Public Transportation in Ibadan

27 Oct

As an American, when I hear the words “public transportation,” images of buses, subways and trains appear. Now that I’ve become a true “omo-Ìbadàn” (child of Ibadan), I think of the three most common forms of transportation here: okadas, danfos, and taxis. An okada is a motorcycle taxi. Okadas are by far the fastest, but also the most dangerous way to get around the city. Usually okadas carry one or two passengers, but I am always entertained by how people push these limits.

Oakada shenanigans

It is not uncommon to see a husband, wife, and their new-born child strapped onto the woman’s back with a piece of cloth (this is how all Yoruba women carry their babies for the first year or so of their lives). I have also seen more strange sights such as people balancing everything from semi truck doors, to a pack of goats tied up, while riding two-deep on the back of an okada.

family okada ride

Okadas are the preferred method of transport by many, as they can weave in and out of cars during traffic jams (which are atrocious at times in Nigeria due to lack of infrastructure and urban planning). Even when there are not traffic jams, the speed of traffic is very slow, as speed bumps are used in place of speed limits, and massive potholes are rampant as well as other obstacles such as goats and chickens that are ever-present on the city streets.

Danfos are extremely old and haggard vans usually crammed to double their intended capacity. The danfo consists of a driver and a conductor, who gathers customers and collects money. In the video below, the conductors are the ones with the throaty voices yelling out the names of neighborhoods (Sango, Mokola Dugbe! Sango Mokola Dugbe! or Beere oja-oba! Beere Oja-oba!). Danfo rides are very uncomfortable to say the least. Passengers alternate between leaning forward and backward, as there is not enough space for everyone to sit in a line.


When the danfo is not moving (a majority of the time), body odor, diesel exhaust, trash-fire smoke, smoking fish, urine, and gasoline quickly find their way up your nose nostrils. I always quickly sweat through my clothing in danfos, not only from the heat outside, but because the heat from the engine is enough to make you hold your knees tight to your chest to keep your feet off of the scorching hot floor. Nonetheless, riding a danfo is an experience. Danfo drivers are often illiterate and have no drivers lisences, so sketchy flirts with car accidents, colorful language on behalf of the driver and those the driver has offended, and jerky, jostling movement from the gear shifts and turns of the steering wheel never fail to add to the excitement.

Taxis, although they sound fairly civilized, are more like mini-danfos. They are packed full-two passengers in the single front seat, usually someone on someone else’s lap in the back. They rarely start by the ignition, usually by hot-wire or a push start. Gages, radios, air conditioning, padding on seats and doors, and functioning door handles are almost never present. Despite all of these scratches and dents I’ve described, this public transportation system suffices to meet the needs of Ibadan’s 5 million citizens everyday. Most everyone uses public transportation somewhat regularly. Even though my family has three automobiles, my mom still scoots all around Ibadan on Danfos as it is often difficult to find a place to park cars, and overheating of cars is a huge concern here (most people turn off their engines when they are driving downhill, or stopped for ANY length of time at an intersection/in a traffic jam). I am highly impressed by the fact that although there is no organized single entity that makes up pubic transportation here, individuals have stepped up to fill in the discrepancy in social amenities left by Nigeria’s horribly corrupt and ineffective government. It is yet another example of how chaos breeds creativity. I would argue that danfos run more regularly than New York City subways, and although they may take longer sometimes, they are much more personalized.

The video below highlights my daily routing going to my internship in the morning-a radio and TV studio about 4-5 miles away from my home. The journey usually takes about an hour, but i’ve condensed it into a six minute video. Hope you enjoy!


8 Responses to “Public Transportation in Ibadan”

  1. Karen Born October 27, 2010 at 2:15 PM #

    “Another example of how chaos breeds creativity”…I love that quote from your blog! This blog with pictures just had me amazed…(reading with mouth open), but then when I got to your video…just pure fascination!

    My first reaction is how we take so much for granted in America! We feel impatient just being delayed by occasional circumstances…trains, heavy traffic, etc…and that is with the luxury of our vehicles starting immediately with the turn of a key!
    Your typical journey to get to your destination 4-5 miles away was a lesson in patience and appreciation for me!

    Kevin, your fluency in their native language is quite impressive! It appears to come second nature to you…all of it does! Even your driver made that comment about speaking the language! You appear to be quite comfortable in dealing with all of the chaos! You are amazing!

  2. Seun Idowu October 27, 2010 at 3:33 PM #

    Hi Oyinbo! You really cracked me up with this piece and it’s not because it’s just’s because you are so correct about everything! I struggled to find one misconception! I grew up in Ibadan and my home’s still there so I identify with and confirm every word you’ve written here! I would still love to meet you, my oyinbo friend.

  3. Dipo kaiyewu October 27, 2010 at 10:44 PM #

    This is just so funny, looking at this video shows Ibadan from a different view I never saw before. The Oyinbo man is so correct about so much. @Oju Oran ose ti o paste e si ori FB. Ibadan is like a s#?*$_hole and like many my house is there as well

    • Seun Idowu October 28, 2010 at 8:50 AM #

      Dipo…it breaks my heart that Ibadan is a shadow of its former self. I wish Oyinbo had come in the days when there was absolutely no traffic and places like Onireke, Oluyole and Bodija were true’s shameful that the few things of pride we have in Ibadan are things that were done by the Awolowos in the 60s…shame.

  4. Tetteh October 27, 2010 at 11:50 PM #

    I must say Kayode, I am impressed with your yoruba. The hardest thing about Yoruba is getting the intonations right, because if you don’t, you could end up saying stuff you don’t mean, or worse! You are are getting the hang of it though. Oh, the Sunny Ade background music was a deft touch!! Excellent!

  5. Barney October 28, 2010 at 2:01 AM #

    Hi Kev–Pretty amazing video. Part of me wants to get a rental car (with the insurance, of course) and try to drive over there. It almost seems like full size go-karts.

  6. Ibukun November 20, 2010 at 10:20 AM #

    LOL!!! “Mi o fe joko s’egbe oyinbo o”….baba ooo. lol. Kayode ki lo gba lodo baba o? This was hilarious. I miss Nigeria.

  7. Toni November 21, 2010 at 8:02 AM #

    haha! yekpa ibadan ohhhh. i’ll never complain again when my driver comes late. I love to see the reaction of ppl when they hear you speak yoruba.

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