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  • Walt Shakes

    Walt Shakes

    Walter Ude (@Walt_Shakes) is an award-winning Nigerian writer, poet and veteran blogger. He is a lover of the written word. the faint whiff of nature, the flashing vista of movies, the warmth of companionship and the happy sound of laughter. He blogs at mymindsnaps.wordpress.com.

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I’ve often wondered about the business relationship that exists between Lagos drivers and conductors and the roadside touts – the agberos.

A bus pulls to a stop at a bus stop, and a group of loud-talking men descend on the vehicle. Their hard faces are slick with sweat, and their fists are clenched over grubby Naira notes. If you lean in just close enough, you may catch a whiff of tobacco as they exclaim, the fumes of marijuana which has them pumped up for roadside action. ‘Owo da!’ They are shouting at the bus conductor, hands outstretched, as though making a demand that they had every right to. The conductor, without any argument, peels out a 50 naira note from the wad in his own hand and gives it to the agbero hand that grabs at it faster. Then the tout will scribble something on the side of the bus with his marker, an endorsement that that vehicle had paid its dues. And the driver is off. Business done.

But then, in comes another bus, with a disagreeable conductor and a short-tempered driver, whose moods are soured by the fact that business has been slow. Not enough passengers. Too much hold-up on the roads. And this idiot is coming to tell them ‘Owo da’. For wetin? There’s an outburst of angry voices. Yoruba expletives are hurled about. Fists are clenched. An altercation is brewing. The agberos audaciously yank at something from the bus. A car seat. A windscreen wiper. Something to get the conductor and driver to behave. Perhaps they do, perhaps they don’t.

Whatever the outcome, I’m still left wondering at the audacity. What gives these men the right to bully the commercial transport workers into giving to them from their hard-earned money? Bus stop after bus stop. Junction after junction. The agberos are like a pack of flies, pesky and unrelenting, just waiting to pounce.

Understanding of this financial enterprise that I’ve come to call the ‘Roadside Stock Exchange’ is something I’ve always wanted to grasp. It’s this puzzling piece that niggles at the back of my mind, begging to be comprehended. And the word on the street is that there are some touts who have hit it big from this kind of hustle, if you can believe it. I’ve updated my puzzlement on Facebook and Twitter. I’ve even questioned some Lagosians, friends of mine, old timers in this city who should have all the answers. They don’t. And I can’t blame them really. I’ve been here for nearly three years, and I still can’t figure it out.

Whether the answers will come or not, it sometimes makes for some entertainment for me when I observe the altercations that break out amongst these men.

Like the one that happened the other day on my way back from work.

I boarded a bus at the junction Ikeja Along, a bus headed for Oshodi. Both the bus driver and conductor were young and hyper. You could tell by the way they kept on acting like they’d rather be flying than stay obedient to gravity. They were that high. And on a good day, I’d be worried and jejelly step down from the bus before somebody will go and pack me into a contortion of twisted metal and bloodied bodies. But that day was a bad day. If you see the struggle wey I struggle before I enter that bus, eh? Hmmm. I just beseeched the Blood of Jesus on my head – just my head alone o – and waited for us to get to Oshodi safely.

Anyway, the agberos came as usual, a couple of them. “Owo da!’ they began. The conductor growled that he didn’t have anything for them, hurried inside the bus and slammed the door shut. The two men, realizing that their quarry was about to escape, started banging on the sides of the vehicle, vehemently demanding for their money. One of them rushed to the front of the bus, and grabbed at the wiper, getting ready to snap it in two.

Well, of course the driver wasn’t to be intimidated. Revving his engine, he jerked he bus back in a quick reverse. His hand yanked at the gear, and the bus jumped forward. The tout was still in front of him, and both he and his partner were now shouting threateningly at the driver to stop moving.

For where? He that is high need fear no tout.

The driver engaged his gear again, and the bus vroomed forward a few inches again, bouncing on its tires as it moved. That was his warning to the agbero. But did the idiot listen? No! He still held on to the bus; his hands had grasped the top edge of the bus, and his ugly face glared through the windscreen at the driver. For his mind, his body was sufficient to stop the bus from moving any further. His colleague was rushing around to the driver’s side, no doubt to struggle for the steering with him. My fellow passengers were now shouting, some yelling at the man to get out of the way, and others scolding the conductor to simply give them what they’d asked for.

But the driver had finally had it. His gear shifted again, his engine roared, and the bus shot forward. No stopping this time. There was a collective gasp in the bus. The tout screamed, he was literally hanging on for dear life in front of the bus. The bus careened forward for several yards, before the driver pulled to a sudden stop with a screech of brakes. The abrupt motion threw the man clean off the bus, into the air, and crashing down on the road. Without even waiting to see if the man was hurt, alive or dead, the driver swerved around, engaged his gear again, and was off. We were home free. The nuisance was out of the way. Glory-Hallelujah!

I craned my head around, along with most of the other passengers, to see the agbero picking himself slowly up from the ground and shaking a fist at the back of the bus.

 I am @Walt_Shakes on twitterAgbero-in-Lagos

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  1. manny

     /  November 30, 2013

    Loool. Na wah ooo!

  2. ceanafrique

     /  November 30, 2013

    Jeez! U r good,Walt….it felt so real reading dis.Hilarious too

  3. abolanle

     /  November 30, 2013

    Lolz @”he that is high need fear no tout” I hear the money they collect is for ‘security’. They claim 2 secure the bus stops rather than rob the passengers…if the passengers feel safe they will come to bustops and the bus drivers get passengers hence the need for payment.

  4. Chinweike

     /  November 30, 2013

    First of all…Lagos Diaries (the series I look forward to the most in this blog) is back..yaaay!

    Now that we’re done with that,…..LMAO!!! Mumu agbero! He’s lucky he didn’t die…sha the driver will dearly pay for that stunt, might even go as far as paying for it with his life..those agbero’s are not ones you want to mess with, they pay no heed to life.

    On the issue of the exchange, seriously I’ve always wondered about this “road-side stock exchange”…I’m actually currently conducting an informal-research of the sorts on it, and might publish my results soon On the issue of the exchange, seriously I’ve always wondered about this “road-side stock exchange”…I’m actually currently conducting an informal-research of the sorts on it, and might publish my results soon On the issue of the exchange, seriously I’ve always wondered about this “road-side stock exchange”…I’m actually currently conducting an informal-research of the sorts on it, and might publish my results soon On the issue of the exchange, seriously I’ve always wondered about this “road-side stock exchange”…I’m actually currently conducting an informal-research of the sorts on it, and might publish my results soon enough.

    The whole thing is a systematic chain of organized crime, sort of. All that money collected apparently goes to the leader of the pack…it’s a very profitable position to be in, so I’m told, and usually requires an election concomitant to a lot of bloodshed.

    The elected “head” pays “salary” to the foot soldiers, the ones that harass the bus drivers and all.

    The whole system is akin to organized crime, termed “omo nile” and is put in place in a bid to curb crime. As instead of robbing civilians, the “stock exchange” keeps the alaye’s engaged…in a more socially accepted robbery. There was a time the government tried to eradicate the system, it led to a rapid increase in crime rate, one notable emergence

  5. simi

     /  November 30, 2013

    Typical day in Lagos mennn…10x for making it hilarious

  6. Chinweike

     /  November 30, 2013

    Jeez this wordpress people have muddled up my comment! They duplicated a lot of stuff and omitted some…that’s just wrong!

  7. “He that is high need fear no tout.”
    Biko, Biko, biko, ejoor, ema binu, its still too early in the morning to bamboozle us with all these your Shakespearan quotations.

  8. Yemie

     /  November 30, 2013

    Walter, the great. This is a hilarious piece, very well composed. You’re simply the ‘ish’ and your Lagos Diaries series are one to really look forward to.

    Agberos came onto the scene at the breaking of a democratic era. When Buba Marwa was the military administrator in the old Lagos, the directive was to shoot these miscreants on sight and it worked cos they were nowhere in sight at the time.

    Enter democracy and our leaders needed these guys to ward off opponents and cause havoc at polling booths to achieve their evil intents. Once elections are over and done with, their idle minds that’s the devil’s workshop, conceived this idea of robbing transporters blind, thereby making fares skyrocket as transporters had to work in extra costs.

    This also birthed another vice, touts who call themselves ‘omo onile’. These can be found in developing sites where construction works are underway. They claim to own lands on which buildings are erected, and so demand that they be ‘settled’, otherwise all hell will be let loose and that’s after you’ve made all necessary payments on the land.

    As long as our leaders continually make use of the services of these aimless youths during electioneering processes, am afraid its a trend that’s come to stay.

    • My goodness. Tнaт omo onile trend is just the worst. The way they harrass land owners, as though they have authority over his property is simply appalling.

      • U know collecting money at construction sites isn’t only in Lagos. I have seen it in the eastern states. The youthsof the town have to be settled before construction. Makes one wonder if the construction does not increase development of the town?

  9. nik

     /  November 30, 2013

    Hmmmm its like the driver watched a Jason statham movie recently and the agbero gave him an opportunity to practice what he learnt. Lol. Good one walt

  10. darl

     /  November 30, 2013

    lol the agbero should just go for thanksgiving. nonsense! maybe most of them need to be taught such frequent lessons.

  11. Vivid.

    I’ve always wondered about the reason too. So many things are wrong with our system in this Lagos. And it’s spreading to other states…

    I do not understand why they collect the money without putting the money to good use. I taya for our pipu tbvh.

    Well done.

  12. Izuchukwu

     /  November 30, 2013

    He that is high need not fear a tout….lol. This happens everywhere. Onitsha may be the worst. Well written, Walter.

  13. mesi

     /  November 30, 2013

    Lols. Another reason for avoiding Lagos. Imagine the drama. That dude is lucky he wasn’t seriously injured…over 50 Naira o. Smh. Beautiful writing bro.

  14. carsten

     /  November 30, 2013

    taa.. people no dey shake fist for 9ja. lol

    meanwhile, u write am well. ur ” kpakoness” has improved

  15. elosiuba okechukwu

     /  November 30, 2013

    QuestioningLook: “If you see the struggle wey I struggle before I enter the bus”
    wonderin isn’t that against essay the rules or is use of pidgin acceptable?

  16. Evan

     /  November 30, 2013

    Err Walter, when you’re done rolling just jejelly upload Hand of God 3. I’ve waited all day for it and if I run out of patience… Well only the hand of God can save you. # no pun intended# ;>

    • Hahahahahahaaa! Choi! If I upload it tomorrow now aηd shun Heart Of A King, public outcry from tнaт series’ readers will rip me apart. Wнaт to do, wнaт to do…

  17. Evan

     /  November 30, 2013

    Which one is ‘what to do’? Ain’t you the one that said Heart of a King on Sundays, Hand of God on Saturdays? That I did not make my outcry over the former’s absence public does not mean I didn’t notice it. So just set thine house in order. You hear me so?

  18. Maduka

     /  December 1, 2013

    “His gear shifted again, his engine roared, and the bus shot forward. No stopping this time.” The driver don de watch plenty movie. Nice narrative as always

  19. Ini

     /  December 1, 2013

    written by nigeria’s own shakespeare

  20. Melexa

     /  December 2, 2013

    LMAO. Wen crase jam crase one crase go hide. I think say him dey crase, him don see compound madness….Mtcheeeeeeew! Stupid chemistry idiot biology! Nonsensical piece of a ridiculous nonsense *swaggers away*

  21. Well deserved treatment….mtsheeeeew

  22. Abikoye Oluwatosin

     /  January 23, 2014

    Walter ma pami leni………………hahahahaha….this is what i will call “Orishirishi suicide mission”


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