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.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. 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!