Beware the Roads of Lagos

Heegnoranz” can certainly not be “hegscuze” for anyone that falls prey (metaphor intended) to the new traffic law of Lagos State. It has been so well-publicised that one hopes this manner of publicity will follow documents of accountability of the government. The law is available for download here, in case anyone’s still looking for a copy.


I have suggested elsewhere that draconian laws may be the drastic measure needed to get us back in line but, given LASTMA’s penchant for sacrificing the spirit of the law on the altar of its letter and the 1000% increase in applicable fines (in many instances), I may very well rue my words.


So what does the law do? No, it doesn’t ban eating or drinking while driving, at least not specifically (closest I came across was “counting money or otherwise engaged in other activities when driving”). It does however, like its sister Act (*chuckles*) the LASTMA Law of 2004, prohibit smoking while driving. I have set out a table below, comparing some of the old offences and penalties with the newer version. You should probably skip down there if you want to avoid the boring legalese that follows.


The consensus on the law is that the punishments appear to go too far. Apart from this, I think it short on the definitions of some offences. For instance, a driver is liable upon conviction for dangerous driving, to a fine of N100,000 and/or two years’ imprisonment. An offence with such a hefty penalty should not be left solely to the discretion of the LASTMA of today. (See the UK Road Traffic Act and its definition of dangerous driving).


Section 20, on “careless and inconsiderate driving” also throws another curve ball. Subsection (2) appears to give the court the power to direct the accused driver to be charged with a different charge if the court is of the opinion that the original charge has not been proved. This would appear to go contrary to the long-establisheddouble jeopardy rule in criminal law. Apart from being a principle of common law, “double jeopardy” is also prohibited by section 36(9) of the constitution, which reads-

“No person who shows that he has been tried by any court of competent jurisdiction or tribunal for a criminal offence and either convicted or acquitted shall again be tried for that offence or for a criminal offence having the same ingredients as that offence save upon the order of a superior court.”


Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is rightly prohibited but, while the law gives LASTMA the power to test blood and urine, no maximum limit is stipulated. You may be charged with this offence if it seems to the LASTMA official that the extent of your inebriation is such that you are “incapable of having proper control of the vehicle.” This sounds reasonable enough but in actual fact, it leaves all the power in the traffic authority’s hands.


There is a fine for abandonment of vehicles. There is a related fine for failing to notify the police or LASTMA that a vehicle has been abandoned near your premises. The law doesn’t tell us what constitutes abandonment, however. If my car breaks down and I have to leave it by the roadside until my mechanic is available, after how long can it be deemed “abandoned”? 12 hours? 24 hours? 48 hours? Whatever LASTMA feels constitutes abandonment?


The motorcycle-related provisions of the law also appear to apply to ALL motorcycles. No distinction is made between private and commercial motorcycles. Thus, technically, LASTMA could arrest a sports bike (“power bike”) rider for being on a route on which motorcyclists have been banned (see page 29 of the law). It must be pointed out that the new restrictions on motorcycle traffic (permits, maximum number of passengers, etc) seem quite sound, however.


It is also an offence for your vehicle to break down on the road and cause an obstruction to traffic. No, that’s not a typo. And you’d be fined N50,000 and still have to pay the cost of towing, Would it not be more reasonable for the State to provide free recovery services to a non-obstructive point, like LCC does on the Lekki-Epe expressway (I don’t believe I just paid LCC a compliment!)?


The question remains though, as to why the fines have been increased so dramatically. Many of these offences already existed, suggesting that a lack of enforcement (and not the mildness of penalties) is the reason why traffic remains chaotic in Lagos. Are the enormous fines a stealth tax or fund-raising initiative?  It would have also helped the considerably large smoker population if the policy behind banning smoking was properly articulated (even though this offence was listed in the 2004 law). Lagos would seem to be the first city in the world to impose such a ban. Perhaps the purpose of the law is even to reduce traffic by making Lagosians too frightened to drive.


In any event, safer driving will ultimately be a good thing and one earnestly hopes that LASTMA and the VIO will adopt a common-sense, non-predatory approach to the enforcement of the new regulations.

Be safe, everyone!



2004 provisions are in black; 2012 are in red







Driving without a valid Driver’s Licence 2/2 2,000/[no fine stated] Impound Vehicle/payment for removal and storage and evidence of payment for the licence.
Learning to drive on a major highway 3/2 2,000/1st Offender N20,000; subsequent offender N30,000 Dislodge Driver/ payment for removal and storage and evidence of payment for the licence.
Driving with fake number plates 4/4 4,000/1st Offender N20,000; subsequent offender N30,000 Impound Vehicle/imprisonment of 3 years or both fine and imprisonment
Driving a vehicle with unauthorised or defective reflective number plate 2/2 2,000/1st Offender N20,000; subsequent offender N30,000 Impound Vehicle/imprisonment of 3 years or both fine and imprisonment
Driving without a valid MOT Test Certificate 2   Impound Vehicle/payment for removal and storage and evidence of payment for the certificate.
Driving without a valid roadworthiness certificate 2   Impound Vehicle/payment for removal and storage and evidence of payment for the certificate.
Violation of route by commercial vehicle 2/2 2,000/ 1st Offender N20,000; subsequent offender N30,000
Disobeying traffic control personnel or traffic signs 1/2 2,000/1st Offender N20,000; subsequent offender N30,000
Disobeying traffic lights 4 5,000  
Failure to yield to right of way of pedestrians at a zebra crossing 4/3 5,000/ 1st Offender N20,000; subsequent offender N30,000  
Failure to give way to traffic on the left at a roundabout 2/2 2,500/ 1st Offender N20,000; subsequent offender N30,000  
Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs 2 2,000/N100,000 or 2 years imprisonment or both Impound Vehicle
Smoking while driving 1/2 2,000/ 1st Offender N20,000; subsequent offender N30,000  
Tailgating an emergency vehicle 4/3 5,000/1st Offender N20,000; subsequent offender N30,000  
Failure of slow-moving vehicle to keep to the right lane 2/2 2,500/1st Offender N20,000; subsequent offender N30,000  
Assault on a Traffic Officer(physical) 4 5,000/[no fine stated] Prosecute in court/Imprisonment for a term of three (3) years or both fine and imprisonment
Driving in a direction prohibited by the Road Traffic Law [i.e. “one-way”]/Neglect of traffic directions 4 25,000/[forfeiture of vehicle to the state] Impound/ 1st Offender – one (1) year imprisonment and forfeiture of the vehicle to the State; 2nd and subsequent offender (3) years imprisonment and forfeiture of the vehicle to the state; offenders to have data and biometrics captured.
Bullion vehicle driving in a direction prohibited by the Road Traffic Law 4/5 50,000/ [Forfeiture of vehicle] Impound/Imprisonment for a term of three (3) years, or both fine and imprisonment
Illegal U-Turns 2/3 2,000/ 1st Offender N20,000; subsequent offender N30,000 Driver Training
Making or receiving phone calls when driving 2/2 2,500/1st Offender N20,000; subsequent offender N30,000  
Counting money, or [being] otherwise engaged in other activities when driving 2 1st Offender N20,000; subsequent offender N30,000  
Failure to display reflective warning triangle sign [i.e. “C-Caution”] at point of breakdown 4 10,000  
Causing obstruction on highway if broken down 2 N50,000.00; cost of towing


I have just returned to Nigeria after the longest holiday of my life (not counting the ASUU-induced ones). Three weeks of relaxation and de-stressing in two #ThisIsACountry countries. No generators to fuel or put on, sanity on the roads, round-the-clock electricity, no one worried that the witches in his mother’s village were jinxing him. It was truly a pleasant time away. I’m back now and, in addition to the needing to provide my own electricity, the fuel queues and police checkpoints are back. Anyway, here are some stories from my summer wonderland.


Passport Renewals

My Texinas are dual-nationals and one of them needed to have her Wonderland passport renewed while we were away. I’d filled the application form online before we got there and chose the one-day express walk-in renewal service for a date two days or so after our arrival. All the Wonderland folks required for the renewal were her old passport and birth-certificate. We spent less than 10 minutes with the document-checker and less than 30 overall including going through security and getting a ticket number. “Come back at 5 for the passport”, we were told. I kept waiting for her to ask me for her “something for the weekend” but she didn’t. Got back at 5.30, the passport was ready. Simples.


At the Ikoyi passport office, even after you’ve paid the tout for “express” service, you still have to endure a 1-hour inter-religious prayer session with the 300 or so other applicants under the waiting canopy. “These passports you are collecting today, the Lord will never allow foreign embassies to stamp refusals or rejections on them.” “AMEEEEEN”, the people chorus back…


Then someone yells out applicants names from a pile of labelled files stacked on the table. Every applicant called must then collect his file from the yeller and personally take it into the processing room. In the processing room, someone checks the documents in the file and signs something which you need to quickly dash out to photocopy, then somebody shows you your data on the screen for your approval, warning you that mistakes cannot be corrected after this point. Then another person takes your picture. Long story short, four hours and two weeks after you arrive, your passport should be ready. If you didn’t pay a tout though, I bet you’re still under that waiting canopy, earnestly expecting the yelling immigration guy to call out your name.


The Lord’s Army

Still on the Texinas, I’m a firm believer in the importance of children growing up listening to wholesome music. This is mostly because I did and, every once in a while, a nice melody from primary school bursts into my consciousness and I have a nice bask in the nostalgic waterfall. I therefore have loads of music from CBBs and Disney and this is what we listen to in the car on family outings. None of all that nanananinanaininono stuff. I decided to add nice children’s Christian music to the mix in Wonderland and got a CD named ‘Action Bible Songs’. One of the songs on this album is ‘The Lord’s Army’, which most of us learned at Sunday School, way back. You know, “…for I am in the Lord’s Army. Yessir!!” yes, that one.


Now here’s a teaser for you. Do you know the actual words of the verse? Chances are, like me, you’ve been singing “I will never whoomp on the enemy, grunt on the nanini, ride on the fillary…” No, you’re not like me? Well, thanks to this CD, I now know that the real words are –

                I may never march in the infantry/Ride in the cavalry/Shoot the artillery/I may never zoom o’er the enemy/But I am in the Lord’s Army


The sound of all those pennies dropping. You’re welcome.



Dinner with the Cabal

I informed His Royal Overlordness King Feyi XVIII (@doubleeph) that I would be in his neck of the Wonderland Woods and he very graciously invited me for an evening of Roast Pheasant and Arcanian Cheese with Akin Oyebode (@AO1379), Dapo Adesanya (@DapoAdesanya) and [Uncle] Akin Akintayo (@forakin).


Okay, so it wasn’t really pheasant and cheese but it was an extremely pleasant Wonderland evening at a restaurant owned by one of the truly great Nigerian musicians of yore. Now, I have the habit of imagining what people I’ve never met sound like, from their appearance in pictures. @AO1379 is a regular contributor on ynaija and the voice I’d made up for him in my head would’ve made Barry White jealous. He wasn’t that baritone but he is a great ‘conversator’. Plus, contrary to what I think he’s said before on the twitter, he paid for non-1759 drinks, so hearty cheers to him.


You may have noticed that I referred to @forakin as ‘Uncle’. This is because in the middle of one of his stories (in his ever so posh manner) he mentioned the year in which he finished secondary school. The rest of us at the table did double-takes, remembering how old (or more correctly, young) we were at the time.


A nice evening of great conversation and made in Wonderland Nigerian food.


LCC Bollocks

When LCC announced the arrival of electronic tags for users of their toll road, I promptly took the papers of mine and Mrs Tex’s cars to register for the e-Tag. Unfortunately for all concerned, Mrs Tex’s car was still registered in her maiden name (“You need to bring the marriage certificate…”) and mine was still registered in the name of the leasing company (“…and a letter from this company on the papers.”).

“But it’s my bank account that I would be linking the tags to.” I protest.

“No o, Oga. It haff serious legal implication.”

“Really? Someone will sue LCC for letting me pay for e-Tag on their car?”[raised eyebrow]

“Hehe. Oga, it seems like you don’t understand what I’m saying. It haff legal [read “legggal”] implication.”


Of course, I wasn’t going to bring a marriage certificate to get a sodding e-Tag and that was that.


In Wonderland, in the Baltimore-Washington DC axis, you will find 2 short parallel Velcro stickers on most people’s car windshields. Johnny Just Come (Johnny Come Lately, in proper English) initially prevented me from asking what they were for but I found out soon enough. On this same commuting axis, you see, are a couple of toll roads. The LCC in Wonderland also have e-Tag equivalents called EZ Passes. The Velcro stickers are how you affix your EZ Pass onto your windshield to pay tolls. Drivers transfer EZ Passes between vehicles; that being the reason why in many cars you’d see the bare Velcro stickers but no EZ Pass. No legggal issues whatsoever in a #ThisIsACountry country.


Returning From Wonderland

As a great sage recently informed us, everything that has a beginning must have an ending. On this, he was right and I eventually found myself in the MMIA  – the land of “What do you have for us?” Typically at MMIA, you’re on the immigration queue for about 30 minutes and spend the next hour and a half gathering your luggage (unless you flew First or Business Class). If, as frequently happens, the baggage carousel breaks down and luggage has to be transferred to another carousel your wait could be much longer.


However, on the day I returned from Wonderland, Immigration fast-tracked us on the queue because of the Texinas, so our passports were stamped roughly 10 minutes after disembarking from the plane. While waiting for the usual “so, oga lawyer, what did you bring for us?” from the immigration fellas, I spied a carousel churning out luggage. I didn’t think, in a million years, it could be for our flight but was I glad to be wrong. Another 30 minutes and all our luggage had been collected. Now for the customs people.


I was bracing myself for “What’s in the boxes? Open one, let’s see. Okay don’t open, just find something for us and you can go.” But the lady just pointed out to us that exits had changed because of ongoing renovation and that we were to head in a different direction. Hang on, I thought, isn’t this a #ThisIsNotACountry HQ? Right on cue, probably just to make sure I wasn’t permanently disorientated, PHCN struck and there was a power cut, accompanied by that usual groan that people make when that happens. The lights soon came back on and, as I left the terminal, I heard a different customs officer remark to an expatriate grabbing the last of his baggage, “Welcome to Nigeria.”


Indeed, I thought.





The one thing in the world that will reduce the world’s stateliest royal to the ranks of the most abject of its hoi polloi, more than bankruptcy or a reversal of fortunes, is a runny stomach. Diarrhoea. All sense of comportment and etiquette vanish with that urgent, almost panicked, longing of your body to relieve itself. Feyi learnt this in the most practical way that one learns things in life – through personal experience.

Feyi graduated with a degree in law from the University of Lagos in 2001. As the system of legal training in Nigeria requires, he enrolled in the Nigerian Law School the following year and was called to the Bar in 2003. From the very beginning of his journey as a law student till the day he was presented with his certificate of call to the Bar, his teachers had reinforced over and again that the legal profession was the noblest of all professions. He had taken an elective in Classics in his third or fourth undergraduate year and had learnt that there were only 3 ‘noble’ professions. Apparently, in the classical era, you were among the most privileged and noble of society if you were a clergyman, a medical doctor or a lawyer. He surmised that all other professions, going by the thinking at this time, were merely decent.

His law teachers were unshakable in their belief in the nobility of the profession. “Do not speak so imprecisely, you’re training to be a lawyer.” “Do not dress as students in other faculties do. Don’t you understand that at the end of their training they will merely become educated; you will become learned?” And so on. One of his lecturers even went so far as to say that the legal profession was traditionally the preserve of the wealthy. At the time, Feyi thought the statement excessively arrogant but later in life came to see some justification in it.

Students from other faculties and departments also fuelled the superior air that law students carried. If there was ever an argument between a law student and, say, a student of psychology, bystanders were usually more inclined to side with the law student and, on occasion, would accuse the other person of being foolish in thinking he could take on a ‘legal mind’. At the national youth service camp, where there was already a good-natured divide between university graduates and those from polytechnics, it was common to hear such phrases as “De Law, why are you bothering with this fellow? Don’t you know he didn’t even go to a university?”

It therefore was quite commonplace for new lawyers to be filled with pomp and a sense of a glorious destiny when starting their first jobs. Life usually separates the wheat from the chaff but all new lawyers plunge in with great expectations.

Feyi’s first job was as a ‘Youth Corper’ with the Ministry of Justice in Calabar, Cross River state. Most corpers spend their mandatory year of national service as teachers or administrative staff so it suited Feyi quite well that he would spend his working in a professional capacity. It was with great pride that he had packed his brand new Ede & Ravenscroft wig and gown with the rest of his belongings.

The most frequently asked question amongst ‘new wigs’ is whether or not they had appeared in court and, if so, whether they had ‘flown solo’. Feyi had appeared in court several times with his boss, the Director of Public Prosecutions, a very pleasant gentleman. The DPP had four corpers assigned to his office but appeared to be most comfortable with Feyi as his assistant. This was the reason why, when a meeting of Department Heads was suddenly called by the Attorney-General, the DPP asked Feyi to handle his out-of-town trials for the day.

The trials were scheduled for the high court in Akampa, about twenty minutes from Calabar by car. Usually, Feyi would ride along with the DPP in his car. Today’s turn events meant that Feyi had to travel to Akampa by public transportation. He knew he was in the good books of the DPP but borrowing the car would have been totally out of the question. So he made his way to the motor park.

When he got to the park, he caught his reflection in the window of one the cars parked nearby. He smiled what he hoped was an inward smile as he admired his stiff collar, the starched bib and the important-looking case file. He was also wearing his favourite cuff-links, given to him as a graduation present by an old lady neighbour whose husband used to be a judge at the court of appeal. He felt it was probably a little infra dig that he was travelling by public transportation but quickly filed it in the recesses of his mind under ‘paying your dues’. He felt a little more discomfited when he realised that cars going to Akampa did not care for the legal limit of occupants in their vehicles. The saloon car in which he was travelling took four passengers at the back and three in front, one sharing the driver’s seat with the driver.

As the car began its short journey, Feyi felt that feeling of intestinal contortions in the pit of his stomach. At first he thought it was as a result of the combination of him having to squeeze his long legs into the back of the car with three other passengers and the rancid body (or was it mouth) odour from the person beside him. He took a few deep breaths and the churning stopped. Then, at the same time that Mr. Mouth Odour started to ask whether Feyi was really a lawyer the driver swerved, trying to avoid a pothole. Three of the vehicles tyres missed the pothole but the right rear tyre, where Feyi was seated went straight in, very hard. Typically, any semblance of shock absorbers or a suspension had left the car a very long time ago. The cocktail of halitosis and the thumping of the vehicle set Feyi’s churning stomach off again. This time, he knew he was in trouble.

The trip to Akampa could not end quickly enough. He was physically contorted, having crammed himself into the back of the car. Metabolically, to prevent the biggest embarrassment of his life from occurring, Feyi was clenching all the muscles in his buttocks with everything he had. This, of course, meant he was sweating.

Luckily, the court was only a few meters off the highway when the journey eventually came to an end. Feyi looked at his watch and figured he had at least twenty minutes before the judge arrived. Very measuredly, he walked into the courtroom and checked that the two matters he came for were put on the cause list. He put his wig, gown and case file down on a chair and, again at a very measured pace, being extremely careful not to tip the balance of his internal equilibrium, went back outside the court and asked the two policemen standing nearby where the toilet was.

“Ehn?” one questioned back. Feyi was slightly embarrassed to have asked the initial question. Making him repeat himself was traumatic.

Oga Police,” he said, “Please, could you tell me where the toilets are?”

“Barrister”, the second one said, “no toilet here o. We ‘ave latrine at the back towards the bush there.”

Under normal circumstances even public water closet toilets were repulsive to Feyi but he was unperturbed as he made for the latrine with his still measured but by now much more brisk walk. Twenty metres from the latrines, the stench of putrefaction hit him in the face. It was almost as if he was walking through a wall of heat and odours. He paused to reconsider the options before him but quickly had his mind made up for him by the twanging in his belly. He could not think what of all that he had eaten the previous day put him in this predicament, but it did not matter.

It was one of Feyi’s most enduring beliefs from childhood that the human organs of excretion had ‘bathroom sonar’ – they seemed to know when their owners were within the vicinity of toilets. The bladder, though letting you know that it is full and ready to be emptied, will comfortably restrain itself until the moment it sets its eyes on a WC. When Feyi’s rectum set its eyes on the latrine, the churner in his stomach shifted gears.

Quickly, he took of his jacket and hung it on the jagged remnant of a door. There really was no door in the traditional sense of a partition that either shuts one in or out of a room. In fact, for some reason, the architects of the outhouse had designed it such that it faced the highway. Thankfully, a cassava farm shielded what was left of Feyi’s modesty. His belt and trousers had come off too and were hanging on the same jagged edge. Hurry, his body said to him.

He undid one cufflink and put it in the pocket of his trousers. His body sensed though that the clothing barrier had been removed and, like a woman crowning towards the end of labour, his body started to act on its own. Still, Feyi would not go with his shirt on and fought furiously to undo the second cufflink. To his dismay, not only did the cufflink come undone, it flew in an arc away from his sleeve and its trajectory carried it straight into the pit of human waste. It did not register yet though that Feyi’s beloved pair of cufflinks was no more as he bestrode the hole in the ground and gave in to his body.

Relief surged through his body and for a brief moment blocked the foulness of his surroundings. The moment passed, though, and he suddenly knew the difference between good and evil again. What was worse, he realised that he had not given any consideration to how he would clean up his posterior after he was done. Again, he considered his options. Cassava Leaves? There was no way of telling how his body would react to that. What he needed was something white and soft and reminiscent of tissue paper. Then he glanced down at his singlet and without a moment’s hesitation quickly took it off.

Upon returning to the courtroom, sans singlet and with one of his cuffs hanging freely in spite of his attempts to tuck it into his jacket sleeve, Feyi looked himself over again. The judge had arrived but the court was not yet in session. The police had brought the suspects into the courtroom and Feyi wondered whether the suspects looking at him were doing so in a silent appeal for help or because they knew where he was coming from and what he had just done.

He smiled as he remembered what his thoughts were as he used his singlet for the very last time. If any of my teachers could see me now, he had thought, they would say Don’t wipe your ass with your singlet! You’re a lawyer!!


This afternoon, I got rear-ended by a Ghanaian driver. His nationality is actually of no consequence apart from the fact that the accent in which he eventually pleaded for mercy was mildly amusing. The traffic incident occurred on Ajose Adeogun, at the VCP Hotel junction. I’d taken the toll-avoidance route from Lekki Phase 1 after doing the school run and was headed back into Onikan via Victoria Island. My West-African brother was trying to U-turn at the aforesaid junction. There was already a queue of cars waiting to make the same U-turn “bet” our “bratheh” was obviously in a hurry, so he formed a new queue, closer to on-coming traffic than everyone else.



The chap in the SUV at the front of the appropriate queue realised, I presume, that I had right of way and stopped nudging forward in that annoying fashion that many Lagos drivers do. As I nosed past SUV-man, I kind of ‘saw’ “Bratheh” nudging forward but wasn’t overly alarmed because, well, Lagos drivers do that. I didn’t even manage to get my front door in line with SUV-man’s face before I heard that sickening crunch of what Google tells me are Thermoplastic Olefins – the material that most car bumpers are made of. Luckily, my rear lights and Bratheh’s headlamps were spared but my car no longer looked like Kim Kardashian from the rear – I wanted blood!


I find primal abuse very difficult, even at the best of times, so I didn’t manage to do better than “Do you have a problem?” (Sumtin dey worry you?) and “Can’t you see you’re sick in the head?”(You no see say your head no correct? Bastard!). Perhaps I was conscious of the two children, roughly the same ages as mine, and their nanny in the car. But Bratheh was immediately apologetic. Twenty seconds had passed since the crunch and, already, traffic at the junction had doubled. SUV-man was the hardest hit – wedged between my car and Bratheh’s, he needed to reverse to able to go round Bratheh’s car. The folks behind him weren’t having it, though.


“You have to fix my car. If it’s not yours, call the owner,” I stormed.  Bratheh quickly agreed to take me to his Madam but pulled over halfway there and began to plead for all he was worth. “’Cahm’ and know my own house. I will repay whatever you spend fixing ‘theh’ vehicle.” I asked him, getting frustrated (as I knew where the conversation would end), what would happen if he moved tomorrow. “I cannet do sahch, sir” Bratheh replied. The nanny left the kids in their car and came to plead for her co-employee.


I heaved a heavy sigh and looked away from them. “Please sir. God will bless you sir.” Somehow, in the middle of all that, my mind still broke that down into “Please let me go sir, God will bless you if you do.” A fallacy – appeal to pity. Maybe even an ad populum as well. I sighed again, resigned to fate and let them go.


As Bratheh drove off, I had a Benjamin Button moment. Perhaps if I’d not had that banana snack after the school run, I would have got to the junction earlier than Bratheh and the rear of my car would still be fine. Thinking like that can drive a person mad though as, after all, it’s only after the undesired event occurs that one realises how a little delay may have altered the chain of events. Bratheh should simply have respected my right of way. End of.



(first published on facebook, circa November 2011)

Travelling internationally, even on the best of days, is stressful. It is much more so from the Murtala Mohammed Airport in Lagos. The travel agents do their magic on the computers, combinations and permutations, to whip out the “best” fares. The internet slows down your on-line checking but at last you get the 2nd best seat on your scale of preference (the one by the emergency exit with loads of leg-room is NEVER available online). You meticulously check that your baggage isn’t over-weight and that you haven’t forgotten your passport at home and then, you set out.


Getting to the airport is fairly easy. There’s the customary traffic at Oshodi and now, there’s that massive crater in road just before you turn off the Oshodi-Apapa expressway so you (or your driver) need to be alert to all the random swerving that happens there. You pass the overgrown bushes and shrubbery in the median on the final approach to the airport and the occasional pothole here and there. You get to the airport and usually spend 10 minutes trying to get dropped off due to traffic on the departures lane. Finally, you’re out, you say no (or yes, perhaps) to the porter “offering” to carry your luggage and the person trying to sell you padlocks, walk to the terminal entrance….and then IT STARTS.


There’s a policeman at the door armed with a machine gun along with an airport security person with a baton as his own regulation weapon. If you’re wheeling your own luggage in, you should get past without incident. If it appears that you’re merely accompanying someone into the terminal or you arrive in non-conventional travel wear (e.g. shorts and a basketball singlet), you will be asked for your passport and ticket (yes, ticket, in this day and age when most arrive with boarding passes). Once it’s been ascertained that your documentation is complete, just before it’s handed back to you, they will ask you, “What do you have for us?”


You walk towards the flight desk and (again to surprise, mostly) they write your name down on a piece of paper (even though, uhm, you arrived with your boarding pass, which is only available after you’ve checked in online!). Then they do that “wash-wash” friendliness, asking you where you’re from and throwing the only word they know in your dialect at you, trying to slick you over. Then, just before they hand back your passport and ticket/e-ticket/boarding pass, they will ask you, “What do you have for us?”


Then, your baggage needs to be hand-searched by the Customs people. They try to intimidate you. “What is this?”, as she squeezes your transparent bag of garri or has he holds up what is obviously a tuber of yam wrapped thinly in old newspaper. “Is this allowed where you’re going?” (YOU tell me, punk!) And finally, as she indicates that you can begin to re-pack your luggage, she will ask you “What do you have for us?” In the abridged version of this segment, right before you unzip your bag, you may get asked “Wetin you get for your broda? Jus’ give us something make we ‘roger’ you.”


At last, you get to the baggage drop counter. More “washing”, asked where you’re from and why do you have a middle name from a different tribe (duh-uh), your bag gets tagged and then, the double whammy…. “What do you have for us?” from both the porter who tags your bag and the agent who printed the tag (why are they separate, I hear you ask?).


Passport control. However, there are two policemen at the entrance to passport control who check that you have a boarding pass before letting you in. Of course, after a cursory glance at the probably now wrinkled pass (from all the retrieving and putting back in your pocket or purse), they also will ask you “What do you have for us?” The immigration guys who stamp your passport will ask “What do you have for us?” The guys standing on the duty-free side after the x-ray machines and the metal detectors, who I only just recently learned were Drug Enforcement Agents (NDLEA – the same guys who made Baba Suwe’s bowel movements a subject of international interest) will ask you “What do you have for us?” Even at the final search of your person and your hand-luggage just before you board the aircraft, the friskers ask you “What do you have for us?”


What do you have for us?


Nothing, you plonkers!! I have decided not to part with a single penny at the airport ever again (unless I’m purchasing refreshments, of course). There are a couple of reasons for this. First, I refuse to contribute to laughable security conditions that “having something for them” would (or already) lead to. Secondly, as, even if I was minded to give “something”, there is no way I could give at all the points of demand and, as each demander is as stupid and hopelessly misguided as the next, it would be most unfair to the ones who received nothing from me if I gave to any of them. Simples.




This post should probably have come before the immediate past one but I was so convinced that many would find the topic of logic and valid arguments boring. It has come as quite a surprise that the reverse is the case and I’ve been asked by quite a few people to do a full post on fallacies. Apologies, however, if this turns out to be a snooze-inducer. You can blame Mr. Taylor for that (spot the fallacy, if you can).

 To understand fallacies better, there are some basic concepts and definitions that need to be stated first.

 A fallacy, in the context of logic, is simply an error in reasoning or an incorrect argument. Growing up, I thought ‘argument’ was a synonym for disagreement but this is not the case. My philosophy teachers were quick to point out that Fela was a real African philosopher and, true enough, in his music one will often hear “na my argument be dis” or other references to him making an argument. What, then, is an argument? An argument is a proposition comprising a conclusion in support of which premises are put forward. A couple of examples:


Kemi is a girl’s name.                                                  Premise 1.

My intern’s name is Kemi.                                           Premise 2.

Therefore my intern is a girl.                                       Conclusion


My Uncle is a crook.                                                     Conclusion

My Uncle is a politician.                                                 Premise 1

All politicians are crooks.                                               Premise 2


Another point to note is that while a conclusion may actually be the truth, this is not relevant to the fact of the argument being a fallacy. So while it may be true that Girl X is a snob, to demand that I accept this conclusion on the sole premise that she only carries Hermes bags is a fallacy. That would make everyone who uses only designer apparel a snob and that certainly cannot be the case.

The final point of note is that fallacies do have some form of psychological appeal, otherwise they wouldn’t fool anyone. As my trusty old Introduction to Logic by Irving M. Copi says “…the irrelevance (of the conclusion to the premises of the argument) here is logical rather than psychological, of course, for unless there were some psychological connection, there would be no persuasiveness or seeming correctness.” I will be quoting generously from the book, so please do not assume any original thought here. There’s actually a lot of information on fallacies on the internet and the examination done here is very superficial.

The trick in identifying fallacies is to be able to break down what is being said into premises and conclusions and then to analyse if the conclusions follow logically from the premises.

Bearing all this in mind, let us now take a look at commonly committed fallacies.


Argumentum ad Baculum (appeal to force) – this is committed when the maker of a statement appeals to force or the threat of force to cause acceptance of a conclusion. Many good examples are found in the area of politics.

         “Jonathan should not become president otherwise we will make this country ungovernable.”

         “You should implement 100% CONMESS in this State otherwise we will go on strike.”


While it may be desirable that the conclusions we are urged to accept in these statements are indeed accepted, the conclusions do not logically follow from the premise of the threat of force or “strong-arm” tactics.


Argumentum ad Hominem – this occurs when the make of a statement, rather than the validity of the statement itself, is attacked. There are two varieties of this type of fallacy – the abusive ad hominem and the circumstantial ad hominem.



                “Kathleen wanted to marry a doctor but didn’t succeed. Thus, she has a myopic view of the doctor’s strike.” (This is also ad populum – see below).

                “Patience is known to commit frequently grammatical errors, so her opinions on the war in Syria can’t be very useful.”



This is different in that it occurs when Person A, rather than proving that his contention is valid, seeks to establish that Person B should accept it because of Person B’s special circumstance.


“You’re black like me. How can’t you see that John was being racist there?”

“I would have thought, being a Yoruba man yourself, you would immediately agree that Usman was rude.”

“Tunde Bakare is a clergyman. He should stay in the church and leave politics alone.”

“You are not a Nigerian. Please leave the fuel crisis for Nigerians alone to discuss.”

“She is not a doctor so she is ill-equipped to comment on the doctors’ industrial action.”

“Rotimi is a lawyer, so no surprise he agrees with what the SAN said.


Argumentum ad Ignorantiam (argument from ignorance) – this occurs when it is argued that a proposition is true simple because it hasn’t been proved false or is false simply because it hasn’t been proven to be true.


“Ghosts don’t exist; you can’t show me otherwise.”

“There is neither a Heaven nor a Hell; prove they exist and I will change my ways.”

“No breath of scandal has ever touched the Senator. Therefore he must be incorruptibly honest.”


In some circumstances, however, such contentions may not be fallacious. If Abubakar is suspected of fraud, for instance, and the EFCC even after extensive investigations cannot prove a single act of fraud, the contention by Abubakar that “I am not fraudulent, the EFCC couldn’t prove any of the allegations” would not necessarily be fallacious.


Argumentum ad Misericordiam (appeal to pity) – this one is self-explanatory. It occurs when the contention is effectively “you should disregard all the rules and laid down procedure because of my especially pitiful circumstances.” If you watch American law dramas you probably know how the appeal to pity works. The defence attorney catalogues the bad breaks and incidences of hard luck that brought his client into pulling the trigger or selling drugs.


“My client is essentially an upstanding, hardworking citizen who through the bad fortune of a series of unfortunate circumstances is standing before you today. If you return a “Guilty” verdict, you will be condemning him to a life he clearly doesn’t deserve; you’ll abandon him to the hardened criminals in our jails; and statistics show that x% of offenders who come out of that facility are forced to return to a life of crime less than 6 months after they get out. Is that what our society is about?” Surprise, surprise, the jury comes back with ‘not guilty’.


Or, the government rescinding a contract it negotiated and signed with the concessionaire because “the agreement was skewed in favour of the concessionaire.”


The most ridiculous example of the appeal to pity is “it is true I killed my parents. But I should’t be sent to jail because I’m now an orphan.”


Argumentum ad Populum – this fallacy is committed when an “appeal to the gallery” (attempting to win popular assent to a conclusion by rousing or referring to the feelings of “the multitude”) is made.  It is a very broad category of fallacies and the same ad populum fallacy can often  also be characterised as one of the previously described fallacies.


“Always buy made-in-Nigeria goods. To do otherwise is not to love your country.”

“I know America is the best country in the world because everybody thinks so.”

“Don’t waste your vote on the Conscience Party; everyone is going to vote PDP or CPC anyway.”


Argumentum ad Verecundiam (appeal to authority) – appealing to the the feeling of respect people have for the famous, to win assent to a conclusion (unless of course, the celebrity is an authority in the subject matter of the argument). A good example would be using the opinions of Einstein, a renowned physicist to support one’s beliefs on religion.


“GEJ is clearly a failure. Even [celebrity x] thinks so.”

“Kia makes great 4x4s. Andre Agassi endorsed them.”


Hasty Generalisation – considering exceptional cases and generalising a rule that only fits those exceptions.


“Bode George and James Ibori, both of the PDP, have been convicted of corrupt practices. Therefore the PDP is a corrupt party.”

“Michael Jackson died of a propofol overdose – the drug is clearly unsafe and should be banned.”

                “All Nigerians are internet scammers.”


Petitio Prinicipii (begging the question) – circular reasoning; where the proposition and contention (or parts thereof) are basically the same.


                “Freedom of speech is a good thing because censorship is evil.”

                “I know the Bible is the word of God because it says so inside.”

“The new student says I am his favourite professor. And he must be telling the truth because no student would lie to his favourite professor.”



Ignoratio Elenchi (irrelevant conclusion) – this fallacy is committed when an argument purporting to establish a particular conclusion is directed to proving a different conclusion.


“El-Rufai’s article is the work of a politically frustrated individual. He only accuses us because his party lost the presidential election.”

“Councillors, with their basic educational qualifications earn hundreds of thousands. Therefore it is right for doctors to go on strike to press for higher pay.”


Here’s to valid arguments.



They say the mark of having had a fulfilling time in the university is that not only do you pass through the university but it also passes through you. I’ve never quite been sure if that expression is anything besides a fluffy Nigerianism but, if the university passing through you means that some of the things you learnt remoulded you and will stay with you forever, then logic (aka Philosophy 102 – Arguments and Critical Thinking) really passed through me. Mr. Owolabi, God bless him and his crutch, would frequently say “Let’s do what they’re incapable of doing in Aso Rock; let’s think!”

That elective has probably gotten me into the most trouble with my wife since we met. For some inexplicable reason, I would rather logic prevailed over intuition even though I know full well that life is more than inductive and deductive reasoning. When trying to interpret other people’s actions, more often than not, I use my logic filter. Mrs Tex (whether or not it’s because she’s a woman and therefore more likely to be more intuitive anyway) doesn’t have this ‘handicap’ and over the years my logic has prevailed over her intuition only 1 out of 5 times on the average. Which makes my devotion to it increasingly infuriating for her.

So maybe not everything in life can be subjected to the rigour of testing the validity of the thinking behind them. However, the greatest thinkers of any generation, and their critics and disciples, have no other means of establishing or disputing the authority of their ideas. No meaningful discussion can be had otherwise.  If you want your conclusions to be accepted, you need to give valid, logical, reasons why. It is therefore somewhat sad, for example, to read rejoinders to articles and opinions that, rather than discussing the original issues raised are nothing more than attacks on the person of the original writer. Or, on the comment threads of some online articles, to find an opinion roundly criticised only on the basis that it was expressed by someone from a certain tribe.

 Clearly, we are products of our environment and sentiments and bias will have some bearing on the attitudes we adopt and ideas we express. And that’s probably acceptable for private discussions. When ideas are being propounded for public consumption though, I believe logic must relegate sentiments, intuition and bias. I may be wrong but I am convinced that until we elevate the way we discuss issues (and actually discuss issues), especially those of us outside the “cabal” crying for change, we may find progress elusive.

Below are a few examples of prevalent thinking (from the educated segment of our society) – they should give us pause:

·         El-Rufai is only criticising the government because his own party lost the elections [has he raised valid issues?]

·         Kathleen doesn’t support the doctors’ strike because she wanted to marry a doctor but failed to [has she given valid reasons why they shouldn’t have gone on strike?]

·         We know Ijeoma’s antecedents in XYZ corporation, how can she castigate us? [are you guilty of the allegations she has levelled against you, though?]

·         I couldn’t have orchestrated fraud because I actually taught at Harvard [yes, we all know Harvard is next to the Vatican in preparing people for priesthood and sainthood]

·         We’re revoking the contract because it was skewed in favour of the concessionaire [I killed my parents but you should have mercy on me because I’m now an orphan]

·         You’re a foreigner; Nigeria’s issues should only be discussed by Nigerians [Boko Haram issues should only be discussed by terrorism experts too, right?]

·         This kind of backward, myopic (etc) thinking can only be found in the [pick your choice] tribe [and everyone is a genius where you come from? Even that your uncle that the entire family mocks?]

·         Do you know who I am? [If Obama, Putin, Cameron and Merkel jointly put forward a stupid idea, it’s STILL a stupid idea!]

On a lighter note, logic served my friends and I very well at Sade Eleja. There was always someone willing to buy us another round of drinks and catfish peppersoup to prevent us from leaving early. “Mo n gbadun yin gan an…”