“A Week In The Life” is a weekly Zikoko series that explores the working-class struggles of Nigerians. It captures the very spirit of what it means to hustle in Nigeria and puts you in the shoes of the subject for a week
The subject of today’s “A Week In The Life” is Jimoh Adamu, a 27-year-old bus driver. Jimoh tells us about the inspiration behind the famous quotes on his bus, how the Lagos state Keke ban set him back, and his quest for a better life.
I wake up before my alarm. I set it for 5 a.m., but I’m up at 4:30 a.m. today. I freshen up. It’s almost 6 a.m. by the time I’m ready to leave the house. I do some preliminary checks on my bus — oil level, water and tyres. When I’m done I set out for my park at Ikeja. I live in Agege, and because of the hold up around that side, it takes me one hour to get to Ikeja.
There’s no parking space for all the buses at the park, so we’re loading in three’s. It’s not my turn to load so I go to a side street to call Opebi passengers for sole. As I’m calling passengers, I’m also using one eye to look out for Taskforce, LASTMA, Police, and the biggest werey of them all — Anti one way. If anti one way catch you, you don die be that. Thankfully, there’s no wahala before my bus gets filled up. I lock my door, and I do one go-come trip from Ikeja to Opebi.
As I drive back to the park, I see that it’s finally my turn to load passengers. Before I can join the queue, one faragon van has chanced me. My bus is korope, so I try to avoid wahala with anyone. I ask the faragon driver why he entered my front like that and he starts to shout “sho ya werey” and other curses.
I take a deep breath.
I don’t say a word. Mostly because I can’t be exchanging words with anyone. If I say something and he punches me, that’s a mess up for me. I just remind myself that this work is temporary, and it will end one day. I tell the other driver to load his passengers while I find somewhere to wait.
I can’t wait for this week to end. I’m already dreaming of all the sleep I’ll sleep on Sunday.
Transport business is hard, and this hardness always makes me think about my life. I’m thinking of how I started my career by doing labourer work carrying pon pon. Then I went to my daddy’s business of selling building materials. During my time there, I had one girlfriend and during our play I impregnated her. That was a wake-up call that I couldn’t raise a family on the money from selling building materials. So I carried all my savings of ₦200,000, and I asked my mummy to help me get a used Keke Maruwa. After some time of hustling with the Keke, I bought a brand new one for ₦600,000.
Not long after I started paying bills and taking care of my family, the Lagos State Governor banned Keke. The six months it took me to get a buyer for my Keke was the worst period of my life because I was just watching my savings go down. I became so broke that my mummy — who is 70 years old — started feeding me. I felt terrible in that period because I went from feeding her to being fed by her.
My mummy was so sad that she went to find someone to give me Korope on hire purchase so I could start work. After I got the bus, I went back to my old keke route. I had not worked for long before Taskforce arrested me three times in two weeks. The first time they collected ₦18,500, the second-time they collected ₦15,000, the third time ₦20,000+
I was frustrated.
I had to take loans to pay taskforce, so I couldn’t pay the bus owner for two weeks. The owner wanted to collect his bus but my mum went to beg him and promised that it wouldn’t happen again. At that point, I was ready to return the bus but I told myself to never give up, and that was the first thing I wrote in front of the bus. My mum then told me to be careful on the road because she could no longer afford to repay loan or beg if I got arrested by the task force. She reminded me to consider that she was the one now feeding me.
Image credit: Tall Brown Boi
I felt bad for forgetting about her sacrifice. In that mood, I wrote “If your parents count on you, don’t play the same game as those who count on their parents. Remember you left home to feed home.” When Kekes came back on the road and ruined all my money plans with the Korope, I felt hurt. That’s when I wrote “Turn that hurt into hustle. Turn that pain into paper.”
Image credit: Tall Brown Boi
The first time I caught myself thinking about my hustle, I wrote on my bus “Hopefully one-day real change will come because I believe everything in life is temporary.”
Reading those words on this kind of low mood day has given me some ginger. I know I will make it. I must make it.
I love my wife. In my head, she’s still that girl from when I was selling building materials. My wife doesn’t stress me and she’s very understanding. She understands that I’m paying ₦30,000 per week to the owner of the bus so there’s usually nothing left for flexing. She doesn’t say buy me this or buy me that because we are managing.
Our major expenses are food for the house and my son’s school fees. I still can’t believe that my son is four years old already. As soon as he grows older I know that driving a bus will no longer be able to cater for my expenses. I know because I’m currently still struggling to pay rent and raise the balance of my child’s school fees.
On the road today I’m just looking for a helper. Someone that can introduce me to anything legal that’ll be providing better money for me. A job that I know that if I hustle I can at least pay rent, send my child to school, and still give my mum money. I’m tired of working from 6 a.m to 7 p.m six days a week. I’m tired of leaving the house early, coming back home late and not spending enough time with my family. I’m tired of adult life.
But if I don’t show up, who will help me?
Thank God it’s Thursday. Because then it’s Friday, Saturday, and then Sunday — my day of rest. On Sundays, I sleep like I’m on drugs. Once I eat breakfast like this, I’m gone for the whole day.
I don’t know how long I’ll have this amount of energy. With each passing age, I’m just praying for strength. “God please give me the power to keep driving at this pace for two years after I finish paying the owner” If I’m focused the way I am now, I should save enough money to leave this business. I’ll then take the money and use it to buy land for farming. After that, I can build one structure on the land for me and my wife. I want the location to be far away; no Police, no LASTMA, no Agbero wahala. I don’t want any disturbance.
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