Kind, not nice

Mo Isu
5 min readNov 21, 2022


Say what you want about Lagos drivers, Ibadan drivers are worse.

I think that says a lot. There is a distinct way I have in the past tried to describe the difference between a Lagos driver and an Ibadan driver. Lagos drivers are known for their aggression. A Lagos driver wants you to give him a reason to get out of his car and show you hell. He wants an excuse to tell you who is he, who he knows, and how important he is in circles that don’t concern you. A Lagos driver would love to use his koboko on you right now.

Ibadan drivers don’t care. They don’t wait around to fight. An Ibadan driver will almost get into an accident, look at you for maybe 2 seconds, and drive off to his next near-miss.

This is the fundamental difference between the two. Ibadan drivers are careless and reckless, some of them even have deathwishes. Lagos drivers are wicked.

I was in Ibadan over the weekend. I got in on Friday night and was out by Saturday evening. Every time I visit Ibadan like this, I am reminded that their driving unsettles me. There were multiple moments when my drivers made moves that marvelled me. One cab I took did not have side mirrors. Ibadan drivers don’t use them. I noticed this with my first driver, he didn't factor other drivers into his choices. Who cares about what’s behind me, all that matters is where I am going.

During this trip, I found myself thinking wondering what it was about driving in Ibadan that I disliked so much. I know I thought it bad — worse than Lagos, but I couldn’t articulate it in a satisfying way.

Then I had an encounter with a cab that opened it up.

My driver was taking me back to the hotel when he found himself fighting for space with a Micra*. His window was down so he called out to the Micra in Yoruba saying, almost accusatory

“ you people will never let others pass you”

The Micra driver in response, with a tone that was almost impatient, said

“Oya ma lo. Be going “

It was such an interesting interaction that it made something click for me. It immediately reminded me of two other stories.

The first is from a joke about the difference between people on the East Coast* and West Coast.

The joke goes like this.

The East coast is kind but not nice. The West coast is nice but not kind.

A West coast person will see you by the side of the road with a flat tire and tell you how sorry they are that you have a flat tire.

Oh so sorry about that.

The West Coast person will ultimately drive off.

An East coast person will see you by the roadside with a flat tire and will go ahead to rain insults on you.

You’ve got a flat. you don’t know how to fix a flat? Look at you. You can’t even fix a damn flat tire. You have a car but can’t change a damn tire. Ugh

The entire time, he is helping you change your tire, he will insult you for not knowing how to fix a tire.

The East cost is kind but not nice. The West Coast is nice but to kind.

As this article that features a different version of the joke puts it “Kindness is addressing the need, regardless of tone.”

The second is a conversation I had with my girlfriend (at the time) when I went to visit her in Ibadan. We were in a cab and she had been talking to him (the driver) in Yoruba and I noticed something about the tone.

Yoruba is a culture that emphasizes respect greatly but the tone of Yoruba is not a particularly respectful one. Yoruba doesn’t have a way to sound subdued. Even when begging, Yoruba is unapologetic and bold.

She said something to our driver, an elderly man, I don’t remember what it was now but I remember that I noticed that what she said was not particularly respectful in topic. To a stranger, it wasn’t particularly respectful in tone, but in communication it was. The man recognised the respect she paid him in the interaction.

When we came down, I told her about how I couldn’t communicate in Yoruba like that. I know the language (barely) but my best weapon for communicating respect was in tone, not elsewhere. I don’t know how they do it but when you are in a Yoruba community, a young person can talk to an old person in a casual way that still upholds the respect they so greatly emphasize.

Yoruba is not a humble language (or even culture) and in that way, Yoruba people will not often come off as nice. but they are often very kind.

In Ibadan, not long after my driver drove away from that Micra interaction that sparked all of this, we had another one.

We came to a stop at a t-junction where half the traffic turned right and half, left.

To the left, where we were going, we had to wait to be passed by the traffic warden. To the right, they had right of way and could go on ahead.

My driver came to a stop where he was meant to and the driver behind him came up to his side and looked at us then said, in Yoruba, not in a nice tone.

“Are you turning right, you can go ahead”

He offered us the opportunity to drive ahead of him. A Lagos driver would never do this.

And so I noticed this the rest of the way to the hotel. Drivers sped carelessly down the road, swapping lanes and making turns with no attention (or perhaps even knowledge) to the road laws. But if a driver came up to a spot where someone was about to cross, they stopped. They shouted at each other through the windows, sometimes insults but never curses.

Here is my debatable conclusion.

The average Ibadan driver is reckless and careless but he is not wicked or unkind, I can not say the same for Lagos. A Lagosian driver will never let you enter his front, in Ibadan they will.

Micra: From Nissan Micra, the brand of car used to run transportation services in Ibadan. It is the most popular means of transport and it carries 5 passengers.

East Coast/ West Coast: Of America



Mo Isu

Writing what I can| Being Vulnerable and confused| Making podcasts