Never Again

Hiliary Chukwu

� Copyright 2021 Hilary Chukwu

Photo of a crowded Nigerian bus.

So I had to embark on this journey over the weekend, again without my car and again because my mechanic failed to deliver the job I gave him to do on the car since two weeks; going on three (a story for another day). I had to take my nephew back to the village. He had visited to spend the long holiday with my household. I had booked ABC transport from Calabar to Enugu, a seamless process I must say, having to do the booking online 2 days earlier. My nephew and I had reported at the ABC Calabar station one hour earlier. Our bus was billed to depart for Enugu at 9AM, so we had to be on time. We waited until 9AM and nothing happened! It was at 9:48AM that the customer service unit announced there has been a delay and they regret the inconveniences and bla! We hung in, not because we were a bunch of patient and understanding passengers, but because we realistically had no immediate option. Eventually we left Calabar at 11AM for a 9AM trip. All is well that ends well they say.

It was on my return journey that I saw what was an unprecedented drama of a trip. Again I had rushed in to ABC transport station Enugu at about 7:48AM on Sunday morning to try and book my return ticket. I could not do so online this time because the site would not just open. I got the their Enugu terminal and was told I was lucky to have just one more sit left for Calabar. I booked and waited for my ticket. The �ticketer� then asked if I wanted Seat 4, 12 or 13. I wondered why I was having three options to choose from, when I have just been told there was just one chance left. I asked her to give me Seat 4 all the same. She did and I waited. Two other passengers came in a few minutes later to complete the Seats and we all waited for 9AM.


9 came and passed. No one said anything to any of us. 9:30AM and the announcement came� They were sorry for the delay, but we would soon be leaving. 10AM� They regret the long delay, it was due to �logistics reasons�� whatever that means. 10:30AM, our bus will soon be here and they deeply regret the inconveniences and bla!! 10:52AM �most of us could hold on no more. We began to demand for refunds and they actually did refund our money! At almost 11AM? After 2 torturous hours of waiting? Well, nothing wey eye go see shed blood.

We all had to scamper for alternative means of getting back to Calabar. Time was running out really fast and we feared that other transport options to Calabar might have left already. All the same I decided to try. I just had to find a way to leave Enugu that Sunday, for two major reasons really: I had to be at work the next morning which was a Monday. Not finding a way to leave Enugu that Sunday would mean not being able to travel until Tuesday because of the IPOB sit-at-home stuff. I actually did not have many options, so I hit the road, scouting for another vehicle going to Calabar from Enugu. I got to Onitsha South Mass Transit and was lucky to find a bus loading for Calabar. Again there were just two Seats left. I quickly paid for one and a lady paid for the second and that was it.

Time to board. That was when I realized that the number of luggage of intending passengers for the trip was at least 3 times the number of passengers. Too many bags. Different sizes. Different shapes. There was also a heap of long electrical pipes already laid under the seats, stretching from the back seat up to the seats just behind the driver.

I waited and watched to see what magic the loaders were going to do to fit all of those loads inside the bus. To my utter chagrin, they kept pushing and forcing the bags under every inch of space under the seats, by the sides, in between leg�just anywhere until all the loads were squeezed in! Wow, what those guys cannot do does not exist. We all had to tuck ourselves away somewhow in that bus, in between bags until everyone was in. We set out and the real drama started.

The driver took a route as though we were headed for Anambra instead of Cross River. Everyone kept quiet but not me. I had to ask where he was going. For a moment I thought we all have just been kidnapped! That was when he explained he would have to go look for where to buy fuel before we start the journey. It was nearly a 30 minutes drive before he eventually found a gas station that was selling. The rest were all shut down for reasons that were unclear to me till now. The one that was selling actually sold the fuel for N215 as against the official pump price of N162. All the same, he bought the fuel and we finally started off enroute Calabar. I thought the drama was over. Little did I know that it was just beginning. In fact, it seemed all what I have experienced thus far was just mere rehearsals for the main event!

The driver was galloping his way towards Calabar. We all knew his speed was excessive; especially given the terrible condition of the road. But we all pretended it was just fine because we all wished to make up for the lost time. One and half hours later, we were at Ugep which was about 2 hours away from Calabar. Then the driver pulled over by a small market. We all wondered what was wrong. Has the vehicle developed a fault? Perhaps someone wants to drop? It was none of those. The driver actually stepped out, slammed his door and went straight to a garri vendor by the roadside and started negotiating price with her. We all looked on, jaw-dropped until he was done buying his garri. He walked back with the sack of garri on his shoulder and was chucking it in near the leg of the only nursing mother in the bus. The lady started to complain that she was already choking for space. I could not take it anymore so I confronted the driver and asked why he had to abandon us all in the bus in that manner like we were some none-living things, without the simple courtesy of excusing himself to go buy his garri. The boy did not speak. He simply ignored my reprimand and continued what he was doing, ignoring the complaints of the woman with a child as well. That got to me really badly and I raise my tone on him; demanding to know if that was how he was trained at home? To have no regards for other people?

That was it. Hell was let lose. The driver said because I said he had no home training, he would not move the vehicle until he had wasted enough time to ensure we would get to Calabar by 10PM. That way, he would have shown me how untrained he was. I found that rather funny than annoying. So I burst out laughing. The rest of the passengers lost it with him at that point. They scolded him severally for making a mistake and not admitting it even when I volunteered to correct him. The nursing mother with us was by this time trying hard to control the cry of her baby. The hitherto cheerful baby girl was obviously feeling as uncomfortable as the rest of us in the bus. The woman and a few others went to plead with the driver to come move the vehicle. An elderly passenger who had been quiet all along then stepped in for the first time to remind everyone that no one actually owed the stupid driver any apologies. And in the actual fact, he was the one who should apologize to the rest of us for his unruly behaviour; and that was what I had demanded from him in the first instance. I smiled.

The driver would sit down there for the next 40 minutes while the woman with a child was begging him. I didn�t come down from the bus. I stuck out my head from the window to tell the driver how much a fool he would be if he eventually came to move the bus before it was 10PM. Some of the passengers pleaded with me to just let go and not add more insult to the injury. I refused. I made up my mind to keep rubbing in how stupid and uncultured the boy was.

After about one hour, the driver came to start to engine and asked people to get in so we can continue the journey. I trolled him. I called him every unprintable name I could conjour. I made sure to tell him how silly and ball-less he was for not making good his threat of ensuring we got to Calabar by 10PM. He did not say a word. Perhaps he suddenly realized how stupid he really was all along.

Then the drama took a different twist. Another passenger who was thoroughly vexed by the driver�s disrespect, refused to board. He had put a call to Onitsha South Mass Transit Head Office demanding to speak with the General Manager. He was told the manager was not on seat. He gave them a brief of what was going on between us and the driver at Ugep and insisted he would not board that bus until he has gotten a call from the GM. He also threatened to sue the entire Onitsha South Mass Transit for the inhuman treatment. Other passengers started begging him to let go so we could continue the journey. He would not bulge. It would take another 30 minutes of begging from the rest of the passengers (except me who was actually enjoying the drama) before the man agreed to board again.

And then the driver got in to move the car. I reminded him that it was only just 3:47PM, meaning we would get to Calabar before 6PM as against his promise (threat) of 10PM. He kept quiet. I told him he would be a fool of a universal proportion to have made a threat and failed to keep it. He did not say anything. The rest of the passengers were now having belly aches from laughter. We set out again with the driver doubling his speed and galloping through the Ugep-Calabar road full of potholes. One of the passengers begged him to slow down so we don�t crash. I told him to never mind, after all we all were traveling with the original copies of our lives including the stupid driver. He did not come on that trip with a photocopy of his life. Did he?

I had fun. But I swore never to travel with ABC Transport, never again!

Hillary Chukwu holds a Bachelor of Arts (B.A) in Theatre and Media Studies from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka (2005) and a Postgraduate Diploma in Mass Communication from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (2012). He also has a Master of Arts (M.A) Degree in Social and Behaviour Change Communication (SBCC) (2020) from the University of Calabar. He previously worked as a Media Producer, Presenter, Writer and Director with sundry Broadcast and Print Media outfits in Nigeria.

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