It’s a Monday morning in Lagos, after a sustained night rain, and the city – for the very first time – showed an uncommon character the like of which might never be seen again.
The sewers had opened up their wares, with dung floating to the surface and onto the many streets in the flooded island. With sleeves and pant legs rolled up to keep wetness to a minimum, commuters and pedestrians saunter onto the road, most of them an hour later than they ordinarily would. The transportation buses had left the roads early enough – perhaps the only regular feature of the city’s uncertain character – and commuters who got to the road at anything after 6am had been left stranded now, praying for a miracle to get them to their places of work on time. That was when it happened.
A police van heading to its patrol point in the city parked by a throng of people at one bus stop, and asked folks to come in. They were at first surprised, and then – realizing a once-in-a-blue-moon chance – rushed in and filled the back seating area, saying “thank you” as often as they could. The cops merely smiled, started the van, and moved on. As if on cue, another car stopped, this time a Prado Jeep driven by a young woman of around 32, likely the employee of a bank, or any other high-paying job. “Aren’t you going?” She asked no one in particular, as a few more people paced briskly towards it and sat themselves in comfortable positions in front, and at the back. “I am late to work too,” I heard her say impatiently. “Get in and let’s go. I can drop you off anywhere between here and Law School.”
The sky remained dour and drizzly as one fancy car after the other stopped at each bus stop to pick up passengers many of who were usually stunned at first that such private drivers could really have intended for them to get into the cars. In one instance, a passenger refused to give into the driver’s constant entreaty that he would, indeed, give him a ride for free and drop him off wherever he would be getting down. “I don’t get it,” the man said to himself. “Lagos rich people are never this considerate.” The driver drove away, perhaps stunned by the resistance of a helpless passenger in the face of help on a rainy day.
For the next one hour, Escalades, Sorentos, Four-Wheelers, Land Rovers, Land Cruisers, small saloon cars, a BMW, a station wagon, a church bus, another police van, a school bus, two empty BRTs heading to a repair shop, a couple of small tricycle scooters, a soldier on a motorbike, a Mercedes Benz, and a number of other new and rickety vehicles, each otherwise empty except for their drivers (and sometimes one other passenger), stopped by all crowded stops to pick up passengers stranded there and late for work. It was a surreal, almost eerie, sight on a Lagos morning. Humanity came alive in a way never before seen and would never be believed by anyone else not there to witness it. There is hope for this country after all, I thought to myself as I concluded my morning stare at the bus stop, finally accepting an offer to ride with a middle-aged lady in corporate wear who driving her 10 year-old kid to school.
All of this is fiction, of course. You can tell.