Mad John the traffic man

Mad John the traffic man

If you ever walked down Bode Thomas street, Suru-lere, in the late seventies, you’d see a man  in rags,  a bit mad directing the  traffic, nothing   new about this,   there are many lost souls walking the streets of Lagos, some madder  than most, some high on  something or the other , some  had just lost the  plot and taken to rambling and   hassling people to   get a bite to eat, some were said  to be cursed by someone  or had drunk a poisonous concoction of herbs and stuff!, some were just pretending and preying on the sympathy of people, But this  one was different , very different, he was sun burnt   beyond recognition and  his  once  blond hair  was  more  dreadlock than a Rastafarian, he chewed a pipe, his clothes  were torn and dirty, he wore shoes fashioned  out of  car tyres caked in mud, he wore what had once been some unnamed army clothes and some occasions he would wear an Agbada and stroll around, on the Agbada days he did   not direct the traffic, but weaved in and  out of the cars, saluting and praising the  Shell club lot  as we called them, the  ones  who were in the with in crowd, the  occupants in cars with the   tinted windows were mostly  likely to take pity on a mad white man,  they would wind down slightly and toss a few Naira. And the other white folk in their 4 by 4 and SUVs, well, they would stare straight ahead or read the paper –who would want to be associated with  the  crazy white man directing the traffic  in 82 degrees heat, not many! but I  was curious.

He was quite good at what he did, cars never bumped into each on the Mad John  days, the go –slow that Lagos  is famous for seemed to melt away   when he was in charge. We named him Mad John the traffic man – it had a ring to it!

No-one knew where he came from or what Nationality he was; he spoke French, English and   Italian!  He was so good at fooling  the   various  officials that came from the Embassies, rumour has it that when people from the   UK high commission came he spoke Italian, when the   Italians came he spoke French and   when the   French  came  – he decided on Finnish and   claimed he was from Belgium,  so they all left  claiming  that  they could not take responsibility for him as he was not one of theirs,  where in the world did he come from , how did he get there and   why did no-one care?

No one did   until me and my two brothers decided  life  in Suru-lere Baptist school was getting a little   tedious   and   we needed   some excitement, the teachers were more interested in their little side gigs, selling one   thing or the  other or arguing over  whose  turn it was to get the money  from the current pardner scheme they were  operating. Well we needed a project our own side gig, why? I hear you say, didn’t we have anything to learn in the 70s school system in Lagos, were we also a little mad? Well may be, we were bored, mad and in search of Adventure and a money making venture. We came up with the idea that if we could find out who mad john was, his family would give us a   reward, we might even get a trip to wherever   he was from.

‘London, USA or America’ said   Bode the  youngest of my brother, ‘stupid said the other, USA and America   are the same place!

May be letting 7 year bode was a bit foolish, Taiwo and  I would just have to find out who mad  – John was

back in the day there were   two  school sessions, morning and   afternoon, we   were in the  morning   session and finished  school around   13:00, just in time  to  see Mad John the traffic man   direct the afternoon rush. kids from the  Baptist school on Modupe Johnson just stood and  looked  at we’d ask him  questions  about his day,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s