I checked my wristwatch and realised I had been on that spot for more than twenty minutes. Everything was beginning to irritate me – not just the delay but also the sight of where we stood. Coming here wasn’t a daily routine for me, no, but whenever it was getting to the end of the month and the month’s pay wasn’t at hand one must manage till pay day. So, boarding Molues has almost become a monthly routine for me. It’s a temptation that seemed impossible to overcome every month end before pay day. I refer to this period as my passion week, yes, this is that time when a man must “patch up” things till pay day.
Despite the fact that there wasn’t much money in my wallet, yet I still had to show some class and prove to the people as we all waited for the next vehicle to show up that I wasn’t in their class, na condition make crayfish bend, if not, Alex Adamolekun Esq. will not be there to board a molue. As the prim and proper gentleman that the law school taught me to be, I allowed everyone who was in a rush to enter while I took a graceful stroll into the gigantic vehicle which I liked to see as the leviathan of the highway. It wasn’t that I was really a gentle man but I couldn’t just allow some nasty looking persons step on my Italian shoes or make an indelible stain of oil or grease on my Gucci suit.
How would I explain to the other associates of J.K Olowoiyo & Co. that I boarded a molue? We all knew that we were all into a big game of deception but I wouldn’t sell myself out cheaply. I once sighted one of our most respected associates in one mama put shack, he walked into the office with pride like he just had a swell time at Southern Sun. I couldn’t burst his bubble because we all did funny things during Passion Week but we kept it as secrets, we only made fun of those whose secrets had been blown open by their own folly. While still waiting for the mad rush to be over, I constantly reminded myself that I wasn’t going to allow myself be the butt of jokes at the law firm of Olowoiyo.
After carefully scanning the whole vehicle in search of a place to sit where I could savour the fresh breeze, I chose a virgin roll. As the first person on that roll I had the luxury of sitting next to the window. My few experiences here have taught me that the roll next to the driver’s is the best. The roll immediately behind the driver was the best place to be because it afforded one the opportunity of seeing it all – when the driver bought a cup of kaikai, when he gave kola to the highway policeman, when he was trying to take a dangerous turn etc. Really, the enjoyment that came with that front row was nothing much but considering my inquisitive mind I always liked to know whether a driver was one of the few who didn’t drive under the influence of alcohol in Lagos, whether the Policemen had raised their price from N50 and such other inconsequencial things; but now that the slot had been taken I had to be content with just seeing the periphery of our journey.
We had not gone far into the journey; it couldn’t have been more than five minutes into the journey when someone from the front roll rose up from his seat. There were no surprises; we all knew he was there to sell one commodity or the other. In a sonorous and well polished voice that could not be mistaken for an illiterate’s he said,
“Good afternoon my mummies, my daddies, my brothers and sisters.”
Not waiting for any reply, because he knew too well that the people of Lagos were not used to unnecessary exchange of banters, he continued with his business,
“I am a representative of the fastest growing Indian manufacturer of household wares.”
No one was surprised at his introduction, every seller in a Molue was an important person, if not from the best pharmaceutical company in the world, it would be from the most recognised brand in the world or the most trusted name in candies and lollipops. Except that this one added a little flavour to his description – Indian. No doubt, India is the new trend in Lagos, nay Nigeria. Our people rush to India for medical treatments, our students rely on Indian textbooks and we enjoy watching Indian movies. The pathetic side of the story for me is that India was colonised just like Nigeria and got independence just some few years before us but now they are way ahead of us. I had come across one who introduced himself as “the sales rep of the next big name in toiletries.” Lagos with its titular madness.
“I have a product here and I will show you how it works, it is called the 68-in-1 machine,” he continued.
Lagosians with their obsession for things that could multi task! Who would blame them, the poverty level pushed people to that extent. He began to show how the product worked and within minutes, people had started buying the stuff. Even yours sincerely was not left out. Many heeded to his warning, the usual line employed by all marketers of his ilk,
“I don’t know when next you will see me here, our products are in high demand, its better you buy for your friends and loved ones”
and as if by a stroke of magic, the dude sold off his entire wares.
He alighted at the next bus stop since he had achieved his aim, he was no wayfarer, just a marketer. I couldn’t but continue to think of how this guy was able to get everyone in the bus to buy his stuffs, including the driver. I thought the guy deserved a better place to practice his marketing skills, with his impeccable spoken English language and understanding of the human relationship I believe he ought to be in one office in Washington as a consultant on sales, this guy should author a book, say, – “Buyology: 71 laws to get anyone to buy anything you have for sales.” But his story only reminded me of several people in Lagos that are daily wasting away. Their talents were being under-utilised.
As I kept thinking about a better future for the young salesman I was brought back to reality with the cries of my fellow commuters. From what I was able to pick together, a very thirsty passenger had shown interest in buying a drink while our bus was still held up in the traffic but the elderly woman selling the wares could not catch up with the now moving bus.
“Were ni driver yi o,” (this driver is mad o) said one passenger. The driver, not one to be beaten to it, returned the curse,
“Iyalaya baba e ni were.” (Your paternal grandmother is the mad one).
The passenger not wanting to accept defeat and keep quiet replied,
“igba ta ni ko duro lo se mo pe o ma te ina mo moto, baba were” (It was when we told you to stop that you knew increased your speed, mad man).
Before the driver could equalise, he was consoled by those who sat near him to just keep quiet.
“Ha, eyan o ki ba obirin exchange words beyen,” (One doesn’t exchhange words with women like that) one of the mediators said. The driver said calmly,
“E se jo, mo mo na, obirin were yen lo bi mi ninu, mo ni oru e nle nah.” (Thank you, I know, it was the mad woman that infuriated me. I can as well be her husband.) As if struck by an invisible lightning, the woman who had until that time remained quiet burst out with renewed strength and was heard shouting back,
“gbogbo ara ile e ni were. Ewo were yi to ni oun ni iru mi nle, oko mi o si ni category e.” (All your relatives are mad. See this mad man saying he can be my husband, my husband is not in your category.)
I laughed at the mention of ‘category.’ We loved classes so much, everyone tried to put himself on a higher class while in truth we aren’t better than one another. The driver refused to continue with the altercation, I later discovered that he was handed a bottle of dry gin by his conductor and this really cooled his temper.
While all these were going on, I could see from the driver’s side mirror, a miracle and a feat for a molue because most usually had none, a young man of about 22 years coming in full speed behind our vehicle. He ran like one being chased by a cheetah. My view was aided by the fact that I was inside this highway leviathan and could view everything happening on the highway as if I was on a mountaintop. He stopped at a window in front of me and gave a bottle of water to the woman who had been involved in the verbal war with the driver. She handed him N70 naira and he turned to leave. I saw him as he turned to go back, his peers at the spot where the bottle neck was were cheering him and he exhumed a big grin.
“Bobo yen sa anything,” (that guy is a great sprinter) the man who sat at my back said. As the discussions continued I was able to understand that the young runner was well known at that axis. I know that if the young runner had better exposure, a good coach and great training he would pose a great threat to Usain Bolt, but here he was crude, unrefined and wasting away! If he could pull off that speed because of N70, he would shock the world in a contest of $10, 000.
I knew I had seen too many wastes for one day. I took my mind away from the road. I was only able to take my eyes away but not my mind. I continued to consider some other things that I had encountered. I remembered my last trip to Abuja while going for a matter at the Supreme Court, our driver stopped at the Lokoja park to avail us all the opportunity of relaxing a bit, there is a woman who sold roast chcken, I swear, her chicken tasted better than those offered by many of these expensive eateries, but without the needed assistance from the government, she was just one of our several crude resources.
Nigeria is filled with millions of crude and unrefined human resources walking the streets, doing menial jobs, literally wasting away because our government does not care. Once the big man in Abuja is comfortable he can utter nonsense and say we are comfortable as a people.
I was jerked back to life as the vehicle reached its last bus stop and all the passengers were alighting. I was reminded that I was also a crude and unrefined resource myself, or how else would you explain that with all the degrees in my kitty, I couldn’t afford a decent means of transportation other than this molue; even the driver was wasting away because any human that could safely manoeuvre this gigantic metal placed on a Mercedes 911 engine can pilot a ship. The conductor was also wasting away, the skills with which he collected money from passengers and knew who to give what change to could be made used of in the banking hall. The man who successfully convinced the driver not to speak out was wasting his ADR skills. Many of the passengers would do well as analysts.
As I walked home from that point, I couldn’t but just notice that many of the men and women that I come across were part of the wastage, they deserved more than they were getting. Even before I could recover from my thoughts I saw two young men entertaining the crowd as they exchanged blows, the dexterity they showed was one fit for heavywight championships and not cheap fights on the street where all they get to show for it is a broken nose, a missing tooth and perhaps one day behind police bars.
I am @seunalade
PS: The big Yellow buses called Molue were popular in Lagos from the 70s till 2009 when they were replaced by the BRT buses. This is an old story I just dug up.