Chinyere Okoye writes about the life of a Lagos commercial driver away from the maddening crowd at the bus parks and the irritation of passengers
A bus drives slowly by, its headlights blurry with damaged side mirrors. Soon, the occupant pulls to a stop. A bulky man alights from the driver’s seat of the bus painted in the yellow that separates commercial buses in Lagos from other vehicles plying the roads within the metropolis.
Undecided for a moment Christain Adebowale stands in the hall and looks around. Then he quips, “I am a Danfo driver, so what?”
In Lagos, commercial drivers are treated with disdain and disrespect by their passengers and they know it. But Adebowale says most commercial drivers in Lagos are respected husbands and dads in their homes away from the maddening crowd and loud voices at different bus stops in Nigeria’s biggest commercial city.
In an encounter with this reporter in his home at Ojoo, Adebowale lives a normal life. It’s as if he has had no contact with the bus stations as a commercial driver.
He says: “We are not bad people, but our passengers feel big in their ties and shirts and so they insult us at will; many of them are just intolerant, abusive and hate the job of a driver, but someone must do it.”
Yes, Adebowale is a typical commercial driver in Lagos whose day starts before other residents come to town. “I must be at the bus-station by 4.am because passengers start coming in at about 5.am. It’s important that you get there ahead of them, if you must make it in Lagos where there is no room for sluggish life anyway,” he says.
And when their day starts, it starts with controversy that often comes with irritation by the passengers. Most times they drive like Olympians in a race for gold. And with disregards for traffic rule they change lanes at the stroke of a finger and when anyone dares them, they become angry and spit out venom like an angry snake ready for a fight.
Thus, many think they have no future ahead of them and are quick to conclude that commercial drivers have no home to be homemakers; however Adebowale’s life reveals something different.
An indigene of Ogun State who hails from Ijebu-Igbo in Ijebu North Local Government Area of Ogun State, being a bus driver for him means a dream to become successful, just like any other person next door.
He says: “I may be a bus driver with not so much recognition and career support in Nigeria unlike other places, but I’m building a future with it. I have a stable home with just one wife. Our marriage has been blessed with three boys, and they are doing very great in schools. They attend private schools in FESTAC. My first son is in primary 5 and I pay eighty-two thousand naira per term as school fees on him alone.”
His life reveals commercial bus drivers also think of big cities like London too. Adebowale adds, “through his bus business I have been able to send my younger brother abroad to look for greener pastures for the family.”
And that political leadership or politics is not for a group people. “Currently, I am in year three at Lagos State University, studying political science because I want to go back to my state to help the people. I have an idea of what good governance should be, so I would be joining a political party to contest in an election once I am through with my study. In the next five years, I see myself as councilor in my State. I am aiming to a greater height in the future because most time people see us the drivers as touts or street urchins. I also want to encourage people to do something with their lives rather than waiting for the government to give them job,” he declares.