This morning, I had my official vehicle deposited for the mandatory servicing with the dealership. I received a visitor with whom we had some discussions. At 4.00pm, it suddenly dawned on me that I didn’t have a vehicle. I quickly started packing in readiness to hit the road. As if by design, my wife also called just at the time requesting that I undertake an activity for her. I had to explain that I didn’t have a car and could therefore not fulfill her desire. Apparently, she was on her way home and requested if she should make a U-turn in order to pick me up. I told her I would be fine and will actually enjoy my trotro ride in a very long while.
Many years ago, in the late 1990s, while resident along the Josip Broz Tito Road In Cantonments, I was a regular patron of trotro. I was at the time a non-residential student of the now Accra Technical University and so commuting daily to the Accra Central by trotro was the norm. In the morning, I had to walk up to the Flagstaff House and pick a trotro, drop off at the National Theatre and walk to school. After lectures, I walked to the famous Tema Station and join a Burma Camp-bound trotro, alighting at the gates of the Food Research Institute where I lived.
My dear friend, that twenty to thirty-minute journey in those days was one exciting journey. If it was in the morning, that short journey was bound to introduce to you a Morning Devotion (forget about its wholesomeness), be treated to all the headlines in local sports, Ghanaian politics and local gossip. Beyond serving as a means of having a good grasp of what was happening round town, those interactions aboard the trotro gave those aboard a means of easing tensions. If the trotro journey was on the other hand home-bound in the evening, one was bound to feel the frustrations of the working class from their day’s activities. Beyond everything, those trotro conversations served as a great barometer to test the mood of the citizenry and for me, I thoroughly enjoyed those moments. Afterall, what was frustration to a student living comfortably enjoying his youthful days with his family?
Unknown to me, the home-bound trips had become so routine that most of the drivers of the route had come to recognize me. On a certain day, as I was walking into the Tema Station, one of the drivers who was entering the station with his vehicle remarked, “Today, you are slightly late” and he was right. Another time, while aboard the trotro which was negotiating the turn from the Ring Road Central onto the Broz Tito Road (close to the Fire Service Headquarters), the mate (Conductor) looked in my direction and asked, “Massa, you’d drop off at Food Research, right?” I responded in the positive and once I was down walking home, I wondered how so often I had been a patron of trotros that I had now become familiar to the point of being easily recognizable.
Anyway, I completed my studies and with it came changes in the circumstances of life. We moved residence to a community on the outskirts of the capital city and the need to own a vehicle became much more compelling. I got a lift-back Opel Astra for exactly that. That was the beginning of my abandonment of my favorite trotro. I only got the opportunity to enjoy trotro rides occasionally when my vehicle went to the garage for whatever reason.
So after many years, here I was this afternoon, having to go home once again by trotro. Not too familiar with the current trends, my visitor who himself was an Uber driver helped me to map out the journey. I took a vehicle to the 37 trotro station where I got an Amasaman-bound trotro. It was almost full so within minutes, we were on our way. The several years of absence in its use gave me a good opportunity to re-assess that mode of road transportation.
To begin with, my dear friend, the trotro I used could best be described as a moving scrap box. The vehicle’s engine was weak and this showed anytime the vehicle had to climb the slightest of an ascent. Ventilation was horrible as most passengers held firmly to their handkerchiefs and face towels which they liberally used to keep their bodies from being drenched in sweat. For me as a driver, one exciting lesson I picked this afternoon was the introduction of new routes by the driver. At Kawukudi junction, he turned into Airport Residential Area, negotiated the roundabout and meandered through the quiet estates and rejoined the Obasanjo Highway almost at Dzorwulu. In my view, we didn’t save much time in all of that though.
We continued along the highway only to make another detour at Achimota through Alogboshie. We drove through unmapped and unplanned settlements meandering through houses virtually. That portion of the trip was one hell of distance only to realise after twenty minutes of riding that we had only joined the Accra-Nsawam Highway close to Peace FM. So after the long stretch of bumpy ride that virtually threatened the body frame of all passengers, all we had done was Achimota to Old Peace FM! We continued our journey only to take another detour at old Ofankor Barrier through the worst bumpy road of the trip all the way to John Teye Preparatory School. I really felt sad for the older passengers in the trotro. Again as a passenger this time, I really appreciated the need for mutual respect between commercial drivers and those of private vehicles. It was so manifest that our driver and others attempted to force their way onto the highway.
Finally, I got to my junction and I hopped off the trotro. As I took my first step upon alighting, I realized how numb and hurting my feet had become. This was a journey I was familiar with since I did so each working day, sometimes for much longer hours. Yet here I was literally limping in pain after just a two-hour ride in a trotro.
As I walked home, dear friend, I kept wondering how we have as a country, subjected the bulk of our working class to this inhumane treatment all this while. You get home late tired and in pain only to have to go back to work the next day with the same mode of transport.
My dear friend, how nice will it be if we had working trains with decent cabins for the working class if Ghanaians to utilize. We could easily have the cabins in varying degrees of comfort and charge the rates to reflect this. A comfortable and fairly priced cabin could have newspapers, magazines, comfortable seating that will attract the middle level class to park their cars and utilize while still configuring the rest of the cabins being fairly decent for the lower working class at cheap fares.
Again, we have had the Metro Mass Transit mode of transport and the recent Ayalolo system being operated by GAPTE. How come, after several years, we still have inherent operational challenges in their roll-out does not augur well for the benefit of the good Ghanaian people. Our country’s leaders out to look at these critically.
My dear friend, as a country, we really need to constantly think out of the box so we can engineer workable transportation modes that will render the Ghanaian worker more comfortable so they can be much more productive in their various endeavours.
Let’s get these things done right, people! Ghanaians are really suffering using these rickety trotros!
My dear friend,