Ajayi (not real name) had an interview slated for 9am that Monday morning. He was already running late having stayed awake the previous night to research the company he was interviewing at. He really needed the job. On getting to the bus park, he got on the bus going to his destination, took a seat and quickly looked around. Every other passenger was busy with whatever they were doing. As the journey began, he whiped out his phone to quickly look for one or two interview tips on the internet. He was lost in what he was reading and was already preparing a mental reply to possible questions the interviewer is likely to ask when he was jolted back to the present by a loud voice. “Praise the lord!” Ajayi sighed. He knew that was the end of his interview preparation.
Preachers shouting the gospel in public buses have become such a common occurrence in across Nigeria that they are now competing for space in parks and garages.
This writer was once a witness to one such competition between two preachers at the BRT park at the Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos. The two preachers were obviously from different churches; one with a megaphone the other with a microphone connected to speakers. Both preaching at the same time in the same place and none wanting to shift ground or go to another place. The disagreement later descended into insults. The disappointed passengers were forced to separate the angry pair when the fight almost turned physical.
In Lagos, Molues have almost become the unofficial mobile headquarters of Churches. Civilian and danfo buses are branches. In the above mentioned public buses, it is even common for drivers to wait for the preacher to finish his preaching and collect the voluntary offering that follows before the journey starts. Some preachers are even known to follow the bus some distance before being dropped at a bus-stop along the way, others even follow the bus to its destination.
It may be that these competing evangelists serve a need of some people on the move to find spirituality. However, the nuisance they create for most commuters means that some urgent attention is required from the authorities and other well-meaning Nigerians.
These preachers, some of them freelancing, go as far as disparaging other religions and beliefs, making life unbearable for most passengers with their ‘songs and praises’ sessions. For commuters who have no other way to get to their destinations, there seem to be no way of escaping the mobile pastor’s all-pervasive reach.
As much as the constitution guarantees the right to free speech and worship, some sort of regulation may be required to forestall a major accident occurring due to the noise and frenzied praise-singing and worshiping of both the mobile pastor and his co-opted congregations.
Bus companies and private operators that allow these transgressions on their buses are abandoning the duty they owe to every customer of their service; to guarantee peaceful and healthy conveyance. Passenger’s complains about noise and that preaching can deprive the driver of full attention and concentration that anyone who drives on Lagos roads needs often go unheeded, while the preacher and other passengers often turn the complainant to some sort of ‘infidel’.
More people must speak out against the habit of preaching in public buses. The government too must rise to the occasion by putting a legislation in place to check the practice.
Aduloju writes from Lagos.