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Driving In Nigeria Is Like a War Zone, Says Mrs Chinwe Uwatse, GM, Bang&Olufsen Nigeria Limited

[dropcap]S[/dropcap]he is a petrol head. She is a painter per excellence with strong passion for arts and culture. Her figure, speech and gesture are naturally arty. They stand out.

Meet Mrs Chinwe Uwatse, renowned artist, who, for over two decades, has been General Manager of Bang & Olufsen Nigeria Limited, the only technological company that has its own gallery in the museum of modern art in New York.

Mrs Uwatse holds a University degree in Applied Art (specialising in painting) and a Masters degree in Human Resource Management, both of which geared her towards working with a brand like Bang &Olufsen, whose technological products are regarded as pieces of arts.

Mrs Chinwe Uwatse fielding questions from Femi Owoeye, Motoring, Editor-in-chief of Motoring World InternationalIn an exclusive chat with MotoringWorld International(MOWI) during 90th and 25th anniversaries of Bang and Olufsen and M-B Automobile Services Limited held in Lagos last week, Mrs Uwatse recalls her worst motoring experience. Although she is known to paint in acrylic and watercolour, she, in this chat, exhibits additional arty skill. With a brush of words, she paints a dragonish picture of driving culture in Nigerian cities. The picture is bloodcurdling and comical at the same time.

Enjoy it…

MOWI: Obviously, you are surrounded by state-of-the-earth automobiles. Do you love cars?

Mrs Uwatse: Yes. I love cars. In fact, it’s a running joke that I’m something of what they call a petrol-head. I love cars. I love to drive.

MOWI: Since when have you been driving?

Mrs Uwatse: Ahaem.. If I tell you, that means you’d know how old I am (laughing)

MOWI: Does that mean you started driving as a baby (Laughing)?

Mrs Uwatse: No I have been driving since I was 18, which means I have been driving for a long time.

MOWI: Why and how did you learn driving, when you did?

Typical Lagos traffic Around Barracks Bus Stop

Mrs Uwatse: In my family, I am an only girl. My older brother could drive. He already had his first car as a student. After a while, for me, it became rather inconvenient that I always had to ask for a ride. So I decided that it was time for me to learn how to drive. My dad got me my first learners permit at age 17. We had to do it the right way. In those days, it was not a matter of you jump into the car and drive. You had to go through the driving school. You had to go through the practical aspect of it and theoretical aspect of it before taking your test and being issued a driving license.

MOWI: What would you describe as your worst motoring experience ever?

Mrs Uwatse: I haven’t really had any unpleasantness. My worst motoring experience ever thankfully enough was in a Mercedes-Benz. A fly flew into the car and landed on my face. And I think, for the first time ever, I lost concentration, trying to get the fly out of the way and steered the car into a kerb. The car flew over the kerb, luckily enough, flew over a gutter and landed. Nobody was hurt. The car wasn’t damage. But that is the beauty of a Mercedes. And after that, fly or no fly, I concentrate on where I am going.

MOWI: What is your view about Nigerian driving culture? Are there things you’d love to change or wants relevant authority to put in place?

Mrs Uwatse: I usually joke about it. Our driving culture in Nigeria goes like this:

Mrs Chinwe Uwatse fielding questions from Femi Owoeye, Editor-in-chief of Motoring World International
Mrs Chinwe Uwatse fielding questions from Femi Owoeye, Editor-in-chief of Motoring World International

You wake up in the morning. You are normal. You have your breakfast. You dress up. You’re getting ready to go to work. You get into your car. You exit your compound, you are still normal. Ten seconds after exiting your compound, your eyes are turning red. You are growing horns. Your claws are suddenly extending by themselves. And then slowly, you start spitting fire. You have turned into a dragon.

Before you get to where you are going, you had grown scales and a long tale.

And you are about to eat somebody up.

Believe me; by the time you get to your office, you have been stressed so much that you need to get into Zen to be able to function well in the office.

The driving culture in Nigeria is rubbish, because most people think that ‘it is: I dare you. The road is there. There are no rules.’

But there are rules. I had run into a so-called traffic policeman, not a traffic warden, once. Running into the guy, I did not hit him or anything of such. Somebody hit another car. I happened to know, who was in the car. And her car was hit from behind. The traffic warden said she did not have any right to stop. Her car stalled. The guy behind her was tailgating. So he hit her and damaged his car.

He (the driver, whose car was hit) started jumping up and down and yelling at her.

She was disconcerted, because she had had this bang from behind and was having a bit of a headache.

I got down with another friend of mine that was driving with me to see whether we could help her.

As we were talking to her, this traffic policeman came up and started telling us that we ‘should not bring that abroad idea here,’ that ‘she had no right to stop in the middle of the road.’

I said, ‘this is a machine. It can go wrong at any time. The car stalled. The guy behind her was too close. He hit her. He has to take charge of why was he driving that way.’ I said the Highway Code said so.

He said: ‘that Highway Code is not tenable here.’

So I invited him to come with me and tell his DPO that he, in one word, has cancelled Nigeria’s Highway Code.

I do wish we would bring back properly driving tests, driving rules the way they are supposed to be, because driving in Nigeria is like a war zone. That’s my driving experience. Once I get behind the wheel, I believe that I have to try and get to where I am going to in one piece, because you’ve got the motorcyclist, the tricycle riders. They do not obey any rules. You have the hawkers. You have bicycle riders..it’s all chaotic. Yes we can afford to laugh about it. But actually, it does affect one, especially when you are now out of this country, you now have to decompress to be able to drive outside of this country, where rules are obeyed.

MOWI: Is there any aspect of your job that keeps you awake at night?

Mrs Uwatse: Part of my job that keeps me awake at night is actually making sure that all these beautiful equipments (Bang& Olufsen) you see comes in one piece, not in pieces. For it has been known to happen.

MOWI: Who has had the biggest impact on your life and career so far? And why?

Mrs Uwatse: Depends on which aspect of life. The latter part of my life, the person who has had the greatest impact on my career and my life is my husband, because quite frankly, he has kept me going and he has believed in my ability to re-invent myself.

MOWI: You have been successful in your career as an artist. What factors have been responsible for your success?

Mrs Uwatse: It’s more of perseverance, believing that any time of trouble would also pass you bye and trying to work through the down times and, like I said, also trying to re-invent oneself at each time, which means that I also have to apply it to my work life, re-invent the business at each time, and in doing so, keeping through to the core beliefs of that business.

MOWI: How do you relax?

Mrs Uwatse: I play with my dog; I watch movies. I read a lot.

[tabs type=”horizontal”][tabs_head][tab_title][/tab_title][/tabs_head][tab]“You get into your car. You exit your compound, you are still normal. Ten seconds after exiting your compound, your eyes are turning red. You are growing horns. Your claws are suddenly extending by themselves. And then slowly, you start spitting fire. You have turned into a dragon.”- Mrs Uwatse[/tab][/tabs]



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