How Not To Engage An Okada Man In Lagos

Dewale had arrived. By Nigerian standards he was comfortable — he lived in a duplex in a new development in Surulere, his kids attended a suitably expensive private school, he and his wife had matching SUVs, and summertime meant spinning a large globe and picking where it stopped or near enough for vacation.

And so it was that on this Sunday morning, on his way back from church in Yaba, Dewale’s life changed. This was not unlike Saul’s episode on the road to Damascus, except this time, the pain was much lower than eye level and there was to be no miraculous recovery after 3 days.

Dewale’s pride and joy, reflecting the harsher-than-usual Lagos midday sun like a box with mirrored sides was scratched by an Okada man (commercial motorcyclist) who was probably delirious from the same sun which made Dewale’s SUV shine majestically on Herbert Macaulay street.

Dear Dewale made the classic error far too many people make on Lagos streets when confronted with these situations — he came down and stayed too long out of his car. As he proceeded to challenge Mr Okada man for his sin against humanity, Dewale was probably by this time mouthing the cliched lines middle class Nigerians spew indignantly at ‘low guys’ — ‘are you blind?’, ‘I’m going to deal with you today’.

When vexed the more, the killer punch would probably have been delivered: ‘do you know who I am?’. Dewale went on longer than he should. Of course, the scene quickly attracted other okadas and soon emboldened the offender.

A brief scuffle ensued and Dewale’s ‘agbada’ (ceremonial robe) got stuck in the spokes of the okada. This happened as the okada man was asked to ride off into the sun by his ‘friends’, unknowingly sweeping Dewale off his feet and into the air. The scream that followed his crash landing came from a depth Dewale did not know existed in his soul.

His left tibia (shin bone) was broken in 3 places. 2 hospitals rejected him, one because there was no orthopedic surgeon around, the other because Dewale was suspected to be an armed robber. By the 3rd hospital, his knee looked like a football and there was bone sticking out from where one of the fractures occurred.

Fast forward 2 weeks and Dewale has had successful surgery which involved screwing — yes screwing his bones together at the points of fracture. His wounds are to be left open because the doctors still need to drain blood and fluids over the next few days, exposing him to potentially dangerous bacterial infection.

Regardless, he is to stay immobile for 3 months, after which he will undergo physiotherapy for another 3 months.

Thankfully, our friend Dewale works for an upstream oil company who have communicated that his salary would be fully paid for the 6 months of incapacitation, while his health insurance policy has taken care of his medical bills.

The first question and the point of this true story is this: was it worth it?

Let us ask another question: what if Dewale was a regular Lagos hustler? An entrepreneur awaiting his break…through? What would happen to his business while he lay flat on his back thinking of England? Would he even have medical insurance?

He would most likely be ruined by the end of his 6 months ordeal. His wife would have left him and his kids would disown him. Ok, maybe these are extreme possibilities, but his business would likely not survive.

Stephen Covey of the celebrated ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ fame says ‘begin with the end in mind’. In this context, we will apply it to mean ‘keep your focus on your plan’. By engaging the okada man, Dewale deviated too far from whatever plans he had for the day, the week, the month. He empowered a 3rd party to alter his direction almost at the cost of his life.

Lagos is hard enough as it is. Understand your environment and try not to sweat small things, car paint scratches included. Keep your eyes permanently on your plans…especially if there is no soft landing to cushion the impact of a fall on a hot day in Yaba.

Originally written for

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