THE SECOND PASSENGER IN THE FRONT SEAT
by Opeyemi Adebari
6th August, 2017
Ibadan to Abeokuta is not much of a distance. With a sensible driver and a vehicle in excellent condition, one should make the trip in 90 minutes at most.
We had just crossed over to the other side from the car park. We had stopped about three cabs before getting one going our way. “150 ni onikolobo oooo” said this elderly driver authoritatively as we walked briskly to enter.
We quickly made ourselves comfortable before giving baba an idea of a reasonable price, jokingly though. Since I was born and bred in Egba, I am no novice to transport pricing. 150 naira was fair for our destination. Furthermore, I do not like bargaining much. It often leads to unnecessary exchange of words. Forgot to add, if you are too much of a bargainer, you might be plastered with so much insult and would have to wait for someone whose hobby is carrying people for free to their destinations.
My sister and I were the two passengers at the back seat with a young man in the front seat. Just moving a little bit, a passenger waved calling, “moore junction!” She entered making the backseat filled up. On reaching Salawu Abiola Comprehensive High School, some women waved down the car. I can’t even remember where they said they were going because my mind was calculating the extra seat that would be manufactured as the driver stopped to pick them. Before the women got to the car, they had chorused “awa meji ni o”, meaning we are two! This elderly driver told them to come because moore junction was just one more zoom and that the lady in the backseat would alight soon. I was greatly angered as the driver told the three passengers to adjust to accommodate an illegal fourth passenger as well as a second passenger in the front seat. I was furious and became the spokesman for the all passengers in the bus, telling this Baba that it was not possible for us to adjust as the seat was made for three not four. I guess my words had no effects in him, as he replied, “ti o ba le sun ko bole. If you can’t adjust get down’’. Angrily, I told my younger sister that we should alight. The two illegal passengers started pleading that we should not be angry. Well I didn’t care much about the woman who was to seat in front but that fourth passenger at the back was enough to make me mad. Without fear, I told this Baba that he should not use his old age to cheat younger ones so that his respect would be intact. I am not sure if it had been men of his age sitting at the back, he would have taken such a selfish decision!
(7TH August, 2017)
We had reached the tail end of Challenge to begin our journey to Iwo Road when, suddenly, this young driver who had been a good boy since we left the Panseke Garage in Abeokuta blew the remaining passengers in the car a kiss of surprise, as he parked and asked us to board another vehicle to Iwo Road, which on agreement, was supposed to be our last bus stop from Abeokuta. I said, to myself, as he parked, “hope he is the one paying the fare down to Iwo Road?”. I stylishly voiced it out as I got down and my seat mate responded, “of course, awon lo ma san wo, he will pay!”
To my surprise, and displeasure, there were already two passengers at the back seat, and we were three that alighted from the space bus, and our driver had paid this Micra driver. The Micra man said “o ti pe be yen, sister e wole si waju pelu mummy, enter and seat in front with her’’. I told him I didn’t want to seat in front with another passenger; besides, this mummy was two times my size (I said this last part in my mind ooo and of course it was obvious). By this time, my smart, lepa co-passenger had made herself comfortable as the third passenger in the back seat. Eventually, she was called upon to come and seat in front with me. My heart agreed that I could manage with her, but my head disagreed. I remember this lady telling the driver to watch her leg and avoid the gear from violently romancing her thigh at intervals. To compensate my heart, I decided to start a conversation with this driver on our way. I asked him, in Yoruba, why they always carried two passengers in the front seat, and whether they are not aware that the white man made the seat for just one. He responded, “Nigeria lawa, this is Nigeria’’. What an amazing response! I was not surprised, after all this is Nigeria where standards are disregarded. I told him that it is wickedness and greed that make them carry two “incompatible” people in front. He responded, in Yoruba, that drivers can’t force people to share the front seat, if they don’t want to. He added jokingly that if people were also to seat in the boot or on any part of the car they will still pay. For me, the conversation ended there, because if I did not stop the questions, my heart could explode. Soon a passenger alighted from the back seat and I relocated. My heart smiled again. Before I forget, he also said if the opportunity existed, they would carry four people at the back and if we want them to start carrying just one person in front, the road transport officials in “white and green” should stop collecting levy at every bus stop.
I used to be the second passenger in the front seat for many years, and this was more pronounced during my five-year study at the University of Ibadan (UI). The only time I was freed from being the second passenger in the front seat was whenever I boarded a cab at the university car park. In UI, it is an offence for both the driver and the drivee (lol). Okada riders in the University do not take more than one passenger on any trip. Thumbs up for the transport Administrators for this because I’m sure if stringent rules were not laid down, there would be no sanity in the university transport system.
In March 2017, I decided that I was going to stop being the second passenger in the front seat. I had taken a cab to visit a brother of mine and his wife for the weekend. I must say the journey from UI to Total garden was an inconvenient one, talking about the forceful romance of the gear with my left thigh at various intervals. Of course, the driver was less concerned. He felt I should be the one adjusting to give way to “Mr. Gear”. The pain I felt in my left thigh, the following morning, reminded me of several discomforts I felt in times past in my left thigh which I didn’t trace to being the second passenger in the front seat. That was the end for me! Of course, my convictions were tested several times, but I always refused to exhale my conviction because change truly begins with me. I must be the New Nigeria I want to see by refusing to be exploited in the front seat.
Wait a minute! It seems to you that my reason for retreating was a selfish one, right? Far from it. When you refuse to do what is right, you will learn your lesson the hard way. Whatever is not right will eventually bring pain and regret, it just a matter of time. I decided to take an inventory and I realized that I didn’t learn my lessons early enough by buying into such unhealthy norm. It is only in Nigeria that unhealthy norms are stronger than written laws.
In March 2015, the University had just resumed for a new session. On this fateful morning of March 24, I had gone to Guaranty Trust bank, Mokola, to collect a new ATM card due to the expiration of the old one. Upon collection, I used the ATM, withdrew the amount I needed for my school fees. Transaction successful. I crossed to the other side of the road to take a cab back home. It was an unfortunate afternoon. There were four passengers in the supposed cab; three (all men) at the back and one in front (female). I was the second passenger in the front seat they were waiting for. I entered the front seat and tried to close the door but it was difficult. I tried it several times. The lady tried offering me some help. She held my bag while I kept trying to close the door. Suddenly, a forgotten past of when I was much younger came to mind. My mother sent me to deposit some money in the bank. After the transaction, I took a cab straight home. I remember that at the point of dropping at the junction of my house that there were just three of us in the cab; myself in the front seat, the driver and a supposed passenger at the back seat. I tried opening the door forcefully when the man wasn’t stopping at my destination. Alas, the locks were released and I made my way out of the car. I was scared. They thought I had money on me or probably saw me as a potential ritual sacrifice. (GOD ALWAYS SAVES HIS OWN!).
Back to the Guaranty Trust bank, Mokola, I shouted, “leave me, I am not going again!”. I snatched my bag from the lady holding it for me, as the driver shouted at me, “be going!”. I quickly checked the smaller zip in front of the bag to confirm that my money was intact. It was. I made up my mind not to take a cab again, but bike. I walked some distance away and hopped on a bike after proper scrutiny. I didn’t know my heavy cute bag was empty. As the bike was almost approaching Elewure, I felt the urge to check the main compartment of my bag, only to confirm my fear, my Samsung galaxy tab was gone! My spirit was at rage as I removed the heavy papers and books used to stuck the pouch of the tab. My very being cursed those wicked souls. It was one experience I didn’t get over in good time because my mother gave me the tab after much pestering. It was a big one for me. Above all I thank God that I am alive to share my experience. The lesson I took away from this experience was that you should never take transport directly in front of the bank, and one should watch carefully the cab to ensure that it is a registered cab having the NURTW sticker at the top right of the front screen with the correct cab painting. These bad guys are everywhere, so know your God and walk closely with Him.
For personal security, no one should agree to seat with another person in the front seat. It seems to me that money is more important to Micra drivers than the security and convenience of passengers.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Opeyemi Adebari is a law graduate from Nigeria’s premier University, the University of Ibadan. She is a passionate writer and poet. She believes in equity, justice, and value. Her works focus on correcting ills, Revealing injustice and promoting value on every possible plane. She is equally passionate about entrepreneurship.