O S H O D: Of Danfos and Anyhowness
This night was crazy. So there I was, about to set off when the rain starts to fall heavily. I’m in Lekki — 7:50 pm, grateful that I have my umbrella today as I quickly dash under a moment of subsidence. I offer up a prayer against any forces that will make the rain’s intensity increase before I get to the bus stop where I will board a bus to Oshodi.
I say another prayer to the heavens, for what it’s worth, that I won’t have to wait for long under the heavy rain. I was beginning to think that whoever was on heaven’s front desk was taking a nap until a bus came hurtling into view, the destination called out by both conductor and passengers alike. It’s one of those big ones with plenty headroom in it. The conductor stands erect at the entrance making jokes and bouncing of jabs directed at him. He is a short, elderly man who slouches to poke his head out to call for more passengers at bus stops.
One commuter tells him to retire; another advises him to not to open the slanted door so often so he doesn’t have to battle with closing it. It was not uncommon for doors to fall off their hinges on Lagos roads. As the banter goes on around me, I relish the conversation and the cool weather, glad that I’m making great time since the traffic so synonymous with the city decided to take shelter like those under the makeshift roofs of stores. I only wish my battery wasn’t at 2%. In any case, I put the phone on flight mode and begin to read an ebook. It’s the Season of Crimson Blossoms and I think Hajiya Binta’s affair is about to go full blown public.
The commotion when we got to the toll gate should have warned me that something was terribly wrong. For some reason, the driver came down and started fighting with someone I couldn’t see on the left side of the bus. I was on the far right and didn’t bother to crane my neck to see who the other commuters’ stern warnings were directed at.
We were finally making our way through Ikoyi, along the dark crescent of Osborne, when the sounds of sirens announcing someone important surround us. There’s a little congestion but the sirens keep going aggravatingly.
“No fear! No fear!”
“Them dey mad?! Why una dey fear?!”
I look back to see a laiskin young man getting aroused from the thought of being an obstruction to the convoy. I thought the driver would pay loudmouth and ensuing condoning laughter no mind, and swerve a bit to the side — like reasonable Nigerians do — so that they could carry their wahala and pass. But no, he maintained his position while the noise making Hilux inched beside him on the left lane.
The white Hilux eventually moved forward but then: a split second with the juvenile youth’s exclamations and sirens announcing a bad decision, and the bus driver cut in behind the Hilux, through the convoy, and in front of an expensive looking car whose headlights lit up the entire bus. I was going to reach home later than I envisioned at this rate.
A gun-wielding policeman appeared on the driver’s side with a huge scowl on his face, banging the body of the bus with the edge of his fists in annoyance. The banter in the bus turned to derision; the juvenile’s voice cresting above the sirens blaring both behind and in front of us. I turned away from the laughter to my side of the bus where cars tried to squeeze their way through the commotion. The little congestion was slowly turning heavy. The repeated banging, the aggravating sirens and the ruckus in the bus must have turned the driver mad, or knocked sense back into him in a rush, for the next thing he did was swerve, without a thought, back into his lane. There was not enough room. The owner of the car which stopped but could not reverse leaned angrily into his horn but the driver kept going, most likely unable to differentiate between the cacophony of sounds protesting this unnecessary debacle in the rain.
Finally, the convoy went by and the sirens faded away. But our driver still didn’t know what had happened and attempted to continue the journey with a smirk on his face. Of course, the car with the dented bumper sped off to cut us off. The bus quieted down, and I, who shouted before that we had hit someone, who I guess no one heard, now had to explain the reason for the stop to the noisemakers, with a few pointed questions of sanity to the young man. It was still raining and we still thought it was a joke. That is until the driver of the car became intent on going to the police station.
“Do away with your passengers,” he said. “That’s why it’s called an accident.”
We would have to hitch another ride.
This wasn’t a place you could easily see public buses, without passengers, and it was still raining. The driver and his elderly conductor tailed the offended car to the point where we all dropped off and were now crowded around the conductor, hassling for a part refund of our fare.
Miraculously though, as if heaven’s front desk seemed to finally wake up, this empty bus comes along on its way to the next bus stop — Iyana Oworo. I have to make a decision between collecting my fare and running to the bus. I chose the latter. I noticed the laiskin boy wasn’t in it and took it as a good omen.
We argue about the fare — to Oshodi instead, questioning whether the new conductor “get semo for ear,” until we come to a conclusion, but the night is far from over. The passengers, united by a sense of a shared event, keep laughing and talking about the incident from their perspectives.
Someone said it could be God. He had been sitting near the driver who was also elderly, he mentioned, and he had to keep cleaning his windscreen so he could see. Harsh criticism and mockery ensued — of the driver, then the man who would not accept money and instead wanted to go to the police station, and finally, the young man with the incentive comments.
The bus coughed at Iyana Oworo but we didn’t think too much of it. These striped, yellow buses do that all the time and, after certain comments, it continued in its way. New faces had boarded and the bus was quieter now. Heading to Anthony, the next stop, the driver unceremoniously announces he wants to pee. He’s already parked and heads to the back of the bus when I notice that the door is held by a rope and that it wasn’t closed properly. He knows — these things rarely escape their attention — and he comes over to fix the issue before getting back into his seat and driving off. We are on our way again. I had barely breathed a sigh of exasperation after checking the time and bemoaning two hours spent on the road for nothing, when the door, which had slanted off some minutes ago, completely dislodged into the air and landed on the floor spinning behind us.
I turned sharply to see cars behind us stopped a few feet away, the door didn’t crash on any thank god, and then I went into a fit of uncontrollable, convulsive laughter with tears dripping down the sides of my face. This time, we collected our change and walked the rest of the way to the bus stop to enter a bus which would hopefully take us to Oshodi. Four of us had to enter the same bus; the driver had our fares joined together in a limp N200 note. The next bus which drove up to us was billowing white-blue smoke and struggling up the incline. I hesitated but the rest already entered under the conductor’s persuasion: “Enter! Enter! Enter!”
The whole bus was filled with smoke which only dissipated when it was in motion. I was already close anyway, I said to myself, determined to walk the rest of the way in any eventuality.
If you saw us at Lekki toll gate, we are sorry for adding to the congestion. If you were on Osborne between 8.00 pm and 9.00 pm, we are sorry. We had drivers who decided to rebel in their old ages, and who thought they could wake up one day and challenge the tradition of good, docile Nigerians who position their butts to the side so important people can pass.
If you had a flying door come at you last night, we are very sorry, we know how disconcerting that can be. If you had your vision blurred by a thick haze of smoke between 9:45 pm and 10:00 pm, we are so so sorry. Manage it like that.