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Bobosteke: Memoirs of a Lagos Passenger

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dreamstime_l_33901084There is something about being a passenger in Lagos. Your life is very different from passengers in other states. It even starts from home. It’s only in Lagos, I believe, that you wake your alarm up instead of the other way around, because you are afraid you would sleep right through the ringing.

After your morning ablutions, (where if there is no power, and you are female, you have to apply your makeup with “secondary electricity” and pray you don’t look like a masquerade). Your faithful bike man is already waiting outside the gate to take you to the bus stop. On your way, you meet the evangelists, with their screeching megaphones, preaching (more screeching than preaching) the Lord’s Coming or some impending doom to the world.
You arrive uneventfully at the bus stop and, thankfully, you were able to breathe today, as your bike man had remembered to take a bath before coming to pick you up. Your relief is rather short-lived as you remember, belatedly, that in your hurry, you forgot your stash of change on the table at home. Your bike man takes slight umbrage at you, as he does not have a balance for the one thousand Naira note you thrust at him. He knows you will pay him; that’s not the issue; his concern is for the bad market, your lack of change portends for the day.

You walk forward a bit and it hits you. The pungent smell of urine. You know that smell. Whether you are walking through Oshodi or through Lekki Phase I gate, you know that smell. Today you are a bit early so you get to enter “sole”. If you had had to wait for which bus “was going” you would have to seat and breathe into your handkerchief.

So you decide on a bus after doing the “check”. This includes checking out the conductor, the driver, the other passengers and the bus itself. This is a little complicated for the uninitiated. For the conductors, a level of riff-raffness is expected; it just should not be too much. They must not be hugging their bodies, it means they slept in the cold and may still be tired and therefore cranky. They must absolutely not be smelling of any “wake up” drink (you know that which you mean).

The driver must look like he has people who care for him and who he cares about. You don’t know how to explain this look, but you know it when you see it. They are usually calmer, smell of cheap pomade, a bit on the big side, less likely to use profane language, and are a bit respectful and considerate (e.g. they wait for you to actually get down from the bus when you arrive at your bus stop). They also don’t have stickers, pegs, miniature teddy bears or large sizes photos of their favorite musicians all over their windscreens. If at all they do, they usually have scriptures branded directly on the bus or printed on small, just visible stickers with messages like “God’s Time is the Best”; “No Weapon Formed against Me Shall Prosper”, along with the attendant bible verses.

The passengers differ greatly depending on the route. If you are going towards, Oshodi, from Mile Two, they should be sellers of dried fish, people going to work and the odd seller of ewa goin; if you are going towards Abule-egba/Tollgate, they would be mostly sellers of okrika, who would come down at Super Bus Stop. If your route is Ajah Park, CMS, most of y’all are heading to work. Same goes for the Stadium to Ikeja route. Anything short of this, you become suspicious. As for the bus, you listen to the engine, no killer exhaust fumes, and the upholstery should at least be decent.

So you are on the bus. You are lucky not to seat on the conductor’s seat by the door because every time he stretches his hands over your head to collect payment, you hold your breath along with a small whimper as the apocrine glands are on full gear today. Inhaling body odor at 5:43am is never a sexy way to start the day. You have sorted out your change issue as you have collected N100:00 from four people, so you pay for five. No compulsory joining or marriage for you today. You arrive at the office, calm down and set up for the day.

6:45pm and it is time to head home. You missed your ride because your boss was being a boss. You get to the gararge. This time, no sole You settle in with your bolt, era and bottle of Pepsi for the long ride home. You cautiously offer some to the passenger beside you. You do so because you remember that one time when you happened to be seating beside a man who had complained to other passengers bitterly, in Yoruba, how selfish you were for not offering him any. He thought you did not understand Yoruba. The boli turned sour in your mouth as you stared guiltily at your hands.

You are happy you bought your drink before you got on the bus today. The last time, the poor boy had to chase the bus for about 100 meters, bare foot and on the express because he went for look for change.

As you take the first bite the driver turns up paso to the fullest volume and you let out a groan. You had escaped the preachers and the drug sellers to encounter this. You can’t plug your ears with any soothing symphony as no phone has been invented that can beat the loud speakers the driver has placed directly under your seat. You feel like crying. The guy beside you is seating with his legs wide open. You ask him quietly to please close his legs. He gives you the eye and ignores you. You look out of the window, a BRT zooms past with so much smoke you think it’s on fire. You quickly close the window as other passengers condemn the Lagos State Government and its poor maintenance culture. You, however, remember when a woman had chased the BRT in Usain Bolt style, because she forgot her polybag: an empty ten naira polybag. It makes you chuckle.

The lady on the seat behind you has been on a long call which just ended. The man beside her is offering detailed advice in the loudest voice. Some passengers join in the advice giving. The lady is not saying anything. You think as a friend he should be more discreet. She lets out a long hiss when he comes down at his bus stop. She informs the bus that she does not know the man and has never met him before. Your fellow passengers are bemused. You are horrified.

You get home and mercifully sink in to the waiting sheets, too tired to eat dinner; having to do it all over again tomorrow. But that’s when you’ll realize you forgot your Guiseppe Zannoti shoes on the bus, in the little tote bag you usually carry, which took you 3 months to pay for.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

My name is Bobosteke and Lara Bian. I think I have commented enough on Bellanaija for you to know about me. I’ll leave the rest to your imaginations.

51 Comments

  1. Lomo

    April 19, 2016 at 10:23 am

    Chai! You, the writer has a PhD in Usage of Public Transportation.

  2. Ajala & foodie

    April 19, 2016 at 10:32 am

    I just kept laughing and “pepo”, jes dey look me. Hubby had to ask wetin dey laugh me as we dey public. I had to read the Boli story to him. Since I have only taken public transportation in Lagos. I can not only relate, it is all I know.

  3. whocares

    April 19, 2016 at 10:59 am

    LMAOOOO. Ahh B.steke this is brilliant!! The imagery is fantastic!!!! More, more, more!!!
    My favourite part of Nigerian buses are the stickers. As a kid I used to love reading each and every one loud. The one I have never forgotten still is “If God bifo me”. loool. I don’t know why I find it so funny. Also the way the bus drivers adorned their buses. The teddy bears. lmaoooo. so true, so true and also the Muslim prayer bead hung by the mirror? The conductors you have to give them props for creativity as well. They always find a way to rhyme the location with some other inventive shits. – oju elegab, oju elegba, wole pelu change o, auny egbe oju o, ma je ki egba na yin o. eni change ke. (ojuelegba, come in with your change- aunty carry face before year cane smacks you?) or something like that. See I cant even do it, but you get the drift. lool.
    Ahh B.steke this was a good way to start my day. Thank you.

    • Bobosteke & Lara Bian

      April 22, 2016 at 8:11 pm

      The ones that manage to make calling bus stops sound like a threat n’kan?
      I also watch out for the sticker’s too. The funniest for me has been “meny aff gun” ( many have gone). I almost died.

  4. Bleed Blue

    April 19, 2016 at 11:02 am

    Bobosteke! Love this!

    The irony though.
    Guiseppe Zannoti shoes which could go anything from $400 to $2,500, in relation to the general ambience of squalor surrounding the bus passenger’s experience. Would there have been room to prioritize and save for a few more months to afford a less stressful transportation option?

    And hey did you ever see my message to you on my BN article last month?

    • Oma

      April 19, 2016 at 6:06 pm

      My thoughts exactly! priorities… Very nice read though

    • Bobosteke & Lara Bian

      April 22, 2016 at 7:59 am

      No dear. I didn’t o! I’m checking for it now.

    • Bobosteke & Lara Bian

      April 22, 2016 at 8:21 pm

      I thought about that too. Then I decided that if my character had a weakness for expensive shoes it was not my business. He! he!

  5. Taiwo

    April 19, 2016 at 11:22 am

    My gosh!! You are so on point!!! I’m screaming here!!!!!!!!!!
    Well done Bobosteke and Lara Bian!! Well Done!!!!!! Blowing huge fan kisses your way.

  6. Nammy

    April 19, 2016 at 11:38 am

    Il like to comment on the Loud bus music and I’ll add unfiltered to it, it’s really a nuisance especially after a long day and all I want is to rest a few minutes on the bus. A friend of mine once boarded a bus with loud music on, after suffering for a few minutes, he realised that some of the speaker wires passed thru his sit and was joined at one point with a black tape, he promptly disconnected the wires and carefully replaced the tape over the disconnected wires, he enjoyed the rest of his journey while the bus driver and conductor were cranky cos their unfiltered music was interrupted nd the passengers didn’t allow them stop to check what went wrong.
    PS: you get home and mercifully sink into the waiting sheets- no bathing? After that stressful time you described on the bus?

  7. 'Dassah

    April 19, 2016 at 11:43 am

    lol!
    This piece is so accurate!!
    I take the yellow bus to CMS everyday.

  8. Amazing Esther

    April 19, 2016 at 11:50 am

    Lol…..I could not help but laughout throughout my reading this piece. I experienced one this morning, where the sweater of the Bus Conductor of the bus I boarded was bringing out a very pungent, offensive and killing smell, as if they threw him inside a soakaway and brought him out, I just couldn’t wait to get to my bus stop and I was almost tempted to tell him that he was smelling like shit but I kept calm and went my way ooooo! God save us with Lagos stress.

  9. banana

    April 19, 2016 at 11:59 am

    LMAO @ forgetting shoes in the bus, haaa it wont be funny oooo

  10. Hadassah

    April 19, 2016 at 12:04 pm

    Amazing Piece!
    Well done…. I am hungry for more write-ups please 🙂 🙂

  11. Tru

    April 19, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    Chai! Nwanne, you have “Kapshur” our transport woes so perfectly. I remember once, after baffing and wearing my fine cloth and beautiful perfume to go to church, the bus had to stop at Stadium to pick passengers. Chaiiiii…the sweat and stink from the exercise buffs that got into the bus dinor have part 2. AND said sweat and stink rubbed off on me! Since then, I vowed to close my eyes and always take a taxi to church. Can’t comman go and smell after all my ardent ablutions, shu

  12. Yve

    April 19, 2016 at 12:43 pm

    I once forgot my shoes in a bus. Not a Guiseppe Zannoti but I loved it. It was so gorgeous and went with almost everything. I cried that day like I lost someone.

    Funny thing… entered that same bus a week later and sat in front like the last time. When I asked the driver, he started screaming like I was I accusing him of theft. I just left the matter.

    I still miss those shoes.

    Great write up Bobosteke Lara Bian.

    • Tobigirl

      April 19, 2016 at 5:50 pm

      Lol! Eeya, sorry.

  13. TEM

    April 19, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    This is nicely written..writer painted images so vividly i feel i was there all the way.i enjoyed it thoroughly…

  14. Isioma

    April 19, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    I so enjoyed this piece and am sure so many lagosians would relate to it.
    The parts I liked most was where you referred to the early morning preachers and the guys that spread their legs in the bus as though they are in their parlor. Very annoying. There is also those guys that carry laptop bags and leave them to rest on your back when they sit behind you, also very annoying.
    Those morning preachers sha.. always preaching damnation. There was one morning I was heading to the bustop and passed by one of such preachers, the next thing she started to say as I passed was ‘those that fix their hair’ and wear short dresses/ skirts or something like that ‘ REPENT’ or something similar to that…. O boy, I just tire, I said to my self ‘which kin thing be this’..lol
    Well done Bobosteke. Looking forward to more writeups from you.

  15. Isioma

    April 19, 2016 at 2:13 pm

    so enjoyed this piece and am sure so many lagosians would relate to it.
    The parts I liked most was where you referred to the early morning preachers and the guys that spread their legs in the bus as though they are in their parlor. Very annoying. There is also those guys that carry laptop bags and leave them to rest on your back when they sit behind you, also very annoying.
    Those morning preachers sha.. always preaching damnation. There was one morning I was heading to the bustop and passed by one of such preachers, the next thing she started to say as I passed was ‘those that fix their hair’ and wear short dresses/ skirts or something like that ‘ REPENT’ or something similar to that…. O boy, I just tire, I said to my self ‘which kin thing be this’..lol
    Well done Bobosteke. Looking forward to more writeups from you.

  16. mama

    April 19, 2016 at 2:18 pm

    “The man beside her is offering detailed advice in the loudest voice. Some passengers join in the advice giving. The lady is not saying anything. You think as a friend he should be more discreet. She lets out a long hiss when he comes down at his bus stop. She informs the bus that she does not know the man and has never met him before. Your fellow passengers are bemused. You are horrified:

    lmao….. This was my best moment here (the last part also made me laugh hard). Nice write up bobosteke, really nice one. Please write more often.

  17. teesha

    April 19, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    Loools. The odour from co-passengers and the bus conductor ehn … that’s why I love sitting close to the window. Abeg, I cannot come and die from body odour. Another, is you giving a passenger your change and it didn’t get to the conductor, aha!
    Lovely write up, please keep it coming.

    • TA

      April 19, 2016 at 8:28 pm

      The best seat is the front seat. Real first class. Lol. Trust me on this. You are practically insulated from all the indignities in the bus. I used to hunt down front seats. Hahahaha

  18. BTV

    April 19, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    too apt!!! The ones that sleep nko? and sweat all over you!!! Dirty dirty people!!! Everyday I remind God of my car.
    I was laughing like a mumu at the office while reading this.

    • Anon

      April 19, 2016 at 4:30 pm

      Ohhhhhh the sweating, Then they will gum ur arm with their sweaty arm. Following you anywhere u move your body to, smearing their sweat all over you. I can never forget bus rides in the Ebola era. * does the sign of the cross*.

      Then the ones who sleep and start falling all over you.

  19. Lyrics

    April 19, 2016 at 3:42 pm

    Nice article Bobo, I enjoyed every bit of it except for the wrong use of “seat” where it should have been “sit”.

    • Bobosteke & Lara Bian

      April 22, 2016 at 8:04 am

      Yes @lyrics. It was a cringe worthy moment when I caught it. Thank you.

  20. Ada Nnewi

    April 19, 2016 at 4:07 pm

    Hilarious stuff…Bobosteke you write really well….

  21. bunmi1

    April 19, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    detailed article…. i was laughing all through…..

  22. Temi

    April 19, 2016 at 4:40 pm

    “The guy beside you is seating with his legs wide open.”

    Why do they do this? 🙁 As if their father bought the bus.

  23. Fade to black

    April 19, 2016 at 5:23 pm

    This is brilliant!

  24. Oma N.

    April 19, 2016 at 5:29 pm

    Lol!! Growing up, my mom had a restaurant at Super,we were returning home with the clothes we carried in case we stained our cloth and when we dropped down, that was when i realized we had left our own ‘Giuseppe Zanotti’. My uncle chased that bus but unfortunately he wasn’t a gala seller he wasn’t made for it.
    Danfos are the best, too many characters from the one with body odor, to the over zealous conductor, or passengers that bring in their children and tell them Oya go to your aunty(random passenger), or the ones that stare at your phone when you are chatting (I am guilty too!!)

    I wrote a post last year, you guys can check it out ifeomanwawe.blogspot.com.ng/2015/12/danfo-chronicles.html

  25. Tobigirl

    April 19, 2016 at 5:45 pm

    I love this article and I am bookmarking it to share with my friends! You captured it so well, I cannot stop laughing because I can totally relate. Only difference is that my bike man(when I had one) was a soji guy, used to be neatly dressed in shorts, sneakers, a tee shirt and smelled clean. God will soon provide car, amen.

  26. seyiakano

    April 19, 2016 at 6:06 pm

    Nicely written, brings back memories of the days spent in Lagos, journeying through various metal containers (danfos) to and fro work on the Island.

  27. Commuter

    April 19, 2016 at 6:24 pm

    The man had complained bitterly in Yoruba that you did not offer him boli. This got me reeling with laughter. Excellent writing Bobosteke. Transport in Lagos na wa. My daily routine is thus: leave the house, walk to the bus stop (yes o, exercise tins), get on the bus ‘loading’, wrap my arms with a shawl if I am wearing short sleeved clothing, watch to see who will come sit beside me, change seat if possible, look for change if I don’t have, give out my change to ‘join’ if I have, then settle down and read my book for the rest of the journey from Lekki to Gbagada. After work, I repeat the process. First thing I do when I get home is peel my clothes off and into the laundry basket and take a warm shower with vigorous scrubs. No way I am forgetting my shoes in the bus cos they stay in the office. And I don’t hesitate to cover my nose or do something obvious to indicate the person beside me has pungent BO. Saving aggressively for a car. BNERS if you wan sell at affordable price plix let us know ooo

    • Bobosteke & Lara Bian

      April 22, 2016 at 8:34 pm

      @ Commuter the Shawl User. You sef sabi the trick? Oya receive your Car this year!

  28. Teawine Penner

    April 19, 2016 at 6:51 pm

    Well-written! Lagos living no b small tin!
    And then those ones who tap current in very annoying, disgusting ways! Poking their elbows into ur side, or putting their arms over ur neck like they paid for ur space! Shiòoooo!!!!!
    LOL! Don’t miss “bussing” at all mehn!!!!

  29. Jade

    April 19, 2016 at 7:28 pm

    Lagos my Lagos! Lovely piece

  30. Elizabeth's English.

    April 19, 2016 at 7:30 pm

    “”MY name IS Bobosteke AND Lara Bian””?

    Is this one person or a couple?

    • Bobosteke & Lara Bian

      April 22, 2016 at 8:04 pm

      Nne, no vex abeg. Na identity crisis cos am. I will soon apply to BN for change of name.
      Thanks for reading!

  31. Jcsgrl

    April 19, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    Oh dear you dis geh…I’m crying hot tears. Phew! Been laughing and jerking mehn. Will save this piece and re read when having a crummy day. You’re a great writer BoboS&L

    • Bobosteke & Lara Bian

      April 22, 2016 at 8:25 pm

      Babi’m, your endorsement is all I need to take this to the next level ( when I find out what that is). I shall sleep tonight with a huge smile on me face ( does a shoki dance ? around the house).

  32. TA

    April 19, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    Chai! Is this what I have missed all the while I was away from BN? Sigh
    My darling Bobosteke and Lara, I loved this delicious article. Great story. Very vivid description of the Lag bus system. The smells, the nasty smells at 6am were my biggest dread boarding Lagos buses. You nailed it. Please write more.

    • Bobosteke & Lara Bian

      April 22, 2016 at 8:16 pm

      I will @TA. My personal person. One of the sweetest persons hereon. One of the voices in my head cheering me on. We want to read something from you too. You can do it. Love you loads.

  33. Osaretin

    April 19, 2016 at 9:56 pm

    hahahaha the ending – classic!

  34. Pooh

    April 19, 2016 at 10:02 pm

    Lol.accurate

  35. Ewa

    April 21, 2016 at 6:00 pm

    LMAO!!!!!!. Chai, what memories.. I can never forget the day I fell from a “coaster” bus at Oshodi Isale about 17/18 years ago… When it was my turn to get down, the driver decided to move. All I know be say I just dey ground…. people around started cussing out the driver, All I could hear was “pele”, “e gbe dide”. If you can remember Oshodi of those days, the filth was horrendous. That memory stays with me till this day. Kai, I have hustled o. The days of boarding molues nko? Thank God for his upliftment.

    • Bobosteke & Lara Bian

      April 22, 2016 at 8:41 pm

      @Ewa
      Jesu! You fell on the ground at Oshodi of old. Chai! Chai! I’m clutching myself right now. Chai! Those smells eh, thick congealed things of despicable origins. Chai!

  36. Koffie

    April 21, 2016 at 6:04 pm

    Lagos transport woes, the gist cannot end in a day. I go from VI to Agungi every evening/night. I’m lucky that I can join a car pool in the mornings. I have become such an expert in scrutinizing buses and conductors. If the bus looks small ish (those white narrow ones that go to Ajah; not the white n green ones), just skip it as you’ll be packed like sardines inside. If the conductor is too aggressive in ‘recruiting’ from your bus stop into his bus, bad news. You also want to ask if the bus is passing ‘Beach road’ at the peak of traffic (I cannot coman die inside traffic). I avoid sitting anywhere near the conductor for obvious reasons; they don’t shave their armpits and like to wear sleeveless shirts, they then go ahead to lift those arms over your head while you make a mental note to wash your hair/weave when you get home (sometimes, you forget the mental note but oh well).
    I hate sitting beside men who feel their N200 buys them the privilege of spreading their legs yakata. Of course you ask if they could close their legs a little but consider yourself lucky if they oblige you. I really cannot ‘fight’ in Lagos bus, my Yoruba elders have wisely said “many are mad, but clothes cover it”. What about the drivers who conveniently forget to tell you that Ologolo, Eleganza, New Road are not bus stops and wickedly drive you to some far away land where you have to walk back to your base.
    Bobosteke, I use an iPhone and yes, it blocks out the loud music and overdoes sef when you’re using the earpiece that came with iPhone. I was in a bus one day and a loud ‘remix’ of Woju came on, only they used vulgar words like ‘pussy’ and worse words, the speed with which I plugged my ears was epic. I can tolerate some pangolo music but that was the lowest level of pangolo music.

    • Bobosteke & Lara Bian

      April 22, 2016 at 8:29 pm

      @Koffie
      Hai Phone kon do the maugic? There is hope for us yet.
      P.S Don’t tell any one but I love reading your comments.

  37. Bobosteke & Lara Bian

    April 22, 2016 at 8:02 pm

    Thanks to everyone who read and commented. I truly enjoyed writing this (as I did writing Talk, Dark and Affordable). I must say the commenters served a tall glass of humour right along with their experiences. It was great to share.

    Special thanks to BN for featuring this as well. Oritse wa bu wo wino.

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