“Ẹ kú’kalẹ o”
“Ẹ máa rọra o”
We like to greet a lot in Yoruba land, whether or not the person is familiar. We just always want to observe that sense of friendship and community. After all, we belong together. One family whose Father is the Almighty Olodumare. The old woman greeted the four of us who were in the bus and made me feel guilty that I had not done the same when I boarded. I unconsciously gave the most silent reply “Ẹ nlẹ o.” We patiently waited for the agbero to get more commuters to fill the 16 – seater excuse of a vehicle. “Why did I not even take okada sef?”, I thought. However scared I was of bikes and the risk of easy sliding on bad roads, the limited control of the biker, or the fact that there is no cover in the event of a collision, these buses seem no different. A few months earlier I had been involved in an okada mishap which bruised a part of my leg. I learnt from thence to prefer cabs which were more stable, hence safer on the road. The bus filled up soon enough, almost entirely with women. Market women. I was headed for an adventure. “Bodija ọjà, Bodija ọjà, ẹnikan Bodija..”. This should be fun.
The Bodija environment is one of the bright spots in the city. The metropolis has corporate organisations, urban shops and mini hubs. The residential areas of Bodija have some of the finest real estate edifices around. From Gate, the line connects from Idi Ape via Ikolaba down to UI junction joining Samonda. This part of the city is a serene sight and a booming business environment. One of the largest markets in Ibadan, Bodija Oja, dates back to the era of the military administration under Governor Tunji Olurin who established the market in October 1987 to ease overcrowding at the Orita Merin foodstuff market. Other notable markets in Ibadan as we know them include Gbagi, Dugbe, and Agbeni.
My bus took off in peace from Iwo Road roundabout. The driver’s kangol and signature facial expression is typical of commercial drivers in Ibadan. I noticed that the bus drivers were mostly older men in their fifties and sixtie; the middle aged members of the drivers’ community, I assume, preferred Micra cabs. I always wonder why most of the buses here are so unkempt; many of them are in unsafe conditions. From where I sat, I observed the thick dark oil that greased parts of the vehicle. I stole a peaceful sight of the buildings that stood across parts of Bashorun and Olowo Ti n Fowo Saanu with trees completing the picture. I kept my eyes on this sight for seconds until the pot holes on the Ojoo Expressway distorted the moving frame. There wasn’t much traffic but at every point when the bus had to slow down, the heat from the engine diffused throughout the bus until there was more air to ensure ventilation.
I drifted off into thoughts of why government can’t regulate buses plying our roads and certify them road worthy before they are used to commute passengers. No road signs or sanity from most of the drivers. The ugly situation is the same in many cities across the country. But the government has a duty to make these things work, don’t they? We seem to have accepted and normalised this very abnormal system.
We soon arrived the dirt-ridden park at Bodija market. It continued the ugly story of the pitiful situation in which majority of Nigerians survive every day. While I pondered on the state of roads in the city and in other parts, walking through the market, I noticed that rail tracks that should run trains to aid transportation have for long been turned to mini shop units.
“Uncle ẹ wobi, ẹ bá mi ra tomato”.
People went about their market dealings. Young and middle aged traders minding their businesses. I always think of how much these people make in sales on a monthly scale. I feel they don’t make enough money to justify the stress and the conditions under which they work. But what can we do? Except to do our best and deal legitimately; able-bodied men in their prime, moving things through planes and dirt that described the market space. Everyone was present as it is in markets. The consumer goods mart, the èlò ọbẹ̀ corner, bend-down-select shops, fried yam and akara for many who don’t take breakfast at home, amala spot somewhere around, never missing. I almost forgot the bet shops. Bodija market is a beehive for different traders who come in daily from within and outside Ibadan.
The problems of the Nigerian masses are the same – basic amenities. What does it take government to build and maintain decent markets and other public facilities. We keep up with inadequate power supply, poor facilities and the barely sufferable ambience for learning in our public schools. The roads are too bad for easy transportation and the list is endless. Almost. The average Nigerian does not ask for too much. They are hard workers already. It is not impossible for government to attend adequately to basic needs of the citizenry. We deserve more than we are getting from government.
By Gboyega Adeoya | Feature image: www.channelstv.com