(Published in The PUNCH on Monday, December 7, 2020)
The molue is a bizarre bus. It’s a bucket of bolts with the loud noise of a helicopter. Indeed, the 49-sitting-99-standing-passenger bus is renowned in Lagos, Africa’s largest capital city, as a mobile coffin.
With the clanking sound of an engine about to knock, this particular molue, painted in green-white-green colours, jangled to a jerky stop as the driver squished the failing brake pedal to the floorboard, causing a collision of passengers against the unblunted metal edges of the shabby interior body work.
In a three-part choreographic sequence, human noise erupted from inside the molue after the deafening engine noise died down and a thick smoke enveloped the jagged metal contraption.
Cursing and coughing, Lucky, the driver of the molue, and his conductor, Sambi, were the first to emerge from the eye-peppering smoke of the bus. Swearing and sweating, passengers of the fully loaded bus emerged from within the smoke like displaced cockroaches, coughing and furious.
Purchased since 1960, this molue had not been serviced by subsequent drivers who only fed fuel to the grumpy bus despite ceaseless complaints by passengers calling for a total overhaul of the vehicle.
At different times in the accident-ridden life of this molue, subsequent negligent drivers had ignored the demand for a turnaround maintenance by passengers whose flesh, clothes and goods were daily ripped by the sharp metal edges inside the bus.
After the cloud of smoke had cleared and the black oil dripping from under the vehicle had stopped, Lucky pinched a dripping hole in a sachet of ‘Sledgehammer’ with his teeth, and in one belching gulp, drained the alcoholic content.
However, all hell broke loose when Lucky implored the passengers to go back into the bus to commence their journey to Abuja.
Lucky: Let’s go inside the bus and pray so that we can commence our journey in earnest.
Passenger 1: What kind of stupid and clueless driver is this? So, you can call for prayer after drinking ogogoro, abi? Are you supposed to call for prayer or fix your cursed bus?
Passenger 2: You kari bus komot for house, you no gauge oil, you no gauge tyre, brake no good, no whipper, no horn, no pointer, yet you collect money from us, and your motor come pafuka on top Third Mainland Bridge. Me, I no sabi swim o. I don warn you o, ehn-ehn!
Lucky: Don’t come and insult me here o. I’m not an ordinary driver, I am a graduate and I have my degrees, including a PhD. I’m here to serve the masses. So, don’t talk to me anyhow.
Sambi: (Appealing to the passengers) I’m also a graduate but I’ll speak pidgin so that everyone can understand. Na because make we no delay una for road here, das why my oga say make we pray and manage the bus to Abuja. Na small thing dey worry the bus o; na just to change the crankshaft, gearbox and carburetor, then we go make it to Abuja in 24 hours; we can still manage the brake to Abuja, my oga sabi pump failing brake well, well.
Passenger 2: You must be mad, you this stupid conductor! You want to manage faulty brakes from Lagos to Abuja, abi? It’s you that will not see 2021, you murderer!
Just then, a sparkly bus parked in front of Lucky’s shambly molue. Written boldly on it was, “Integrity Airbus.” The bus owner, Eko, came out with his garage mob, and together, they poached passengers from Lucky’s bus. A tired old man called Baba Integrity was the driver of the bus.
Eko: (Appealing to the stranded passengers on Lucky’s bus) Abuja straight! Abuja straaaaight!! No stopping for road o. Fully air-conditioned bus at affordable price. Free wi-fi, free food, maximum security of life and property, peace and enjoyment guaranteed during the journey. Abuja sttraaaaaightt! You guys know I won’t lead you astray, this bus is heading to the Promised Land straight!
(The ensuing surge for space on the bus almost led to a stampede. All the passengers, except one, abandoned Lucky’s bus and went on to board Baba’s ‘Integrity Bus’. Three passengers, Johnbull, Paine and Iya Aburo spoke freely on Integrity Bus)
Paine: Ha, see Chief Eko himself vouchsafing for this bus, it must be reliable.
Other Passengers: It must surely be.
Baba: (Speaking over the intercom) Trust me, I’m a tested and trusted driver. You know I’ve done it before. I’ll give you a trip you will live to remember for the rest of your lives.
Passengers: (Roar in applause)
Eko: You guys are very lucky Baba graciously agreed to drive you to Abuja by himself. No force in the world can stop this bus.
Paine: (Effusing joy) Yes, we sabi. Na God say make Baba show up to rescue us from the dangers on the Third Mainland Bridge and the sea under. For my life, I no go ever enter any motor driven by Lucky and his PindiPi company.
Johnbull: Na true, we all dey very lucky.
(Everyone was in amazement of the Integrity Bus – its sheen and perfect body work. But as Baba attempted to start the engine, the paints began to peel off. The engine failed to crank.)
Paine: Wetin bi dis? Lucky’s bus still dey move small-small, dis one no even move at all. Na from frying pan to fire be dis o.
Johnbull: But why dem come build special cabin for Baba for driver seat nah? I mean, why we no fit see Baba face nah?
Eko: To drive the Integrity Bus no easy. All of us sabi Abuja road very well – armed robbers full everywhere, Boko Haram dey yanfu-yanfu, kidnappers dey berekete. So, Baba need concentration to drive and crush all the robbers, Boko Haram and kidnappers on the road.
Paine: Drive and crush Boko Haram, robbers and kidnappers at the same time? Baba na James Bond or Formula 1 driver, uhmm?
Johnbull: Abeg, wetin be di bus wi-fi password?
Garage boy: It’s not advisable to use wi-fi now because Boko Haram can use wi-fi signal to locate and blow up this bus.
Paine: Ha?! But we never even comot Third Mainland Bridge nah?
Garage boy: Yes, I know, but Boko Haram dey everywhere o.
(A baby lets out a shriek)
Garage girl: Make im mama give am breastmilk nah. Abi you no want make Baba concentrate ni?
Iya Aburo: It’s the hotness here that’s making my baby cry, not hunger. Please, switch on your full air-conditioner.
Eko: Iya Aburo, so you no sabi say air-conditioner no dey good for small pikin? Air-conditioner is a very dangerous thing o.
Johnbull: Wey the food una promise passengers?
Eko: When embarking on this type of dangerous journey, you need fasting and prayers.
Iya Aburo: Please, come and help me open the window by my seat so that my baby can get some fresh air.
Garage boy: Dat na very big security risk o; you want to expose other passengers to danger? Passengers mustn’t even touch the window blinds. Everybody should just put their trust in Baba, he’s doing a fantastic job, we are moving so fast.
Iya Aburo: But I can’t hear the sound of the engine.
Paine: I can’t hear any engine sound, too. Is this bus flying or are we not riding on Nigerian roads full of potholes?
Eko: Baba is trained to dodge potholes.
A passenger angrily yanked off the blind from the window, alas!, the vehicle hadn’t moved from the same spot it picked the passengers.
Passengers: Whaaaaat!!! Why haven’t we moved from the same spot since?
Baba: You lazy passengers can’t understand. I’m trying to make a choice between staying with the devil, that is, the Third Mainland Bridge, or plunging you into the deep blue sea below!
Facebook: @tunde odesola