Kamoru is a Lagos based Danfo Driver. For those not familiar with the term, a Danfo driver drives any of the popular yellow and black striped buses that dot the city of Lagos. Some of them like Kamoru, will make the heart of his alter-ego, Lewis Hamilton, skip a beat or two by their dare devilry stunts behind the wheels. Suddenly, Lewis Hamilton behind one of those Danfo buses in Lagos, does not look so farfetched. In the world of make-believe, of course.
Kamoru plies the Mile-2 – Airport Road route on the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, one of the popular bus passenger routes in Lagos. In fact, some curious behavioural scientists I know, have been considering the resilience quotient of the drivers on that route, considering the tough challenges they put up with as they navigate most of the unpredictable diversions on the route almost on a daily basis since repair works began on the road.
Kamoru has shed some tears in the last one week because of the frustration caused by the gridlock he’s been facing, especially after doing his best to manoeuvre his way, using any of the more popular Hamilton moves.
Yesterday, he decided to drive against traffic – an expression that has almost lost its meaning for drivers and commuters who use the road often. A journey of 40minutes easily stretches to 2hours or more. Beginning from the popular Cele-Bus Stop, Kamoru drove his passengers, whom he charged N200 each for the trip. When he got to Hassan Bus Stop, he diverted into Limca Way. Then turned right at the end to join the road leading up to the Iyana-Isolo Bridge, which was already experiencing its own gridlock. He tried to push his way through but without success. It was his 3rd trip of the day having started since 6am. By this time, it was 9:45 in the morning. The way things were going, ‘Deliver Money,’ (that is, the amount of money he delivers to the owner of the bus at the close of work every evening) was not looking like it. Like had been the case for the past three weeks. He’s been coming behind in his obligations. He was so caught up in these thoughts that he did not see the small ditch by the kerb before he landed in it. Immediately, the engine died. And some passengers, as if on cue, spoke out at once, ‘Ehen.’ “Shebi, you said we should pay N200. God don catch you” a particular middle-aged woman pushed further. She had this grin across her face as if she enjoyed Kamoru’s predicament. But Kamoru was not ready for a fight. Not today.
He took off his shirt, got down from the bus and went under to see what the matter was, and what he could do. ‘See how this one is looking like a thief,’ the same female passenger bared her fangs at the bus conductor who looked like a weather-beaten chicken in the rain. The fighter seemed to have died in him too, as he crouched low beside his boss trying to work some magic under the bus. Some moments later, Kamoru came from under the bus and asked him to put the passengers in another bus.
After the passengers had been sorted, Kamoru got back in the bus. And began to wail. The tears came quickly, showing solidarity with his broken feelings.
“Oh, God,” he began, ‘I am here because I want to give my family a living. I don’t want to beg. If they won’t respect me because I’m a driver, can’t they see I’m a married man. Doesn’t she know that I have a woman, a wife, at home? Oh, God, I’m a father too. Some people call me Papa, even though I’m a driver! They have their jobs or businesses from where they expect wages to look after their families. This is my own office. You know I feed my family from this bus. Is it a crime if I make changes in my routes or charge higher fares because of these conditions? Why do they want government and their employers to understand their commuting plight and they don’t want to understand drivers? They have been sorted and they have gone but I am here. They get to their various bus stops and disembark, while we have to sit through the tension and frustration of this madness called gridlock. They carry some pressure and disembark but we carry it through until we get to our destination. Is it fair? When will all this suffering end?”