Navigating the Madness: A Public Transport Tale
As someone that shuttles between Warri and Lagos because of school and work, I have learned a couple of things about the overpopulated commercial capital of Nigeria. However, thanks to ride-hailing services such as Uber and bolt, I have never had the opportunity to use public transport in Lagos. However, I would not really call that an opportunity as it has very few if any, benefits associated with it.
On this faithful day, I was back in Lagos on the way to my school — Covenant University. Sadly this time around I did not have the luxury of using bolt or any other ride-hailing service thanks to their currently outrageous prices. Since I could not use the convenient means of transport, I had no option but to resort to the madness that is public transport in Lagos. To make things worse, I was traveling inter-state, from Lagos to Ota in Ogun state.
My first time using Lagos public transport was when I was traveling from Warri, Delta State, to Ota, Ogun State, which I must say was a comfortable interstate journey until the car dropped me at Berger bus stop in Lagos. I had been to Lagos before, but at that time, I moved around with ride-hailing services, and I didn’t go out all the time, so nothing prepared me for the experience I was about to have.
From Berger bus stop, I had to look for a bus going to Sango-ota which is close to my school. Although I knew the best thing to do was to ask for directions, deep down, I was afraid of approaching random strangers. Despite my fear, I went ahead to ask a bus driver for directions, and he directed me to another bus going to Sango-ota as his bus was already full.
A young man, dark in complexion with legs as dry as harmattan sand, walked me to the bus the driver directed me to. At that point, I was wondering if his pay would be a percentage of my transport fare or if I would be the one to pay him for acting as my escort.
I got onto the bus, and I met a girl my age carrying a sack of what looked like clothes, struggling to enter the bus with her fat sack. I asked her where she was dropping, and she said Sango-ota garage, confused me had to act like I knew the place she just mentioned. She then asked where I was to stop, I told her Canaanland, and she laughed under her breath and told me the bus wouldn’t drop me there directly. She had this concerned look on her face and told me the bus from Berger to Sango-ota road would take more time. She advised that it would be better to take a bus to Oju-ore, and from Oju-ore, I will get a “maruwa” going straight to Canaanland.
The first time I heard the word “maruwa” was in Lagos because, in Warri, we call the tricycle “keke.” I trusted her words, but my heart was beating slightly. All the Whatsapp broadcast messages my mum sent me about how people went missing through public transport started replaying in my head. I had my mantle with me (a handkerchief or piece of cloth prayed on as a symbol of the anointing of the Holy Spirit) I squeezed it tight and said, “The mark of the lord is upon me. I shall not be afraid of the terror by night or the arrow that flies by day”.
I began my hunt for a bus to Oju-ore, then a short, dark-skinned man dragged me and told me to enter his cab. My mother’s words came to me like a slap in the face “Don’t enter any cab o! They used to kidnap people”. I felt cold in my bones, and I unclenched myself from his grip.
I found the bus going to Oju-ore, and the first thing this driver told me was, “aunty, this your bag no fit stay for here o.” I said to myself, where should I put it? on my head?? I had to move the bag closer to myself, in between my legs, which made the 1 hour on the road very uncomfortable. Before I could adjust, I saw a dark-skinned hand stretched before me; it was the bus driver. He echoed in his loud voice with a deep undertone, “Aunty, your money” I thought to myself na so una dey do for here?? I gave him the money, and we began the ride. They were all communicating in their language, which was unknown to me, I was trying to understand what they were saying, but I couldn’t pick anything. The driver was blasting music and hitting other buses that tried to overtake him. At that point, I knew I was definitely in the ghetto. The conductor was hanging by the door and probably practicing some George of the jungle swings. I was so confused.
We kept going for an hour, and I was too afraid to bring my phone out to check google maps; at this point, I didn’t know where I was. I asked the lady in front of me where we are then she replied in Yoruba. I just kept quiet and looked forward since I didn’t understand a thing they were saying. The bus dropped somebody, and I was asking, “Is this our stop?” nobody answered me; what kind of wahala have I put myself into now? I came down to let the person stopping come down, and the bus started moving, I started hitting the bus and shouting, “I no wan stop, I no wan stop”, the people in the bus were shouting run! I should run? I should run after the bus? I started running after the bus till I could jump in. I had to catch my breath because what in the subway surfers was that??
I told the lady in front of me that I was going to Canaanland, and she finally dropped her attitude and told me when we got to where we were stopping in Oju-ore she would tell me. I kept quiet and trusted her words. The driver started shouting from the front, “Aunty, where you dey drop?” I said Oju-ore. He yelled, “We don reach Oju-ore Abi you wan follow me go house?”. That is where my frustration started. The lady in front of me told me to come down and follow her. I was hoping I was not following her to where I don’t know. She was nice enough to take me to where I would find a tricycle and put me in it. I felt a bit relaxed because I knew where I was going from where I was, and Canaanland, which is where my school is located, is not hard to miss.
Lagos is a lot to handle, but it can be enjoyable at times. After my little experience, will I order a bolt ride to commute, or will I take the cheaper way out and enter danfo? Ordering a ride on bolt, uber, or inDriver would be more comfortable, but with the current price hikes, I need to get used to commuting with public transport.
5 THINGS I LEARNT COMMUTING IN LAGOS WITH PUBLIC TRANSPORT
From my painfilled experience, I learned 5 essential tips when using public transport in Lagos. Here are five things to know when using public transport in Lagos.
- Be conversant with some phrases in Yoruba to be able to ask for the help you need because some people only understand Yoruba and Pdgin.. Things like “Nibo lawa bayi”- Where are we now? “Nibo lo ma ti sọkalẹ”- Where are you dropping? “Owa o”- Stop.
- Try to stay calm. I was a little too fidgety, mostly since it was my first time traveling alone on public transportation in a new location. I had good reason to be afraid, given the unrest in Nigeria, but I learned to control my fear and keep a level head.
- Use google maps to be sure where you are and where you’re going. It is very possible for the bus driver to “carry you go where you no know”. It is safer to track your movement but hold your phone tight as you do so.
- Be vigilant. Look for landmarks to help you locate certain parts of the city because you will inevitably pass through them again. It is best to become familiar with these locations to prevent upsetting hostile strangers.
- Ask questions. Inquire when in doubt and ask for directions if you are unsure of where you are heading or if you are having trouble locating your destination. Even if passengers on the bus might be reluctant to answer, you should still attempt since you never know. Being able to speak up and ask for assistance prevented me from becoming lost.
Some might say they prefer public transport, but this article is me speaking on behalf of those of us that are new to Lagos. In turn, private taxi services can have drawbacks, but that is a story for another day.