Lagos Stage in Nigeria is an interesting city to live in. With an estimated population of 21 million as of 2016, the roads play host to over 5 million cars and 200,000 commercial vehicles (when the national average stands at 11 vehicles per kilometre). In 2017, Lagos State records an average of 227 vehicles per kilometre of the road on a daily basis.
The cars that ply these roads range from luxury cars, averagely priced wheels and Lagos public vehicles that serve the transportation needs of millions of people.
It’s perfectly okay if you don’t own a car right now but it’s not okay if you don’t fully understand how the Lagos public vehicles work. We’ll make it easier for you by breezing through the different characters you’re likely to meet in Lagos public vehicles. Here we go:
The Yoruba Demons and Sweet Boys
In Nigeria, a Yoruba demon is typically a young man of Yoruba descent with the uncanny gift to effortlessly make ladies fall head over heels in love with him. Sometimes, they are tagged ‘Sweet Boys’ for the same reason we just cited. These guys get into Lagos public vehicle with the ultimate plan of flirting and snapping up a date. To achieve their goals, they don’t pick random sits. Rather, they look for vacant sits beside or behind girls they deem pretty and attractive. They are quite good at this and sometimes, score by impressing a girl to the point where she willingly releases her phone number.
The Natural Problem
The fastest way to identify them is by their size. They are physically on the bulky size or glaringly over-sized. A typical commercial bus sits 4 passengers per row but because of their bulging frames, the excess volume of their body spills into the space allotted to other passengers. What you experience when you have to share seats with such people is a struggle to fit your body into the available space that is left. You should, however, hope you don’t end up having more than one ‘natural problem’ sharing sitting space with you.
The Anointed Ones
They simply love to pray and might even go as far as sharing flyers or religious pamphlets with you. Such passengers feel compelled to say a prayer for occupants in the vehicle and follow up by inviting occupants of the bus to one church programmes or the other. When this is done, they go on to preach about the end-time and the need to become born again Christians. “They usually start with lines like: ‘I am here to share the word of God with you’,” a Lagos resident and recruitment expert, Omolara Savage noted.
The Fake Passengers
Be wary of anyone who struggles to get into a bus with you during ‘rush hour’ and gets in but after sitting for a minute or less, he/she finds a reason to exit the bus under the pretence of forgetting something somewhere. The moment this happens, ensure you run a quick scan of your pockets, bag and purse to be sure nothing has been stolen from your bag. The problem with such passengers is that they have no real intention to truly board the vehicle. Their goal is simply to distract you by pretending to rush into the bus with you while using the opportunity to pick your pockets or bag.
Big Money Spenders
These ones never have a reasonable denomination of the naira to pay the conductor. A classic example is where the fare for the trip is 50 naira. These passengers keep a straight face and hand the conductor a 1,000 naira note and expect a balance of 950 naira. Warnings from conductors don’t deter people like this from boarding the bus. Conductors detest such passengers as they make their jobs difficult especially where the conductor has to deal with multiple passengers who pay their fare with high denominated naira notes.
The Couples of Circumstance
It is not uncommon to find a frustrated conductor threatening to arrange a marriage for a group of commuters in his bus. This happens when the conductor finds himself in a situation where he is unable to give a group of commuters their balance mainly because they made payment for their fare with a highly denominated naira note. In such cases, the conductor hands two or more commuters a particular denomination of the naira note and asks them to split it amongst themselves. For instance, when 5 passengers are expected to collect a balance of 100 naira each, the conductor hands them a 500 naira note and asks them to split the money amongst themselves.
The Jezebel Sisters
If you suffer the misfortune of sharing a bus seat with a ‘Jezebel sister,’ you’ll find yourself trying to shield your eyes from thin and probing strands of hair that constantly gets lifted by the wind. This is quite common with ladies who wear wigs that have long and untamed strands of hair. In such a situation, you’ll simply have to hope the ride is a short one or tell her to hold her hair in her hands to prevent it from getting into your eyes.
The One Who Cannot Stay Awake
Did you know that an estimated 150 million adults in the developing world suffer from sleep-related problems? This perhaps explains why this category of passengers find it difficult to stay awake during commercial bus rides. Sitting beside such people can prove to be a challenge because you could, for instance, suddenly find the head of a sleeping man/woman resting on your shoulder. You can choose to ignore this or you can politely ask him/her to take his/her off your shoulder. Things can get worse for you if the person begins to snore.
The Golden Heart
There are certain commercial buses in Lagos that have two separate sitting arrangements. The first batch of passengers get a seat but when all the seats have been taken, passengers who board the bus afterwards have to stand on their feet. The rush to get to their respective destinations often drives residents of Lagos to opt for the latter. Meanwhile, the ‘Golden Hearts’ are those who voluntarily relinquish their seats for elderly people and pregnant women. They are kind-hearted men and women who sacrifice their convenience to help others in need.
The Mobile Pharmacists
These passengers are predominantly found in commercial buses that are big enough to accommodate an erect adult. They are usually found in such vehicles because of the peculiarities of what they do for a living. Once the bus is in motion, they get up from their seats, turn around to face the other passengers and say something funny to get the attention of everyone on the bus. When they get your attention, they go on to introduce all kinds of drugs to you. They focus on things like a weak erection, sexually transmitted diseases, toothache, malaria, body odour, bad breath, high blood pressure, diabetes, ulcer, acne, skin infections, fevers and a wide assortment of other ailments. They are usually very convincing because, after their pitch, some passengers proceed to buy.
These are men and women you find in commercial vehicles who delve into historicals and facts during conversations that crop up. Such passengers always have something to say about issues discussed by fellow passengers in the vehicle. For instance, if the conversation is about football, the typical ‘Encyclopedia’ can tell you about how Argentina defeated the Nigeria 2-1 in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. He/she could even proceed to say: “Messi opened the goals but Super Eagles equalised through a penalty converted by Victor Moses before Marcos Rojo sealed the victory with an 85th-minute strike…” He would probably wrap it up by adding that with the goal Messi scored, he set a record by scoring the 100th goal of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Such is the passion with which ‘The Encyclopedia’ gets involved in conversations.
The Human Jukebox
They are particularly passionate about their music. Once they get a comfortable seat in a public vehicle, they bring out their mobile device and tap the music-playing app. Once activated, they pick out a playlist, hit the play button and slide the volume bar to its maximum capacity. For them, it doesn’t really matter if the driver already has music playing or not. The reason why they choose to use the speaker on the device over a headphone or earpiece remains a mystery.
They are usually pretty quiet and seemingly mind their own business until they spot something on a fellow passenger’s phone that picks their interest. The moment this happens, the phone of that other passenger might as well be a 43-inch TV set in their living room. For the ‘Cockroaches,’ the courtesy of looking away from the phone or respecting the privacy of the phone owner never arises. They believe that the owners of such phones should be willing to share the visual content and conversation that they contain. Do not be surprised when scrolling through your gallery on your phone, someone sitting beside you politely asks you to scroll back to an image you had just seen to allow him/her to get a better look. Such are the ways of the ‘Cockroaches.’ There have been cases where a ‘Cockroach’ would follow your phone chat to a point where if you delay in responding to a message, they nudge you to respond to the message of the person you are chatting with.
Let’s just cut to the Chase – this category of passengers have no intention to pay their fares. They have an agenda and it’s straightforward – Stay quiet, act invisible and pretend to be busy and hope that the conductor forgets to collect his fare. Sometimes, they pretend to be busy by acting as if they are on a very important phone call. When the conductor asks for their fare, they wave a free hand at the conductor and point to the phone to indicate that the importance of the call. Sometimes, the strategy works. However, there are conductors who are used to these sneaky moves and ensure they pay their fares.
The Assistant Conductors
Most Lagos public buses; especially those popularly painted yellow have just one conductor. The job of the conductor is simple… Announce the various bus-stops, collect the fares from passengers and hand them (those who pay with a denomination of the naira that is higher than the fare) their balance. For instance, when a passenger hands a conductor a 200 naira note for a 100 naira ride, he/she collects a 100 naira balance. However, there are passengers who collect fares from other passengers in a bid to avoid having to struggle with the conductor for the balance of their fares. A classic example is where the fare is N50 and the passenger has a 500 naira note. You’ll hear things like: “Sorry, uncle, are you giving him (conductor) N50?” If you respond in the affirmative, he/she collects your fare and later pays the conductor on your behalf after he/she must have done to same to several other passengers.
Look out for passengers who do not board the bus alone. Ideally, a single bus seat is designed to sit one person but these passengers usually have a friend/relative/colleague/companion who shares their seat with them. One of them occupies the seat while their partner sits on thighs of the one occupying the seat. This is popularly known as ‘lapping.’ You should bear in mind that this sitting arrangement usually distorts the ideal space assigned to each passenger. By carrying an extra person (especially an adult) on your thighs, you encroach into the space assigned to others.
Most times, by the time you find yourself sitting beside a ‘Stinker,’ it’s probably already too late. Stinkers are those passengers who have a serious case of halitosis; popularly known as ‘bad breath.’ You should consider yourself unfortunate if a stinker develops an interest in you and decides to have a long conversation with you. There are only two ways to stop a stinker – The first option is to be brave enough to tell him/her to his/her face that his/her breath genuinely stinks. The alternative is to get off the bus because except a stinker keeps his/her mouth shut, you can’t have a pleasant ride in a commercial vehicle.
As the name suggests, these passengers are always out for food. Such people usually have a bulky/obese appearance and are constantly on the lookout for snacks to buy in Lagos traffic. The foodie does not buy a sausage and a bottle of drink. Those are mere appetisers. A typical foodie already has a staggering amount of meals and snacks in a handbag. He/she could start with boiled eggs, a sausage and a bottle of drink before moving on to bring out fried yam, Akara, yoghurt and groundnut. They usually wrap up the food spree with light snacks like wafers, puff-puff (fried balls of flour, eggs and yeast) potato chips, cherries (also known as Aagbalumo) or plantain chips.
The chatterbox refers to that passenger in Lagos public vehicles who talk about anything and everything. A typical chatterbox has mastered the art of stirring up conversations. To a chatterbox, a 30-minute ride translates into 30 minutes of non-stop talking. They could start a conversation around the driver’s driving style, the weather, the traffic situation, the state of the nation, sports, unemployment, trends, food, the absence of a conductor in the vehicle, other drivers on the road, religious leaders or several other things. The chatterbox thrives when other passengers get involved in his chosen topic or if someone on the bus openly disagrees with his/her point of view. In a case where the chatterbox does not get enough participation, he/she goes into a ranting mode capable of outlasting the duration of the trip.
The Apostles of Frustration
They appear calm on the surface but within them is a pool of anger that has spilt over. The slightest provocation sets them off and the moment, they start, there is no end to their verbal onslaught until the trip comes to an end for either the ‘Apostle of Frustration’ or their object of focus. The typical ‘Apostle of Frustration’ can insult and rain curses on anyone who crosses his/her path. The moment you cross the path of an ‘Apostle of Frustration,’ he/she start with insults and then progresses into cursing your children, husband/boyfriend, your parents, cousins, nieces and nephews, your employer, your clothes, your unborn children. The peak of such outbursts is when the ‘battle axe’ begins to invoke death upon the one whom he/she is pissed at. A ‘battle axe’ is a tireless bag of venom, anger and frustration and it is best to avoid stepping on their toes.
The Flirts: They are the female versions of the sweet boys/Yoruba demons. Girls or women who fall into this category often go as far as sitting in awkward positions that allow sensitive body parts (such as their boobs) rub against your arm, shoulder or chest
Nuclear Weapons: Most Lagos public buses are poorly ventilated. Regardless of this disadvantage, things could get really uncomfortable if you find yourself stuck in traffic; inside a bus, with characters, we have tagged ‘Nuclear Bombs.’ These are passengers whose fart might as well be stink-bombs or rotten eggs laced with sulphur. They pass gas when you least expect it and pollute the little air left in the bus. Be warned! They are bound to ruin your mood.
The Town Criers: When these characters receive calls in a bus, they might as well be giving a speech at a noisy political rally. They are overtly noisy and extremely obnoxious. It’s usually worse when they are upset with the person on the other side of the phone.
The Perfect Gentleman/Lady: In Lagos public vehicles, these individuals respect themselves a great deal and mind their own business. They are courteous and respect the space of others. When they receive calls, you can barely hear the conversation and they conduct themselves in a very responsible way.
Vehicles in Nigeria hit 11.7 million yet there are millions of Nigerians who do not own cars. Many opt for commercial buses but they dealing with rude bus conductors and unpredictable passengers can be a major headache. One of the easiest ways out of this is to buy a car, which can be financed by a car loan. With a car loan, you don’t have to wait till you have all the money you need to buy a car. A car loan allows you to own a car while spreading your repayment over a specified period of time.
Meanwhile, owning a car does not mean you always have to drive it to work every single day of the week. On those days when you opt for Lagos public vehicles as a means of transporting yourself to your destination and back home, you should be on the lookout for the characters we have described in this piece. How frequently do you use public transport? Kindly share your feedback with us in the comment section.
Important Note: This article was not written to mock or ridicule people and their individual differences. Rather, it is written solely to entertain our readers and keep them amused.