By Nwachukwu Egbunike
I hobbled into the FRSC office in Onireke Ibadan, with the air of “do you know who I am” only to be flatten out… I took a look at sea of humanity present in that office and ran for my dear life. I returned two weeks after, when I had built up enough courage. This was 9.30 am and I was number 110 on the list. I perched on a table – actually only one loop of my butt got a leaning space – for two hours before I was called in to join the queue. It was an L-shaped, face-me I-face-you sitting and moving motion. The office was hot and humid, no fans and the decibel of noise was impressive. Since the road opposite the waiting-room was under construction and we had a generous donation of dust.
As a suffering and smiling Nigerian, I am indebted to the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) for their innovation in creating the charming application process for the national driver’s license. The journey to renew my driver’s license has made me appreciate the ingenuity of the FRSC: whose sole obsession is to make driving a memorable experience. It’s excruciatingly memorable as they have captured the essence of all things Nigerian: “why make it easy when it can be difficult?”
I am certain it’s not FRSC’s doing that my driver’s license decided on its own freewill to expire in March. How can I blame them? It was not meant to last forever. Besides, the road savers have done me a great favour by volunteering to provide a replacement. The state governments cannot be trusted with such a sensitive national assignment. And fiam, the FRSC came to my rescue!
The process to get renew my license was as (un)easy as A, B, C! Having substituted the manual for the digital application, who dares complain? This is the 21st century, things have moved “online” and who cares if many Nigerian drivers are digital illiterates. But I am not complaining, I can move the mouse. Those who can’t should jump into Ogunpa River!
And having finally succeeded in filling up my details – with the connivance of my internet providers and the FRSC efficient website – I was able to print out the forms on the fifth attempt. I soon realized that despite the “orisi risi” banks that were advertised on the road safety website only two were collecting payments in Ibadan. Don’t ask me why? One of the banks sent me to another branch where I was informed that “their server was down” – this amorphous phrase that covers all sins! I had to look for another bank where I eventually paid N6,350 [N6,000 – application charges; N250 – transaction charges and N100 – service charges]. How can I complain, this process only cost me two days; it’s not FRSC fault and I dare not challenge the litany of fees.
I hobbled into the FRSC office in Onireke Ibadan, with the air of “do you know who I am” only to be flatten out. The road savers safely served me the humble pie as I was directed to the Vehicle Inspection Office (VIO). Before that I had to pay N100 for a similar form I had already downloaded from the road safety website. I took a look at sea of humanity present in that office and ran for my dear life.
I returned two weeks after, when I had built up enough courage. This was 9.30 am and I was number 110 on the list. I perched on a table – actually only one loop of my butt got a leaning space – for two hours before I was called in to join the queue. It was an L-shaped, face-me I-face-you sitting and moving motion. The office was hot and humid, no fans and the decibel of noise was impressive. Since the road opposite the waiting-room was under construction and we had a generous donation of dust. And the aroma of hot amala and ila – nicely arrayed in a tray – swept past us into the office. I only salivated: it’s nobody’s fault that I’m such a long throat!
“Shift, shift…” went the chorus for the next three hours before I was ushered into the palace of the VIO commander! I put on my smiling “dog” face only to be rattled by madam, who insisted that I was the one who made “trouble” in her office last week. I swore on my grand-mother’s grave, denying the accusation yet careful not to raise my voice, lest madam got angry. I think that what saved me was my Igbo name: the guilty dude must have sprayed the madam a pump-action of verbal lashing in Yoruba.
Afterwards, I was presented with an epic documentary encrusted in a CD and entitled: “VIO Road Sense: The Art of Driving”. In exchange, I paid N500 only in appreciation for the work of the script writer, producer and director for this block-buster. After the “punchy” viva voce examination, shivering like a Christmas goat, I was dismissed to the next table. There I was asked which type of vehicle I can operate. I answered subserviently because the oga most likely had difficulty reading my form which states class E Driver’s License.
Then the photocopies – a lady hustler had planted herself at the entrance of our waiting Gaul. And as soon as I was released from interrogation, sister hustler snatched my forms from me and offered to “help” me run the photocopies. Armed with four sets of documents, I went back to the VIO “interrogation” room to have them stamped: they did, keep two sets and gave me two. I then descended the stairs to another office to have them registered, there they kept one copy. After that, the “registrar” declared that I should return in three weeks time for the “capture”. I don’t blame her as well: am I not “road traffic offender” whose face must “captured in a computer” for daring to replace my driver’s license?
You see why I am very grateful to the FRSC. Their innovation has ignited the transformation of a once archaic process to a tech savvy ambience. They have spiced up the once monotonous life of the Nigerian driver into a momentous experience. Besides, the FRSC and their twin brothers, the VIO, have given me practical lessons in patience, humility, courage and fortitude. And I dare not complain! In fact, I banish any such critical frames from my dreams. For the time being, I’ll enjoy my “conditional” freedom for three weeks before I am definitively “captured” by the almighty FRSC computer. And no worries, I am optimistic that I will get the driver’s license before the year runs out.