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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Nigeria at 50 - Day 3: Rickety, raggerdy bus ride...

Nigeria at 50, Day 2 - Ochuko

In Aba, like it is all over Nigeria, the bus is the prominent mode of transport there is. Quite ordinary and single-minded in its purpose of moving people from one point to another, there is nothing exciting about this motorised metal contraption.

Well, not until you get inside.

Deadbeat and ordinary as the bus may seem, it carries within it an amalgamation of some of the most interesting characters you have ever seen. From old men with toothy smiles to women with fat behinds, from young girls sporting the latest knock-offs to young men trying very hard to outquirk even Andre 3000, there is never a shortage of dramatis personae from a bus going from, say, Ogbor Hill to Ngwa road.

Nigeria, to me, is like that bus. Weather-beaten from years of neglect, rough-ridden by numerous inept and valueless drivers, running round the same route with no apparent focus, yet carrying the most optimistic and hopeful people I have ever met.

I am one of those passengers.

I am not your average once-in-a-year patriot who remembers to wear a touch of green every October 1st in solidarity with millions of clueless fellow Nigerians who rejoice at the thought of yet another work-free day; I am not your average smile-and-wave Nigerian who is grateful that at least there’s still life, and so we must hope for a better tomorrow. No, unlike the often-times docile passengers who are thankful that at least they got on an available bus, I am the one guy who shouts at the driver to caution him when he drives a bit rough; I am that guy that will take the conductor head-on for trying to take advantage of a passenger; I am that one guy that will threaten to report the driver to his superiors if he continues to misbehave; I am that one guy who will tell my fellow passengers off for trying to take up more space than is allocated to them. Because when you think about it, if this bus were not here, we would all have to walk for miles; if it breaks down, we will all be stuck in the middle of nowhere, and if it derails while we’re all on board, we’ll all most likely be dead. So yes, I have to speak out because this bus is the only ride to where I’m going.

I wonder if there are any other passengers like me. I wonder if there are any bloggers here who, although in this raggedy bus, will not just sit down and hope to God that the driver knows what on earth he is doing, but will speak out and demand that the right thing be done, the right road signs be obeyed, the right turns taken, and the right speed limits adhered to.

This may be a tall order, but when you think about it, there’s no option. As we celebrate our 50th anniversary, I will like us to have this thought at the back of our minds: we either lend our voices and strengths to make this nation work, or you can, as is the custom in Aba buses when you reach your stop, yell at the driver “Ka opuo!”

Happy Independence day Nigeria. One day we shall all be free.

Nigeria at 50, Day 4 - Diary of a Nigerian Girl