“Ikeja Ikeja Ikeja!”
I quickly hopped on, grateful that I didn’t need to wait long for a bus going my way. There’s no bus schedule in Lagos. If there is, it’s a well-guarded secret that even the most discerning of commuters haven’t picked up on yet.
“Oga shey you get change”
Like every other Nigerian vendor, buses expect you to bring exact change no matter how arbitrary the fee is. I’ve seen passengers with enough money to pay turned away because they didn’t have the right denominations, and those are the ones with a peaceful resolution! There’s a very good chance insults would fly back and forth. Guaranteed to inject some excitement in an otherwise monotonous commute.
Over time I’ve developed a strategy for acquiring change on the bus. I need to be strategically positioned in the middle row, which gives me the opportunity to intercept the flow of money from the back (and middle) row. That way I can take someone’s correct change, pay with a bigger denomination for both of us.
Thankfully today didn’t need special seat planning. I handed over my browned N100 bill, a faded N50, slid into the back row and relaxed.
Commuting in Lagos is a big deal. It’s the fourth largest city in the world by population density, so the roads and public transit systems are overworked.
There’s no subway or light rail system. We have big red BRT buses performing that function. Affordable and pretty organized, but the most indispensable class of public transit vehicle goes to the golden yellow buses with black stripes.
These buses are much smaller than the BRTs but they’ve been around much longer. Traditionally Volkswagen, which is apt because that loosely translates to “the people’s vehicle”, these buses are modified to become a no-frills ride that seats fourteen passengers. Almost guaranteed you won’t be sitting comfortably in a full bus, but nobody takes these for comfort. They get you to your destination. That’s what you pay for and that’s what you get.
The evening commute is typically fraught with traffic. All of Lagos is rushing home. Throw bumpy roads, traffic and aggressive drivers into the mix and you’re starting to get the picture. A journey of a few kilometers can end up taking hours, so sooner or later, most succumb to the constant lulling vibrations and drift off to sleep.
On your commute you’re bound to encounter a conductor. His job (and it’s always invariably a he) is to collect your fare, yell out the destination at every bus stop when the bus isn’t fully occupied and literally hang off the sides and back of the bus to help the driver navigate the traffic-prone roads. Fortunately my bus had no conductor.
It was a quiet uneventful ride; commuters napping side-by-side, enveloped by the cool evening breeze flowing through the bus as it hurried to Ikeja. We cherished the rest, knowing we would be infected with the frenetic energy of Lagos when we pull into Ikeja and disperse to find the next bus that brings us ever so much closer to home.
*This is a submitted post by Mobius. Hope you enjoyed it.
Transportation is a very important part of tourism and this is meant to help shed light on what it would be like if you decide to take public transport.
The Nigerian govt needs to look into making transport easier so as to encourage tourism.