I hold on strongly to the belief that Lagos is a miniature representation of the reality of existence.
No, this is not a philosophy lesson but there is a lot that can be learned.
The people of Lagos walk to the rhythm of the city’s heartbeat. The energy and the drive can bring out the worst in people and sometimes the best, other times; it brings out the thoughtful.
‘Ji! Ma sun’ Awaken! is painted in white on the inside walls of the modernised Molue I got in on its way from Oshodi to Iyana Ipaja. It’s surrounded by stickers of adverts for herbal remedies, Canadian visa lotteries, libido enhancers and posters of Pasuma and his competitors in various poses, each seeming to say; “Pick me over them”
On a journey as long as this and with a flat battery, I couldn’t help but “ma sun” – doze. However, the command continued to resonate in my subconscious.
Ji, ma sun!
Awaken to the realities of being human. The harsh and the welcoming, we must bear it all and survive. There are different variations to this particular nomenclature, one of which is ‘Shine your eye’.
I struggled to be comfortable in the crush of people and the bump of the road. I had given up on snoozing just as another bus zoomed past. ‘Shope tie’ be thankful for what you have, was cast across its back.
If you look, these short phrases are all over the transport systems in Lagos and even on some interstate buses. On the surface, it is instruction, admonishment and praise for God, others and oneself. However we see them or choose to disregard them, they are introspective.
The language is short, straightforward and often-times in poorly worded English or Yoruba. They present a raw, unclouded perspective to a life that is multi-faceted in its simplicity.
I saw these phrases from the mindset of the bus owners and Molue drivers.
Their wishes for a destination:
and sometimes, security simply put as:
The Molue school of thought invites us to consider the future, to be thoughtful and careful on the road but the advice is effortlessly applicable to other life instances.
Eventually, I arrived at my destination and as the conductor called out for the last bus stop; I looked out on the bus park to an ocean of faces, wares and yellow and black and I thought to myself.
‘Ji, ma sun’
Footnote: Many thanks to all who gave insight, feedback and corrections to this piece.