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,
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. 😉