Danfo Diaries – 5 Weird Things You Have Likely Seen On A Danfo

Took this photo from atop Cele Pedestrian bridge. Thought I would die standing there, but obviously I didn't. Eeek.
Took this photo from atop Cele Okota Pedestrian bridge. Thought I would die standing there, but obviously I survived. Eeek.

Danfo –  That’s what the popular yellow bus found in Lagos is called. Very wealthy you must be, if you’ve lived in Lagos and never ridden on it. I ride on it almost everyday, and I sometimes wonder what would become of millions of working Lagosians if the danfo system were to be abolished. Its still pretty rustic, but coming from the days of “bolekaja”  which literally means “come down let’s fight”, there has been some progress, though there’s ample room for improvement. Many things have taken place in these danfos ; the fabric of Lagos living, as a matter of fact, is intricately weaved with a vivid yellow, if you get what I mean. Every bus tells a story, from the more recent tricycles “keke napep”  to the very large “molues”. Sometimes when I enter a bus, I look around and wish I could interpret the mysterious tapestry that is a full bus formation: 5, 14, 18, 60 or more breaths meshing together for a brief period in time, never to be entirely together again, ever.

Ack! I’ve started again. Before I get more poetic than this, lets get down to the post proper jarey. I realized I have talked about this city a lot on this blog. From one of my very first posts here, to this one here, to this here post(ensure you read this one. Lorl), to this one and this one. Well, since I blog about what I see, I guess it’s inevitable. Read through all those posts I linked above. You’ll be happier for it, believe me.

So, I’m a bus hopper. The danfo is almost an everyday thing for me that I take it as nothing, being in it. I’ve even once been a temporary bus conductor. Lol. We had no conductor and I took it upon myself to wave people into the bus as the driver kept delaying so he could get a full bus. No, I did not stand and yell “Oshodishodishodi”! Like the bus touts. I remember how Teju Cole described it in his book” everyday is for the thief”: “Ikejakejakeja”. The realness of it! I was a mute conductor. Lol. Anyway, if you’ve used the danfos, you must have come across a couple of weird things that have become quite commonplace in them.

1. Having to sit on something that’s not a seat: The seat between the driver and the window passenger in the front seat is usually an empty  space, but to maximise profit, these guys improvise seats with anything handy. I’ve seen a plastic paint bucket, a wooden stool, and even a plank wedged between the two seats used to serve the purpose of an extra seat. The wonders of danfos. Smh

2. A bus that doesn’t start with a key:  When I first saw a driver put two wires together only to have the bus start magically, I was stunned, and then worried that the bus would blow up.  Hot wiring is very common among our danfo drivers. It doesn’t take away from its weirdness though.

3. Having to tie yourself with the seatbelt: Most of the seat belts of these worn out buses are so slack that they couldn’t hold anything. They’ve probably lost the hook too. But each time a driver with such a problem carries you, as soon as you approach a LASTMA checkpoint, they tell you to pull it over yourself and manipulate it so that it looks like your belt is in place. You may end up tying yourself up. In Teju Cole’s book, his uncle responds that “idea l’a need” (a Yoruba and English mash-up for “they only need the idea”), meaning that the officials only need to see something that looks like a seat belt, because they sure won’t be coming to check if you really have one on.

4. A hanging door: hardly anything is as it should be in these buses. They’re so utilitarian, that to see padded seats is a rare luxury. The wooden seats of these danfos have no mercy on one’s buttocks. 😢 Let alone the doors. The doors sometimes don’t close properly and the conductors end up having to tie it so as not to be caught by officials who may penalise them for having an open door on the highway(as if the doors are not open 90% of the time). Yesterday, my bus conductor used a strip of Ankara material to tie the door shut. Ha! I can’t deal. This can be dangerous though. My brother was once on a bus which caught fire from over heating and he had to escape through a window because the conductor was still trying to figure out how to untie his “cloth lock”. Wetin man nor go see?

5. A conductor who is actually nice: I wonder if there is a training given to conductors on “how to be nasty to passengers 101”. I have on very few occasions come across nice conductors and I’m always dazed by the sheer strangeness of it. What about their voices? Ha! The characteristic voice of a conductor is guaranteed to scrape your nerves. Mother says it’s the weed most of them smoke. Terrible thing, that voice.

I hope you enjoyed reading this episode of Danfo Diaries. The next post in this series is sure to make you smile. Keep reading, and remember to be awesome!

Kisses, hugs and kulikuli, 

Sincerely, Chibugo.

90s chick; nerd, humanitarian; lover of life, family, fashion, food, art and literature; Christian by birth and choice. In short, I’m like jollof rice: you’re gonna love me. 😉

8 thoughts on “Danfo Diaries – 5 Weird Things You Have Likely Seen On A Danfo

  1. What will we not see on these lagos danfos? Even the fights between the conductor and someone, or the driver and someone. The one between conductor and someone is usually more serious.

    Then… those unfortunate days the danfo breaks down on the road. not pleasant at all, with all the accompanying drama

    Or, when, as thin as I am, I get to squeeze inbetween the massively fat (especially yoruba) ladies! (dont even mention my name shaa)!

    I just miss lagos and danfo biko! I just had to enter danfo like almost everyday, it’s inevitable like that.

    1. Chei breaking down is the terriblest thing. You will now be getting to work an hour late. Smh. When I sit between two fat people, I just use the period of the journey to meditate on God’s mercy upon my sinful self, just in case I don’t survive it. Lol. Don’t worry, more is to come in the next post in this series.

  2. LMAO!!!

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post Chibugo. The way you write……superb!

    I remember my Danfo-hopping days. I saw all sorts of things on those yellow ‘wonders-on-wheels’. I remember one bus I was in caught fire one day……mehn…the scramble for our lives was real! It was like a mini-stampede. Happened right on that bridge on top of CMS on my way home from church service.

    About one month ago, I boarded a danfo to CMS ‘cos I just didn’t want to drive. Two ladies disembarked and because the driver didn’t have the complete change to give them individually, he had to ‘marry’ them to each other….loooool! I thought that practice would have stopped by now. It used to annoy the heck out of me back then! Loool!

    1. They’re always marrying me to someone because of change too. Chei. I leave my change most of the time but last week, I decided not to. We stood and stood until my “spouse” had to dig into her bag and get the change she was hiding. Lol. Thank you for the compliment. I’m blushing!

    1. Ha! Why did you spoil the surprise? It’s coming in the next episode. Keep it locked. You’re sure to be thoroughly amused. *wink* thanks for dropping by.

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