Osogbo to Kaduna: 26 Brutish Hours on a Nigerian Train [1]

#1
For 26 grueling hours, between the 24th and 25th December 2016, Kemi Busari journeyed on a train from Osogbo to Kaduna. In this first section of a three-part series reporter’s diary, he shares his experiences of ill-treatment, life-threatening inhumane conditions and sharp practices of railway overlords.

osogbo station snipped.PNG
Osogbo station

“The train will arrive around 6 p.m., but you should be here earlier to purchase your ticket,” the lady at the ticket sales point said. The uneven construct of her face complemented her unfriendly demeanor; no smile, just aloof and far removed from the basic expectations of a 'ticketer.'

It’s December 23rd, 2016 and the time is 2 p.m. Some travelers, especially those with heavy loads, are already in the Osogbo Station waiting for the train to arrive.

“How much is the ticket for standard coaches and please, can you be more precise about the timing? I asked, anticipating no answer. To my surprise, the lady named Bukola as I would later realize, responded rather mildly.

With a kind of are-you-not-a-Nigerian-stare, she explained: “Most of the time we don’t know the exact time the train will arrive, and we don’t sell tickets until we are sure that it is close by. The standard ticket is 1,700 and first class is 3,200. Go home and come back before 6 p.m.”

Satisfied with the explanation, I withdrew and by 5.30 p.m., I returned to the station. This time, many other passengers have arrived.


The long, long wait


The journey from Osogbo to Kaduna is about 18 to 20 hours, and starts from the railway terminus in Iddo, Lagos. After take-off, the train stops at every station to allow passengers board.

With my two bags, I stood at the Osogbo station waiting for the train to arrive. Bukola had told me to be at alert and brace up to secure a prime spot inside the train. "The train will arrive, at most, by 7 p.m.," she assures me.

WAITING PASSENGERS SNIPPED.PNG
Passengers waiting with their luggage

To ease the tension of waiting, I purchased two rolls of gala which I shared with a co-traveler who would later become my friend. Oyenike, a Computer Science graduate who doubles as a first-timer on the train. We had conversation that transcended politics, sex, economy, etc.

Soon, minutes ran into hours. 7 p.m. had elapsed and it’s now 12 a.m.; Oyenike and I, with other passengers, are still waiting. The train is not in sight.

It is now 24th of December and like the biblical Christmas Eve, the cold was no march. The waiting passengers, mostly women dared the cold night to wait for the train. Like pairs of used cloths, waiting for its would-be-buyers, they sleep on bare floor in front of the station.

Inquiries from Railway staff however, would not help the situation. On several occasions, our questions are met with monosyllabic responses. “Just wait, the train will soon be here" was the sentence they kept repeating from Friday evening till Saturday morning. Perhaps for want of details.

After what seems like an exhaust of issues to talk about, Oyenike, my new friend, decides to take a nap while I watch over our luggage. This time, few passengers still remain awake. Awake and conscious of their properties because “the railway station is indeed a home of thieves,” my mum, one of the stern antagonists of my journey, had earlier warned.


Aborting the journey, a best option

As the night progresses, so does the number of waiting passengers deplete. Some of the passengers contact their friends on the train and the 3-highlight news bulletin read to them on phone is enough to discourage anyone.

sleeping passengers.PNG
Sleeping positions in front of the train station

Firstly, the train is nowhere near Osogbo as it had about 8 hours delay before leaving Lagos. Secondly, all entrances into the standard coaches are locked, and thirdly, there is no single space in any of the coaches, a reason, perhaps, why the doors are locked.

The interpretation of this is shocking to fathom. Should I return home now? No, I can’t, its deep into the night and I may be waylaid. Should I wait till day break and start going? This is your best chance, my mind prods. But what about the journey, will I abort it? The thoughts keep coming at random.

As the thoughts race back and forth, I keep looking at Oyenike, sound asleep, whose only reason for staying this far are my words of encouragement. What will be her predicament if I decide to leave now or later? Yet, leaving rings to my mind as the most rational option.


Indeed, the 'thieves' came in the night

Just before I could complete this line of thoughts, a fiercely built young man emerges from a rickety train parked for God-knows-how-many-years.

Dressed in black outfit, he make his way to the pavement where I sit with other five passengers, including Oyenike’s makeshift bed.

After looking back and forth for a while, he sits a few inches away from me with a huge bunch of Indian hemp wrapped in old newspaper, a box of matches, and light papers, popularly called Rizla. He is not only a thief but also a smoker I thought, bracing myself for the worst.

The time now is 1 a.m. With only me and two middle-aged men, who doze off and return to life at minutes intervals, the prospects of us being robbed are more certain that certainty itself.

To feign ignorance of this situation, I bring out my earphone, playing music in a low volume. Some minutes after, he is joined by a stout, fierce-looking man. Together they wrapped the hemp, ready to smoke. The railway police station is about a 100 metres to our sitting position, but there is no policeman in sight. Worse still, the station remains silent and shut.


Seated far right The two somkers.PNG
The two smokers seated far right

A gesture from the black on black man brought me back to life. “We wan smoke for here, I hope say e no go disturb you” ‘No problem,’ I replied, as though I had an option other than let him carry on with his act.

In an instant, the warps were torched and when the smoke became unbearable, I decide to stand, do my night watch duty some metres afar. As thick smoke oozes out of the two friends who at that moment are on top of their worlds, I continue my night watch duty on Oyenike, our luggage and those of the other passengers.

To my relief, the smoke woke some people, and if there was ever a plan of stealing, the ‘thieves’ will give it a second thought.


Finally, the train arrives

At about 3 a.m., the railway officials ring the bell, announcing plans to sell tickets. “If you know you have load, don’t buy this ticket because there is no space. If you think you can’t struggle to enter, don’t buy! If you are lucky to enter, you can pay on the train,” a female voice says with measured indifference.

To be on a safe side, I and Oyenike decide to purchase one ticket and get the other on the train. Some minutes to 4 a.m., the bell rings, announcing the imminent arrival of the train. After another round of wait close to the rail track, the train finally arrives at exactly 4.31 a.m. and as earlier announced, there was no way to enter.


Where is my wife?

It’s been up to 30 minutes since I entered the train, and there was no sight of Oyenike nor assurance that she made it into one of the coaches. When the train was moving near, we had decided to enter through different doors as none of them was opened. She had my bag while I was in custody of hers.

The thought that she may not have made it into the train sweeps through my mind, but the trouble with my sitting position is worse. I am sitting in the gangway. A piercing babble blares freely from the metal clatters underneath. I perched on a nearby luggage hoping to get a seat when some passengers alight in one of the stations.

After about 35 minutes into the journey, the train made its first stop at the Ikirun station and by the time we approach Inisa, a mild drama ensues.

“Where is my wife? Where is my wife?” A disturbed voice shouted from outside. Instantly, the unknown man became the centre of attention. He had boarded the train from Abeokuta, and unconsciously had lost the wife on the train. Standing with three children by the rail tracks, he decides to shout the wife’s name with the hope that she will be found.

“Iya Ade where are you? Iya Ade…” “Where is my wife oooooo,” he shouts as he runs along the tracks, one coach to another. Some of the passengers have a good laugh, simmering down the strains of a dreary journey.

Luckily for him, Iya Ade finally emerged from one of the coaches, and with that, the show ended in a tragi-comedic mood. The journey continues.

‘This is our toilet’


According to the system run by the Nigerian Railway Corporation, a train is broadly divided into four compartments depending on the functions the coaches serve. There is the first coach – the engine room where the train driver conducts the journey, the first class coaches, the standard coaches and the cargo coaches.

Our train, expectedly, has a coach serving as engine room, three first class coaches distinguished by its blue and white colours, nine standard coaches painted in yellow and green and the five cargo coaches.

In most cases, the cargo coaches are usually booked from the terminus, thus making it impossible for passengers from other stations to get their load on board. But most passengers devise curious means of transporting their loads.

In this particular train, some loads are packed in the luggage racks provided for light luggage at the roof corner of the coaches. Sacks, bags, bottles and other items are deposited on the passage way, thereby making it difficult for anybody to walk through. In most of the coaches, some passengers tip railway officials to allow them use the toilet for their luggage. An instance of this created another drama just before the train stopped at the Offa station.

It was a face-off between an Igbo man and a Yoruba woman. The woman had occupied one of the two toilets meant to serve a particular coach for her loads. Many of the passengers had resigned to fate but not this Igbo man who insisted on using the toilet.

As he unzips his trousers, he continues to shout in Pidgin; “Dis is our toilet and I no know why only one person go take over the toilet. You no dey shame? Shey na wetin person go chop you pack inside toilet? If you no comot am, I go shit on top”, the raging man shouts at the top of his voice.

In an instant, hell was let loose. The woman grabbed the man by the cloth, shook him to wherever space allowed and thus continues the struggle.

“E be like say you no get wife for house. Na my market be dis. I dey go Ilorin, if dem born you well, come do anything to am. You think say I happy to stay inside toilet? No be condition carry me come here?” She asks rhetorically still clutching tightly to the man’s shirt.

By this time, many people have gathered around them and the man, after much persuasion, retreated and vowed to return.


Soldiers on board


“This was almost what happened to us in Abeokuta when we wanted to enter.” A sleepy voice beside me, woken by the fiasco uttered.

“What actually happened”, I ask, eager to get a full download. Friday Kingsley, a 400-Level Quantity Survey student at the Obafemi Awolowo University, narrates the encounter between a soldier and a passenger who tried to prevent him from entering one of the coaches at the Abeokuta station.

“When I got to the station in the afternoon, they told us that the train would leave Lagos in the morning and arrive Abeokuta around 1 or 2 p.m., but that was not the case. By 7 p.m., when the train was still not in sight, the railway officials told us that the train is extremely full from Lagos. We were advised to wait till the next day to join another train.

“Some people left and some of us waited. When the train finally arrived by 9 p.m., there was no way to enter; everywhere was blocked. I stood with some people in one of the entrances begging the man at the door to allow us enter but he didn’t listen to our pleas.

“As the argument continued, one man emerged from nowhere and told the man at the entrance to open the door, but he declined. Instead, he ordered us to take the next entrance. Before we knew what was happening, two dirty slaps have landed on his cheek. That was when we realized that the man who asked him to open the door was a soldier.

“The man at the door became gentle instantly; he opened the door wide and that was how I became a passenger on the train,” he narrated.


The re-union


I explained my situation to Kingsley. I told him I was able to enter through the door because of a fight that broke out between the two men guarding the door, and a Hausa boy who claimed they didn’t allow his mother in.

“That was a miracle; I didn’t know anybody could enter from here because there was no space at all.” He said.

I asked Kingsley about the men guarding the door. “They are passengers like us, they just decided on their own to stay at the door to victimise others and none of them has ticket,” he explained.

pics.jpg

passengers sitting on the train with their luggage

The sight of passengers sagging on the roof the train in the December harmattan hold many in awe. Three things seem to explain their rationale. First, the coaches are full, yet they want to travel with this train. Secondly, most of them possess heavy luggage which only the already occupied cargo coaches could take in. And thirdly, most of the passengers can’t afford the fare.

As we journey through the bushes, I stick out my neck to see the environment. As the day breaks, I can see faces of early birds already pushing the day’s envelope. Time now is some minutes after 7 p.m.

With teary eyes, I told kingsley about my friend whom I lost to the commotion of the train, and that my bag which contains my phone is with her. He offers me his phone and after some minutes spent searching for network, the call went through. I finally re-unite with Oyenike at the Offa station.

Already, she has secured one of the spaces vacated by two men in Offa and offered to share it with me if the other passengers agreed. They did, with the condition that I lap Abdullahi and Fatima, son and daughter of another passenger, who were the rightful occupants of the space.

I hop in and after an hour wait at the Offa station, the train horn honked thrice and the journey continues. Thirty minutes later, the railway police enter our coach.
 
[3361]
P

PressRoom

Guest
#2
This is an incredibly, exciting story @kemi It's one of the many things Nigerian travellers are faced with almost everyday - and well, not only by train. I hope you'll get Oyenike to read this. Accept my good wishes for a very fine article, and I look forward to reading the concluding part. :)
 
P

ProfRem

Guest
#3
For 26 grueling hours, between the 24th and 25th December 2016, Kemi Busari journeyed on a train from Osogbo to Kaduna. In this first section of a three-part series reporter’s diary, he shares his experiences of ill-treatment, life-threatening inhumane conditions and sharp practices of railway overlords.

View attachment 107570
Osogbo station

“The train will arrive around 6 p.m, but you should be here earlier to purchase your ticket,” the lady at the ticket sales point said. The uneven construct of her face complemented her unfriendly demeanor; no smile, just aloof and far removed from the basic expectations of a 'ticketer.'

It’s December 23rd, 2016 and the time is 2 p.m. Some travelers, especially those with heavy loads, are already in the Osogbo Station waiting for the train to arrive.

“How much is the ticket for standard coaches and please, can you be more precise about the timing? I asked, anticipating no answer. To my surprise, the lady named Bukola as I would later realize, responded rather mildly.

With a kind of are-you-not-a-Nigerian-stare, she explained: “Most of the time we don’t know the exact time the train will arrive, and we don’t sell tickets until we are sure that it is close by. The standard ticket is 1,700 and first class is 3,200. Go home and come back before 6 p.m.”

Satisfied with the explanation, I withdrew and by 5.30 p.m, I returned to the terminus. This time, many other passengers have arrived.


The long, long wait


The journey from Osogbo to Kaduna is about 18 to 20 hours, and starts from the railway terminus in Iddo, Lagos. After take-off, the train stops at every station to allow passengers board.

With my two bags, I stood at the station waiting for the train to arrive. Bukola had told me to be at alert and brace up to secure a prime spot inside the train. "The train will arrive, at most, by 7 p.m," she assures me.

View attachment 107565
Passengers waiting with their luggage

To ease the tension of waiting, I purchased two rolls of gala which I shared with a co-traveler who would later become my friend. Oyenike, a Computer Science graduate who doubles as a first-timer on the train. We had conversation that transcended politics, sex, economy, etc.

Soon, minutes ran into hours. 7 p.m had elapsed and it’s now 12 a.m; Oyenike and I, with other passengers, are still waiting. The train is not in sight.

It is now 24th of December and like the biblical Christmas Eve, the cold was no march. The waiting passengers, mostly women dared the cold night to wait for the train. Like pairs of used cloths, waiting for its would-be-buyers, they sleep on bare floor in front of the terminus.

Enquiries from Railway staff however, would not help the situation. On several occasions, our questions are met with monosyllabic responses. “Just wait, the train will soon be here" was the sentence they kept repeating from Friday evening till Saturday morning. Perhaps for want of details.

After what seems like an exhaust of issues to talk about, Oyenike, my new friend, decides to take a nap while I watch over our luggage. This time, few passengers still remain awake. Awake and conscious of their properties because “the railway station is indeed a home of thieves,” my mum, one of the stern antagonists of my journey, had earlier warned.


Aborting the journey, a best option

As the night progresses, so does the number of waiting passengers deplete. Some of the passengers contact their friends on the train and the 3-highlight news bulletin read to them on phone is enough to discourage anyone.

View attachment 107566
Sleeping positions in front of the train station

Firstly, the train is nowhere near Osogbo as it had about 8 hours delay before leaving Lagos. Secondly, all entrances into the standard coaches are locked, and thirdly, there is no single space in any of the coaches, a reason, perhaps, why the doors are locked.

The interpretation of this is shocking to fathom. Should I return home now? No, I can’t, its deep into the night and I may be waylaid. Should I wait till day break and start going? This is your best chance, my mind prods. But what about the journey, will I abort it? The thoughts keep coming at random.

As the thoughts race back and forth, I keep looking at Oyenike, sound asleep, whose only reason for staying this far are my words of encouragement. What will be her predicament if I decide to leave now or later? Yet, leaving rings to my mind as the most rational option.


Indeed, the thieves came in the night

Just before I could complete this line of thoughts, a fiercely built young man emerges from a rickety train parked for God-knows-how-many-years.

Dressed in black outfit, he make his way to the pavement where I sit with other five passengers, including Oyenike’s makeshift bed.

After looking back and forth for a while, he sits a few inches away from me with a huge bunch of Indian hemp wrapped in old newspaper, a box of matches, and light papers, popularly called Rizla. He is not only a thief but also a smoker I thought, bracing myself for the worst.

The time now is 1 p.m. With only me and two middle-aged men, who doze off and return to life at minutes intervals, the prospects of us being robbed are more certain that certainty itself.

To feign ignorance of this situation, I bring out my earphone, playing music in a low volume. Some minutes after, he is joined by a stout, fierce-looking man. Together they wrapped the hemp, ready to smoke. The railway police station is about a 100 metres to our sitting position, but there is no policeman in sight. Worse still, the station remains silent and shut.


View attachment 107567
The two smokers seated far right

A gesture from the black on black man brought me back to life. “We wan smoke for here, I hope say e no go disturb you” ‘No problem,’ I replied, as though I had an option other than let him carry on with his act.

In an instant, the warps were torched and when the smoke became unbearable, I decide to stand, do my night watch duty some metres afar. As thick smoke oozes out of the two friends who at that moment are on top of their worlds, I continue my night watch duty on Oyenike, our luggage and those of the other passengers.

To my relief, the smoke woke some people, and if there was ever a plan of stealing, the ‘thieves’ will give it a second thought.


Finally, the train arrives

At about 3 a.m, the railway officials ring the bell, announcing plans to sell tickets. “If you know you have load, don’t buy this ticket because there is no space. If you think you can’t struggle to enter, don’t buy! If you are lucky to enter, you can pay on the train,” a female voice says with measured indifference.

To be on a safe side, I and Oyenike decide to purchase one ticket and get the other on the train. Some minutes to 4 a.m, the bell rings, announcing the imminent arrival of the train. After another round of wait close to the rail track, the train finally arrives at exactly 4.31 a.m and as earlier announced, there was no way to enter.


Where is my wife?

It’s been up to 30 minutes since I entered the train, and there was no sight of Oyenike nor assurance that she made it into one of the coaches. When the train was moving near, we had decided to enter through different doors as none of them was opened. She had my bag while I was in custody of hers.

The thought that she may not have made it into the train sweeps through my mind, but the trouble with my sitting position is worse. I am sitting in the gangway. A piercing babble blares freely from the metal clatters underneath. I perched on a nearby luggage hoping to get a seat when some passengers alight in one of the stations.

After about 35 minutes into the journey, the train made its first stop at the Ikirun station and by the time we approach Inisa, a mild drama ensues.

“Where is my wife? Where is my wife?” A disturbed voice shouted from outside. Instantly, the unknown man became the centre of attention. He had boarded the train from Abeokuta, and unconsciously had lost the wife on the train. Standing with three children by the rail tracks, he decides to shout the wife’s name with the hope that she will be found.

“Iya Ade where are you? Iya Ade…” “Where is my wife oooooo,” he shouts as he runs along the tracks, one coach to another. Some of the passengers have a good laugh, simmering down the strains of a dreary journey.


‘This is our toilet’


According to the system run by the Nigerian Railway Corporation, a train is broadly divided into four compartments depending on the functions the coaches serve. There is the first coach – the engine room where the train driver conducts the journey, the first class coaches, the standard coaches and the cargo coaches.

Our train, expectedly, has a coach serving as engine room, three first class coaches distinguished by its blue and white colours, nine standard coaches painted in yellow and green and the five cargo coaches.

In most cases, the cargo coaches are usually booked from the terminus, thus making it impossible for passengers from other stations to get their load on board. But most passengers devise curious means of transporting their loads.

In this particular train, some loads are packed in the luggage racks provided for light luggage at the roof corner of the coaches. Sacks, bags, bottles and other items are deposited on the passage way, thereby making it difficult for anybody to walk through. In most of the coaches, some passengers tip railway officials to allow them use the toilet for their luggage. An instance of this created another drama just before the train stopped at the Offa station.

It was a face-off between an Igbo man and a Yoruba woman. The woman had occupied one of the two toilets meant to serve a particular coach for her loads. Many of the passengers had resigned to fate but not this Igbo man who insisted on using the toilet.

As he unzips his trousers, he continues to shout in Pidgin; “Dis is our toilet and I no know why only one person go take over the toilet. You no dey shame? Shey na wetin person go chop you pack inside toilet? If you no comot am, I go shit on top”, the raging man shouts at the top of his voice.

In an instant, hell was let loose. The woman grabbed the man by the cloth, shook him to wherever space allowed and thus continues the struggle.

“E be like say you no get wife for house. Na my market be dis. I dey go Ilorin, if dem born you well, come do anything to am. You think say I happy to stay inside toilet? No be condition carry me come here?” She asks rhetorically still clutching tightly to the man’s shirt.

By this time, many people had gathered around them and the man, after much persuasion, retreated and vowed to return.


Soldiers on board


“This was almost what happened to us in Abeokuta when we wanted to enter.” A sleepy voice beside me, woken by the fiasco uttered.

“What actually happened”, I asked, eager to get a full download. Friday Kingsley, a 400-Level Quantity Survey student at the Obafemi Awolowo University, narrated the encounter between a soldier and a passenger who tried to prevent him from entering one of the coaches at the Abeokuta station.

“When I got to the station in the afternoon, they told us that the train would leave Lagos in the morning and arrive Abeokuta around 1 or 2 p.m, but that was not the case. By 7 p.m, when the train was still not in sight, the railway officials told us that the train is extremely full from Lagos. We were advised to wait till the next day to join another train.

“Some people left and some of us waited. When the train finally arrived by 9 p.m, there was no way to enter; everywhere was blocked. I stood with some people in one of the entrances begging the man at the door to allow us enter but he didn’t listen to our pleas.

“As the argument continued, one man emerged from nowhere and told the man at the entrance to open the door, but he declined. Instead, he ordered us to take the next entrance. Before we knew what was happening, two dirty slaps have landed on his cheek. That was when we realized that the man who asked him to open the door was a soldier.

“The man at the door became gentle instantly; he opened the door wide and that was how I became a passenger on the train,” he narrated.


The re-union


I explained my situation to Kingsley. I told him I was able to enter through the door because of a fight that broke out between the two men guarding the door, and a Hausa boy who claimed they didn’t allow his mother in.

“That was a miracle; I didn’t know anybody could enter from here because there was no space at all.” He said.

I asked Kingsley about the men guarding the door. “They are passengers like us, they just decided on their own to stay at the door just to victimise others and none of them has ticket,” he explained.

View attachment 107568

passengers sitting on the train with their luggage

The sight of passengers sagging on the roof the train in the December harmattan hold many awe. Three things seem to explain their rationale. First, the coaches are full, yet they want to travel with this train. Secondly, most of them possess heavy luggage which only the already occupied cargo coaches could take in. And thirdly, most of the passengers can’t afford the fare.

As we journey through the bushes, I stick out my neck to see the environment. As the day breaks, I can see faces of early birds already pushing the day’s envelope. Time now is some minutes after 7 p.m.

With teary eyes, I told kingsley about my friend whom I lost to the commotion of the train, and that my bag which contains my phone is with her. He offers me his phone and after some minutes spent searching for network, the call went through. I finally re-unite with Oyenike at the Offa station.

Already, she has secured one of the spaces vacated by two men in Offa and offered to share it with me if the other passengers agreed. They did, with the condition that I lap Abdullahi and Fatima, son and daughter of another passenger, who were the rightful occupants of the space.

I hop in and after an hour wait at the Offa station, the train horn honked thrice and the journey continues. Thirty minutes later, the railway police enter our coach.
Nice one.... Where is Part two P L E A S E!!!
 
ese

ese

Moderator
Staff member
Curators
#4
Nice one.... Where is Part two P L E A S E!!!
Good Job Sir! Your patience though, I would have aborted the trip :). Meanwhile whats the 411 with Oyenike?
 
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