The crazy life on Sikaman

The crazy life on Sikaman

Half the number of drivers plying the streets of Accra are, taflatse, either mental patients or on the verge of becoming psychot­ic. If the driver is a taxi cab driver, then believe me, he is not normal.

I have never encountered an Accra taxi driver who has behaved like a human being who cares for himself, much more for others. In any case some trotro drivers are worse.

The typical Accra taxi driver is half the time so excited you’d think he is having an orgasm. Excited about what? Excited about making more money in a very short span of time. In the process, he carelessly overtakes any moving thing including stray dogs.

A trotro mate's job is not only collect money from passengers
A trotro mate’s job is not only collect money from passengers

If a dog will not allow itself to be overtaken, it is promptly knocked down and ran over to teach it a lesson in traffic lawlessness. After all, what is the worth of foolish dog which exhibits the characteristics of a dead cockroach.

Meet the Accra trotro driver. He behaves like a ball of kenkey. He specialises in crossing other vehi­cles whether or not they are on top speed. He does so because he can afford to endanger the lives of others. After all, isn’t his pocket economy more important than a few lousy lives? And who says “all die no be die?”

What is more terrible on the roads in Accrą is the role of drivers’ mates in the perennial nonsense. The typical driver’s mate of a century-old trotro is a boy or man who has no pa­tience for himself. He doesn’t smile, unless you leave him a large tip. That is when he’ll grin like an idiot.

The mate is someone who is likely to speak and understand seven local languages, most probably Asante-Twi, Bukom-Ga, Ada-Krobo Ewe, Fan­te, wrong Hausa and pidgin Frafra. Maybe he has ten years’ experience on the job, beginning with a stint at Kejetia, before moving to Bolgatanga in voluntary exile. He’d finally dash south to Ada Foah, Ho Bankoe, Go­moa Washington before winding up at Kokomlemle in pullover as part-time bookman, part-time mate.

In Accra, life is fast, just like in Lagos, so the mate must live like a smart rat on the run. Armed with seven local languages in addition to pidgin English and broken French, he can do any mate’s job satisfactorily.

A mate’s job is not only to collect money from passengers and hide some in his “supporter” for – personal use. He is also the driver’s unofficial bodyguard and also doubles as the vehicles on- board traffic controller. But his main role is to insult drivers of other vehicles when those drivers dare insult his master or refuse to permit him space to misbehave.

A typical insult usually takes the form of obscenity, and is sexual in nature. “Your face is like that of a he-goat on heat.” Or “Onyaa ye…, a typical Ga insult. If the mate is forced to speak French because his victim isn’t responding to English or Ga, he’d alter the metre-band and explode in incomprehensible French. “Il est tojours aimable avec e!”

Verbal missiles

The roads in Accra are indeed ruled by these mates who can really deliver verbal missiles. If a female driver annoys them, they can fire back. “Your body is fine, but as for your face, God no gree. Kwasia like that!”

When the driver is tired, it is sometimes the duty of the mate to take over power. When that happens, the car is bound for the mortuary. Fact is, the mate can be inexperi­enced and may mistake the accel­erator for the brake, whereupon the vehicle becomes obituaristic in character.

I side with the man who keeps on saying that on the roads of Accra, everybody is a mad person, and he is the only wise man.

Of course, private car owners cannot also escape blame. In fact, some of them drive exactly like taxi drivers. Actually, they are taxi driv­ers in form and mentality; the only difference is that they appear in coat and tie.

Some private car owners do silly things especially when ladies are perched in the front seat. It is like they are in heaven they’d be busy talking, gesticulating, whining, crooning and ignoring traffic signs. You’d see them laughing, moaning and dancing behind the wheel. If the mobile phone rings the situation can be tragic.

Some people can be driving and be on the phone for 30 minutes. A man was on the phone for close to 30 minutes and when he finished talking, he realised that he was no longer in his car but lying naked at the mortuary gate, ready to be hauled into the cold-room.

Mr J.M. Y. Amegashie, Acting Chief Executive of the Vehicle Examination and Licensing Division (VELD) is doing a great job on Radio GAR, giving tit-bits on safe driving almost every morning. Among other things, he gives reasons why you must undergo a driving test and present your vehi­cle for test examination.

The problem with people is that they think when they can move a vehicle, then they are entitled to a licence. The other day, a learner was undergoing a driving test and when he was asked to reverse the car, it was almost a disaster.

The man reversed the car alright. But before he realised it, the car was breaking down trees in a near­by bush. The man obviously mistook the accelerator for the brake and pumped it hard.

Mr Amegashie doesn’t like that.

This article was first published on July 18, 1998

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