City Conversations: Jalopy Alert

We’ve all used public transportation one time or the other. If you haven’t you’re probably one in a billion and extremely lucky to boot! On the other hand if it’s possible to avoid the ordeal this is in Nigeria I’m sure everyone would gladly comply and increase their quality of life in the process.

It’s hazardous and downright nerve wrecking to ride what passes for transportation. Some routes are notorious for having only jalopies that ply them. This term is used in an effort to describe the decrepit, dilapidated, rundown wrecks that pass for some buses in Lagos.

One of such routes is the Onipan-Fola Agoro route as well as the Idi-Araba route from the Oshodi expressway axis. These vehicles have extremely noisy engines, exhausts that belch out smoke and ever increasing decibels of sound with each kilometre travelled. Sagging and leaky roofs are also a necessary feature and we mustn’t forget the very cramped quarters inside them.

More than likely the seats are rickety and unusually cramped and often enough there has to be an unpleasant odour that flavours the air in the cabin. Most likely this was contributed by a passenger with an uneasy stomach but it could be the tomatoes that fell and the conductor didn’t bother to pry out of the cracks in the floor.

During rainy season the probability that you’ll not only get wet but more likely soaked to the skin when you enter these containers is very high. Normally it’s a lucky few that also escape unscratched or with their clothes intact when going into one or trying to extricate themselves from one.

The short ride sometimes results in mild headaches and other aches in extreme regions and other body parts. It you’re slightly under the weather, by the time you emerge from one you’re totally under it! These things are simply death traps you would do best to totally avoid if possible.

With the rise of the keke, I’m sure the wreckages have practically been done in but the few hardy ones will fight tooth and nail rather than quit willingly. Sometimes passengers demonstrate the love hate relationship when it’s discovered that the tricycles are slightly pricey. Often price usually trumps and people will sit down in the relics and patiently await their comrades to share the experience with them.

Lagos veterans have had one, or two or many more experiences of the jalopies that crisscross the city. The various seasons bring with them their peculiarities and subsequent experiences that go with them. A true Lagosian knows that public transportation is unpredictable and often hazardous to health, clothes and other valuables. Being prepared for every eventuality is impossible and preparation for those they can foresee is all they can do.

Nowadays you’ll be hard put to find them even though they do exist. You must have entered all manner of cars and buses to have survived in this bustling city. Often times (especially during the rainy season) one doesn’t know the substance that particular transportation is made of until it rains. The heat also shows up other less than stellar features as the case may be. As our people would say, story get kay leg sha!


The more experience (personal or otherwise) one acquires in this realm the better your chances of emerging triumphant as you live and move about the metropolis. When you listen to the tale swapping that goes on inside these conveyances one usually picks up one or two methods of how better to survive, and not just on the roads either… Aluta Continua Victoria Acerta people!

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  1. Not only did I experience these jalopies for good number of years. I explored the world of bolekaja( wooden lorries) in a bid to save extra money when sent on errands by my mummy. And life in the molue/coaster buses from mile2-ebute ero was a mobile fuji house of commotion. Sometimes I miss these moments and just wanna jump on the bus but one look at these jalopies(death trap) I turn the ignition on.

    • @Opemi: Wow! I personally never experienced the interior of a bolekaja but from your description I now have a vague idea. Even though I’m sure it’s not really accurate. Most people (given a choice!) would not want to contemplate getting into these jalopies unless left no other choice.

      Thanks for sharing!

  2. Immediately i saw the title, i just rememberd my last experience in the onipan-folagoro bus. it was raining dat day and i got drenched to the buttocks due to leaking roof top, rememberd other passengers hissn, murmuring and cursing the driver. I just had to console myself that the fare most of pay in lagos doesn’t include comfort, safety and convenient but time. I.e to get to where we’r going faster and every other thing not guaranteed. Well done sis Seyi

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