When travelling across Nigeria in a public bus there is always a preacher inside leading passengers in hymns and prayers for a safe trip. It is a form of travel insurance from God. I caught the Abuja bus from Mile 2 in Lagos. A grueling 12hour 533km/331mile ride through mostly bad and hazardous roads in a very cramped bus.
I have travelled these roads hundreds of times. It is the only way to experience this beautiful country and to capture amazing images of the people, culture and landscape. So I gladly overlook what I consider minor inconveniences.
The preacher is perched in the space meant for legroom in a bus already overloaded with passengers, luggage, goods and a goat. He waits until the bus makes it out of the motor park when he announces to the passengers that Jesus is in control of the bus.
The prayers distract from the fact that we are traveling in a salvaged “Tokunbo” bus from Belgium. That there are no government inspectors to certify these buses road worthy. The worries of the occasional armed robbers on the highway waiting to ambush the bus and rob merchants of their goods and cash is also temporarily eased.
What we do have are Road Safety cops and police officers at sanctioned and unsanctioned checkpoints that litter the highways lining their pockets with N100 notes from these commercial bus drivers to pass them through.
Within a few minutes of getting on the road the preacher has managed to transform the travelers into his congregation, heads bowed as chants of “amen Jesus” “Jesus amen” fill the bus, with him rounding off each prayer sequence with a resounding “in Jesus mighty name”.
The preacher prays for the passengers all the way to the city limits, in this case Berger, where he hops off, but not before collecting enough cash donations from the now jittery travelers ambushed into paying for prayers.
Once on the highway the bus driver displays his NASCAR driving skills. Most passengers sit quietly secured in the assurance of prayers while the bus driver speeds and drives recklessly.
On this trip there was a lady in the 3rd row that wasn’t going to stand for his reckless driving and cautioned the driver about it. Her caution quickly morphed into a sexist argument when the driver claimed men are better drivers and all women knew how to do was “sharp their mouths”.
He also pulled out his years of experience driving these highways as evidence he knew what he was doing. Of course he yielded to caution for all of 5 minutes then returned to his reckless driving.
There is no shortage of pastors, preachers, prophets and prophetesses in these public buses that sell their brand of Christianity for the duration of the trip. But one thing you hardly see is the pastor, preacher, prophet or prophetess leading the passengers in prayers when the bus arrives at the final destination.
Yes if you pay close attention like I do you will see the prophetess wipe her face and whisper “thank God”. – @OgbeniAyotunde