By Kate Henshaw
Owning a car in Nigeria is a necessity, as it is the most reliable form of transportation. It is not about how many one has in his or her garage (that is if you have a garage), but how useful they are. Should you decide to own more than one car, it is your prerogative and obviously the reasons will vary from household to household, and also from business to business.
One also has to take into consideration the maintenance costs that are part and parcel of the deal. The bigger the car, the bigger the costs involved especially if you are driving within Lagos alongside the thousands of Okadas , Keke Napeps, Danfos and inept drivers that ply the road.
It is no secret that the average Nigerian household back then would have at least two cars (I do not know if this is still the case since the removal of the supposed subsidy or it could be that the numbers have increased per household); one car would be for the parents, the other for the kids for school.
There are different reasons why one would go out and purchase a vehicle of some sort; it could be through recommendation by someone who has used a particular brand or seeing an advert which promises one that the car in question will deliver what is expected and more.
One thing is for sure, buying a brand new one beats getting a “tokunbo”. Do not get me wrong, I know that not everyone can afford to buy a brand new car. Moreover,the options are plenteous in the “tokunbo” range and most are not bad looking at all but it is always the luck of the draw.
Men and women have different reasons for buying a certain car. For a man, it is more of a status symbol. It is eye candy to have friends come to visit your home and see different machines parked in your home or to see you every now and then behind the wheel of different cars from the very exotic to the average car but for a woman it is for practical reasons though I suspect that that has changed over time. It is a power trip for some women to be seen driving a big truck around (when I say truck, I do not mean the type used in construction sites please). Some women these days like to drive around in large cars.
I laugh inwardly sometimes when I see a sports utility vehicle (SUV) with a small framed lady behind the wheel whose head can barely come up the window. I say to myself “if something goes wrong with that car, I wonder if she will be able to sort herself out”.
Speaking as a woman, I know some women who do not even know where the fire extinguisher is located, let alone the wheel spanner or what to even do with the jack! I believe that if you are a woman and you are a driver worth your salt, you should at least know the performance of the engine of the car you are driving. You should be able to check your radiator and your engine oil for water and oil shortage respectively; gauge your tyres regularly and yes, fill up the tank with petrol.
The reason for this analysis is not far-fetched. I hate to see women being fleeced and taken advantage of by kangaroo mechanics just because they know that women are more gullible so to speak. My driver is always full of admiration when I tell him of a problem I have noticed in the car which he had not taken note of. My car had just been serviced and brought back home.
I decided to take it for a drive to visit a friend and by the next day I told him there was something wrong with the bearing on one of the tyres, he looked at me with that look that said, “this woman don come again o”,but by the time he took it back to the mechanic, he confirmed my diagnosis.
I have sometimes gone underneath the car to check what is going on there. I know when my brake pads need changing because there is that grinding sound while driving. It is also very important to know the difference between a 4X4, and a saloon car.
Why you must think? I take the supposed alternate route in Oniru estate when am driving from my home to Victoria Island, it is bumper -to-bumper traffic most times, no surprise there but there is also another route through the sands on the waterfront parallel to the road. I decided to try it out one day with a bit of trepidation though. I was driving a 4X4 and changed the gear to the appropriate mode for driving on sand.
As I went by, I could see the boys that had gathered by the side, watching me with beady eyes to see if my car would get stuck so they could “rescue” me.
They were waiting with bated breath more so because this prey was a woman. It was with glee on my face that I drove out to the hard surface of the main road on the other side and I could not help but look back to see the disappointment on their faces that I had made it across!
The reverse would have been the case if I decided to take a vehicle that was not suited for that terrain. Lord knows they would have collected a huge sum of money from me to help me out. Thanks to my ONGA branded 4X4.