When you travel from one state to another in Nigeria, you realise that each state has the same way of welcoming its visitors. For instance, when approaching Ogun state, you’ll find something like ‘Welcome to Ogun state. The Gateway state’ or Kogi: ‘Welcome to Kogi State. The confluence state’.
But it’s a different story as you approach the border of Lagos. First off, you do not see just any signpost welcoming you; instead you find three formidable statues known as Agba meta or Aro meta. Rather than ‘Welcome to Lagos’ what you’ll find is ‘This is Lagos’. So you see, everything about Lagos is different. Lagos and Lagosians are extra.
It’s no secret that Lagos is synonymous with traffic. However, the level of traffic in the past couple of weeks has been out of this world. I figured that there’s heavier traffic on my route home on Wednesdays. So, I’ll typically stay back on the Island on Wednesdays in order to miss the traffic.
By some stroke of fate, I decided against my routine last Wednesday; worst decision of my adult life. I got to Apongbon under bridge at 7:15, the sea of heads that greeted me was no surprise since most people going from Marina to the Mainland board their buses from there. As I was looking around, a man offered me a seat on the bench beside him and told me that there’d been no bus to my route for the past 45 minutes due to heavy traffic at Costain.
One hour later a bus arrives and as you can imagine, an extra ₦100 had been added to the regular ₦200 fare. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get on the bus due to the mad rush. I eventually got on a bus after waiting at the bus stop for about 2.5 hours. It was the last seat left.
As soon as I got on the bus, I realised the seat meant for four people was comfortably occupied by three people. So I told the driver to slow down so I could alight from the bus since I was basically perched on the seat. He turns back to the passengers ‘Abeg make una shift foram, na four people per seat.’ The three other passengers got into a frenzy.
‘Na ₦300 you wan collect. I nor fit inconvenience masef.’
‘You wan carry four passinga for this kolobo seat.’
‘Shame no dey catch una. Na we be our own problem for dis country.’
First thing I noticed was, this guy isn’t your regular bus driver. He didn’t reply them. He didn’t slow down for me to alight but bear in mind that we were still at Apongbon. So I said to him, ‘Oga if you don’t stop, it’s 200 I will pay.’ No response. Instead the conductor slams the door tight. The buxom woman sitting comfortably beside me whispered to me, ‘Hope say you get 200 naira change o, because he do like say he nor hear you now? Ehn?’
Halfway through the journey the driver asks the passengers to donate the money line by line. We’d gotten to Masha when the offering from all seats was collected. The driver counted the money as he drove, giving some passengers their change as well. The bus began to slow down not because of traffic neither had the bus developed a sudden fault, the driver had only realised that his money was short 100-naira. I spoke up and reminded him that I’d told him earlier the amount I’ll pay.
Hell. Broke. Loose
‘How can you say you’ll pay 200? Ehn? What’s special about you? Everybody paid 300, you wan come pay 200, say wetin happen?’
I didn’t loose my cool. I simply repeated what I’d said earlier.
The buxom woman said ‘Haba, she tell you now. She no even siddon well. Na your door she rest on, you no even suppose collect money.’
At this time the bus had stopped moving.
Passengers were getting agitated.
An elderly man started speaking loudly in Yoruba: ‘Don’t delay us here, you can sort yourselves out when you get to the last bustop.’
The driver was having none of that. ‘You could have told me you had only 200, I wouldn’t have carried you.’ With this, we continued our journey.
That was the statement that tipped this argument in my favour.
The woman beside me kept pinching me not to add a dime more to what I’d said I’ll pay.
People on the bus began talking at the same time.
‘The girl no follow you fight now, she tell you say make you drop am, say she no siddon well.’
‘She tell you ooo! You nor fit say you no hear ’
‘Na greed go kee una for dis Lagos, that small journey you wan collect 300.’
‘Ma worry, Aje a di’ (Don’t be bothered Aje – the god of wealth and stewardship – will reward you).
At this point, I was getting tired of the back and forth, so I decided to add the extra 100. As I made my move, the woman beside me held my hand firmly. ‘You no go pay this money, because you tell am.’
This was serious.
The bus suddenly stopped, three stops away from my stop. I thought the driver was ready to throw me off the bus. The other passengers thought the bus had developed a fault. Someone who apparently is a regular on the bus said, ‘Na so your bus develop fault on Monday on top bridge, you never repair am since. Na wa.’
Alas, the bus stopped because fuel had finished!
‘With all the money wey you collect, you no fit buy fuel, ehn? Na so una go dey buy kwe-kwe petrol upandan!’ One passenger challenged.
‘Fuel wey suppose carry me for two trips, na him last only one trip so,’ the driver bemoaned.
While, he was refilling the bus, another conversation was going on behind me.
‘Na bank this man dey work before o, them con retrench am that time wey dem dey downsize. He gather him money buy this bus so he go fit hol’ body.’
‘Ehen. No wonder, hin dey speak well. These banks na so dem dey do. Their work no get guarantee.’
‘No work get guarantee for we country oo.’
When he was done, he opened the door of the bus. I told him he couldn’t leave the door open because I will surely fall over once the bus begins to move.
‘Na true say you nor siddon well,’ he finally said.
Someone offered me his seat since he was close to his house.
‘Nor worry, I go trek. I don nearly reach my house.’
‘Oga you nice o’. The woman beside me said. ‘No need to trek’ she continued. ‘I go support am with my hand.’
With that, the woman held me firmly, I was perched on half of the seat, but my upper body was firmly supported until I got to my bus stop.
There truly is no place like Lagos.