“Abdulmalik! Jo ba mi gbe iyawo mi si inu Marwa e! Ki o ma gbe lo si hospital!
Abdulmalik, please take my wife to the hospital in your commercial tricycle!”
The driver is expressing his overflowing agitation into his mobile phone.
He repeatedly slams his palms against the steering wheel in frustration.
“Oh my God! What sort of situation is this?”
He very visibly panics as he inches the car forward through the unyielding traffic. Our view through the windshield is illuminated with an agonisingly dense population of brake lights. The night is full of troubling red and the exasperated blaring of horns.
We are at Victoria Island. I am on the way to Ikoyi. I learnt about an Art Exhibition taking place somewhere on Norman Williams street about fifteen minutes earlier while scrolling through Eventbrite. Something about a commemoration of Women’s Day with a group of all female artists. It sounded interesting. Plus, I was free.
I’ve been experiencing issues with the Uber app since I changed my phone, so I hailed a Taxify driver.
We have been in the traffic for about thirty minutes now, but we have not made any respectable progress. My dissatisfaction with the situation keeps threatening to spill over, but whenever the car moves forward a few feet the annoyance diminishes a little. With every of these dishearteningly widely-spaced lunges, I experience a relieving influx of hope in vehicular transportation as a workable means of getting me to Ikoyi this night.
The driver is evidently annoyed at something other than the traffic. There seems to be an emergency of some sort.
“Please, what’s the problem? I can see you’re concerned about something.”
“It’s my wife!”
Now I’m wondering what’s happening to his wife.
“She is about to go into labour! And she is at home! We do not know how to get her to the hospital!”
“Ahhhh!” I was not expecting that at all.
A few weeks ago, the Lagos state government banned the operations of commercial motorcycles and tricycles (known as Keke Marwa). This has led to considerable transportation problems in the state, because those vehicles are a pivotal means of transportation for the vast majority of people. And there is currently no real replacement for them.
“I’m talking with my neighbour who owns a tricycle to take my wife to the hospital, but he is worried the police will disturb him on the way.”
“Hm, and the hospital doesn’t have like an option where they can arrange for one of their vehicles to transport a woman in labour to the hospital?” I ask.
I can tell he finds it somewhat absurd that I would think a hospital in Surulere (a town on the Lagos mainland) would have such services. However he is too disturbed by the situation with his wife and unborn child to express his bemusement.
He quickly shakes his head. “No they do not. Plus there is also a traffic jam at Surulere!” He bangs on the steering wheel some more.
“Ahhh!!” I cannot even begin to imagine the intensity of his anguish.
The infuriated horns keep blaring. The unsettling brake lights keep glaring at us in red. Our vehicle has still not gone anywhere.
I find myself beginning to do some arithmetic.
“If it took thirty minutes to get here (which is nowhere), how long is it going to take to get to my destination? And how much is Taxify going to bill me for the journey?”
I open up Google Maps on my phone. It says Norman Williams is about two miles away- an hour and thirty two minutes by foot.
“Alright”, I think to myself. “If I run for some of those two miles, the entire trip shouldn’t take me all that long.”
Vehicular transportation is not that workable after-all.
I turn to the driver. “Sir, it seems we’ll have to end the trip here.”
“Noo!! Ma lo si ita!! Don’t go out! It’s not safe! Don’t go anywhere please!”
He is not talking to me.
“Bi si ile! Jo, bi si ile! Give birth to the child at home please! Give birth to the baby at home!”
I don’t really know what to say. I have no experience with women in labour, so I do not really know what to think of the safety of delivering a baby at home. From our earlier conversation I know the driver has like two or three kids so he probably has some sort of emboldening experience with childbirth that is guiding his decision.
He ends the trip, and I hand him his money.
I head out of the passenger’s door.
“Thank you very much Sir! All the best with the baby situation! And congratulations in advance!”
“Haha thank you very much!” He very briefly turns his head towards me and smiles.
I head out into the traffic. It is drizzling. The air is a mixture of water vapour and the bitter exhaust of frustrated vehicles.
I slowly transition into a jogging pace. Time to get to Ikoyi.
Government Policies vs Pregnant Women.
Image Credits: Me! 🙂
View from Falomo Bridge, between Ikoyi and Victoria Island, Lagos Nigeria. (The next morning)