Experience; Non-Fiction

Lagos Hustle 4 – Assistant Conductors

Sometimes I wish I was an Octopus, so I can slap eight people at once! Life doesn’t have any hands but it can sure give you a slap sometimes…”

So last night as I was heading home in a public transport, the conductor started requesting for his fee. As usual in Lagos, people started asking each other… “How much are you paying with? Do you have change?”

The ones paying with change handed to their seat partners their N200 note and continued with either pressing their phones, looking outside or just closing their eyes. As the conductor collected his money seat by seat, he got to a guy who handed him N150. He looked at the guy, hissed and moved on to the next person and the next. He again got to another man who handed him N100. He looked at the man for a while and said “Oga, e joor, e fun mi ni owo mi [Oga, please, give me my money].”

Ehn, gba Owo mi naa [Yes, take my money now]. Abi how much to Lekki?

Oga, e wo ni pattern eh? [Oga, which pattern is this?]. Shebi I shout Ajah straight? Ehn, which kain N100 you come dey give me, na N200. Abeg, pay me my money jare.”

The man looked distraught. “Ahn ahn… from Oniru to Lekki na N200? Oga, na N100 oo.”

The conductor hissed “Shey you no hear when I dey shout Ajah straight, Ajah? Abi you no see all those people wey I tell say na Ajah I dey stop, say I no they go Lekki, Chevron or Igbo Efon? Awon werey [mad people]. Oga pay me  my money joor, which kain Lekki?”

The man kept quiet and held his N100. The conductor continued “Oga for front, abeg my money.”

The guy stretched out his hand to hand him his N150. The conductor started shouting again, “Which kain pattern be this one? Oga, why you dey give me N150? You no see say everybody dey pay N200? Which one be your own? Abeg oo, make you no let us stain shirt for small change oo. Fun mi owo mi complete [give me my complete money].”

The guy in the front then shouted “Conductor, Na Igbo Efon I dey drop ni. Why I go give you N200?”

The conductor started laughing and shouting at the same time… “Abi una don dey see this werey people? Una wan use sense for una papa? Which kain Igbo Efon? When you dey enter, you no hear Ajah straight, N200, Ajah? Abi you no see all the people wey dey bus-stop wey bin wan go Ajah? Why you come enter? No be for your eye I tell two people say I no dey go Chevron, say na Ajah straight? Oga, pay me my N200 oo, I no dey go Igbo-Efon, any bus-stop na N200. If you no get N200, why you come enter?”

The conductor continued ranting saying “Which kain pattern be this sef? Which kain pattern? Na wa oo…” and I felt bad for him.

I mean, why are Lagosians like this? Truly, the conductor had stated very clearly that he was not stopping anywhere asides from Ajah Market and he had refused 2 ladies from entering because they had asked, “Chevron nko? Lekki nko?” and he had said “I no dey stop there, na Ajah straight.”

The 2 men were obviously looking for trouble. I mean if they wanted so bad to get home on time, they would have asked honestly and not try to claim smart or better still, pay the N200 and stop wherever or better still buy their own car. I was disgusted by their behavior plus I did not even want the bus to keep stopping up and down at several bus-stops. I just wanted them to actually drive straight. Forgive my nonchalant behavior but how many people really care about the other person in Lagos? Plus the guy going to Igbo-Efon was a big ass and I was really pissed at him. He actually told me to come down initially that there was no space for me, on a place meant for 4 people plus I am really tiny plus I was going to Ajah and he was not!

I just looked on as I continued my wishful thinking for a better life.

The conductor on the other hand did not give up his rants. He kept asking no one in particular, “Abeg, which pattern be this? You no go talk where you wan go, you go hear Ajah, you go just enter like say you no hear, you go come dey speak srinsrin when them ask you to pay. I be fool? Money wey I don calculate…who tell you say I dey go Lekki or Igbo-Efon? Ajah plenty for road, you no let them enter. Which kain pattern? Wetin dey…”

As he continued on, one man seated behind spoke up, “Oga, you don dey talk too much. I dey with you on this one but just keep quiet. When you reach Igbo-Efon and he no pay, you carry am go Ajah.”

Another one responded “No mind all these people. Oga, as e don talk say na Igbo-Efon he dey go, just reason with am. E don enter, e don enter! Wetin we wan come do? The man wey dey go Lekki, you no see as him quiet? Reason with am, e fit be say e no get extra money unto say e don calculate how much e wan spend for road.”

The conductor calmed down and replied “Oga no be say I no go reason with them but na say that guy wey dey front dey carry shoulder like say na him get sense pass everybody wey dey here. Them dey do like say dem no hear Ajah straight.”

The second man then suggested to the Lekki man to beg the conductor and pay what he has. The Lekki man quietly begged the conductor and the conductor collected the N100. The conductor ignored the Igbo-Efon guy and started counting his money. The other two men joined him in calculating the fees as they counted heads in the bus and rounded up the supposed sum. The conductor did not get the accurate amount, so he said “E be like say one person never pay oo.”

I rolled my eyes and wondered who else the one person would be if not the Igbo-Efon guy. To make matters worse, the two men started telling stories of how people entered a bus and refused/neglected to pay the bus fare. They kept accusing ‘one person’ in the bus who was yet to pay and is keeping quiet. In my mind, I was like… “So you people do not even know that this Igbo-Efon guy has not paid ni? All these assistant conductors making unnecessary noise.”

The first guy then started “You will be surprised to see that the person who has not paid is a Christian. No Muslim will behave like this and refuse to pay their bus fare. I was in a BRT one day and there was a woman seated beside me. She was obviously a christian. I noticed she was holding her money and pressing her phone as well. She did not hand it over, she just held it and pretended not to hear when the conductor was collecting his fare. After a while, the conductor realized that his money was not complete and started saying, somebody has not paid oo…who neva pay? The woman just ignored the question and continued tapping on her phone like no man’s business. I just kept wondering why she was ignoring the man’s plea. After a while, I said ‘Conductor, you never collect her money oo’ as I pointed at her and she goes ‘Oh, sorry I forgot.’ I was weak that day. How can she say she forgot? Money that she was holding in pretense not to pay? Nigerians ehn, we keep doing ourselves. These little money we hold away, it’s thievery and we lose more the next day without realizing it.”

The second guy responded “Oga, my own self dey. One day I enter bus going to CMS and everybody pay. The guy wey siddon beside me just dey make phone call, e no know say I know say na fake call. Him just dey make call dey distract the conductor sortey Him no pay. The conductor sef no notice but my mind dey do me jim jim. I no fit just swallow spit look when I know say person neva pay. God go judge me and my conscience no go rest. As I reach TBS wey I for come down, I just tell the conductor ‘Oga, this man never pay oo’ and I come down. Make the man come beat me for my house. Ahn ahn, and them go they shout government na thief but them, they no dey see the small small ones wey dem dey do.” 

The conductor started asking, “Abeg oo, who never pay?”

I was tempted to say “Oga, you no know say na this Igbo-Efon guy remain? Why you dey disturb us?” but I just kept my cool.

Later on, after the Lekki man had alighted at his stop, the two ‘assistant conductors’ informed the conductor to make a decision and collect the Igbo-Efon guy’s money so that he doesn’t loose out entirely. The Igbo-Efon guy grudgingly gave out his N150 without so much as an apology and alighted with a frown. The conductor just ignored his looks and asked the driver to move on.

I was very delighted when we finally got to Ajah. The journey had been a long one and the Lagos hustle was still real.

PS: If you just stumbled on my post for the first time, you can find other baby series in the ‘Lagos Hustle’ corner at Lagos Hustle 1 , Lagos Hustle 2 [Suicide mission] and Lagos Hustle 3 – Forgetfulness . Enjoy!

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