In 9ja, driving a car makes you Mrs Somebody By Fiyinfoluwa Akinsiku

I have been thinking about the times I’ve had to drive home from work, back and forth, about one and a half hours apiece, Mondays and Fridays, making it 3hours on the highway in a week, and the plenty comments I got from Nigerian Policemen.

Nigerian Policemen are a funny lot, I mean, the ones that stand on the roadside, and what I do anytime I remember all our meetings, is to smile. My friends think it’s because I’m female. Men do not have such hilarious moments with the famous men in black. But that is an issue for another day.

My marital status suddenly changed, courtesy of these famous men. From afar, driving and negotiating bends and swerving to avoid potholes and ditches, I would suddenly behold these men. (In fact, very early one morning, I drove past them while they had their heads bent in prayers.) Ok. So, one of them would be in the middle of the road, indicating that I should stop. I would then have to slow down o.

When we are abreast, the conversation would usually go like this:

Good day officer!

Ah.. madam the madam, how are you, how the family?

We are fine sir, thanks be to God.

Madam, I for escort you o, but I know say your husband go vex. Safe journey o.

I usually extend my laughter on comments as this.

And so, no checkpoint would pass without reference to this imaginary man The Nigeria Police has decided to amalgamate me with. Oh yes, I am female, and there would be no logical reason as to why a female would be driving if not for an Oga at the top, seated majestically behind the scene, after handing over a car key to his dear wife. A cop even told me categorically at a checkpoint after exchanging pleasantries, ‘greet your husband for me o!’

On another occasion, a Policeman said to me with a flirtatious smile lingering on his face, ‘hello baby!’ when a friend drove me in a company bus. Helping a stranded man on the road even meant him asking how my ‘husband and the kids are doing.’ And so, a car has become the determinant of my marital status.

As a Nigerian woman, I wonder why I have to be considered spineless, as somebody who can’t do anything on her own. I wonder if the “Mrs” hash-tag has to trend for the sheer and simple dignities of driving to work.

I never replied any comments about my phantom hubby. I would just laugh it off really. It only gave my brain something to chew and ultimately provided the muse with stuff, giving me a peepshow of the mind-state of an average person, and telling me patriarchy has been taken too far.

I used to think that times have changed, that since women have now reached amazing heights, society can loosen up, a bit. At least, can’t they see what the Ellen Johnson-Sirleafs and Angela Merkels and Joyce Bandas have become? Or maybe I’m expecting too much from a traditional African society. Maybe not. Or maybe I’m expecting change to come too soon.

And so, Dear Policemen, I cannot categorically tell you I am Mrs Somebody, because my marital status has been made known to you by my Oga at the top, and it is not ‘married’. Thank You.