[dropcap]As[/dropcap] the BRT bus I was in neared the last stop at CMS (an area in Lagos, Nigeria) one Monday morning, I immediately noticed the large number of people waiting at the bus-stop even though there were lots of buses parked around. I got off the BRT bus and joined the group of corporately dressed people waiting for buses heading to Victoria Island (VI). For reasons that were not clear to most people, the available buses chose not to go to Victoria Island (the corporate centre of Lagos).
My legs began to ache from the prolonged wait and to make matters worse, the weather began to change. Many thoughts ran through my mind: my scheduled meetings, what my boss will say, how embarrassing it will be for me to arrive at the office drenched. All of a sudden, “Victoria Island, VI”, a bus conductor bellowed as his bus drove into view.
As is the usual trend in Lagos in this kind of situation, a mad rush ensued; it was “survival of the fittest”. Apparently, the bus driver was headed toward another part of Lagos but decided to take advantage of the huge crowd heading to VI by increasing the normal fare by 50%. The waiting crowd seemed not to mind the increased fare or so I thought. Luckily, I was able to shove through to the seat behind the driver.
The bus filled quickly and we headed toward VI. The bus conductor started collecting the fares while restating the amount he expected each passenger to pay. The passengers beside the driver and those of us on the first row complied. Just then, a passenger at the back row raised an objection about the increased fare, stating that the driver was being an opportunist and greedy. Before I could say jack, all the nicely dressed passengers who hadn’t paid joined in and objected to paying the fare.
[dropcap]Lagos[/dropcap] drivers and conductors never disappoint, they fought back vehemently with all sorts of abuses and threats, all to no avail. It was amazing how the passengers seemed to have “unionized” and refused to pay above the usual fare. It was a classic case of capitalism against socialism and on this particular day, the “union” won. After all the union members had paid the normal fare, those of us in the front row asked for a refund of the extra fare we paid. We stylishly pledged allegiance to the union and the bus conductor complied. The whole thing was just really funny. The union won!
We got to the final bus-stop in VI and it was raining cats and dogs. The driver stopped and asked everyone to get off his bus but I refused to get off, I couldn’t. I pleaded with him to allow me remain in the bus until the rain stopped; I told him he could continue his journey; I would find my way back to the office from wherever I get off his bus. At that point, the driver and his conductor reminded me that I pledged allegiance with the “union” and thus had to get off their bus into the rain.
I considered upholding my honour and refusing to be spoken down on but it was raining heavily and I had no intention of getting drenched; so I apologised to “Management” and reminded them that I had initially paid the fare they proposed. As luck would have it, it all went well; Management drove for another 5mins before the rain stopped; I got off and we both moved on.
One thing continues to baffle me though, if this ever happens again, who is it safer to pay allegiance to, Management or Union?