The Traveler – Ovyay.
Route – Lagos – Port Harcourt.
Date- 24th April, 2018.
Change of bus and the civil rights movement.
After a slight delay, the announcer finally announced our route and told us to proceed to our bus for boarding explaining to us that the bus number on our ticket is not the one we should enter because for some reasons which she didn’t explain well, our bus has been changed. I really didn’t bother so much as long as there was a bus headed for Port Harcourt. Besides, I was so tired but glad to be leaving Lagos for Port Harcourt. Not that I hated Lagos, I had actually being traveling a lot in that period and needed rest. My tiredness was compounded by the three days of exciting times at Abeokuta whilst attending the 2018 Drum Festival.
To ensure safety and convenience, I chose a reputable Road transport company with sleeping my way through the journey at the back of my mind. (I have decided not to mention the name the Transport company for that is not the reason for sharing this piece. Besides I had traveled with them at other times without any problems ).
As soon as I dragged myself and luggage to where the bus was, I met two passengers with one urging the other saying “we must protest to the management. This bus is too old. Besides they have new buses, why should they change our bus and give us this old one”. I looked at the bus, and said to the other passenger ignoring the protesting brother mentioning …..“the bus is not so old, it just needs a paint job”.
Honestly, I was too tired to fight anybody over anything and I just wanted us to move so that I could sleep off. I know some may find it strange that I was planning to sleep off in the bus knowing how rugged some of our roads are in Nigeria. Considering my tired state, I was ready to sleep anywhere.
Anyway, back to my story. When no one heeded the call to protest, the brother retreated muttering to himself something about “..Nigerians who don’t always want to fight for their rights….”. That is how that drama ended.
Next thing I noticed was the bus wouldn’t start, so the drivers and the bus conductors did the expected. Push the bus.. Two thoughts immediately crossed my tired mind. Firstly, maybe we should protest now and get them to change the bus. Secondly, I hope his is not a bad sign concerning this journey. For more assurance, I called one of the terminal officers to find out why we should be expected to travel for an estimated over six hours journey inside a bus that wouldn’t start. He assured me that there was no problem with the bus, that what happened was that the driver was watching TV in the vehicle and the battery ran down. Anyway, the bus finally started moving and the next drama started.
Battle over seats
You know the usual fight over seats. Unfortunately, it was my seat that became the contested seat. I had a confirmed seat number one. My contender had seat number one too. Whilst we were arguing back and forth on who has the right to the seat, a fellow passenger intervened and solved the problem by demanding for our tickets. He told “my contender” that his bus was for 6:30am not 6 am. I thanked him under my breath because I was just about to blow up . Too tired to be decent if you get my drift.
The passenger and his excess luggage.
After we had filed in , another drama started as one of the passengers though he paid for two extra seats had luggage’s placed on the bus seats in front that was stacked so high that it obscured the view of the driver and other passengers. This resulted in arguments back and forth because the man insisted he has paid and we must travel like that but the driver stood his ground that it was not safe and he won’t drive a bus where he can’t see what is happening in his bus because of the obstruction caused by the stacked luggage’s. I agreed with the driver like most other passengers but the man was adamant until the Manager of the terminal came and literally cajoled /force him off the bus telling him to go and collect his refund at the counter.
Woman and child troubles.
After the man with the luggage was removed, a woman came in with a teenager and a little boy. Three people but paid for two seats with the thought that the small boy was two young to be charged for a seat. Arguments started again, the woman insisted, but the management said no. Saving grace was that the bus was not filled to capacity so it was resolved that the woman should vacate to another seat at the back with her little boy just to allow peace to reign and we can move. By this time, my sleep had disappeared and my tiredness had multiplied. The driver was about to move the bus, when another quarrel broke out again between the woman with the child and another woman in the area she relocated to. As soon as the commotion started, I was like, “what kind of thing is this again”. As I was thinking that, a lady looking in my direction was also muttering out loud something like “this journey sef”…. I quickly gave her a fake reassuring look as I was too tired to allow any type of negativity at that moment The problem was, one woman was saying the other did not shift enough for her and her baby boy because she knew she didn’t pay for the seat. Also she didn’t want the seat because the other lady was too fat and was taking too much seat. The other was saying she had moved enough and wouldn’t move any further. Stalemate. Everyone was shouting out their solutions and the warring parties were adamant each person was correct. Eventually, the driver drove off with the hostility between the two still on going.
Since I had traveled with the same company before, I actually knew some of their drivers and hence had become friendly with them. I think this was what made the driver whisper to me that I shouldn’t believe what they told me at the terminal that the battery ran down. He confided in me that the the ignition was bad and he had the intention of fixing it at the company workshop but was suddenly called up by the management to travel when he personally didn’t want to travel. Imagine my state, I was tired, wanted to sleep and the whole confusion had robbed me of my sleep, my body condition wasn’t okay anymore and I am being driven by a driver who doesn’t want to travel, in a bus that has ignition troubles. Probably sensing my fear, the Driver urged me not to worry and that we would get to Port Harcourt safely. His guarantee was he wouldn’t switch off the bus through out the journey. His assurance made me more afraid but I didn’t show it since he had conscripted me into a coup that only both of us knew of. I wasn’t supposed to tell the other passengers so I kept quiet my thoughts racing though. At this time the quarrels had ended and music was now filling the atmosphere from the bus radio.
That is not what they told me.
A little while before we got to Mowe, the driver announced that he was going to pick one more passenger at Mowe as approved by the office. Nobody complained since it was clear that he was saying the truth. We got to Mowe, parked but the passenger was no where to be found. The driver then called the absentee passenger’s cell number only for him to reply that he was still at home inside Mowe based on the mail sent to him by the transport company. Bottom line was we would have to wait for another 15 to 30 mins at that spot because the passenger was right. The driver tried to call his office probably to see if the second bus could pick the man . As he made his call, he ran out of credit. I couldn’t laugh or cry. I became numb feelings wise. Well, I offered him my phone and he kept calling his office and they kept bouncing him from table to table till it was clear that we had to wait. So we waited and surprisingly about 20mins into out waiting the passenger showed up apologizing but maintaining he was following the time schedule given to him by the transport company. Anyway, we finally moved on not stopping till we got to Ore town, where we stopped to eat. Of course I dozed off as the journey proceeded especially now that all the quarrels had subsided and the two women had become friends.
What’s wrong with my plantain.
As soon as we finished eating and filed back into the bus, it started again. You know what. Another go at each other. A young man had bought a bunch of plantains because they were cheap compared to the price in Port Harcourt but the driver would not allow it in his bus because his bus was not a “village bus”. One person to another I agreed with him in line with the other passengers because the driver explained to everyone that the stem of the plantain was dripping at the point from which it was cut and he didn’t want it to stain and discolor his bus. I quickly moved in to diffuse the situation by appealing to the brother to go back to the plantain sellers and get them to cut off the dripping stem and also buy a “ghana must go bag” and arrange the plantain in the bag. Being a reasonable young man, he complied . At this time, the driver was already complaining to everyone who chose to listen that he was not happy at all to be on this journey. Having just finished eating a tasteless lunch, I wasn’t ready for another round of unhappy conversation, so I moved away quickly from him to my seat and off we drove out into Ore expressway.
Forget the bad times.
As we moved, the driver slotted in Madonna’s song HOLIDAY.
“If we took a holiday,
Took some time to celebrate
Just one day out of life
It would be, it would be so nice”……..
……..”Everybody spread the word
We’re gonna have a celebration
All across the world
In every nation
It’s time for the good times
Forget about the bad times, oh yeah”……
Shortly after Madonna sang the line “forget about the bad times”……., I started to nod in agreement, thinking yes, it’s time to forget about the bad times. Suddenly the passengers at the back cried out, urging the driver to stop immediately. “…ah, what again this time” I exclaimed to myself? The bus boot had flung open, and passengers luggage’s now littered the Ore-Benin expressway. More noise, confusion, complaining took over. The driver parked the bus, and had to go and pick the fallen luggage’s, re-arranged the boot and closed it. I then heard the driver saying “dis things done taya me. I no suppose to be on this trip”. This was in reference to the sudden change of itinerary that thrust him into this journey he didn’t want to make………? So we continued after everybody had calmed down and we were sure no passengers luggage was missing. Anyway, I was already primed up for something else to happen, but surprisingly nothing worthy of major concern happened .
Finally, we arrived Port Harcourt safely. That day as soon as I got home, I slept from the night till 6am the following morning so tired and worn out because of the nightmarish journey, but glad to be alive to write you this piece.
Do you have a nightmare travel story to share? Maybe not as comprehensive as this or even more harsher than this.. Why don’t you share it in the comment section and let us enjoy your experience. Please don’t mention the names of people in your comments or the name of any company. I deliberately omitted the name of the company like I said in the beginning because what happened was a one time event. Even if you know this company (speaking to those who know the transport company I frequently travel with), I appeal to you not to mention their name as you comment as a one time event is not enough to discredit them. Besides, I just want us to enjoy your story and avoid unnecessary controversy just as I believe you have enjoyed mine. Thank you.
5th May, 2018.