I wondered aloud the other day and asked Irvin – the cab man who insisted that he was helping me even when he got paid for driving me around – on why there were no pot-holes on the roads as compared to the roads in some other African countries.?
He looked at the rear mirror and our eyes met and he asked back; “do you prefer potholes on the roads?”. Not getting an answer from me, he fired again, are there potholes on Nigerian roads? “Not really, but…em except in some few rural roads”, I lied, defending my country.
Besides all the wide and marked roads, hardly can one see a road driving for a four-hour journey from Johannesburg to the province of Mpumalanga where the Eagles are grouped in the Nations Cup. The journey was swift and safe as the driver had a speed limit unlike the formular 1 drivers in Nigeria.
Irvin explained that traffic offence could lead one to jail as well as starving and depriving you from feeding your family. Cameras are mounted in all roads. Functional ones. And drivers driving long distances are mandated to stop and refresh two to three times before they get to their destination.
I thought about my country and remembered the torture we went through during the burial of our late ace photographer, Sylva Eleanya in Owerri. A journey that would have taken eight hours lasted for 12 hours with our legs swollen as if we were suffering from elephantiasis.
I thought about the suffering of my people on the East-West road in our country, with billions spent and contracts awarded and re-awarded. Irvin coughed to bring me back to life. “Here in South Africa, Government rewards any body who reports a pot-hole to the authorities. We are always on the lookout.
I have not been lucky but I know many who have been rewarded”, he said. I thought again that the opposite is the case back home.
Though there are no rewards but if there were to be, it would be rewards for anybody who sees a tarred road. We are used to potholes and would marvel to drive for 10 minutes without somersaulting. Yet again, Irvin’s cough brought me back from wandering far away.
This time, he asked me if Nigeria is like America or London. I became angry and asked if he had been to London or America. “I’ve been to Johannesburg a couple of times. I have never gone outside South Africa but I hear that Nigeria is so big and so rich and….cough cut him shot.
I told him to wind down the glasses for fresh air and offered Baba Blue I brought from Lagos. Before he continued his probing questions of whether Lagos is like New York and Abuja like Paris, I alighted at the Stay Easy Hotel of NFF. “Boss, your bill is three hundred Rands”.
I shouted, “what? He laughed and said “you can bring two hundred. Other Nigerians don’t argue over money.”