Once, I had to board a bus to school, back from vacation. It was a Sunday and I came from church to the park. I was relieved to be the first passenger on the bus – why? If you didn’t know already, a lot of perks come with being the first passenger -first, you get the choiciest of seats and you get to put your luggage in the bus first and avoid the hassling from area boys
“Sister, nye anyi 500 for your load”
“Oya bring 300”
This is totally unprofessional I dare to say and only obtains in backwards third world regions. I don’t even want to be politically correct on this one,leave me alone.
Back to the story!
Sundays are slow days and if for anything, because people are still in church, so the wait for the bus to fill up was lengthy, Beyoncé’s voice from the ‘mi gente’ remix was filling my ear drums, so I couldn’t be bothered, even when the wait was nearing two hours.
The bus was almost full when they sent another bus and told us to enter it instead. I sighed at the inconvenience and hoisted my bag on my shoulder, pulling the rest behind me, when a random park tour popularly Called ‘agbero’ accosted me.
“300naira for your load, oya! ”
I was stunned at the manner he was shouting at me, one would think I snatched his wife. He had a glare on his face, as if daring me to challenge him, and I told him I won’t pay a dime for the load as the bus I was just in accommodated my luggage fine and nobody bothered me,plus I had paid the fare. He looked at me in derision, told me to get out of his sight and loaded another person,denying me access to the bus that was about to move, after my two hour wait.
I don’t think confusion is the word I want to use here, the drivers around were watching and silent. I approached them and they tried to talk to him, he refused. I asked to see the manager, they said he went out. The assistant? Out too. All the while, the tout was hollering, that since I refused to pay for the luggage, I should sit in the park.
A part of my brain flipped. Generally, I am the triple C’s – cool, calm and collected when dealing with such people, because I believed arguing with a stupid person is coming down to their level and of course, they’ll beat you with an outstanding amount of stupidity. This time, however, I lost it. The warri part of me came out and I gave it back to him word for word. He was stunned, I mean he had expected that a tiny girl – yes, I’m really tiny, on glasses would be too timid to call him out, but I stood my ground and asked him why we blame Buhari for everything when we behave like this, I reminded him that he was just a park tout and why he was still like this is because he kept selling his destiny to load buses illegally.
Writing this now, I can’t believe how upset I was, I could feel the anger in my throat – hot and brown. At the moment, I was prepared for a showdown, to return every slap for a slap. The drivers around began to calm me down,pleading with me to wait for the manager
“Sister Abeg, no vex ”
It bothered me that they were not confronting their colleague, I think it was so normal to them that they hadn’t expected a customer to protest. I asked them if the bus was not meant to load the luggages of the passengers, and what was the essence of buying ticket if you had to pay for your luggage to be put in the boot or under the seat, to be trampled by angry feet? They stared back at me in muted silence.
I was livid! They weren’t helping me at all and I suspected the only reason they were begging me was because I was female. I asked one to watch over my bags while I went to the office to ask for a refund.
Getting to the office, the woman at the desk apologized and said it was a mistake – then I knew it was a normal occurrence with them, they just didn’t expect a passenger to protest. She begged me to take the next bus and I obliged her, because I had wasted a lot of time at the park already,and if not that I didn’t want to arrive my destination at night, I would have staged a one-man protest till my money was refunded to me – sorry wasn’t going to cut it. I entered the next bus and the driver who helped watch over my luggage was hot on my heels
“Sister, find me something na”
Ugh. I couldn’t believe he was asking me for money after all I had just been through. Exasperated, I fished in my bag and found a 100 naira note which I gave to him, ignoring his excited exclamations of
‘Thank you, sister! God bless you”
Writing this now, I’m still livid. We let A lot of things slide in this country because enforcing your rights generally as an individual is a herculean task – the system just doesn’t work. I believed, in developed countries, I would be entitled to some compensation if I decided to sue, but this was Nigeria where we leave everything to God, the cost of pursuing justice being greater than the grievance. Hence, things like this slide until they become normal and nobody bats a lid.
I’ve been in the market before , harassed and cussed out, if not because they didn’t like my dressing – you’re not allowed to wear clothes without sleeves to the Nigerian markets no matter how decent it looked, they would grope and grab you, or because I priced their goods at a price they felt was an insult – Haba! Na poor I poor, I no kill person, abi should I let you obviously rip me off when I could get a better price elsewhere.
I don’t even want to go into the travails of being a small person in Nigeria,maybe someday later, I’d write a post on that. At 5″6,i know I’m generally considered average height, but I have totally no body fat, so I appear a lot younger than my age and have been mistaken several times for someone in junior secondary school. I have been expected several times to give up my seat in a bus or squeeze into a tiny space because I was smaller, I mean, small people do not deserve any human feelings, they’re like a pillow you can squeeze into any hole or crevice without problems . Most of the time, I’ve had to put my foot down, especially when I’m being disrespected for a service I pay for, and it works.
When you’re a small person, people tend to only behave themselves when you stay ‘woke’ or in pidgin parlance, when you ‘tear eye’.
These things happen in countries like Nigeria because nobody bats a lid and if you dared protest, they would ask you who you thought you were.
I am a Nigerian and I am angry.
By Doris Okoronkwo a.k.a 1Nigeriangirl
Your comments bring out the beauty in our stories. Have your say in the comment box below. To share our story, click on the Facebook share button or on the twitter button.
Follow us twitter @lagosconvo
Copyright 2017 Lagos Convo