Dear Nigerian Husband,
I know you’re a man of class. I’ve kept this away from you, kind of. But I was once a Danfo bus conductor. For a day.
Hang on, don’t crash the plane. Let me explain.
“If you no get change, no enter.”
If you’ve been to Lagos or have lived in Lagos and haven’t heard that sentence, your time in Lagos has been a waste.
When I “permanently” moved to Lagos on January 2, the thought of hopping into one of those “dreadful, dirty and death trap” of buses shook me. I had heard of people stories and read many on Twitter of life in Danfo buses: guys intentionally rubbing off on women’s breasts, pockets picked, poor oral hygiene of some passengers, conductors who fight with passengers and drivers who think they’re on Formula One, dooms day preachers, those who jump on without their bus fare and more.
See, I didn’t come to Lagos to come and go and kee myself.
For the first two months or so, the Nigerian Husband drove me to and from work. He took me to the market and everywhere I needed to go to. He enjoyed taking me around. He knew and understood that my big girl panties weren’t big or strong enough to allow me go through the city alone. I was shielded.
I kind of enjoyed his company and he did mine too, but we both knew he couldn’t continue being my personal driver or companion all along. Plus, my “I just got back” money, which wasn’t a lot, by the way, would finish in a flash if I was to take Uber to and from work every day of the week.
I knew one day, my days of enjoyment would come to an end and the Lagos I was running away from would face me square in the face. It did!
My first experience on the Danfo was pretty much uneventful. I was expecting noise in the form of political arguments from passengers. Instead everyone was quiet, except Wale – my former colleague – and I. The morning of the first Danfo ride, I left home prepared: I changed my handbag to a sling bag with several zips and compartments to keep the pick-pockets away. Imagine my happiness when no one tried to touch me or grab my phone or my bag!
We even went as far as the famous Ikeja Under Bridge. I went back to the office with nothing but good reviews of my bus ride.
Fast forward to weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks after that and nothing has changed. In fact, I’ve metamorphosed into one of the passengers who is quick to ask others for change inside the bus. I’m no longer scared of “if you no get change, no enter,” from bus conductors. I enter with my 500 Naira notes and quickly collect the 100 naira notes from others and pay for three or four and ask for change. I’m bad like that.
June 28, 2018.
I ditched my fancy office job for a life as a Danfo Bus conductor.
My place of work then, had an event for high school students and after the day-long conference, we hired a Danfo bus to take some of the items left over from the hall back to the office.
After the bus driver had offloaded the items at the office, it was time for me to get home but I didn’t know my village people had other plans for me.
Lo and behold, the driver didn’t have a conductor and he was headed my way. My dream of becoming a bus conductor flashed right before me. I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to bully passengers, possibly even throw them off MY bus for not having the correct change or for being carried away and not stopping at the right bus stop
I offered my service and the guy accepted.
My not-so-Caribbean, not-so-Nigerian accent and me being a lady wasn’t going to stop me from that dream. The fact that I wore a very clean white shirt wasn’t going to hinder me either.
I hopped on and away we went.
Before I knew it, I had two passengers.
“Ikeja, waso. Waso Ikeja.” I yelled as the Danfo reached Onigbongbo Bus Stop.
“If you no get change, no enter oh.” I yelled with my voice as deep as it could get, which by the way, wasn’t deep at all, it only made my few passengers laugh. When not yelling “Waso Ikeja,” I chatted with the passengers.
When we got to Customs – a landmark close to Ikeja Under Bridge – there was traffic and then the bus began having issues.
See eh, that’s when bus conductors begin to see the venom of passengers. Often, passengers would alight and begin to demand for their money back. I’ve seen instances where one or two conductors were beaten for refusing to give refunds. (I can’t confirm or deny that I once led a bus load of passengers into mutiny over refund from bus that broke down half way to the intended stop.)
If those people thought I was going to stay there for them to collect their refunds, they thought wrong. The way I just announced that I was a passenger like them eh! Lol
But they all knew I was just having a great time.
I’ve never had a bad time on a Danfo and I pray I never do, but I thoroughly enjoyed my stint as a Bus conductor. Perhaps to make it more real next time, I might have a portion or two of whatever serum it is that makes their voices husky and eyes red.
“If you no get change, no enter.”