The Lagos Traffic from a Commuter’s Perspective

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Sitting beside the smelly bus driver, I observed the traffic through a cracked windscreen. All the vehicles in front of me were of assorted kinds- the old, the new/expensive and the rickety ones. They all made a long stretch along the pothole-ridden road, moving at a snail’s pace. It was almost a beautiful sight, although I was too uncomfortable to dwell much on the aesthetic nature of a gridlock.Yet, I could not help but notice the yellow buses. I just am fascinated by those buses! They are my favourite part of the Lagos traffic…

Lagos! The fast-paced city with crawling traffic! It was early morning rush hour, the worst time to be on any road and worst still a Lagos road. Already the sun was out, seemingly making a conscious effort to combine with the dust and exhaust fumes to make my life and those of the other commuters miserable. A certain fat man who was sitting by my right was clearly distressed even as he fanned himself furiously with a newspaper. I assumed from the way he was dressed in his fancy suit that he was some kind of business executive, although I couldn’t be so sure because all the executive people I know in Lagos always commuted in private cars; windows rolled up and air-conditioning on point. Sadly, the man beside me was so uncomfortable. He probably wasn’t used to riding with the “commoners”. Perhaps his car broke down or something… I listened to him curse repeatedly under his breath even as he struggled to adjust his bulky self into any form of comfortable position. But cramped in the bus as we were, all his efforts proved futile. So he kept fanning furiously while sweating and cursing.

Luckily for us, the traffic eased up just a bit even as the breeze came blasting through the windows, accompanied by dust and exhaust fumes of different kinds. Many people hissed at the same time, some in relief and others in disgust of the dust. A few windows were slammed shot in desperate efforts to to wade off the dust and fumes. As for me, I heaved a long sigh of relief, exhaling the driver’s odour which had been hitting directly at my brain. Goodness me! I could not wait to get off the bus! Unfortunately, it was going to be a long ride.

This was a commute that should have lasted at most fifteen minutes. Sadly, we were about thirty minutes in with no hope of getting to our destination soon. It had been a slow ride, one in which I was a witness to different kinds drama. The bus conductor had exchanged fiery words with two passengers over change. He was angry that despite him repeatedly telling everyone to board only if they had the exact denomination of one hundred naira, some stubborn people still boarded even though they had bigger denominations. And so when it came time to pay, he fired at them with his mouth. The man spoke fast, and knew just the right things to say to piss off the two passengers. At the end he collected their money and refused to give change to them. The quarrel lasted for long, stopping intermittently only to start all over again each time any of the passengers asked for her change…

I must confess that despite the many things wrong with taking a bus ride in the city, I do enjoy it nonetheless. It’s always a good way to observe the city. Each time I’m in the bus, I always take time to observe the different faces of the humans of Lagos. Every one of the faces I see fascinates me. There’re the children on their way to school, the embittered house girl knocking their heads as she tugs them along. There are also the many workers stranded at bus stops as they wait for the BRT buses going to the Island. And of course, there are the yellow buses and their drivers! Those ones deserve an entire story dedicated to them alone. Meanwhile, there are many more interesting things to observe while in a Lagos traffic. For fashion-inclined people like me, the traffic would allow you feed your eyes to different kinds of fashion statements. I for one have beheld all sorts, from the beautiful, simple to the wacky and outright outrageous!


-Emmanuel Abara Benson is an aspiring Nigerian novelist whose first novel will soon be self-published on Amazon.


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