The war of the plates

I’ll admit, I wasn’t very fond of him from the start. It was dislike at first sight. He spoke roughly to everyone, and though it was his right, he asked a frail old lady to get down when she had taken the mate’s seat. By then he could do no right in my eyes, anyway. A second and third chance to redeem his image went wasted. I wrote him off.

It was as if this driver was determined to break every rule in the book. On every back road he managed to squeeze his way through and push cars out of the way. He sped over bumpy paths like we were on a runway. Nothing happened around him that didn’t draw comment. Fifteen minutes later, I was tired of his uncultured ramblings. It was as if he’d been promised a Cedi each time he said Kwasia. With time, I noticed the insults were reserved for private cars, a trotro driver’s bitterest enemies.

Sitting next to this guy wasn’t a pleasure. I couldn’t wait to be rid of him. Yet, in the short period of our lives we spent together, he gave me more than enough to remember him by. In the bumper-to-bumper crawl at Emmanuel Eye Clinic, for instance, a Toyota Yaris tried to get in front of him. Our man floored his accelerator to get within inches of the next car. With a menacing look he stuck his head out and snarled in Twi, “Come, I’m waiting for you. I’ll scratch you, you’ll see.” He meant every word.

The Yaris was undeterred. It better be comprehensively insured, I thought. He got level and complained, “Memaa wo light!” My driver was certainly not satisfied with the universal language of the trafficator. More insults were traded. Just let it go, man! Eventually, he did, leaving the trotro driver with a goofy look of triumph and got him started on all the transgressions of private car owners.

Thing is, there always seems to be a battle going on between trotros and privately-owned cars. I can’t count the number of times a mate has spewed sewage, for whatever reason, on a man in a tie driving to work.

We bullied our way from the inner lane to the Shiashie bus stop. Getting back in proved a lot more difficult than anticipated. A lady driving a black Hyundai Tucson was determined not to let him cross. Her eyes focused straight ahead, and she was all but in a tight embrace with her steering wheel. My driver eventually succumbed to her stubbornness. “Kwasia, if you let me come, what will happen?” he shouted loudly. “Like you’d do any different,” I mumbled.

Thing is, the worst is reserved for female drivers. On one occasion, a trotro driver was weaving his way through traffic with total disregard for other road users. At the Tetteh-Quarshie Interchange he got into a jam with the cars joining from the road adjacent to African Regent Hotel. We were all shoulder to shoulder, neither willing to stand down. You should’ve heard the disbelief in the mate’s voice as he exclaimed to his master, “Ei, it’s a woman!” The driver looked like he’d been electrocuted. Or was his pride wounded?

A passenger on one trip, seeing how a woman in the next lane wouldn’t allow the trotro we were in to rudely cut in front of her, remarked to nobody in particular, “You’re a woman. You shouldn’t …” He wasn’t allowed to end his chauvinistic statement when Catwoman next to him interjected, “And so what?!” Within minutes it had degraded into a free-for-all, complete with vulgar language and sexist stereotyping. Just what I needed.

A taxi driver once had a specialized insight into the life of every driver who gave him reason to step on his brakes. If it wasn’t a young suited man embezzling his employers’ money, it was a made-up lady who was stealing someone’s husband, and yet another in a new car who got interviewed in hotel rooms. His face was encrusted in a scowl. If it meant he decided that suicide, with me in the car, was a brilliant idea I wanted to be far away from him.

I’ve always wondered why white plates and yellow plates can’t just get along. Perhaps it’s a war of the classes. How else could you explain a whole trotro justifying their driver intentionally ramming into a Honda Civic and driving off, just because the latter slowed down to allow another car to go before him? We drove off, my fellow commuters leaving a trail of abuse behind. Serves him right, the passengers collectively decided.

Today, ask any mate today and he’ll tell you, “Plavate” car owners don’t know how to drive.

Look who’s talking.


About Kwaku Dankwa

By day, I'm an advertising copywriter. That's what I've done all my working life (National Service doesn't count). Husband of Esther, father of Jesse and twin boys Mark and Andrew, and servant of Christ. I previously wrote a blog on the dramatic side of public transport in Accra, "The Daily Commute: From Bridge to Ridge." Enjoy.
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26 Responses to The war of the plates

  1. Abby says:

    Hahahahahahaha!!!! Very nice and hilarious piece for such a rainy day.
    Honestly I don’t allow the troskis to bully me either. And it’s very true what you said about they putting up their worst when the driver they are contending with is a woman. I’ve observed that if a woman crosses or overtakes them they’ll do everything in their power to overtake her later……like it’s a taboo for her to be in front of them.

  2. Guy Lou says:

    “You dey jealous me.” Some mate told me father one day.
    Actually got the Ol soldier laughing.

  3. lovely post. Good to know that the sexism on our roads has been noticed. As a rule, i ditch all my ‘ladylady’ in the house. Once am behind the wheel, gta all the way. But seriously, that attitude has got to change.

    • Kwaku Dankwa says:

      Sometimes, it’s the opposite oo. The Toyota Corolla bank boys, when they see it’s a female driver, they allow them to cross with just a flashing smile. If it’s a fellow man, na lie! We will fight.

  4. Lyz says:

    Seriously why do road users generally abuse women drivers?(trotro drivers and taxi driver’s esp) If it’s not u are driving too slow, it’s u are being wicked! Personally if u ask nicely by showing ur traffic indicator (trafficator according to ghanaians ) I’ll give way but if anyone tries to bully their way throu, well let’s just say I won’t play nice. Good one Kwaku

  5. Yohan Odonkor says:


    I haven’t commented in a while, but this piece caught my attention. I jus’ hate the behavior of some drivers, esp. the trotro drivers and their partnering mates… it jus’ ticks me off!!! I almost blow up sometimes… you could almost literally see smoke coming outta my ears. Abusive, disrespectful, law-breaking, rule-bending, all-knowing/know-it-all, selfish, bad-mannered sexists!!!!!!!!!!

    Seriously… the abuse on woman drivers, and drivers in general by trotro drivers jus’ hurts! A good beating would suffice.

  6. yeh says:

    Good piece! It is really the war of the plates, i like the caption! It’ll be really interesting to actually figure out the root of this antagonism, it seems too complex to just ascribe to jealousy or class disparity (or maybe that’s what it is…). Also interesting you brought up the issue of sexism on the streets of Accra. I used to get all wound up about it, not anymore these days… is it really worth getting into an escalating war of incivility (and with a trotro driver at that)???

  7. Raj says:

    Good piece. I can remember all the times i have been abused by trotro drivers when i did not give them the chance to get infront of me. One time around the roundabout towards Kaneshie (Obe….i cant get the spelling right) a trotro driver just hit his car with his hand so loud to scare me so he can pass and when i was not moved because i anticipated that, he shouted out in twi (i said it, these female drivers are so wicked and how foolish i was to think this pretty one will be any different) My response was…. in twi (the pretty one will not sleep here, she has to go home too) and we both laughed at.

  8. Kwaku Dankwa says:

    Hahahaha! Raj, you just reminded me of the time you didn’t allow some driver to cross you at the Polo Grounds Roundabout (though it was a private car too), and he said in Twi, “Ei, na where is she in a hurry to go to?” Was it you who responded that you were going to cook for your husband? That was a funny one. Good times.

    • raj says:

      hahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa you just brought back memories. oh yes we had a good laugh and yes again i was the one who responded. ah we had a good laugh that evening and even the next day when we had to tell the others at work.

  9. Pila says:

    This one is hilarious. It reminds me of how a trotro driver shoved past me in traffic leaving me without my left driving mirror and when i got out of my car to ‘show him where power lies’, an octogenarian passenger who automatically assumed the role of the tortro driver’s attorney, decided to ‘dress’ together all private drivers, but i could not look in the face of a man who arguably could be older than my father and exchange those unsavoury pleasantries. This old man i think was ready rain insults on any white plate driver from jealousy or what i don’t know. I’ve learnt to avoid any encounter with the trotro drivers on our roads as much as possible. Its was good reading this.

  10. dannie says:

    Yeah ‘Plaavate’ car owners don’t know how to drive because they went to driving school (that is according to yellow plates) and all women who will not be bullied are termed ‘Obaa Kwasia’. It is such a pity the nonsense that goes on on our roads every single day because mates who have been elevated to drivers go unchecked by the police and the DVLA. Can you imagine how many trotros would be thrown off the streets if the DVLA actually did their job? All those 207s and 407s we sit in are for transporting goods and not humans. It is such a shame what we public transport users have been reduced to day in and day out.

    • Kwaku Dankwa says:

      Wow, looks like I touched a raw nerve here with the female drivers, eh? Any chance it’s gonna end soon? So do you recommend there are summary arrests for bad driving? Then we need to redo Nsawam oo…

      • dannie says:

        Maybe a redo of Nsawam for vehicles… some of these benz 207 buses need to be impounded for life!!

  11. Kwaku Dankwa says:

    Pila, you’ve reminded me of something. Seeing as I don’t drive that often in rush-hour traffic, what does one do when a trotro has mishandled you and left a scratch or some more serious damage? I really don’t know.

    • Pila says:

      There are three approaches: and it depends on your beliefs. 1. You take the law in your own hands. 2. You let the law take its course. 3. You just walk away and fix the damage, that is if you can afford it. It depends on whether you live in the old testament times or you have a forgiving heart or you can afford to waste some time with the police. Some will guesstimate the cost of damage to their vehicle and smash an expensive component on the trotro or give the driver some slaps if you are bold enough…. But by law every car is supposed to be insured, so whatever damages has to be borne by the premiums we pay annually.

  12. kwabena says:

    @ kwaku …wen a trotro driver plays d fool n “touches” ur car !!! …. impound his vehicle quickest so dat he loses d “load” he was rushing to “off-load” …isnt dat in the bible sumwher ???…. waste his tym for like a week min. the best part is when they try to get out of it by shoutin and den become like mice wen u not budgin n it seems u know enuff people to put him in a stiff !!!!…btw y did u hav to make a reference to corolla-driving-bank boys ???….lol very soon u will add tinted windows!!

    • raj says:

      Kwabena i thot Kwaks was writing it as he saw why are you making personal with the tinted windows too. Miss youooooooooooooooooo. hope you doing good. as soon as i touch down you are taking Jeff to school.

  13. one day long ago, a trotro i was sitting in scratched the vehicle of a bespectacled middle-aged lady. The trotro driver got off and ‘dressed’ the lady who was making calls to lawyers and the like. At the end of the evening, the trotro driver, his mate and almost all the passengers(inlcuding) some women agreed that 1.private vehicles were menaces, 2. Women shouldnt drive and 3. Anyone who wears spectacles and drives should be arrested. Unfortunately, I fit the bill. No wonder i dislike trotri drivers in particular.

  14. iXose says:

    haha i like this…but then again sometimes the war is not only between the yellow and white plates, sometimes they do turn on each other.
    i remember seeing a Nissan Sentra (Saloon car) on the Achimota-Kisseiman road and the driver had fitted metal bumper guards onto it, suffice it to say no trotro driver dared cross 😉
    Hmmm, things we do to stay sane on our roads…

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