Molue and Lessons from Rules of Nations

Molue and Lessons from Rules of Nations

According to the Oxford Dictionary, molue, in Nigeria, is a privately-owned commercial bus seating forty-four passengers. It has an origin from the Yoruba.

1970s; earliest use found in New Nigerian. From Yoruba móòluè, probably lit. ‘mould it’ (perhaps referring to the method of construction from shaped iron sheets) from English mould + Yoruba e, 3rd person singular pronoun object.

Today, we know the bus as that rickety yellow bus plying across some West African cities and most times causing mayhem. It does not have to be seating 44 passengers. There are many incarnates of molue since the 1970s origin.

But here, I am not focusing on the bus, but rather, the rules that govern its operation. In one country, molue, is a school bus, that moves primary and secondary school kids across major American cities. It has many strict rules for both the drivers, passengers and other road users. For the passengers, the students, we have the following:

  1. Students must listen to the driver and follow the driver’s directions.  The driver has the authority of a classroom teacher.

  2. If crossing the street to board the bus, students MUST look both left and right for cars, make sure the RED lights are flashing, and wait for the driver’s signal to cross.  Always cross the street in FRONT of the bus.

  3. Before boarding and after exiting the bus, students must keep a safe distance from the bus.  Keep at least 10 FEET away from the bus.

  4. Students are to enter the bus promptly, immediately take their seats, and remain seated whenever the bus in moving.

  5. Students are to conduct themselves on the bus in such a way that will not distract the driver.  Distracting the driver puts everyone on the bus at risk.

School bus picking students (source: MTA)

For drivers, we have:

  • Prepare to stop when a slowing bus has its overhead yellow lights flashing

  • Stop at least 20 feet away for buses when red lights are flashing, unless driving in the opposite direction on a divided highway

  • Slow down in or near school and residential areas

  • Look for clues-such as safety patrols, crossing guards, bicycles, and playgrounds-that indicate children might be in the area

  • Watch for children between parked cars and other objects

The school bus drivers, i.e., those driving the buses have their own rules. For example, they must ensure that all the students are seated before putting the bus in motion. They must also ensure that students who do not behave well are disciplined: they can call the Police to take an unruly student out of a bus.

The School Bus Becomes Molue

Now, the school has been imported into Western Africa, and it is now molue. All the rules governing the bus immediately cease to apply. Molue becomes a symbol of recklessness. The driver can be drunk and drive. The passengers stand-up, and their weights, in some cases, flip the buses into lagoons. The bus drivers run red lights and the highly respected American yellow buses are now disliked by road users. Molue hits cars with reckless abandon knowing that it has nothing to lose. The government of Lagos banned molue few years ago to bring sanity to Lagos roads.

But the question is this: why should it be this way?  The school bus had been retired in US and West African businessmen go to U.S. and import them into West Africa. The rules books are torn and just like that, the license to mayhem is unleashed on the roads.

Yet, you may not really blame the entrepreneurs. You have to look at government. Accident kills more people in Nigeria than possibly any disease yearly. It goes beyond molue: we have real problems in West Africa.

All Together

Before its ban, whenever I was in Lagos and saw molue, I was reminded on what the color meant in America. When people jumped into a moving vehicle, I recalled that you cannot even stay 10 feet around the American molue when the red light is flashing.

But what happens to the school bus can happen in any area in Nigeria. We see medicine hawkers promoting and using drugs beyond what their legal uses are. They claim the drugs can cure anything in a broad day light and no one arrests them. We see people using tiles designed for walls for bathroom floors thereby making our bathrooms death enclaves across Nigeria, and no one is stopping that.

Sure, the old molue may be gone but the LAGBUS is turning into one.

MOST Lagos residents move from place to place by road. And due to the importance of this mode of transportation in the metropolis, vehicles of different types have been used, at different times. One of these is the notorious Molue, a long bus with capacity to carry over 100 passengers at once.

Characteristically, Molue is a metaphor of some sort – from sublime to ridicule. In those days, taking Molue as means of transportation was much cheaper, compared to its twin, Danfo and others such as taxi and Kabukabu.

But owing to the dangers inherent in Molue, former Governor Babatunde Fashola, in conjunction with the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), introduced the Lagos State Bus Asset Management Limited (LAGBUS) scheme as a way of sanitising the transport system in the state…..

Taking a ride in LAGBUS buses is now reminiscent of the old Molue. The old habits have returned. Some of the buses have more than one conductor. Indeed, more than three persons stand at the front and back doors calling out to passengers or shouting at those already inside the vehicle.

Indeed, it is not the color of the bus that matters, but the level of discipline and decency of the people, the leaders and the citizens. Covering the yellow color of molue with LAGBUS logo, as noted in the Tribune piece, does not change the people running them. Until we can strengthen our rules, and make sure people face consequences for bad behavour, we can cover molue color, but the molue styles will still be everywhere.


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