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Atoke’s Monday Morning Banter: Human Direction Vs SatNav



One of the reasons why I voted Governor Babatunde Fashola was the installation of street sign poles. I am not ashamed to admit it; honestly, I was just about fed up of having to describe how to get to my house using the ‘Ile-epo’ on the service lane.
Giving directions to a place is not one of my strongest suits, and it is one I’d openly admit. Having to ask for directions is another thing that I do with absolute caution, because in Lagos, it is not exactly the most guaranteed thing that you’d get the right answer.

Lagos is one huge maze of roads and turns and improperly marked areas. There are some places in Lagos that you can’t go with a car and you have to park a mile away because there are huge craters in the middle of what’s supposed to be a road.  In those areas, you have to rely solely on the expertise of the powered tricycles, ‘Keke Napep’ or the commercial motorcycles, ‘Okada’.  Asides being a means of transportation, Okadas have become a very useful tool for navigation in Lagos.

When my friend, Yetunde, got married and moved to Ojodu, I was filled with the tiniest bit of panic. “How am I supposed to visit you in Ojodu? Is it on the ‘main’ road?”. Her response was even scarier. “No now. It’s not difficult. When you turn in after that petrol station, just ask an Okada man to lead you.”

Between Okada men trying to exploit you because you’re asking for directions, and people who just derive joy in misdirecting you, it’s not exactly fun having to figure out how to get to where you’re going if the roads are not clearly marked. Anytime, I have to go to some place new and not easily identifiable, I prefer to go with someone who knows how to get there and we’d probably have to make the trip more than once before I have a handle on how to get there.

So you can imagine my shock when, many years ago, a boyfriend found his way back to my friend’s house (on his own).  He was randomly mentioning my friend and her sister to me when the bells went off in my head ‘Dude, you’d never been to her house before we went to drop her that night. How did you find your way back there on your own?’.  Sadly, it was the beginning of the downward spiral of that relationship.  But, all sadness aside, I was in awe of his ability to ‘sabi road’.

Usually, it should be easy to just figure out how to get to where you’re going by asking someone who knows how to get there. However, sometimes, you find that you’ve asked someone who has absolutely no clue how to get there and isn’t willing to tell you the truth. Then they just end up misdirecting you and you’re going round and round like a Barber’s Chair.  Women are often accused of this. It is said that women are very terrible at giving directions.  I don’t know if it’s a gender thing or if it’s just people not knowing how to aptly describe something they can see in their head.

You also find that you’re asking  4 people for the same direction because there’s no guarantee that the first 3 people gave you the right description. Yeap, living in Lagos can do that to you. You can’t take these things for granted.

Someone once said that technology has solved that problem with the invention of a SatNav. However, what do you do when you’re looking for ‘Iwaya road’ and the SatNav has it listed as ‘Dabiri Street’? Or if the GPS says ‘After 12 miles, bear right’. I’m thinking… ‘right? When I’m coming from what direction?’.

You’d be amazed how much time we lose just trying to get from one place to the other and it’s no fun when you don’t know how to. Anyway, share some of your most interesting ‘Oh, my goodness I’m Lost!’ stories. Do you think you’re good at giving directions? What do you do when you are asked for directions and you don’t know. Do you just say ‘Sorry, I don’t know’  or do you pull something out of your hair?  Do you suck with stuff like figuring out how to get from point A to point G?

Let’s have fun. Have a fabulous week ahead. If you’re in South England, please stay safe and only travel if necessary and don’t use your SATNAV.

Peace, love & cupcakes!


Photo Credit:

You probably wanna read a fancy bio? But first things first! Atoke published a book titled, +234 - An Awkward Guide to Being Nigerian. It's available on Amazon. ;)  Also available at Roving Heights bookstore. Okay, let's go on to the bio: With a Masters degree in Creative Writing from Swansea University, Atoke hopes to be known as more than just a retired foodie and a FitFam adherent. She can be reached for speechwriting, copywriting, letter writing, script writing, ghost writing  and book reviews by email – [email protected]. She tweets with the handle @atoke_ | Check out her Instagram page @atoke_ and visit her website for more information.


  1. gbemisola

    October 28, 2013 at 11:40 am

    outside the country sat-nav is great , but in nigeria dont bother just ask the okada man, because even the sat-nav would tell you to ask d okada man..when you start seeing sw 100/ nw 200 nobody would tell u what to do

    • Fizzie

      October 28, 2013 at 11:52 am

      Hahaha! U reali funny o! Anyways am waitinq 4 comments

    • Karonwi

      October 28, 2013 at 4:00 pm

      But google map has saved me from getting lost in Lagos. The maps are pretty good now and quite up to date.

  2. eniola

    October 28, 2013 at 11:50 am

    I say I don’t know when I don’t and help if I do. But it’s very annoying when you help people with directions and they walk away uncourteously, no thanks, no smile as if you stood there for the sole purpose of giving directives. #someannoyingnonsense#

    • Che

      October 28, 2013 at 2:06 pm

      LOL @ as if you stood there for the sole purpose of giving
      directives. I apologize on behalf of such peeps that didn’t thank
      you. 😀

  3. Gistyinka Blog

    October 28, 2013 at 11:53 am

    Gud Morni Atoke, hope what happen in Lagos will move to the rest of nigeria state.

  4. Dolapo

    October 28, 2013 at 11:56 am

    I’ve never really been lost anyway. Maybe because I’ve always never lived in Lagos (always a visitor who limits her movements to the island). Anyway, with finding a particular place, I think my instincts guide me more than people’s directions or SATNAV. I only did geography for one year so I think it will be a disater trying to use google maps or any GPS app.
    Actually I’ve been lost once. My dad once asked me to take my grandma for medical checkup. It was a private clinic somewhere and he really sucks at giving directions. All he said was “when you get to this road, drive straight then make a right turn and on that street, you’ll find an un completed building, the clinic is beside that building and there’s a market closeby.” What my dad forgot to mention was, on that street, there were many un-completed buildings and two small markets. From navigating, I found myself on an express road leading to Calabar from Uyo. Yep, I turned back and he sent a driver after me.

  5. Ese

    October 28, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    Lagosians are wicked sha….. There was a tym I was stuck so I decided to ask people around me…. They kept telling me to go left and turn right…. Wen I finally discovered d right place after 1 hour of driving round I just wondered y they did not just say I don’t know where it is… Instead of giving wrong directions.

  6. Neo

    October 28, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    Apart from the fact that im a human SATNAV, yep i sabi road
    like that bf. For me its almost innate, like i go somewhere once
    and i can find my way there afterwards. sometimes i’m not even sure
    but i still end up finding the place. I moved to Abuja last year
    and my BB Maps has been my best friend, it works excellently well
    and the voice prompts even manage to pronounce the streets well.
    Especially since i hate having to ask for directions, it has been a
    true asset. Was so impressed the first time i used it that i even
    used it from the office to the house, a trip i’d made many times
    without it. Yes na, better thing dey shack person.

  7. Berry Dakara

    October 28, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Google Maps works in Lekki, Ikoyi and VI. That’s how I learned my way around when I moved back.

    Everywhere else is a NO-GO for me on my own.

    • I formerly known as Miss Anonymous

      October 28, 2013 at 6:22 pm

      And Apapa too.

    • Abiola

      October 30, 2013 at 10:10 am

      Google Maps works in most parts of Lagos. I live on the mainland and use it all the time!!!

  8. Adwoa

    October 28, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    ooh good for you Nigerians at least you have street names to aid you. In Ghana there is nothing of the sort. In Ghana this is hw we do it “You just go straight then you see the kenkey seller on the right turn right beside then u meet the T junction the house after the groundnut seller is the place.”. if you are unlucky and the kenkey seller and groundnut seller do not show up that day you are in for a big wahala.

    • anonymous

      October 28, 2013 at 1:26 pm

      lol… na wa

    • Akua

      October 28, 2013 at 6:32 pm

      Please which Ghana are you talking about?There ARE road signs and street names ooo.Its just that we are not used to checking/ reading them.

    • nne

      October 29, 2013 at 10:30 pm

      Looooooooolllll o dear… wat u just described happens here but I literally burst with laughter at the tot of kenkey n gnut seller not showing up.

  9. mia

    October 28, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    don’t even bother asking me to come visit you if you can’t come and pick me or we agree to meet at an agreed location where we can both find easily. to start with, visiting is not my thing so, there. i got married this year and when people ask me for directions, i just tell tell to call a bike man to lead them and i tell them the amount the bikeman should take(thank goodness, they haven’t banned bikes in my villa) cos me i can’t describe road for me, let alone for someone else.

  10. Rainbow

    October 28, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    Hmmmmm! I got missing in Accra once. I was trying to find some place and every time i stop to ask, they’ll tell me to walk for 10 minutes then ‘go forward’. I thought it was a bit puzzling the way they phrased it but followed directions. Over an hour of trekking in the heavy humidity and 6 people telling me to ‘go forward’ later, a lil school boy finally explained that ‘go forward’ in Accra means cross the street! Almost killed somebody wallahi

    • anonymous

      October 28, 2013 at 1:27 pm

      ROTFLMAO!!!!!! Oj Jeez, that would have been so annoying

    • Abiola

      October 30, 2013 at 10:57 am


  11. lila

    October 28, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    i once had a wedding in ikeja and the address on the iv stated Ajao Street.feeling like a cultured someborry, i decided to use Google maps.before i knew it , i spent 4 hours in traffic turning left and right and in the end it was taking me to AJAO ESTATE!!!by the time i found the venue, wedding was over!!!!This Lagos sef…….

  12. Dee

    October 28, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    @ Rainbow…lol…@go forward…I have a good sense of direction that means yes once I go to a place I can find my way back as long as I made the trip was during the day but do not tell me to give you directions there because I suck at that especially with this oyinbos go N for 10miles or SW for 3 miles or it is on the NE corner. omo, I don’t know all these SW, NE stuff. But I will rather just take you there “jejely”. And if I don’t know I just tell you I don’t live in the area or not familiar with the said area.

  13. Dee

    October 28, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    *** long as the trip was made during the day***.Pardon the grammar

  14. DOO

    October 28, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    Hallos Atoke, hope you enjoyed your yesterday. In Lagos, three options: (i) hire a driver who ‘sabis’ road; (ii) always have your N100/N200 for the Okada men (subject to the Okada ban); or (iii) have sufficient airtime

  15. Aibee

    October 28, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    my sense of navigation is very bad so I find it helpful to use landmarks such as filling stations, schools, banks, pedestrian bridges etc. As long as the street has a name and recognizable landmarks, I will find it. Google maps isn’t useful on my end of the mainland. My street has a wrong name on the map. If not for the landmarks, I for no know say na my area the map dey describe.

  16. slice

    October 28, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    Thank God for GPS but before that one entered my life, thank God for American guys. They give the best directions. I’m sure Naija guys do too but never asked one so make una no kill me o. lol. i love those make a right here and go 4 traffic lights and you’ll make a left right there, then go another 3 traffic lights…etc type directions. saved me many times. unlike my friend that got me lost for 3hours bc she kept saying head south but i was actually supposed to be heading north.

    • Ready

      October 28, 2013 at 5:47 pm

      Yorubas say the person who asks for descriptions won’t get lost. I’on know how true that is, but I know I always come across people willing to help…even if their help isn’t helpful.
      Re: American descriptions. Rrriight? Americans’ descriptions are the best! Not them rural southern ones who use pre-Reconstruction era jargon sha. But the ones of “Go down MLK Jr. Road….three blocks down, you’ll see a Safeway, head left and look out for the traffic light….” are the best. If google maps doesn’t work, theirs will, and if not…oh boy, your life is in God’s hands.
      Have you gotten descriptions in Ekiti or Oyo before, and the only Yoruba you understand is Lagos Yoruba? “E e ma lo taara, e e wa ri igi orombo kan, e e wa ya baun…” Yeah, not very helpful. I’m big on asking for help sha. Yorubas say the person who asks for descriptions won’t get lost. I’on know how true that is, but I know I always come across people willing to help…even if their help isn’t helpful.

  17. Gorgeous

    October 28, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    LOL. I drove in naija based on the Lagos i knew as a kid. I didnt do too badly at all. Till i asked people where Ikoyi cemetary was, and they started looking at me like i was ogbanje. Suddenly they all forget the direction to the cemetary. I gave up and went back home. I only wanted to drop roses at my dad’s grave. 🙁

    • slice

      October 28, 2013 at 3:31 pm

      lol at like i was ogbanje. RIP to your dad

  18. Radiant

    October 28, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    Well, for me once I make two turns, I loose bearing (almost completely). I also desist from giving directions too. I try not to drive to an area till I have been there in a bus, taxi or okada. That’s all.

  19. LL

    October 28, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    Lmao….I remember when I visited Lagos after high school graduation (mind you this was the first time I’m coming to Lagos) and I was trying to get to a friend’s house in Oshodi. I asked a lady for direction to the place and this is what she said “Continue to go straight, then you will see mama Femi arguing on the right, no listen to am oh you dey hear , then make right, go straight again at the corner you will see mama Iyabo frying akara, chai the akara dey sweet well well oh! turn in that corner you go see where Oga Tunde dey repair shoe just continue to go there you go find the address there”…I was like 🙁 and just said thanks and did a U-turn back to my auntie’s house….smh

  20. frances

    October 28, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    Ah,now I can relax!
    Been busy since morning and didn’t see Atoke’s “mmb” wen it came in,I was practically in a haste wt my phone to see it.hehe.
    Well,I don loss well well b4 o,I went to visit a friend and missed my way,I ask person na,na river e com direct me go wey dey end of d estate.
    I had to call my friend to come down wt her own leg to pick me.
    Okada’s to me are still d best for finding a place o,google map kwa?? Abeg gv me one okada man and tell me d tfare and am ok jor…

  21. hot mama

    October 28, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    My first year as a ‘JJC’ in Abuja, I always got a cab to drive in front of me to my destination…this was in order to learn the routes quickly…one fateful day I decided to promote myself to the level of a pro and didn’t get a cab to direct me…my dear when I saw Kaduna and the arrow pointing towards the direction I was headed, you go fear screech parking naa..I demoted myself and got a cab very fast.

  22. Mz Socially Awkward...

    October 28, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    If I go to a place once, whether at night or during the day, I’ll never get lost trying to locate it again. Never.

    I don’t know how it does it but my brains just picks up all the twists and turns like a pulsing GPS system and this is one gift I’ve come to thank God for profusely. And Atoke, maybe the then boyfriend had a similar knack 🙂

    SatNavs have sent me on more than a few merry goose chases so I now know to study google maps very intently before setting out on any unfamiliar routes. If I dey Naija, imma call and drill you for the description of every landmark available before setting off to yours. And so far, I’ve never gotten lost.

    • Ife Love

      October 29, 2013 at 9:55 am

      Hahahahaha!!!! We sure got same brains for the twists and turns…. As long as i go during the day, finding my way is no biggie but @ night? I will just ‘jejely’ refuse to go except I find someone to take me or describe verrrrrry well…… Google and BB maps work well for VI, Lekki, some parts of the mainland though..I trust Google maps for the Island but Mainland? I got to have first hand info else I go MIA for 2 hours………
      I remember my first time in PH, I just kept calling and calling till I located my destination o as I no fit come lost for my
      And Mz Socially Awkward, your comments are ‘out of this world’… They always make intersting reads.

  23. yeah

    October 29, 2013 at 8:37 am

    nokia maps is excellent in lagos

  24. Shona

    October 29, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    Funny Comments.I must advice that when visiting a particular place for d 1st tym in Lasgidi,its best to do these tins….Load up enuf airtym on ur phone to call whoeva u r visiting.2ndly,let da person tell u hw much okada ppl charge in his or her area cos when okada riders find out u r a JJC,dem go charge u 500naira for smtn dat z abt 60naira….I’m a victim.

  25. alldatallure

    October 29, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    [email protected] all ur experience….
    Well, i’m a PH gurl and movement for me in Ph is not so much trouble as long as i have enough credit and money for drop. However, i got wiser after i moved to Lagos.
    In my usual manner, i went for a friends event somewhere in Lagos, but someone dropped me off; but on my way back i had to take a drop. Told the guy where i was going to and he said he knew the place well…..i hopped in. On our way, i noticed he didn’t take the route i took note of on my way to the place, but i just chilled in other not to appear as JJC. Codedly, i asked the guy why he didn’t take the other route and he said he was avoiding traffic. After about 30mins on the road, the car stopped in one dark road and the next thing i heard was “madam, e be lyk say i don miss d road, abeg start to direct me from here”…..lmao now but that day i almost wied on my pants.
    I mean i was just 1week old in Lagos and had not even learnt how to get in and out of my estate without ending up in someones house….#coveringmyface#

  26. Ayreal...

    October 30, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Oh my daze*all dis comments ehn… i love Atoke’s banter and the comments. i have 2 road missing experiences. 1) i was heading to Ayo rosiji in GRA ikeja, on getting to maryland all d tricycles refused to go through ayo rosiji and then i decided to take one as drop..Jeez! it wasnt funny, this man took me all around GRA and at a point i told him to stop 2 ask for description dat I wasn’t familiar wit where he was, dat was when i knew he was an aboki..uhmm come and see spits!, he said he was tired of moving me ard GRA witout destination and he was’nt moving one inch again and dat i must pay him 500. I was infuriated because this guy actually made me weep, i had to trek from where he dropped me to Ayo rosiji weeping like a baby*if you’v eva had any encounter with oversabi abokis, u’ll undy what i’m talking about, u cant win dem in arguments and wat they want to, dey’ll do. 2)i had to attend a friend’s bash sometimes ago, the party was scheduled for 3pm; feeling like i know African time dan the host, i set out ard 5:30pm from Ikosi-Egbeda .To make matters worse, I didn’t go alone i had accomplice( a guy i just met whom I was barely used to). I tout I knew Egbeda so well so I never bothered scrutinizn d address(cmpulsry 4 lagos roads).We spent 2hrs in Dopemu traffic, on getting to Egbeda I went tru the address again and noticed I wasn’t so familiar with dat area @ all. We decided to ask our way ard but alas! Ppl ard dat area ar wicked sha! Rada dan telling us dey don’t know, as if it was all planned, dey led us rong and on and on to d last man who eventually told us we had to go back to dopemu after landing @idimu. Oh Jeez! Come and c d look on dis guyz face, me I just carried my face up and pretended not to notice he was angry; his driving changed and he went so cold and obviously mad @ me. We went back to dopemu and when we asked our way around from a lady again, she was like “ go str8 down den turn left den… d guy just screamed @ me “ will u just call!, y ar u acting like a…” I looked @ his face and he swallowed whatever was on his mind to spit out’ I made him get to d destination oo,I feigned anger 2 but I pity d guy sha. d party had ended by the time we got der ard 9pm, I just carried my face again like …dorrrr! . I am so bad with finding my way around places, I don’t even know the many paths to my own house*(smiles)

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