You have not really lived in Lagos if you have never experienced these yellow buses. They are popularly called ‘Danfo’ and they are the most common means of transportation for Lagosians. Nearly all the time, there are three captains on this ship, the Driver, the Conductor and of course the Passenger(s). The driver is mostly hailed as ‘pilot’ by the conductor. He is captain only for the steering wheel and the engine. The Conductor as a person is not expendable. He coarses, cajoles and sometimes begs the passenger(s). He is the captain of passenger affairs and the fares. Of the three captains, the conductor is always the loudest except for rare cases where a passenger is madder than the conductor. An average conductor shouts from the break of dawn to sunset, fights with agberos, LASTMA people, and other ‘uniformed’ men that litter Lagos roads, and most certainly does battle with the third captain: the passenger(s). The passenger(s) live to fulfil the statement “variety is the spice of life”, because you have them in different shades, shapes, sizes and colours. They are distinct people from different walks who come together to be called ‘the passenger’.
In Lagos, sometimes you are lucky, other times you are not. A typical bus ride or ‘danfo ride’ as in this case sees a slim person stuffed between two plus sized, large hipped co-passengers and as plus sized person, if you escape getting embarrassed my the stares thrown at you when you’re boarding a danfo, you would not escape the harrasment from the conductor who would tell you “madam, na money for two seats you go pay me oo” or a kinder conductor would say “madam, arrange well make another passenger for fit Sidon”. If you are allergic to noise or maybe you do not like to listen to unsolicited talk, the Lagos ‘life on a danfo’ is not for you. If it isn’t those passengers who would freely let you in on their conversation that should be rather private, it is the bus ‘pharmacists’ who have made a ‘chemist shop’ out of every danfo. The newest strategy is that they pray for and your generation and just when you’re going to term them ‘pastor’ they bring out of a shabby bagco bag, that one drug that can ‘heal the world’ and tell you that you would get it for 500naira in the pharmacy but because of you people he is selling for just 100naira. There are also those co-passengers who would sleep as though the betterment of the Nigerian economy depends on it. Some get carried far off from their destination, others are lucky to get woken up when the conductor calls their bus stop.
When the conductor shouts “enter with your change” more times than he shouts the bus destination, Lagosians don’t hear it. They would rather enter with their 500s and 1000s and become sub-conductors, collecting the fares of the passengers on their row and the next row so as to make change before the conductor says ” yeees, owo da! Your money for front, your money for back! Owo da waju, owo da l’eyin!”. This is to avoid being called out by the conductor because you fit see wetin pass you.
The issue of stench and sweat is a story for another day. I would drop my pen now and long for another ride on a Lagos bus.
Nwannediuto writes from the backseat of a bus that is not the Lagos bus.