Friday, October 24, 2008

Safety First

Case One: Labai, Let’s Go Bowlin’!

The Driver sighted the man in his well-known brown Road Safety gear from afar and cursed. He swore even more violently as the man began to flag down his car:

“Ga wancan shegen banza *$#@#@! Zan nuna mishi wani abu, wallahi!”

“See that bastard * * *! I’ll show him something, wallahi!”

Having said this, the man put his foot down hard on the accelerator and smiled a wicked smile.

Impact Time = 10 seconds.

The passengers watched; some with rising excitement, others with trepidation. What was about to happen very fast was a joke, shebi? As in, the Driver had good brakes ko? And the Road Safety official. He had quick reflexes… ko?

Impact time = 5 seconds.

The official began to understand the crazy driver’s intent.

Impact Time = 3 seconds

Joke or not, the official didn’t wait to find out. Twas a case of “safety first”, as his instructors had drilled deeply into his head. He flew off the road at the same instant the Driver swerved violently to the left to dodge hitting him.

“Hahahaha! Shegen b*#@*&! kawai” he whooped happily as he sped away. The “shege” had been taught a lesson. Some of the passengers congratulated him, laughing with him over this accomplishment. All looked back to catch glimpses of the dazed Road Safety official gathering his wits about him. Allah ya isa! God it is enough! The hazards of this job are too much he was probably thinking crossly. Well, at least he lived to tell the story. A true story.

Case Two: Wrestling Match In Front Seat
You know how Police/NURTW/VI officers sometimes stop drivers who park wrongly (or overload the vehicle) and insist on taking the driver to the station to pay a fine? Well this was a similar case, but dealing with this guy was going to be more difficult than anyone assumed.
The officer had succeeded in stopping the driver and seating himself in the front seat with a friend of mine. He told the driver to start driving. The driver obeyed. Good. The driver and official then began to argue hotly, (my friend understands Hausa small-small, so he didn’t know what the argument was about). Finally, the officer had had enough. He grabbed the gear stick roughly and the car swerved to the side as the driver glared at him. He too grabbed the gear and the wrestling began.
My friend was stunned at the turn of events, but he recovered sharply as he noticed the car swerving dangerously to the left and right. Ha! On a busy Federal road?! Babu babu! No time for staring; time for action. He grabbed the wheel and began to control the car while the two men struggled and the other passengers screamed and begged. Seconds later, he was in control of the car while the two Who Is More Thoughtless? contestants slowly came to their senses.
Fortunately no one was injured, but unfortunately, it is yet another true story.

[I apologise for being MIA for so long. I have been having a few issues lately. I’m back to tell you about the peaceful State that is called Zamfara. Today’s post is about ZM drivers’ attitudes, and it doesn’t flatter the State at all.]

Most ZM drivers do not respect road laws, and they know how to speed… recklessly. E don’ pass “be careful” stage, as my ex-roomate would say.

As the Commander-in-Charge of the Federal Road Safety Corporation (FRSC) said during our last Community Development mtg, “it seems like the drivers wake up everyday and ask themselves, 'how many people am I going to injure today?'” It is disturbing. Most do not have a clue about road laws (neither do I but that’s why I joined the FRSC :-)) - they overtake carelessly and kill so many people as a result. But don’t take my word for it; it has been said that ZM has the highest car accident mortality rates in Nigeria. (I'll do some research on it soonest).

Because of this poor understanding of road safety, instead of passengers telling the drivers to slow down, they encourage them (by their silence – “shuru ma amsa”) to keep it up. While I’m on this topic, I might as well add that I have also noticed a Boot-Riding thing here: you can find up to three passengers riding happily in the boots of taxis or buses. No wonder Northerners are often referred to as animals.

There is plenty room for improvement, that’s the summary. FRSC, NURTW, VIO, Cofas... we all need to work together to change these trends. Address/re-educate the drivers, pedestrians (and even NURTW and Road Safety workers) regularly, make road signs, speed bumps, enforce strict laws… and so on. It’s just that Nigeria is so corrupt. (Not a pretty way to end a post, so lemme sing the Nigeria Go Better song: “Nigeria will survive; my people will survive. Nigeria go survive O, Nigeria go better!” It starts… with YOU :-)

PS: Next week I’ll be talking about ZM’s educational system in Professor Bullallah. Till then, have v. good days!