Riding in a commercial tricycle can be both fun and an embarrassment in a city like Lagos
If there is one thing Rose Inyang dreads every morning on her way to work from her Magodo Phase I, Lagos home, it is riding on tricycle popularly known as Keke Marwa. But this is one ritual she has to perform everyday if she wants to get to her office early. She works as an administrative secretary in a law firm situated inside the estate. Her cause of worry is the Keke Marwa drivers. “Every time I approach them, they all will run away, claiming it is not their turn to load their tricycle. What pains me more is the snippets from some of them, as they will be making fun of me as an ‘extra luggage’,” Inyang said. And they have good reasons for saying so. Inyang who is in her 30s is a lady on the big side. She stopped patronising motorcycles because the operators always complained about her weight. To scare her away from motorcycles, they doubled the fare, and when she protested they laughed at her. Inyang then turned to Keke Marwa for solace, yet the joke will not go away.
Emmanuel Paulinus, a 31-year-old Lagos-based tricycle operator, told the magazine that so many happenings make the riders laugh, so much so that they look forward to the job every day. “Life is harsh on its own, so we try to situate occasions that can make us laugh and be merry. Most times, we coin names for various categories of passengers, all in a bid to make merry,” he said.
Such names as opeke is reserved for young and pretty ladies, orobo is for fat men and women, ‘extra luggage’ is for those who take more space than necessary inside the Keke Marwa, while ‘extra tyre’ is for those whose weight will not allow for three passengers inside the tricycle, hence they will either be made to pay double the amount charged or pick a drop.
Paulinus also said because of the light weight of the tricycle, it is easier to lift it off the road whenever there is traffic jam. He was not exaggerating. Most times, especially in traffic gridlocks, operators of tricycle will be seen carrying the vehicles across the road to the other side without much stress. And that is why most times, whenever a bigger vehicle drives past it, the wind alone can make the tricycle to lurch.
It is also a common sight on the road to see operators of Keke Marwa taunt other motorists, especially those with big and fanciful cars who refuse to give them right of way. Such comments as “Wetin you carry sef, you dey drive motor? I, too, get my own.” In some other cases, the operators would say, “How much you buy your motor self, my keke is more expensive than your car.”
In most circumstances, they may be right. The tricycle costs as much as N600,000 or N650,000 depending on the mode of payment. Because they are acquired on hire purchase, the tricycle is usually costly, so sometimes when the operators boast that their vehicles are more expensive than some cars, they may just be right.
For Osifo Friday, chairman, Omole branch of Keke Marwa operators, the tricycle is in some cases treated like a toy, thereby provoking laughter. He recalled an incident when “one of us on duty carried about four pupils in his keke. As they were moving, one of the pupils mistakenly stepped on the brake. The rider was tossed out of the keke onto the road where he landed while the keke itself kept moving until it crashed into a ditch with all its passengers. The spectacle was so comical,” he said.
The tricyle also lends itself to many uses, including weddings and as emergency ambulance. Recently, a bridegroom caused a stir when he approached commercial tricycle operators at the Omole Phase I gate, asking for the release of 12 tricycles to be used as part of his wedding train. Those who thought he was joking were surprised when the following day, he came to pay an advance fee for the cycles. “I asked him why he chose to ride on Keke Marwa on his wedding day, but he answered that he met his bride during one of his rides in Keke Marwa sometime in 2010,” recalled Friday.