The period of living in Lagos without a car might be one of the defining periods in your life. I mean it. I am totally not kidding. You would know this especially if you don’t have the money to spend on Uber or Taxify daily. Who would do that when you are going to be stuck in traffic for up to 3 hours to and fro? Okay some people would; but not me. I’m just a corps member not Dangote’s daughter, so I stick to danfo, BRT buses, or okada (motorbikes).
Don’t ask me how the name danfo came to be. I have no idea myself. I just know that danfos are the yellow commercial mini-buses with two black lines on them and arguably the most popular means of transportation in Lagos City.
As I was saying, the bus life in Lagos would teach you persistence, perseverance, tolerance, humility and above all, give you the hustle spirit. So believe me when I say it is an experience that would mold your life forever. If you are new to Lagos, get out your pen and paper and start jotting. This course is DANFO 101.
The first and most important rule of danfo is hustling. You must learn to hustle, especially if you are plying a route with limited buses at rush hour. You would have to keep home training in your pocket and push whoever you can to get a seat on the bus. However, in doing this you must hold your bag as tightly as you can. Some pickpockets have found this struggle to be the perfect opportunity to perform some disappearing magic on your valuable belongings.
Don’t be like the guy who struggled to get in the bus and when he finally put his hand in his pocket to pay, his wallet was gone. So it is safe to say that you have fully mastered the art of danfo hustling only when you are able to protect your belongings and still get a good spot on the bus. This brings me to the next point.
GOOD SEAT WINDOW SEAT
The inside of a danfo is a whole new world entirely. It is usually made up of three or four rows of wooden chairs with metal frames and each row is supposed to contain four people no matter how tight it is. You don’t want to be the person sandwiched between the fat, sweaty man trying to press his phone and the woman with three kids that only paid for one spot. I’ve been that person; so trust me when I say you don’t want to be that person. You should aim for a window seat. This would also isolate you from the smell of different things and bodies in the bus.
The front seat would be most preferable but if you aim for that and don’t get it, your chances of getting into the main bus are very slim. And let us not even talk about that seat between the front seat and the driver. Don’t ever sit there! Apart from it having no seat belt (like your life doesn’t matter), the driver would constantly hit your knees trying to use the gear and you would feel serious heat from the engine. So to clarify, aim for the front seat (the true front seat) or a window seat.
3. MOVE WITH CHANGE
To avoid commotion when using danfo, try your best to move with loose change. You would hear most conductors shouting already “ Wole pelu change e” (Enter with your change). Most of them hate the rigorous process of looking for change while some actually have change but like looking for trouble. So to save yourself from endless banter, move around with change for danfo purposes. When you don’t have change, try informing the conductor before hand and he would most likely tell you to enter if it is not rush hour but if it is… See next point!
4. SWITCH UP
Enter like that! Yes, I said it. Don’t be asking if there is change while others are hustling for bus. My dear, if you don’t have change, enter with your 1000 NGN. Now what you need to do here is to switch up. You have to be able to go from 0 to 100 real quick. Being classy and posh would not work for you here.
You have to ask for your change quickly. Most conductors would tell you to hold on and give you your change later but some may act stubborn. You would have to become loud and razz in the banter that would ensue. Make statements that assert your streetness and how you would stop at nothing to get your change. Hopefully, they won’t realize it is all mouth and beat you up lol.
5. BE ATTENTIVE
While in a danfo, be very attentive. You can make use of your earpiece if the journey is a long distance but be sure to remove it from time to time to be aware of your environment. Hold your phone tightly if you are using it. Yes, they can snatch it through the window. Be wise, pay attention.
6. REPEAT REPEAT REPEAT
Whatever it is that is danfo business, keep repeating it. These bus conductors seem to have a lot on their mind so the only way to reinforce your needs is to keep repeating it. If you are to collect 350 NGN change for example, keep repeating “350 change oo” till you get your change. Once you are two stops away from your bus stop, start repeating the stop to the conductor. You have to familiarize yourself with the phrase “O wa!!!” If you decide to use other variations like “There is!” or “I’m alighting” or “Stop here”, just know that you will be carried past your destination and to the last bus stop.
I hope you’ve been a little enlightened by this crash course on surviving the danfo life in Lagos. If you cannot cope with danfo, then you are in luck. I would give you my BRT crash course very soon so expect BRT 101. Till then, hold tight to your belongings and remember that a danfo is no place to be posh.
Thank you for reading! For my Lagos people, I want to hear from you. How do you move about in Lagos? What is your danfo story? Haha! I can’t wait to read comments. Gist away!
Your tiny eyed storyteller.