This piece first appeared on Punch Newspaper on 23 July, 2018, and was authored by the paper’s politics editor and satirist: Tunde Odesola. Enjoy!
The ‘Molue’ is the omnibus farting fumes and pain on Lagos roads. It symbolises the innumerable privately-owned commercial buses seating 44 passengers with an indeterminable number of standing passengers cramming the aisle. The ‘Molue’ is akin to the spider; lethal, loose-limbed and loaded. The queer-looking thingamajig came into existence in the 1970s. ‘Molue’ is a Yoruba interpretation of ‘mould it’, which refers to the forging of iron sheets and steel by local auto builders to make the crudest bus known to science and technology.
Exhibiting the nimbleness of a lithe athlete, Jimoh, the stocky bus conductor jumped off the cruising giant cage on wheel, outrunning the rickety, jalopy, smoky bucket of bolts. As he jumped off the step at the door and the bus screeched to a stop at Iyana Ipaja, Jimoh began to shout the route of the bus, “Oshodi! Oshodi! Oshodi! Oshodi N100! Wole pelu shenji e ni o, mi o ni shenji o. Ikeja ma wole o. (enter with your shenji o, I don’t have shenji o, Ikeja passengers, don’t enter o)”
Passengers bolted after the bus like male monkeys on heat chasing after females to unleash testosterone. Some passengers dived in through the door, some jumped in through the window, some got in through the driver’s doorless compartment; gaining entry into the ‘Molue’ is much more difficult than the Power Holding Company of Nigeria providing electricity for 30 minutes nonstop. And the driver never stopped revving the disgruntled engine under the ugly hood of the dirty yellow bus. Black fume filtered in through the cracks in the bus floor with the road underneath glaring back, and a tough-looking tout issued a crumpled ticket to Jimoh, snapping N200 from his unwilling hands.
“Adealu, Araromi, Iyana Dopemu, Abe Bridge, Cement, Mangoro, Ile Zik, Ikeja, Airport, PWD, Shogunle, Ladipo, Alasia, Bolade. Go on to Oshodi, oga mi,” the bare-chested, sweaty conductor grunted as he tried to force his way through the cramped mass of standing passengers, collecting his fare. As if fleeing from certain demons, the bus bolted out of Iyana Ipaja Under Bridge and fled past Adealu, Araromi and Iyana Dopemu bus stops, only for it to succumb to a gnarling traffic jam starting from Abe Bridge. “Ah, go-slow yi bad o. Look at the endless queue, when are we getting out of this?” Kunle, the ‘Molue’ driver asked in regret.
Jimoh retorted, “Oga mi, go-slow on this road has been existing before I was born; government has found no solution to it. No be today o.”
“Do we even have a government in this country?”, queried an elderly woman in iro and buba, adding, “The common man on the street doesn’t feel the impact of government; there’s hunger in the land, herdsmen are killing, nowhere is safe, yet what all of them are concerned with is getting power.”
“Stop pressing your groin against me this early Monday morning, conductor; I’m not your type,” yelled a beautiful lady who was standing by the door of the bus.
“Na wetin? You fine pass Croatian President wey dey hug everybody for stadium? That na a whole president o. You wey no be president, person just rest on you small, you dey shout. Me, I wan go Croatia, jo! I wan leave this ‘Molue’ job go dey hug fine president. If that president hug me, I no go gree am go o. Na so I go glue am like person wey electric shock,” Jimoh said.
“Is it your type that the Croatian president would hug,” hissed the beautiful lady.
“Pogba wey she hug fine pass me?” Jimoh retorted while the lady responded with a long hiss, and a curse, “Wretched fellow!”
“Oga driver, please, can you tune your radio to Lasgidis FM? There’s a debating competition being aired live. Please, let’s listen to it” the elderly woman pleaded.
“Are you a teacher, ma?” the driver asked the woman seated behind him as he looked at her in the mirror above his head.
“Yes, sir,” the woman said with a sarcastic undertone.
“I was enjoying that Wasiu Ayinde live play o, but I will tune the radio to Lasgidi FM because I have respect for elders, especially women. I’m not like this tout of a conductor called Jimoh. He didn’t go to school, that’s why he ended up as a conductor,” the driver said.
The voice of the debate moderator came on air.
Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen, you’re, once again, welcome to the final of the annual national debating competition. As you all know, secondary schools from each of the 36 states of the federation started this long race. Today, we have just two schools in the final. The road to the final was nothing but easy! Salvation High School, Lagos, and Redemption Charismatic Comprehensive College of Port Harcourt are slugging it out to decide who will be the 2018 winner of this prestigious competition. The topic of the debate is: “Do Nigerian leaders deserve the Jerry Rawlings treatment?”
Audience: (Round of applause)
Moderator: I, hereby, call on the Supporting Speaker of Salvation Boys High School, Funbi Ajisoge, to come out for the final three minutes to marshal his points before the judges.
Omotolani: Good morning, Mr Chairman, the distinguished panel of judges, the accurate timekeeper, fellow debaters and members of the audience. I come before you this morning to convince you on why Nigerian leaders deserve the Rawlings treatment. What is the Rawlings treatment? Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings was a military leader of neighbouring Ghana, who in 1979, executed three former Ghanaian heads of state, three Supreme Court justices, several army generals and leaders, in what was described as a “house-cleaning exercise” aimed at stamping out corruption in the country. This is what we need in Nigeria to stem the high level of corruption in a country, where elected officials are no longer responsible to the electorate. A consideration of some of the speeches made by some of our leaders would properly situate the aridity of their thoughts, and show why this country is endangered. Nigerians have neither forgotten the thoughtless statement, “Nigerian youths are lazy,” nor this stupid speech by a serving senator, “I will kill myself and put you (policemen) in trouble,” nor this one by a megalomaniac ex-president, “Election is a do-or-die affair,” nor the shocking speech, “Stealing is not corruption.” We also have “Igbos should go and jump into the lagoon,” and the lie of the millennium by a serving minister and former governor of a Niger Delta state, who said, “God knows that I don’t like money. I have never collected bribe in my life,” and this bombshell from a former First Lady, “Ojukwu is a great man, he died but his manhood lives on,” and the latest chartbuster, “I’m in paaaaiiinnn, (huuhuu). If anything should happen to me…”
What do you expect from a country whose leaders don’t have the fertility of mind to make moving speeches such as the ones made by Martin Luther King, President Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill, J. F. Kennedy, Mahatma Gandhi, etc? How can such a country be developed?
The bell goes.
Omotolani: “I hope I’ve been able to convince you, and not confuse you, with these few points of mine that Nigerian leaders deserve the Rawlings treatment, thank you.
Moderator: Yes, the die is cast! The chief speakers and supporting speakers have all laid their points bare before the judges, who are now doing the additions and subtractions. While they are at that, I must say we’ve been treated to an exhilarating battle of intelligence here this morning. I hope you all enjoyed the oratorical skills displayed by each of the four speakers. While we await the verdict of the judges, I’ll call for a musical interlude…