Friday, 9 August 2013

(69):Kiyakiya flights for Umrah goers

If you live in cities like Kano or Zaria you must be familiar with the shuttle bus known as Kiyakiya. It is normally a ten, twelve or sixteen-seater bus. Until it was overtaken by Achaba (commercial motorcycle), Kiyakiya is the basic means of public transportation in many cities in Northern Nigeria. So if you don’t have a car, motorcycle or a bicycle, you must create a mental map on how to utilise the services of Kiyakiya. What is amazing about this shuttle bus is that it has certain ways of operating which can provide an interesting movie script.

First, it doesn’t have operation schedule. Unlike what obtains in some countries where the bus operates according specific timing, for instance every ten minutes, and the bus usually has an identifiable number, for instance, if a bus is tagged with 40 and is intended to   shuttle from Bata to Mandawari, it means in whichever part of the city you see bus 40, it always has one destination, Bata to Mandawari. If you see bus 41, it means it is taking a different route.  Kiyakiya has no identifiable number, nor does it have a schedule. So you can wait for an hour before it arrives, it doesn’t have clearly identified bus stop, so a passenger can stand on any part of the road, and it will fetch him there. If you are unlucky Kiyakiya develops fault on the road, you have to wait for the mechanic to arrive, get it fixed, and then you move on. There is no limit to the number of passengers it can take at a time.  No, every available space is a potential passenger seat.

One day in the mid 1990s, one of my teachers was getting married, it was a big wedding, all the cars available were full, and there were so many people invited who couldn’t get a space, some Kiyakiyas were brought as supplement. I joined one of them, luckily for me I was sitting on the front seat. I saw one of the wonders of this world, one that could win a Nobel Prize in risk taking. The Kiyakiya has no gear-handle, the driver had a spare screw driver, so whenever he needs to change the gear, he quickly inserts the screw driver into the broken hole the gear-handle was supposed to be, then he would change the gears. You need to see how he was sweating to understand what I am talking about. On a different occasion during the excessive fuel scarcity of the mid 1990s, I boarded another Kiyakiya, the driver needs to refuel the bus, guess what? Instead of petrol he used kerosine, and immediately started lecturing the passengers on how kerosine can be used as a substitute for petrol, I quickly alighted before reaching my destination.

But don’t think that buses are the only means of public transport that are run like Kiyakiya. Certainly not. The Nigerian aviation industry is sometimes run like Kiyakiya; flights arriving late, or being cancelled without much information, or you can even buy a ticket and on arrival at the airport to find that your seat has been sold to a more ‘important passenger’. Let me tell you another short story that nearly caused a matrimonial diplomatic row for me in 2004, which perhaps even Ban Ki-Moon would need to scratch his diplomatic bag before finding a solution. Two days before my wedding I travelled to Abuja via one of the airlines that has one of the best jingles when it comes to radio advertising. Children actually start dancing immediately they hear the jingle on Freedom radio in Kano.

I was scheduled to return to Kano 24 hours before my wedding, meanwhile I have left a carpenter in my house to finish all the carpentry work needed in the rooms and the kitchen, so that everything will be ready for the arrival of amarya (bride). On arrival at the airport around 6pm, we started hearing rumours that the flight has been delayed from Lagos, the rumour became true because until mid-night the flight had not arrived, yet no official from the airline came to offer an explanation or apologise.

Meanwhile amarya was busy calling to findout whether I have arrived, and if the carpenter has finished the work. GSM was quite new then, so the service was so poor, but I managed to pass the bad news that the flight has not arrived, but will soon find out about the carpenter. Unlucky me, my friend Malam Ghazali called to inform me that the carpenter has done Kiyakiya with my money and has not done the job. When he went to his shop to find out his whereabouts, he was told that the carpenter has travelled to Gwarzo to campaign for a local government chairman. La haula wala quwwata illa billahil aliyal azeem.

Then around 2am, an official from the airline came to inform us that the flight will not be arriving from Lagos, and so we will be lodged in a hotel, and our tickets will be reimbursed. That is Kiyakiya aviation industry. The motivation behind this article is another Kiyakiya attitude that is happening to Umrah (lesser pilgrimage) visitors from Nigeria. On Sunday morning I went to visit a close friend who came for Umrah from Canada. We studied together at the University of Sheffield, and we have not seen each other for three years. It was nice to see this brilliant fellow again, a promising young Professor and close associate.

As we started discussing he told me that his mother has just arrived from Nigeria for the Umrah. But to his surprise she told him that there were so many passengers travelling, so the airline operators decided to avoid airline safety mechanisms by taking as many passengers as possible, just like every space in Kiyakiya is a potential passenger seat, so was every available space on this flight. In fact it took off while many of the passengers could not even wear their seat-belts. Luckily I heard this story several times from Umrah passengers traveling from Nigeria. I told my friend that he should not be surprised if there is a governor or a minister in the flight, someone who might have the influence to call the airline operators to order. Please, please, if there is someone who cares to listen in the aviation ministry, let him advise the Umrah Airline operators not to do Kiyakiya with human lives.



1 comment:

  1. Kiya kiya indeed Malam,very inspiring and a food for thought for our uncaring leaders who allows corruption to drive every aspect of our National life.Corruption is the number one killer disease in Nigeria.Show me one problem in Nigeria that is not caused by corruption.Jazakallahul khair.