Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Nigeria At 50 - Day 13 "Complicated. But....."

Nigeria at 50 - day 12  Flygirl

I have always known that my country's issues, challenges and problems are multi-faceted but nothing brought it home to me like my experience at the FRSC (Federal Road Safety Corps) office at Ojodu, Lagos, recently.

The first time I got my drivers' license, it was through my instructor at the driving school I was attending at the time. He told me how much it would cost, I gave him the money and in less than three days, I had my drivers' license. No stress, no hassles.

On my birthday this year, my license expired and I proceeded to go get a renewal.
I had envisaged that the process was probably going to be a very tedious one and I was prepared to go through the rigour. However, the officers I met seemed to have other plans. From the gate, the first officer (Let's call him Officer-1) was quite friendly and he pointed me in the general direction of the license office. He said I needed to check for my name in their database first and if it was not found then I needed to begin the process of requesting for a fresh license since my old one was not the 'original'.

I approached the building I believed 'Officer-1' had directed me to and just to be sure, I approached Officer-2 who sent me right back in the direction from which I had come.
"No, no, no, go to that green building first" he says.
I squint and follow the direction of his outstretched arm and even though I could not see any 'green' building, I set off in that direction. I got to the front of a small building, the green paint on it now almost white and since there was a crowd there, I approached Officer-3,

"Please I would like to renew my license but no body has been able to give me clear directions".

"Oh, okay, follow me" she says and we walk right back towards the direction Officer-1 had initially pointed out only we stopped halfway to stand under a shed where car safety accessories were sold.

Officer-3 punches some numbers on her phone and barks into it,

"Meet me under the shed. Hurry up, a customer is waiting!". In less than five minutes a young man approaches us and Officer-3 says, "Madam please follow him. He will help you". And that was it. Officer-3 walks away and I follow Agent-1 who leads me to a spacious reception office and asks me to relax.

To cut a long story short, Agent-1 does everything for me, after I had paid his quoted amount and hands me a photocopy of my filled-out application form with instructions to return the next day around 1pm to have my photograph taken.

Here's where it begins to get interesting.

I returned the next day and Agent-1 led me to the license office. There was a queue that extended a few yards from the entrance and Agent-1 asked me to stand behind the last person on it. A few minutes later, Boss-1 comes out barking at those of us on the queue.

"What are you people doing here?! Eh?! Where is your tally? What is your number?!"

I quickly deduced that ALL of us on the queue were there illegally. I quietly left the queue so that I would not be embarassed.

"If one of those small boys told you to stand on this queue, you are wasting your time o! They have no power to influence things here! None at all. So please leave this place!".
Boss-1 was still barking even as I walked away in search of Agent-1. 

Agent-1 assured me that there was absolutely no problem and asked me to wait some distance away. He did not tell me how long I was to wait but he promised that it would work out. I began to feel uneasy when I realized that Boss-1 was trying to ensure that things were done properly and orderly. From my vantage position, I watched as licensees were herded from a conference room in a building several yards away to the license office. They all had tally numbers. Apparently, a good number of them had been there as early as 7am and most of them said they'd been waiting for their photographing appointment for several months!

While I sat on a bench pondering my presence there without an appointment, the person sitting next to me tapped my shoulder "Madam, dem dey call you". Agent-1 nodded me towards an officer at the entrance who asked me to hurry inside, along with about eight others, and take a seat. We were the 'shunters'. Boss-1 had gone into his office probably patting himself on the back for being very efficient. Boss-2 was in the lobby 'continuing' with what Boss-1 had started, only this time, Boss-2 was allowing some 'special' licensees to go straight inside to have their photographs taken while the rest of us sat on rows of benches awaiting our turn. But who was I to complain? I was shunting as well!

After about two hours, Boss-1 appears again and since the people on the last row could not produce their tallies, he sent them out and called for a younger officer (Officer-4) to go bring in the last set of licensees from the conference room.
"The last set should be numbers 420 to 445 right?" Boss-1 asks Officer-4. Shaking his head and poring over sheets of papers spread out on a counter at one corner of the room, Officer-4 replies
"Sir, we are still at number 289 sir."
There was an incredulous look on Boss-1's face. "But we were at 275 before I went into my office 2 hours ago!". Officer-4 was staring at his shoes as though he was clueless.
Boss-1 skimmed the faces seated on the benches as though he could somehow point out the shunters. You could see just how frustrated and exasperated he was.
Boss-2 barked "Next!" and then it was my turn to go inside. The time was 5pm.

That day at the FRSC office painted for me a clear picture of just how complicated Nigeria's issues are . Even though someone at the head feels like it is his responsibility to make things work and is indeed doing his best, there are other seemingly inconsequential elements foiling his attempts!
It showed me that even though it takes one man to make a difference, it will take the rest of us to sustain that difference and make it a way of life.
I could have insisted on getting an appointment and refusing to shunt but I didn't and that makes me culpable too. I could stand and point accusing fingers but I must first look inwards and be the change I want to see.

Okay, so it is complicated BUT, it is not all bad.

I got a taste of how efficient and effective the Nigerian Police Force could be and it sparked some hope in me.

I was on my way to work one morning around 5.30am. I needed to pick up a colleague of mine at Estate bus-stop just under the pedestrian bridge. There were many danfo buses struggling  to find a place to park so they could 'shadow' passengers and I knew well enough to drive some meters ahead of them to park. Everything seemed clear and so I turned into a space just after the bridge where BRT buses would normally exit the bus-stop. Just as I was clearing off the road there was a huge "Gboa!". A danfo bus had rammed into my side towards the rear on the passenger's side, taking my tail lights with it as it sped off. Everything happened so suddenly that I didn't know just how to react. I came out of the car and several by-standers yelled at me "Madam! You no go pursue am?!"
Pursue who? To where?
The damage was bad and when I saw that my tail lights were gone, I just started crying. I felt helpless. Not only were my tail lights expensive, it was the third time I was being bashed in the last 6months!

Suddenly bright lights flooded the area and sirens came on. It was the RRS team parked a short distance away. "Madam, please clear well." one of the officers said to me as they jumped into their vehicle.
They had seen the whole thing  and apparently, the danfo driver was  trying to run away after being accosted by one of the officers for double parking. I just happened to be turning in at precisely that same time.

About  40minutes later, the RRS team returned and one of the officers brought the danfo driver to me holding him by the collar. I almost laughed in relief. The officer advised me to take the case to the nearest police station if I felt we could not come to a suitable agreement. They handed me the documents for the danfo which they had collected from the driver just in case he was planning to run away.
I was amazed at how professional the police men were acting. I was still trying to calculate how much 'egunje' I would have to part with but they simply nodded when I thanked them for their help, turned around, got into their vehicle and drove away. Maybe to go help another citizen.

I felt so pleased that I was lenient with the crazy driver making him pay for the body work of the car while I took care of the tail lights.
That was the first time I got the chance to see the NPF in another light - better light and I kept thinking, there is still HOPE!
It is possible for things to change in Naija. Not all the apples in this basket are rotten!

To view the next in these series please visit -
 Nigeria at 50 - day 14 LamikayTy 


rethots said...

'He' was right when 'he' said, "tis not all gloom...." However, for us to truly experience the bloom, we all need to individually sacrifice some seeming but, illusion comfort.

We need to simply 'stand' resolute in our desire for the change. It could seem a long tunnel, yet still, there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

doll said... Nigeria here? the Police? wow

lamikayty said...

good and do we make the good outweigh the bad?

Naijalines said...

You present two sides: the Nigeria we hope would die off and the Nigeria we hope to build and hold on to.

Funms-the rebirth said...

Hope.....i love hearing stories like this...we are getting better, no matter how slow it seems

Good write up

My world said...

These are really inspiring stories...thanks for sharing :)

"Not all the apples in the basket are rotten" I love that..

Myne Whitman said...

I'm proud of all of us. Thanks for sharing Enkay!

ochuko said...

Everyone should read this.
This is an interesting one.
Maybe the right authorities should come out & publish in national dailies and various media what the right steps to follow in acquiring a particular govt service/product are..
Maybe the police authorities should come out publicly and publish the things a policeman should ask at a checkpoint.. The national orientation agency should wake up and start "informing" us. I think we all need to be informed about the systems that are in place - this way, we as citizens can collectively take responsibility of enforcing and ensuring that the right steps are taken (even if those 'elements' don't want to).
There is hope!

jhazmyn said...

Nigeria...The good and the bad...just when we think nothing is right, we hear a story that makes us hold on to hope :)

olaoluwatomi said...

wow and i was sure your license process was going smoothly the right way:)Things are easier and much better coordinated outside Lagos state.I got my first license in Niger state and it was a pretty straight forward official process.

Yeah we are all culpable no one is innocent of the charges of letting things go to waste.

The picture of the Nigerian police is one of hope though!

Fluffycutething said...

Funny how i also had a similar experience at d license office. i was even "determined" to do the right thing but not even the officials were willing to put me through the right procedure. i who bypassed the process got my license after weeks so i can imagine how long it would take those who chose to do the right thing!!!!

God help us, change certainly has to start from even we the chief complainants!!!!

Black Man Comes said...

Enkay... funny I know Boss 1. Fair stucky guy. Hw updated his methods now. He uses those who went through th right process to monitor the lines when he walks away. But like you said, even the people complaining are implicit in not wanting to do the right thing. Hence I think 'people' are NIgerias greatest problems. We complain but want it to stay the same.
Ochuko I couldnt have stated it better. You got it. Those who know what it should be should inform us how it should be but they are not ready for change, where will they find their loop-holes to gain from the masses if they inform us of the proper way it should be done.

bArOquE said...

OMG...that was a long post, i didnt think i would have read it to the end...i found it quite funny you waited 40mins in the morning for them to come back...see joblessness...but thanks for waiting, it touched somebody outh there that there's hope for Nigeria

God help us all

Olufunke said...

Naija for life
Interesting story. ...spwaking of finding roses even in thorns.
Enkay you know how to tell stories and beautifully too.

Tisha said...

I remember when i went to collect my National ID.
I waited for hours and refused to cheat. I followed the whole process without cheating
I went home with the National ID of every member of my family but could not get mine. Do you think it is an irony.

I also remember when i traveled to Ghana without a passport.

So i understand we must all pitch in; consistency is the name of the game.
I like as usual enkay.

Patrina's Pencil said...

It all still sounds pretty bad from my end... I don't hear much good from Nigeria - but I love my Nigerian bloggy friends. Your country may have hope - but only because there are some GOOD people there! ---like YOU!

I loved this :

"It showed me that even though it takes one man to make a difference, it will take the rest of us to sustain that difference and make it a way of life."

patrina <")>><
warrior bride in boots

StandTall-The Activist said...

That is some experience there my lady but you are right, hoping and believing in change is important

jhazmyn said...

Happy new yr dear, just to let u know I tagged u as a stylish and versatile blogger, details over at mine.

C u where we see ;)

BSNC said...

happy new year Enkay. where art thou. Missed this space..

NoLimit said...

Where are you??? Please come back!!!:(

raindropsonarose said...


aloted said...

sis! this last post was in 2010 , last year fa? we don reach oct 2011... how far naa?

i hope all is well at ur end... been a long while...

just thot to check up on u.


BSNC said...

I have come again. where are you oh? it has been decades lol

Unknown said...

This is a good news for everybody. Though it is a common knowledge that the authority is somewhat rotten, still there are other who are still thriving to do their best.

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