Thursday, November 15, 2018
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‘Motor Boys’: Surviving The Tides Of Hardship 

By Dante Besong

Travelling by means of public transport, for inter-urban or rural journeys, could be a stirring experience but the story may be repulsive when, most often than not, some enthusiastic, heavily built guys precipitate to your luggage in order to get you to your desired bus agency or some unanticipated vehicle. "Yaounde, Yaounde…Douala, Southwest, Southwest…," is pretty much the rhythmic ambiance you’d get when you set foot at any cosmopolitan park in Cameroon. Like most other busy parks, Mile 17 is an epitome of the boisterous activities of "motor boys" or "chargeurs" as they are generally known by the locals.


 

On a visit to this park, I couldn’t help noticing an unsuspecting passenger being literarily torn apart by these chaps, engaged in a tug of war to safe-guard him for their respective vehicles.
"I got really irritated with the way they jostled me," the passenger said when I approached him after he had settled down on a seat. "I had already programmed a particular bus agency in my mind, but I don’t blame them, they’re only working for the good of their agencies," he continued as he pulled his suitcase towards his chest: "I think they are arrogant, disrespectful and primitive". A lady who apparently was unable to contain her disgust said: "They fight a lot like wild animals". After a brief interaction with most of the passengers, I perceived that there was little or no mention of theft cases.

Most of these motor boys are recruited under particular bus agencies, I observed. And an adequate number of them have modest educational background, thus, communicate relatively well in the English Language or french.  While most of them are unmarried, I asked why they started doing the job; the need for survival was almost simultaneously indicated. "Times hard, kontry no di waka, dis one better pass idleness", one of them, dressed in a brown striped T-shirt over a faded blue pair of jean trousers, quipped.

Time consciousness is a very vital tool for a successful day at work. "As early as 5:30am I’m already at the park with my colleagues, ready to begin work, which usually starts by 6:00am depending on how many passengers come," says Desmond, one of the ‘motor boys’, who has been working for a little over three months, stated while he momentarily dashed away to tussle with rivals in order to secure an on-coming passenger. He further remarked that FCFA 5000 is the premium for a full load and can be more depending on how many buses they upload per day.

Desmond is only among the few who are fortunate enough to have been employed by big agencies. The case, however, isn’t the same with guys who work with smaller agencies or individual vehicles fondly known as "clando". Some earn pretty less. The take-home envelop is usually a few coins nipped to them after hectic and desperate forage for passengers.

Seasons have an irrefutable impact on the careers of these chaps. Much is gained during the festive periods and dry seasons especially. The obvious reason is that many people travel from one town to another to see family, friends and loved ones. This is in clear contrast to the rainy seasons.

At some agencies, the front desk attendants, mainly composed of ladies, remarked that the agency depends largely on the support of the motor boys. They help acquire passengers for them and also publicise the enterprise. In singular cases, they even collect money and pay for tickets on behalf of some regular clients. They also explained that these motor boys, most of whom have had varying driving experiences, are paid in wages.

 "The nature of the job doesn’t permit ladies like me to handle," Heelwig, one of the front desk attendants, quipped. "You must be very strong, because those boys really hustle for passengers," she remarked further. When I approached her with "what a man can do a woman can do better", she simply laughed. Arguably, the need to survive in Cameroon today, where unemployment is becoming a pandemic with societal ills, topping the chart, renders underprivileged youth very little career options, if not none at all.
 

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