I have had to hop danfo buses in Lagos with more frequency in the last couple of weeks and it’s been expectedly full of drama. Let me gist you a handful.
The other day, I was going from Ojuelegba Bus Stop to Yaba after a quick shopping experience at the Ojuelegba axis. Usually, a seven-minute fast trek would transport me to Yaba Bus-Stop, but like most of the other passengers, I was tired and did not want to compound my woes with a wearied trek under the afternoon sun. Not to even think that I was also hungry already! So we had a mild surprise when the bus conductor (or was it not even a bus park tout?) said the fare was 30 Naira instead of 20 Naira. Anyways, I entered the bus and stayed back a bit, but other passengers continued to moan and protest.
Eventually, about 8 people out of the ten people on the 14-seater danfo bus decided to step out in protest. Trying not to play ‘ajebutter’, I joined them in solidarity by stepping out of the bus. I soon joined another one alongside about six of them, but it was the same story. A middle-aged woman who appeared to have been coming back from a brief Xmas shopping spree also joined in complaining. One guy even engaged the conductor in a battle of diatribes! According to him, the conductor had no right to speak rudely to a market woman who had put some of her wares (vegetables, actually) into the boot, but would not agree to pay the extra 10 Naira. The use of curse words only intensified (just because of 10 Naira o!) Not to think that that same amount would only buy you two sachets of ‘pure water’ (or even one, if you are on Victoria Island).
Yes, they have a point about avoiding being cheated, but do you know what I’ve observed about our people? We just make a noise and rant, but we eventually give up and, at the end, precious time would have been wasted. I can feel tension everywhere I go on the streets. Some passengers after being told the bus fare, would not agree to it, but would refuse to alight from the bus on the bus conductor’s advice! They would just stay-put, and look ready to fight the driver and his conductor dirty (usually over 10/20 box difference). I’m sure you would laugh at such sights, really. I know it ain’t easy out there, but men, we gotta find amicable solutions to all these disputes. If the driver says he wouldn’t take you to your destination because there is no agreement on price, why not just alight peacefully and wait for the one with whom you would agree? Perhaps, you need to beg them to see eye-to-eye with you…
I also think that there’s gross disrespect among we Nigerians for these public transport operators, especially those on the not-so-formal schemes. [Even the Lagos BRT staffs (drivers and conductors) now receive treatment otherwise meted out to Molue drivers and conductors from passengers who are fast becoming overly familiar and impatient.] Most of us have a biased mindset towards them; just because most of them are often not-so-educated, we label them in gross generalization as riff-raffs and ne’er-do-wells! Why now? Truth is that many of them misbehave and can be very annoying, but I do believe that your pre-conceived notions about people will always have a large bearing on how they present themselves to you up-close. These guys (drivers and conductors) work hard under harsh conditions – come rain, come shine. They have street urchins and (corrupt) police men breathing down their neck, asking for so-much from the so-little they make every day. Many people who disrespect these guys would never take the faintest trace of disrespect in their own places of work o! Perhaps, you could go get your own car or get your own driver to dictate for them and talk to them just anyhow. I hope you got my point(s)!
Every day, we see angry people on the streets: in the banking hall and in the classrooms, professionals and the untrained, employees and traders, lecturers and students, government officials and street traders, LASTMA officials lying in wait for errant and not-so-lucky drivers, full-bodied men who fight and inflict wounds upon each other over rather flimsy issues. The other day, I saw in front of the University of Lagos main gate, a bus conductor slugging it out with an ‘agbero’, an unemployed street urchin who had been unleashed with the job of taxing bus drivers who work their butts out on the streets, come rain, come shine! How I wish we could all wake up from our collective and individual slumber and redirect our anger and frustrations into positive channels. “Speak truth to power”, like someone said. Make a personal resolve to be the best that you can be and sort out differences amicably. Try in your own ways to reach out and educate the ignorant in the society. Go out in 2011 to vote the right candidate and sincerely stick out your neck to ensure that your votes and those of other well-meaning Nigerians count. As a public office holder, shun corruption and corrupt practices – be accountable to the ‘poor’ people who have elected you. In the coming elections, if you truly have a mission to change the lives of your community members and fellow Nigerians for the better, walk your talk, and run for that office. Do your proper research and go ahead because you are the change Nigeria needs! People, do not sell your birthrights; neither should be collect bribe. We hold our destinies in our very own hands!
On a lighter note, two days ago (yes, Christmas Day), I was on my way to the University of Lagos in Akoka in search of the regular power supply that the school premises is so blessed with. I joined a bus to Bariga and as I stepped in, I observed that in the middle row, a woman was sitting by the window with her baby boy (most likely two years old). Another was sitting next to me with her daughter (probably four years old) – the girl had to stand and place her head on her mother’s laps. [There seems to be a particular age that you attain before your parents (especially moms) start allowing you to sit alone on public buses. It’s like our people see it as waste of money to allow a miniature creature like any of these two children here to occupy their own seat.] When we got to Ladi-lak Bus-stop, midway on my journey, the woman sitting next to me alighted with her daughter. Then, something funny happened! The boy started crying!! Imagine, this small boy was crying because a beautiful girl just alighted? His mother was surprised and so was I. I looked at the little ‘lover-boy’ then my eyes met with those of his mother, and all we could do was laugh some more! Well, she prodded him a bit, and then said something like: “Do you want her ‘blow-blow’…? Okay I will buy you ‘blow-blow’”. To my amazement, the boy paused his crying exercise. To prevent him from sleeping off or even crying further, his mother kept nudging him and every time she told him, “Oya, see your daddy…”, pointing out of the window, the boy kept quiet and swiftly turned his head in the same direction as his mother’s pointing hands looking for ‘daddy’. I’m still wondering about this ‘snow white’ tale: was it the strange little girl the boy fell in love with or her balloons? [‘Cos I still can’t remember seeing any balloons on that bus! :)]
In other news, Temitayo Ilori, a.k.a ‘Tylor’, author of “Doom’s Wing: The Legend of Tellam”, Nigeria’s latest Fantasy Novel, is getting married today in the ancient city of Benin to his sweetheart, Nwakaegho, today Monday 27 December 2010 at the All Saints Chapel, University of Benin, Benin City, in Edo State. Time is 12PM to 3PM (right about now!). I wish the ‘latest couple in town’ a long life of bliss and joyful partnership as they conquer the world and its challenges together and share in the rewards!
God bless the couple! God bless you my reader!! God bless Nigeria!!!
Photo credit: www.skyscrapercity.com