Five Experiential Rules of Dealing with Danfo Conductors
Angrily, I asked, “Ógà, where my change?” My voice, a little higher than the last time.
The first rule of dealing with danfo bus conductors in Nigeria is:
Rule #1: NEVER SPEAK ENGLISH TO THEM. ONLY PIDGIN.
Speaking English is a sign of weakness. Ok, that’s ironic but let me explain. Speaking English is actually a sign of superiority over the danfo conductors because most of them don’t even have a primary school education. So, a way for them to gain control of the situation is to be brash with you.
This time around, he responded, “Mo so fún e pé 150 ni mótòr”, with a coarse voice and he didn’t look at me.
Translation: “I told you the fare is 150”.
I was halfway-ish from work and I needed to get my change before getting off the damn bus. Shit! I knew I’d broken rule #2.
Rule #2: NEVER NEGOTIATE THE FARE INSIDE THE BUS. DO IT BEFORE YOU’RE BOARDED.
But I was desperate. This guy was going to rob me of my change and I wasn’t even sure how to stop him so I switched to Yoruba, looking around the danfo for support from other passengers. “L’aaro kùtù-kùtù, l’áti onípàn? Ògá, fúnmi ní 100 naira change mi”.
Translation: “As early as it is, from onipan? Mister, give me my 100 Naira change.”
Nobody acted as if they heard me because everybody just kept a straight face, including the danfo conductor. So I rephrased, “Leventis ni mò ńlo o. Fúnmi ni 100 Naira change mi o. 100 Naira”, emphasizing the amount I was to collect.
Translation: “My bus stop is Leventis. Give me my 100 Naira change. 100 Naira.”
Rule #3: NEVER ASSUME THERE’S A NORMAL FARE. IT DEPENDS ON THE CONDUCTOR.
In my defence, fares are cheaper in the morning. Besides, I take the bus for 100 Naira every morning. This guy was just being an asshole. Why did I give him a 200 Naira note? If only I’d given him exactly 100 Naira. . .
Now asides the occasional “ó wà!” from other passengers which is the call for their bus stops, the bus was silent.
A minute passed. Then two, then three. . .“Leventis wa o!,’’ I said. “Change?” This time he turned his face at me and said “ojú’gò, miò ní wàsó”. This is very common amongst common people. They see that you wear glasses so they call you ojú’gò which literally translates to eyeglasses. In addition, they assume they can bully you because they believe wearing glasses is an ajebo thing. I was going to work so I was formally dressed — shirt, pants, and brogues. He must have profiled me as a young ajebo professional.
Rule #4: NEVER EVER EXPECT OTHER PASSENGERS TO COME TO YOUR RESCUE. ALTHOUGH THEY MIGHT . . .
“. . .cliche! Calling me ojú’gò — that’s the very cliche”, I thought. I wasn’t even angry about that. I realized that I’d lost the battle from the beginning so I was angry at myself. I felt the anger rise in my tummy and I could taste it in my mouth. Really bitter stuff. I just shouted, “...ehn, wá wàsó mi fúnmi!”.
Translation: “...find my 50 Naira!” (Wàsó is slang for 50 Naira)
What he did next scared me.
He turned his head back, fixed his eyes on me and said, “t’óbá bí e re, tún bèrè owó kankan lówó mi. . .”
Translation: “I dare you to ask me for change again. . .”
Shit, I was scared. Did he just threaten me? All through this, no one in the danfo was concerned at all. Well, it’s not like I join in on other people’s arguments with danfo conductors either. So, maybe I deserved this.
I’d never been verbally threatened in my life. Especially by a stranger. The biggest threat I’d had before then were academic threats. Threats like “hey Nurein! I bet you can’t solve this question”. It’s never been this personal. I was scared because of a lot of things but chiefly because this guy could easily fuck me up and there wasn’t much I could do to fuck him back up.
So, I just shut my mouth.
Rule #5: NEVER ASSUME THE CONDUCTOR IS SANE.
A few seconds passed and we were at Leventis so I alighted the danfo and asked for my change again hoping he’d give me wàsó and I’d have reduced my losses. But he stretched his hand this way:
And said, “ìyá e! T’óbá sure fún e, wá gbà”
Translation: “your mother! If you’re sure, come get it”.
god! He didn’t even want to give me the original change he had in mind anymore — 50 Naira. I was scared and felt like an idiot at the same time. To most Nigerians, what he did with is hand is considered very offensive and is usually accompanied by a short phrase “ìyá e! or waka!” depending on the person’s tribe. In Greece, it’s moutza. As you can imagine, there’s even a double moutza.
I wasn’t even offended by that. It doesn’t mean much to me. What worried me was that I’d seen videos of people wearing a suit and tie fighting with danfo conductors. I didn’t want to be a meme soon. Besides, I couldn’t pick a fight with this guy. See, if somebody slaps me on the street, I’m sure I wouldn’t slap the person back. Call me a pussycat or whatever but I’d rather talk something out than throw a punch. Plus I’m not even built for a violent life. I don’t even know how I’d have survived if I were alive during the civil war.
Anyway, I quickly figured this bus conductor guy would beat the daylight out of me. In the end, I’d lose my change and my fine face. Oh no! Not my face. That’s the only thing I’ve got besides my brains to attract ladies. You asshole of a danfo boy won’t take that away from me!
So, I just opened my mouth in awe as the danfo sped off. The funny thing was he was still looking back at me with his fingers doing waka. Like jeez, this guy had no single respect for me.
I just stood at that same spot, staring, not sure what to do. For the first time, I was having a lot of first times. Man, I just got cheated on the street. I just got bullied. I just got threatened. I’m not sure how long I stood there but I didn’t get to work late. I must’ve crossed the road somehow and walked to work.