OF LAGOS, TRAFFIC AND THE TREKKER’S DREAM. By Debo Adejugbe
Episode 12 here
“Experience has shown that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.” ― Thomas Jefferson
Don’t take it as ramblings when I tell you that I’ve hustled relentlessly in Lagos. I don’t mean the usual Home-to-office-back-home kind of stuff. I mean, I’ve done the heavy lifting, looking for ways to make ends meet in conventional but tiring and awkward situations. I’ve worked for big companies-by all standards-and I’ve done my best to be a solo flier when things were tough. Living day-to-day on the precipice of abundance but having little to boast of, I’m sure you can identify with me in more ways than one.
So, I’m one of those that can tell you stories about the hustling that we endure inside the nooks and crannies of Lagos. The occasional trekking that we undertake to subsidise the meagre ‘T-fare’ in our pockets or the several inconveniences that pervades such exercises and experiences are legends.
One thing stood out: we trekked because we wanted to. Because we wanted to ease the pressure off the poverty crying out of our pockets and embrace our artificial means and ideas of “physical exercise”.
There is a new motto in town: Lagos, a trekker’s Dream.
The day was November 6, 2012 and I decided to “bus” my way to Ikeja. The very small amount of fuel in my car coupled with the sure traffic jam on the way made my mind up for me. I spent more than thirty minutes before getting a bus from my area and upon that, I had to hustle to get on board because the commuters waiting by the bus-stop would fill three buses effortlessly. Same thing happened on the bus I took to Ikeja. I alighted at Olowu bus-stop.
Ordinarily, I’ll take an okada straight to where I had my appointments, but I couldn’t even sight one. The tricycles were useless because everywhere on the road was blocked with cars. Thus my trekking began; I had walked for five minutes before realising that I was in the esteemed company of several well-dressed individuals soldiering on like the Isrealites, marching towards ikeja-under-bridge or whatever destination they had in mind. Pointless to say I was drenched in sweat by the time I got to Anifowoshe.
That was half the story though! I was in for worse on my way back home in the evening. After waiting for few minutes under the bridge, I had the feeling that I would have to wait for hours to get a bus. So I moved on, with my ears wide open nonetheless, for the weed-induced shouts of available routes by “Lagos Bus-Conductors”, which sounded like war-cries-but none said “Berger-Straight”, so I kept walking. I was two bus-stops away from Balogun (those plying that route understand how long I’ve walked) when I stopped to relax and finally wait for a bus.
My thoughts oscillated between Fashola-Okada-Fashola-Okada-ACN-Okada-Fashola-Okada-Okada-Okada………. It was an inner cry for help. Help came though, not in form of an Okada, but an old jalopy bus that was already falling apart, with weak seats and a door held in place by a piece of cloth tied through the back window and the door itself. We don see a lot for Lagos, believe me.
The real story was how I struggled to get into the bus, wallet held down inside my right back pocket with my right hand, blocking intruders to my space with the left and a thrust forward into the bus with my head, several bodies knocking me from side to side. I held on, with my eye on the price, and I eventually got a seat at the back, with a hooked sliding window on one side and fumes dancing azonto and etighi all around. It was going to be a long and hot ride home.
And believe me, it was!
The obvious sad part was that the “Gala” and “La Casera” hawkers I’d come to adore and cherish were nowhere to be found. The car was moving at snail pace and my shirt was soaked by the time we got to Allen Avenue forty-five hellish minutes later. The discussions in the bus were centered on Fashola and ACN.
“Imagine what we are going through because we voted Fashola” the woman beside the driver blurted out in frustration.
It was the push the other passengers needed. All their pent-up emotions unleashed in no time.
“Na so all of them dey do na. You never hear of wetin dem dey do for Ekiti and Oyo? Hmmm, you never see anything.” Another replied from my side with a smirk of his face.
“No mind dem oga! Even gala sef, person no fit buy. Na wa o!” added a woman sitting directly behind the driver.
It was getting interesting….
“He is not even from Lagos. He is just doing rubbish and executing Tinubu’s plans for domination.” cut in another, angrily this time.
“Let me tell you guys, he is planning that everyone should return to their villages, I heard this from a credible source in the government house. That’s why he banned Okada and hawking on the road. “That was the contribution of a man, dressed in a black suit with a tie still around his neck, sweating profusely as he tried to show everyone how informed he was.
He went further “did he try all these during his first term? Is there any alternative to what he is doing? He is just making life difficult for the populace. Rubbish!”
It got to a stage where I couldn’t make out anything sensible out of their unique emotional imprints anymore. I switched off my brain, and could only notice the movement of their lips, their gesticulations and the desperate looks on their faces that accompanied each labored point. They all had something to say.
I couldn’t ignore when a TECHNO phone rang beside me though. With its unique loudspeaker belching out “Let’s go there” from 9ce, you wouldn’t ignore too.
The owner was equally as loud – if not louder – than the phone. “Hahahaha. How are you? Will you be in Ilaro tomorrow? I want you to help with the wiring of that last room we are about to fix the POP. You see……….” The other guy’s line went dead. He was getting irritated of this one way line of questioning, since he was the one that called.
The TECNO guy checked his top-up balance, and then dialed back. The shouting continued, there was nothing anyone could do other than wait for him to be through before continuing the Fashola debate. The whole episode with this phone guy went down in Yoruba; just imagine how loud it was. Yes! You are right.
From their moods, learned or otherwise-nobody gives a damn about the intentions of Fashola and his army of Okada-seizing LASTMA and Police officers. No one cares about the romancing thoughts of Lagos-the mega city; they barely understand the steps taken to get to this point. They just want a government that cares about opinions and the effects of her policies on their lives.
They want alternatives to be in place before their darling Okada is taken from them – never mind the fact that they all abused Okadas when it was a fashionable part of our everyday lives – forever.
With all the hustle of Lagos I’ve been in, I can tell you that I suffered that day, because a choice had been taken away from me. It should have been my choice to decide on whether to board a bus or take a motorcycle, but then we employ them to make these choices for us, and he definitely is making them.
For now, drink excess water to make up for the extra sweat. Buy cheap 10ml perfumes as an extra accessory, pack a pair of bathroom slippers in your bags and knapsacks, an extra T-shirt and combat shorts would help also. Above all, learn the act of calling in sick when too tired – that might be your saving grace someday or sacking grace.
I’ll leave you with the words of Cornelius Tacitus- a Roman Empire Senator and Historian, who said: “The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.”
And that of Derrick Bell, one of the the originators of the “Critical Race Theory, who posited that: “Power in the hands of the reformer is no less potentially corrupting than in the hands of the oppressor.”
Think about it.
As for me and my house, it’s the Trekker’s dream we’re living – exercise your lives the Fashola-way not minding the inconveniences.