury pronounced the damage
minimal, gets back in his car, waves and drives off once again going
against the traffic. At the top of the queue, there are traffic
wardens and policemen, they will not "irrest" him and he is going to
drive off convinced that the bigger your car the bigger your dick and
the world must suck it. l tell myself to breathe deeply and continue
driving on the right lane, an hour's gone by already. One day the good
will prevail just as that frigging frog will one day turn into a prince.


Mr.Fineboy said...

OMG! Traffic in Lagos is a different story altogether! I hope you're okay....you really do need to see someone. I got rear-ended a while ago in America, and thought there had been no damage, because I felt little pain. Found out I had soft tissue injuries, which I got compensated for. In Nigeria, of course, its a different ball game. Hope you get it checked out though. Great blog!

Anonymous said...

My daily commute takes me thru a 5 way stop - at least I think that's how many. I never cease to marvel at the perfect choreography of stop-wait-go precedence at that junction in Virginia where there are no traffic lights by request of the residents.
So where do we start the re-education of our people? Perhaps the brutish Nija nature can't be re-educated in an environment devoid of aesthetic, reliable and safe infrastructure?
Continue to teach your child what is right and breathe deep when 'weres' in big cars try to swipe you off the road. Oyinbo or not, believe me, you'll live longer without the aggro.

House of Virtue said...

Na wa o, you know this is so true and amazing.....and insidiously trying to become a norm in Naija. Unfortunately, more people seem to be getting caught up in the whole frenzy, so as not to be considered as weak or timid, or 'mumu' (for want of a more appropriate term). We have come to understand that what in Naija is generally held as 'acceptable,' has now become like a mental slavery for all, except for those who would rise up to the challenges of breaking free from that mindset, against all odds. We believe that until we all as Naija people at our own individual levels take up the responsibility of doing the right things even when nobody is there to watch, things might just continue to get worse. We believe that, "whatever I am when nobody is watching me; that's truly who I am indeed." As such we also believe that, "until I appreciate my worth as a person, I cannot even do what is right, or much less tell other people around me." And unfortunately, the 'acceptable' value system in Naija seems to strongly be in support of people pretending to be who they are not rather than helping to build up character by challenging them to be who they truly are and make necessary changes for the better. Finally, we believe like most Naija people, that God is always there to help us, but we must act in accordance with the truth which we know in God. God bless you Funmi!

Tayo said...

I feel you on this Funmi, I was at that Nitel junction myself today. Hopefully, by the time your shrimp grows up, Nigeria will be a much better place and all these occurrences will be in the past. BTW, you surprise me more each day with your writing, (structure, choice of words et al...) I think I'll hold my thesaurus when reading your next post. Have a nice week.

Olawunmi said...

yeah, children have a way of shutting you up with their innocent, but sharp questions. if we could all look at life through the eyes of a child, there might well be a greater sense of order. they have a way of cutting straight to the issues that adults do not, because our minds are too preoccupied with grey areas and the requirements of political correctness.

i wonder what they would make of nigeria's politics?

i hope you and the little one are okay.

Jumoke Giwa said...

Hey, Funmistic. That must have been a terrible accident yet he thought you and the car were fine and just drove away? Hmn! Please check with your doc to make sure you are indeed ok. I read and feel you every time, all the time. I read with a heavy heart Uncle Reuben's piece about Oluwatoyin Olusesan's murder. And I just got off the phone with Lagos about another terrible mishap. I have been needing lots more comforting lately, much more than necessary, probably. Even though I am not on the scene, I don't seem to be as far removed as one would think, geography and all other factors considered.
I'll tell you how bad it is. I have upgraded my comfort food from corn flakes to blackforest cake and latte. For someone who doesn't eat sugar, now that's really bad. What else can we do, sweetie?

Cheetarah said...

I love ur intro 'i was driving the shrimp to school in the lemon!' Must say I never watch your show in nigeria but ive been reading ur blog and I like, will definattely look out for new dawn when im back!
Its good to see that some sane people live in LA and if more peop become like u lag wont be such a nitemare!Nice1

Dimples said...

Oh Shrimp sounds so so cute..lol "irrest"…yeah a lot of drivers on Lagos roads need to be irrested.
Came back from Lagos last month…and wow I can’t get over the madness of the traffic and just how un-freaking civilised people are out there.

It’s all good sha…hope u are feeling beter sha…and pardon me but I couldn’t stop laughing @ the end…never heard u release so much vernal anger…lol..

Ok Fummi take a deep breathe IN…and the OUT….

Ehn!!! See how better you feel now!!!

tokunbo said...

why do u call her a shrimp?

Funmi Iyanda said...

@ all, l survived the rear ending, no whiplash just a stiff neck which between my chiropractor and patrick at the gym have been adjusted to wellness. thks.
my guiding principle is as long as the good lord did not deem it fit to make me a wild animal, l shall not choose to become one.
@ jumoke giwa, hey crazy, sexy cool friend of mine. l miss you so. how are your shrimps gal? I'm allergic to sugar, wheat and dairy but twice l week l say schrew it bo, head for cactus ad have me a huge desert. My body purnishes me for it but l,m happy to deserve the purnishment. Look forward to seeing you somehow in the summer.
@house of virtue, please keep preaching these messages in your church, its amazing how much "God' and how little good their is in Nigeria. The ability to dissociate decent human conduct from 'godliness' in our society always takes the akara from my mouth. cheers.

Funmi Iyanda said...

@ tokunbo, because she came out looking like one.

nure said...

you too much ojare, na wah o , will naija ever change with those people behaving like that, na wah you really use some slangs there which are proper british slangs , i fell for them haba ,you are a class act,
woe betide you if you mess around on a busy day with those daring camera's around south london,SW, where craze dey,gangan ,bad boys area, you will be dealt with ,big time with heavy fines, you write well joo,
i like it , i was just laughing ,and it was funny , nice 1

Vumkay said...

I must say that this blog's got that lil bit of momentos about it on this feed...........u just want to act back at the society or your immediate environment but you think again "Is it really worth it"? Not in the light of the situation really, but in the intrest of the peace and tranquility of the society at large; wheather it be one you are carving out or is already pre-existing. However, i really hate it when i'm being trampled on........especially when i know "Of course, i'm also equal to the task"....all for the sake of another person's conscience and peace. One example is the squabbles that go on between a girl and another girl.........u dont want to be at the receiving end becus u go cry oh! lol

Aworan said...

Took the missus to Niaja 3 years ago to Ife, and she nearly died of fright.Spending a couple of days in Lagos with the traffic cemented the idea that she's not going back there in a hurry!

akin said...

..and don't get me started on the police and the 'checkpoints'.