Theres very little about the bustle and spirit of Lagos that hasnt been said, written or screamed out in music already. Yet, theres so much about Lagos that cant be expressed in words and music, and on any given day, commuting in Nigerias busiest city is one of such things that are better experienced.
As with most cities, finding your way through Lagos can be a very strenuous experience.
Unlike most cities of its standing though, Lagos has very limited transport options; visitors and residents often have to choose between buses, motorcycles and cabs (or helicopters, if your last name is Dozie or Elumelu or Agbaje or Otedola or... you get my drift).
These services are also very unregulated which means more often than not, you are at the mercy of whoever's driving the bus or the NURTW official who decides to vent his marital problems by stopping every female driver he finds on the roads.
All of this creates a very dense mix that you can only navigate if you know your way around, and even that isn't enough sometimes.
These 5 tips about commuting in Lagos should get you prepared before you plunge into the Golgotha that is Lagos during rush hour.
1. Some people should pay for the extra space, but they won't:
So the average public bus, or danfo, has 4 or 5 rows of seats. Each row takes four people each per trip.
Sometimes though, there are circumstances where it is clear that the row of seats cannot take four people, thanks to one particular individual.
Sometimes, it could be a case of one person who is on the larger side and is clear occupying the bulk of the space, or a trader who brought her entire store and its contents for the ride, or worse still, two drunk, loud able-bodied men who decide to 'lap' each other.
It's usually not out of place to ask these people to pay the extra cost of a seat or at least attempt to make the trip comfortable for others. But they won't. Why? Because this is Lagos man.
2. First come, Last Served:
So, you know what happens when people want to get in, say a bus, you line up in a queue, wait for the bus to arrive and then... you get in the bus, right? Wrong.
In Lagos, queues are only as useful as the number of people who are willing to maintain order and very often, that's only the pastor and the business professional who's trying hard to behave himself in a manner befitting his dry-cleaned suit.
Getting to the bus park in time is only half the job; you often have to brace yourself for that inevitable moment when the bus arrives and too many people try to squeeze themselves in the bus at the same time.
In Lagos, you can get to the bus before everyone else, then in a split second, the bus fills up and you're there at the door, wondering if time travel has finally become a reality.
3. Comfort is not important, your destination is:
So you left your house and got on a bus expecting to have an enjoyable ride to your office. Well jokes on you bro.
A trip in a Lagos bus will expose you to a variety of discomfort that you can hardly be prepared for; from the moment you get in and sit your behind on seats that have no foam on them, or it begins to rain and the roof becomes completely useless because water is trooping in from everywhere.
You've never really been in a Lagos bus until you complain about the conditions of the seat and the driver responds wittily, "No be your house you dey, na bus be this". Don't you just love this city?
4. Man proposes, traffic disposes:
Lagos' long traffic gridlocks are the stuff of legend. On any given day, pile-ups can stretch from the mainland to the Island and hold you in place for hours.
It gets worse during rush hour, in the early hours of the morning and in the evenings.
What this means is that, regardless of the distance to where you're headed, it's almost impossible to leave your home too early when commuting through Lagos.
You may have your plans all drawn out but rest assured, Lagos traffic is waiting to spoil them for you.
5. The conductor is not your friend:
In other societies, the bus conductor helps to make your ride more efficient. He takes your ticket or cash as the case may be, helps you find a seat, calls out or signals the bus stops and eases you out when you're leaving.
In Lagos though, the conductor only cares about one person; himself, and one thing, his money.
The Lagos bus conductor is a special breed; he is aggressive, emotive, cracks loud, insensitive jokes and fights anyone who is unfortunate enough to ask him for their change.
Of course, there are rare exceptions to the rule; but most conductors are not your friends and they'll let you know if you want.