Memoirs of a Bolt Guy: What my eyes have seen

By Victor Kwame Sampong

My work usually peaks during weekends. So when it’s approaching, we get into a different gear to ensure maximum input and output.

After a botched football training session on Saturday morning, because it looked like it would rain cats and dogs, elephants and baboons, I resumed at around midday.

My first ride took me to Eligbolo, somewhere around Rumuokoro. The guy added some tips as well and the second one came through just a few metres away, around the town hall. I get there and my handsome client stepped in, still making calls. I just showed him that I was about to start the trip and he nodded in agreement.

From his conversations on the phone, he was heading to hang out with his guys at a hotel. Then he got to the juicy part and I became more attentive. From girl, wey say him give her belle, to him denying the pregnancy to going for a test to prove his innocence, to how pretty the Barney is and they kept going on and on till we got to Rumuagholu-SARS link Road, where the hotel is.

He paid cash and was almost closing the door as he stepped out when I bent my head down so he could see and hear me and said,”bros…no try am sey you go look after another person pikin o”. Those words were magical. That was all it took for him to get back into the passenger seat once again….hehehehehe!

“O boy, e be like sey this kind thing don happen to you before,” he asked. I told him I’d been in a similar situation years ago, but I stood my ground and eventually proved my Innocence. That seemed to get him to exactly where I wanted him to be. So he played the tape for me right away.

He had been on and off with his girlfriend for the better part of one year. Then a few days ago, she came to him with a fantastic story that she was pregnant for him. He refused to accept it because it had been only six days since their last sexual encounter, prior to the revelation. He said it was impossible for him to impregnate her and she would still know within six days. Smart man I thought. But she too was persistent in her accusations. So to clarify things, he suggested they go for a pregnancy test.

They did and the test results showed that she was already four to six weeks gone, but she still insisted he was responsible, while he maintained and reminded her of the last time they had sex…six days before ago.

However, to be sure, he opted for a second test in a different establishment. The second result wasn’t so different from the first one, but the girl was still insisting he accepts the pregnancy as his. This time, she claimed it must have happened during their penultimate match. Another lie he busted because he was away in school at the time, writing his final papers.

He however agreed to help her terminate the pregnancy and still be with her. I was taken aback by his choice and enquired why he would do that, despite knowing that she has been cheating on him with random and different people since she doesn’t seem to know who the actual father of the baby is. My guy man said he couldn’t leave this girl because of the kind of ARSE she possesses. I didn’t know when I screamed ‘YANSH again’!

My client told me that looking at her arse when she walks by or immediately she takes her bath, walking around naked is soothing enough. And for that, he’s ready to stand by her in her most difficult period.

I know I’ve heard and seen some of the most ridiculous things in the course of this job, but this right here ranks very high. We just laughed it off as he went out a second time. But not without repeating my earlier advice to him.

I already had another client waiting for me, a long one to Oil Mill Bus Stop

Downing tools and our frustrations

After about three days of downing tools, the E-hailing drivers in Port Harcourt were directed by their respective group heads to resume duties and give the various app companies, mainly Bolt and Uber a one-week grace to meet some of their demands, if not all.

It was the Lagos chapter that kick-started the whole process with Abuja and we in Port Harcourt took it a notch higher. Our counterparts in Benin didn’t come to the party on time, so planned for the following week. We got reports from Calabar, Enugu, Abeokuta, Ekiti, Ogun, and Warri that they were participating as well.

The media got wind of it and it became headlines across the country, while also trending on social media platforms too.

For us here in Port Harcourt, different tactics were deployed by the striking drivers to ensure some of their colleagues who refused to join the fight initially, either do so later or stay away from the roads totally.

While some of us obeyed the directive, there were others who saw it as an opportunity to cash out in our absence.

We gathered in various strategic locations across Port Harcourt to chill and book rides, then educate the drivers on the need to join the cause. Some were ignorant of it and totally unaware, while others were adamant to join forces. Although we advised against it, many of our colleagues refused to let it slide. So they chose to book those sorts of drivers and leave disparaging comments as to why they cancelled the rides subsequently. Drivers got blocked or suspended as a result of these extreme measures. Bolt, in particular, had to alter their app to prevent driver’s scores from reducing. It stayed that way until recently when normalcy returned.

The strike wasn’t entirely successful, but it wasn’t a failure either. Both major E-hailing companies readjusted their prices twice in three days. They were held by the balls and needed to play ball. Fares were a bit higher than before and it pleased the drivers a bit. Nevertheless, that came with its own issues: Fewer rides, and plenty drivers.

Secondly, the major bone of contention which is the astronomical percentage charged as commission remained untouched. Drivers groaned under the burden of Bolt’s twenty-three per cent (23%) and Uber’s eighteen per cent (18%). So, high prices of fuel, plus low patronage and incredibly high commissions now posed as a new stumbling block, with some of my colleagues contemplating dropping their cars for a different line of business.

Oh, maybe I missed the car owner’s dilemma too. About seventy per cent of the drivers do not own their cars. Some are on-hire purchase arrangements, while the others are remitting as high as twenty-five (N25,000) to thirty thousand naira (N30,000) weekly to the car owners.

A couple of the car owners, after hearing the plea from their drivers, agreed to chalk off about five thousand naira (N5,000) from those on weekly remittances until the situation changes. Some others wouldn’t budge and advised the drivers who can’t meet up to return the cars with immediate effect. That’s like being caught between a rock and a hard place.

The fight for a better welfare package from the E-hailing companies isn’t over yet. We just need to bring forth a more united front to press home our demands. Plans are already underway to unify the different groups.

But as I always inform my colleagues, let’s look at the bigger picture. We should not throw away the bath water with the baby in it. With all the negatives listed, Bolt and Uber brought some major changes in the transportation sector, a breath of fresh air. It gave many people avenues to earn decent wages.

Now, we just need to find ways to reduce the negatives significantly and create the right balance for all parties (app companies, partner drivers and our cherished clients) to enjoy the positives that abound all around.

Phew! There’s no juicy gist on this week’s episode! Just rants of a frustrated Bolt/Uber guy!

Meanwhile, as a rider, what changes would you like to see on these platforms?

Also, what are some of your personal experiences with drivers or app companies?

Kindly leave your suggestions in the comment section below and let’s see how the best of them can be addressed in our next meeting.

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