Friday, April 20, 2012


Image from here
As we cross Herbert Macaulay, I’m considering two *danfos idling by the side of the road, their conductors screaming ‘Balende! Balende!’ and ushering, sometimes almost shoving, potential passengers towards their buses. I pick the second one; it looks good and solid on the outside, though I hate that it has something like a wall behind the driver’s seat so I can’t see the road in front of me. I enter with a mental shrug – it looks better than the other bus – and wave goodbye to my friend.

I sit on the first bench, beside the window; it’s my favourite danfo position. There’s a man in the front seat, beside the driver, and another sitting behind me. I settle in and watch the street. Three more passengers get in, and the man behind me gets up and leaves the bus, returning the nod the conductor gives him. He’s one of those people conductors get to sit in their buses to make them look fuller, so impatient commuters would be convinced to enter. I’m not annoyed by this trick today; I’m not in a hurry. After a few minutes, the bus starts to move and I relax, confident that I’d chosen the right bus. The ride is measured and smooth and the engine works at a less than deafening roar.

We are not quite at the end of Third Mainland Bridge when the bus jerks once, twice. The engine sputters, and the driver starts to steer the bus to the right, to the lane overlooking the water. I am peering through the partition in front of me and then out the window, wondering what’s stopping us and frustrated that I can’t see the road ahead. When the bus stops, the driver and conductor confirm that the fuel has run out. Someone makes a joke, says the conductor should get out a hose and suck water from the lagoon to move the bus. I don’t laugh, but the other passengers do. Did I miss something? We’re on Third Mainland! Cars, BRT buses and other danfos are whizzing past, and with every gust of wind that marks their passing I’m slowly freaking out, looking left, right, behind, so I will see when the speeding vehicle crashes into us from behind. Another danfo slows down behind us and stops. I get up immediately, to rush out and join the other bus. I can see the blue green water of the lagoon from over the bridge rails.

“Excuse me, let me get down.” I’m avoiding looking at the lagoon below. There are three passengers seated beside me, blocking my path to the door. There’s a chorus of ‘ahn-ahn, wait first… we go soon move’ from the passengers and nobody’s moving. I plop back down on my seat.

A few seconds more of indeterminate activity between our conductor and the driver of the other bus, and I’m ready to get out again. I stand.

“Please, excuse me, abeg. I want to get down.”              

The men beside me laugh. No need, they say. Our bus will get to Obalende before the one behind us. I’m about to insist, but our bus is suddenly rammed into from behind and it starts to move again, fuelled by the momentum from the bus behind. The movement forces me back on my bum and the journey continues. The other danfo stays faithfully behind us, pushing every time we lose momentum, leaving us to roll forward only when it stops at Adeniji Bus Stop to let out some passengers. Another bus takes over ramming us forward, and a fat woman comments on this show of solidarity. Apparently I’m the only one who thinks we should have just switched buses when we had the chance. The other passangers take up the fat woman’s comment, comparing danfo drivers to the okada and taxi men, praising them on how they are so supportive of each other, if you had beef with one you’d have to deal with them all. 

Me, I’m staring out the window, my lips stiff, wondering when I entered into this alternate universe where Lagosians are so merry and tolerant.

*Danfo: 14 to 16 (sometimes more) seater buses, usually painted yellow and black, used for public transport in Lagos 


  1. Stumbled across your blog via lauri kubuitsile's blog. This post made me laugh out loud in the quiet section of my library. The thought of one danfo pushing another to its destination, is just so funny to me. I don't know why.

    And thank you for sharing your experience of the Farafina workshop. I've never been on a proper workshop so its always interesting to hear about other peoples experiences.

    1. It is funny. I've lived in Lagos almost all my life and I'd never experienced this until recently. Thanks for reading.

      Checked your blog. Congrats on your book.

  2. This month, howbeit exams lurking round the corner, looks so good now that I discovered your blog...