(By Dolapo Aina)
“Be that as it may and though the BRT buses prohibit hawking, preaching and fighting, one can’t but observe the gradual degradation and decline in the services rendered by the LAGBUS/BRT buses. Most times, you board BRT buses and you wonder if you boarded a molue for you discover that the bus is apparently also a moving refuse truck like the PSP/refuse trucks that move about collecting refuse from homes in Lagos! When the BRT buses were introduced, their drivers were livid when you called them drivers, they initially told passengers they were pilots (due to the intense training they must had had). At present, they have the unmistakeable traits of unruly molue drivers. In fact, there is a public consensus that most of them came from the clan of molue drivers. Little wonder BRT buses (LAGBUS) are gradually metamorphosing into molues. Some have the needless braggadocio to insult passengers trying to caution them on their reckless driving.”
Continued from yesterday..
IF by some ill-luck you were seated on the second row, you would be directly opposite the official sales person who would be seated on the first row. And when the molue begins its journey, the sales person would get up and in most cases, lead all the passengers in praise and worship and a prolonged prayer session to concretise it all. You might be thinking he/she is a prayer warrior, only to realise that after the marathon prayer session, the merchandising begins. All kinds of products could be advertised or “medical” tricks demonstrated for the passengers’ viewing. Drug sellers with unverifiable fabled tales, which have been well-rehearsed, begin their craft. Products advertised could range from instant success and money, wealth attracting soaps (which allegedly would make you rich once you buy and use them).
We also have packaged or wrapped herbal remedies, leaves, sticks and powder (some claim to cure all ailments simultaneously, making some passengers look with awe, saying wonderful in several languages). There is the “Gbogbonise” (loosely meaning “it does everything/a jack of all trade” kind of drug). You would definitely find the tooth decay powder/toothpaste wonder that “automatically” closes up a tooth hole or permanently stops tooth decay without a visit to the dentist. Or rather those who sell this locally made toothpaste would readily tell passengers that the toothpaste would remove the “kokoro” in someone’s teeth-kokoro-loosely meaning ants. In some rare cases, products which have high propensity to be popular in markets and shops begin “testing their waters” in molues e.g. Aloe Vera products and the popular Jinzing sweet- Chinese sweet.
And here comes “el grande uno”-the big one; various kinds of home-grown aphrodisiac (men usually fall over like soldier ants to purchase this product. And it sells faster than a box office movie ticket). There are instances when the sales person would have painstakingly marketed goods but no purchase to show for it. But once the aphrodisiac is brought out from a bag, the response is usually Usain Bolt-like with lightening speed. The response is usually breathtaking as you see both men and women (who buy for their partners) purchase the “wonder” stimulant with accompanying questions on its usage and any side-effects if after an overdose. Also, there are those who don’t sell any products but would rather turn the molue into a moving religious service culminating in well-rehearsed pleas for donations for the ministry to move forward and impact lives. Most times, these molue proselytizers would alight at another bus stop if donations aren’t forthcoming; cross over to the other side of the expressway and board another molue going to the same direction they began their journey.
On board a molue, you know those who aren’t meant to be onboard by their mannerisms. They are the ones who would complain about the windows not shutting properly or complain about the rusty “roofing sheet” leaking during a heavy downpour. They are the ones who would complain or shout about another passenger being too close for comfort (the ready response to this complaint is usually, “why you no take taxi, make you sit down for the back?”). The molue experience makes you develop some talents. One is the art of struggling with others to board a molue and simultaneously being conscious of your phones, wallets, purses and bags. This is so because as there are innocent commuters struggling to board the molue, you also have pick-pockets who mingle with the commuters but like archaeologists have dug their dexterical hands into unsuspecting commuters’ bags or pockets looking for “treasures”. You learn the art of getting out of a moving molue running with your body tilted backwards (you don’t alight from a moving molue; you get off sprinting because molues don’t usually stop at some bus stops. Alighting would take you on a nasty flight to the ground).
Also, you learn the art of surveillance; watching over your personal items. Also, you learn the art of keeping mute. Another talent is that you learn to scrutinize all the currency notes given to you as balance (better known as change in these parts). This is because, some conductors are fond of dolling out fake notes or only bad notes as change during night trips when the dim lights in some molues are switched on. Also, you learn the art of getting ready to sprint or jump out of any of the impassable windows when a molue is about to be engulfed by fire.
Finally, you can’t forget the conductor’s vehemently rude shout of “E bo le jo!”- get down, when the passenger about to hit the ground is being too slow or undecided unsure that the vehicle has come to a stop. The conductors and some of the drivers usually “arise and shine” from the molues which could be their temporary or permanent abode; having taken several shots of locally brewed gin called several names such as Shepe, ogogoro, opa eyin to name a few. All these local and crudely refined vodka are needed by them so as to “shine their eyes “and not to “w’oju Uche” loosely meaning not give a damn.
Be that as it may and though the BRT buses prohibit hawking, preaching and fighting, one can’t but observe the gradual degradation and decline in the services rendered by the LAGBUS/BRT buses. Most times, you board BRT buses and you wonder if you boarded a molue for you discover that the bus is apparently also a moving refuse truck like the PSP/refuse trucks that move about collecting refuse from homes in Lagos! When the BRT buses were introduced, their drivers were livid when you called them drivers, they initially told passengers they were pilots (due to the intense training they must had had). At present, they have the unmistakeable traits of unruly molue drivers. In fact, there is a public consensus that most of them came from the clan of molue drivers. Little wonder BRT buses (LAGBUS) are gradually metamorphosing into molues. Some have the needless braggadocio to insult passengers trying to caution them on their reckless driving.
Some dailies of Tuesday, September 17, 2013, reported that 3,400 drivers were partially blind in Lagos. It wouldn’t be out of place to request for the mental status of several BRT drivers. In the 80s, molues must have been a pride to Lagos, so much so, that a reggae artiste churned a hit single (and a lovely video) with a chorus going thus “it is a molue; Lagos city transport.”
While marking his administration’s 2,300 days in office, Fashola alluded to the fact that over 200 BRT buses were undergoing repairs at a facility in Ojota. Invariably, new buses would be needed. If Lagos State wants to do away with molues, the operators and commuters of molues should realise that change is the only constant currency. And if they won’t accept this change, they should know that, according to the writer Eric Hoofer “in times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” Lagos is changing and a majority of Lagosians would accept this new transformation pertaining to the transportation sector, only if the new buses (either administered by the State Government or privately administered) to ply the routes vacated by the molues are run as they should be and not just another avenue or cash cow for the emerging Shylock capitalists and Oliver Twist moneybags in Lagos. Anything short of a beneficial change would be meaningless and self-defeating.
Bicycles are still and may forever remain synonymous with modern Amsterdam and developing China. The old locomotive trains are synonymous with some parts of Russia and her former Soviet states. The tricycles are synonymous with India and have been “modified” in Nairobi, Kenya. The ubiquitous red buses in London which were the double-decker buses were a popular form of public transportation in London until they were retired from general service in 2005. They were replaced by more modern single-level buses that can accommodate people with wheelchairs. A worldwide symbol of London, the red double-decker buses are still used on special “heritage” routes popular with tourists.
My suggestion to the Lagos State Government is that we can learn from the last example. Discussing with a bus driver sometime last month I was made to understand that the molues are almost non-existent in Oshodi any longer; giving credence to the gradual easing out of the ubiquitous buses. Molues would or might be eased out successfully but the ubiquitous yellow buses can be a source of tourist attraction and revenue for the state by having a Molue Museum of some sorts. We can’t just erase our most popular national heritage because of ever-changing modernity.
“Change does not necessarily assure progress, but progress implacably requires change”—Henry Steele Commager, writer and historian.
• Aina lives in Lagos.
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