By Jonas Agwu
I love my barber but I love his saloon situated somewhere in Wuse 2 at the heart of Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory more. For over ten years he has crafted my hair mostly on Saturdays to make me look good. Even when I am posted out of the Federal Capital Territory, he religiously monitors my newly found barber because of the unique contour of my head which only the Almighty God can explain because the contour takes after Him. Unlike women who spend time at the saloon discussing fashion, we men spend time at the saloon discussing mostly football and national issues or politics.
Saturday last week remains no different but captures its uniqueness in providing the material for this week’s piece. It was at the saloon that the idea for this piece was birthed. I had gone there in my usual routine to have Chike my barber at KAX salon beautify my head for the week. On my arrival on this faithful day, I was stunned at the topic for the day. Instead of the usual politics and football, road safety was the menu. In order to have a feel of what some saintly Nigerians think of our driving behavior, I choose not to disclose my identity but to just listen to this seven feet client who spent over an hour lamenting at what he described as the madness on our highways.
In his feat of anger, he said it is obvious that madness is the order of the day while driving on Nigerian roads. He submitted that there was indeed a funny irony as those who chose to drive sanely are actually seen as mad while the real madmen are hailed as heroes for their guts in exhibiting grass irresponsibility and disrespect for the rules that govern civil driving. This young man cited several cases when this madness is displayed. The most common in cities such as Lagos and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory is at traffic lights. According to him, every time, he stops at a traffic light point as indicated by the red light, uncountable number of vehicles blare their horns for him to give way. He wondered why this level of impunity is displayed
when there is a Revised Highway Code which for instance says you must give way to vehicles on your right at a roundabout and stop at a traffic light point when the red light comes on. He also lamented on people who indulge in using their phones while driving and even the rate at which people speed even when they have the whole family with them in the car.
His concern prompted me to do this piece. When I set out to do this piece I was torn between the topic, “saints and sinners and madman as drivers”.i settled for the latter because of the need to reflect the thoughts of my good friend at the saloon hoping that my view would change the attitude of some people who by their actions on the wheels naturally tag them as madmen on the wheels. This is not my first piece on this. I recall a piece I did sometime in 2014 titled learners or lunatics who in my view rank as the first within this group. In that piece I tried to paint the picture of the nuisance learners constitute daily on our roads. In that piece, I wrote thus…. if you want to know what I mean by the good and the bad, let me first state that from our observations, the good guys represent the learner-drivers who are not ashamed to be tagged, learners and such body display the “L” sign as mandated by law. The bad guys on the other hand represent learners that refuse to display the “L” out of ego and pride and even when they do, they willingly flout all the rules that guide learners.
Specifically, the National Road Traffic Regulations 2004 mandates all learner drivers to observe the following rules: attend a certified and approved driving school as prerequisite to obtaining a fresh drivers licence. In the course of this coaching the learner driver must display an ‘L’-plate, which is a square plate bearing a sans-serif letter ‘L’ for many countries if the driver is a learner under instruction or a motor cycle rider with provisional entitlement to ride restricted motorcycles. What this means is that this rule is a universal convention with slight variations from country to country. In the case of Nigeria, section 27, subsections 1-3 of the National Road Traffic Regulations earlier cited spells out the details as applicable to learner drivers. For the purse of this piece, let me stress here that besides displaying an ‘L’ sign, a learner driver when issued a learners permit, must be accompanied by a licensed driver-instructor sitting beside him to drive a vehicle or type stated in the permit from a period not exceeding three months from the date of issue on the highway specified in the permit. Besides, the permit in itself forbids the learner from carrying any person no matter the level of affiliation except the instructor. In addition, the learner-driver must at all times comply with relevant traffic rules and regulations.
Unfortunately, these provisions are daily abused by learner-drivers who no doubt display the ‘L’ sign yet disregard the other provisions meant for their safety and the safety of others. The highflying learners on their own don’t even display the ‘L’ sign and arrogantly violate all other provisions. It is even strange that motorists expose themselves to unnecessary risks by offering to drive in such vehicles. It is also strange that women by our findings in the course of patrols rank among the greatest offenders when it comes to infractions that have to do with learner-drivers. It is very common to see women who are learner-drivers on Sundays and during school runs flout all safety precautions by carrying children in such vehicles and even doing the same their way to worship centers. I must emphasize at this point that the rationale behind the Federal Road Safety Corps driving school standardization programme which makes it mandatory for fresh applicants to attend a certified and approved driving school, to nurture a fresh generation of drivers who will drive by the rules and help the national projection of a zero level for road traffic