Yesterday Maureen and I had to go down to Lomé, Togo’s capital, for a doctor’s visit – no sickness, just getting Maureen’s medical certificate for her U.S. visa.  There was a lot of excitement in the air as Togo prepares for their soccer match against Congo this afternoon.  Even a draw will assure them of a first-ever place in next year’s World Cup tournament in Germany.

Lomé is located south west of our town of Tabligbo.  It’s tucked into the southwest corner of Togo, nestled between the Ghanaian border and the Gulf of Guinea.  We can enter and exit Lome either from the north or from the east.  Normally we use the northern road because it is a little shorter.  Yesterday when we left Lomé, however, we needed to make an stop along the eastern route, so we headed out that way.

That road takes us past the port, which is usually a congested area.  Yesterday was worse than usual.  As we got into the port area, traffic stopped—and stayed stopped.  I was trying to figure out of I could do a u-turn, skip my errand, and take the other road out of town, when I heard sirens.  A long motorcade of government vehicles—Mercedes, BMWs, Landcruisers, police motorcycles, and military vehicles began to move through.  Once they were through, I assumed that traffic would begin to move.

It did, but only as traffic along the two-lane, two-way road, fanned out so that there were four lanes of cars all heading east.  We were stuck in the middle as traffic quickly came to another standstill, blocked by who-knows-what some distance ahead.

We were rather comfortable sitting in our air-conditioned car, but after a few minutes those sweltering in taxis began to climb out of their vehicles to access the situation.  I noticed one tall man who got out of his own car to have a look.  He walked behind our vehicle and then came back and tapped on my window.  Warily, I rolled it down and he told me, “We’re going to make a U-turn.  I’m having the people behind you to back up, you turn around, and we’ll make room for you to get out.”

I followed his instructions and, after a three or four point turn, managed to get off the road, around the traffic and took an alternative route out of town.  Others followed me, and so there was at least a way for those who needed to get out to do so.

“Now that,” I told Maureen, “is leadership.”  Instead of resigning himself to sitting in snarled traffic, or succumbing to frustration and road rage, this man assessed the situation, worked out a solution, and led others carry it out, to everyone’s mutual benefit.