On Tuesday, I was waiting for a bus to take me to Obalende when I saw a woman calling “Obalende, Obalende.” She was in the bus a few feet away from me but I could not imagine a woman doing the work of a bus conductor and not enter her bus. This will not be the first time I have seen women driving danfo buses or acting as bus conductors, but it’s so rare I always wonder why, each time I see them.
When I entered this bus, the first thing that hit me was how clean the bus was, even though it was old, the interior was very clean. I thought I was the only one that observed it, but the men in front of me said their thoughts aloud. “Ah see as the bus dey shine, because woman dey inside.” They laughed.
The woman only smiled back. As we continued our trip to Obalende, she went about her work with so much dignity. She didn’t hang at the side, but sat in the seat closest to the door. She said welcome to passengers as they boarded and thank you when they paid. She spoke calmly as if she was in an office.
There was just an air about her, and nobody was rude to her, not even the uniform wearing agberos who take joy in harassing bus conductors. They called her Iya or madam. She gave them their money and it was a smooth ride. Although faces can be deceiving, the woman looked like she would be in her mid-40s, definitely not a Sisi.
I noticed she was quite cosy with the driver then later I discovered they are a married couple. I sighed. I wondered what life had thrown at them that they are now using this bus which might not even be theirs to hustle. Because we are Nigerians, someone in the bus asked the man why he is allowing his wife do this kind of work. The woman smiled a brief smile, the type that says where will I start talking from? But it was the man who said, ‘our children must eat and go school, so we go do anything we fit for dem.”
Soon we were in Obalende and off I went. The couple stayed in my mind as I kept wondering what might have gone wrong or why they were both hustling as bus driver and conductor. Were they making enough money? While I am a feminist, and believe a woman can do anything she wants to do without restrictions, I still felt sorry that she had to do that work. Lagos is a crazy place. I hope that things turn around for that family.
By Wednesday thoughts of the woman and her husband had receded to the back of my mind until I heard news of what our National Grandfather said about young people in Nigeria. I didn’t think of myself and my friends, people I know who break their backs to make an honest living, at least not those of us who have university education and some skills; we can survive as being lazy.
It was this couple I thought of, and other Nigerians like them who are striving under very harsh conditions, pushing despite our government’s failure to put things in place for us to excel. Nigerians can excel at anything, as long as the government is not involved.
Our National Grandfather spoke the thoughts of older Nigerians; he is not the first to say young people are lazy. He is not the first to assume that, we, from a generation suffering from their waste and bad decisions, who are making waves around the globe, are lazy and want handouts.
The hashtag is trending #LazyNigerianYouths, people are angry. The state house released a smelly statement to say the President said ‘some’ not ‘all’ as if that is a justification for anything.
My question is dear lazy Nigerian youths are you going to be angry enough to go get your PVCs and vote?