To: The Military Officer
Who on the Third Mainland Bridge
Blew Past Me with a Blaring Siren

Dear Sir: I refer to the incident on the Third Mainland Bridge this morning, a very common incident, too common, in fact, but still very annoying despite its commonness. I refer, sir, to the effrontery with which your convoy bullied me, and several other drivers, out of the road. I refer to the manner in which, Moses like, you parted the thick traffic of the Bridge at the command of your sirens.

    Of course, I understand your haste, traffic should not be a hindrance to the military man on his way to wage war at Ikoyi—I’ve been told that the gunfire and artillery shots in the officer’s mess can be heard for miles around. I quiver to think of the men at the Obalende frontlines, the men who would perish if you arrived too late to sign some cheques. I hear the battle is raging fiercely in Victoria Island as men wait for you to come in and sign all those documents. Ah, the travails of defending the country! Ah, the toils of saving our lives from the menace of expensive prostitutes and the rising cost of beer! I understand your hurry; after all, you would be facing a firing squad if you got to work late while I would only face a sack letter.

    As you can see, I have gone out of my way to introduce myself as an understanding fellow. It’s only fair that you should try to see my point of view as well. This letter intends to explain that perspective. In summary: please turn off the siren and join the queue. Yes, I understand that you are in a rush, but so am I—and a hundred thousand other people. You have important work to do, but so do I—and a hundred thousand other people. If I could, I’ll take flight above the insanity of the road, but since nature has not deemed us fit to have wings, I’m willing to take my turn. It would be a mad, weird world if I were to fix a siren on my Honda and chase everyone out of my way.

    Of course, you are a military man, with a big gun and several men around you—and I suppose you think this qualifies you to a right of way? Maybe in 1996, it would have, but not in 2012. That’s why you ultimately take your instructions, not from the man with the biggest gun in Abuja, but from a man I’m capable of sacking every four years. So, listen, if your boss is my boy, I don’t think you should be strutting around. You’re important, but not that important: you are the guy we pay to guard the gate. Security guards, sir, should not blow sirens in the living room—except in a period of emergency.

    Well, I suppose we both have different ideas of what constitutes an emergency, but let me give you a quick guide: an emergency involves life or death—strictly so. No metaphors. If nobody is dying around you, and there’s no likelihood of people dying anytime immediately, kindly depress the mute button, wait your turn in traffic and don’t kill people with heart attacks.

    Because, that’s what you do! You increase environmental and biological tension, induce high blood pressure, stimulate hormonal imbalance, prompt cardiac arrest, and even cause accidents! Come on, officer! You’re supposed to be defending me, not killing me! I hear your siren and my heart races to 440! It’s a dog’s life already—jumping out of bed at 5 a.m., bleary-eyed and aching joints; having to start up the generator or stumble around in the dark, eventually wearing two colours of socks, joining the morning traffic—without you adding hypertension to the parade.

    Maybe you just love the noise—like boys with firecrackers, maybe you are tickled by the sight of cars hurrying out of your way, maybe you don’t even give a damn, whatever your reasons—it’s fine. However, we can’t always have what we want. Now, here’s a warning: guns or not, whips or not, juvenile, trigger-ready men around you or not, I won’t get out of your way again. You, sir, are a man like me, same flesh—same blood, same response to virus and bacteria, and same biological reaction to being beaten to a pulp by an angry mob. Please, do not let’s get to that stage: you may have the guns, and whips and boys—but I have the people. The harassed and angry people you dismiss out of your way like so much chaff before the wind.

    Meanwhile, keep being cheerful. A happy solider is a good soldier. Don’t worry, nobody will attempt to assassinate you, it’s not like you hold nuclear launch codes or something.  Next time we meet on the road, I expect you to join the line and queue behind me. Enjoy the view same as I do, it reduces anxiety. I won’t move out of your route and I would encourage other drivers not to move out either. Let’s not smash each other’s faces over this small issue, ok?

Regards,

Ayo Sogunro

@ayosogunro can be found blowing sirens on Twitter—a proper place for noise making.
 

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