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Boda bodas: For the love of these things

Love-hate: The story of the boda boda cannot be told enough, and with the government refusing to release them for us, we cannot just sit back and pretend not to miss them; that sweet lugambo, the haggling and what not.


Our memories of Kampala would be incomplete without boda bodas. There would be nothing for us to stand for – nothing, just blank passages in our books of Uganda. We have all interfaced with boda bodas in different ways, we love to hate them, but we also hate that we love them. For all the good and the bad, boda bodas remind us of ourselves, our shortcomings, and yet despite our flaws, there is good that comes out of us.

We sang about boda bodas. It could be Maurice Kirya or even the woman who has been the subject of different lyrics. Don’t you all remember Zuena and her musical stint? What would life for Najjera peeps, aka Najjerians, be without boda bodas? We all know these Subaru drivers keep asking their girls to use boda bodas and they will refund on arrival. If Subaru drivers did not have cars, they would make good boda boda riders. In fact, it is rumoured that many of them are former boda boda users.
Yet, boda bodas teach many of us how to drive. The recklessness of boda bodas forces all these road users to pay extra attention. A boda boda could come out of anywhere. They are like ghosts. There is no better school of defensive driving than this city where boda bodas define our life.

We cannot forget the ‘bibozibozi’ of boda boda riders. These guys will have a say about everything. Sometimes you just want to sit quietly, on the journey but boda riders will not allow it. The best of conversations happen on these boda bodas. The riders will assure you of the wonders they have done out of the business. Of how they now own shops kumasitoowa in Nansana. Before long, they turn to you for therapy. They will seek advice about their relationships. Boda boda riders claim to know everything about everyone. You are passing some house and they assure you how the resident is a ‘big fellow’ in government. That he is the one who advises Museveni on everything.
Who does not enjoy the haggling process? That moment when you flag down the boda rider and seek their services. Do you notice that the riders will charge you based on your ‘masappe’? Lawyers have suffered with the haggling process. Given that most of them are in ties and suits, boda riders never spare them the high prices. You then see them haggling in sign language before flagging down the bike. They will show the sign of a fist to assure the boda boda that all they have is 5K.

Boda bodas will never accept that sometimes they have no idea about a place or a certain location. You can ask the boda boda to take you to ‘George Floyd’ and he will reply; “tuula, nkuminya.” They will keep riding until such a point when they are like: “Boss, mpozi which place?” Then he will start seeking directions from other boda riders. Ugandans are eager to give directions, but they also do a poor job giving them. Finally, it will all end with a humble confession: “Boss, George Floyd is where?”

It is also rumoured that the big threat to Kampala marriage is boda riders. Whereas Ugandan lawyers and bankers suffer from cash flow problems, it is not an issue for boda riders. The boda man will always have something for his wife every day. Mbu they are available, emotionally and physically. They will not claim how it is not yet payday. For bodas, every hour is pay hour. But the boda riders also know one thing that most men don’t, that’s the art and science of giving compliments.
A boda rider will notice things even a lady has never noticed about herself. They will praise every strand of hair on her head. They will whistle: “Bambi Beyonce, come I take you.” These compliments are a rarity in most relationships. Ugandan men need to learn from Luo men. Some lady said the way Luo men say the word ‘baby’, you can feel one’s ovaries twerking. But hey, do not make a mistake to flag down a boda when in the presence of a pretty lady. They will charge you to the neck. They will strike the spear right into a man’s ego.

We all know that with this traffic jam in Kampala, there is only one solution – boda bodas. If not for Boda bodas, some of us would have missed flights, job interviews, dates, sure wins from Makindye girls, even funerals. Because of boda bodas, our life has gotten better, not worse. The accidents could be the humble price we pay for the efficiencies of boda bodas. How would some women know about their co-wives if not for the gossip channels of boda bodas?

We hope sooner than later, we can restore our hate and love relationship with boda bodas. We hope we can get back to those adventurous night outs as bodas drop us home and both parties fear each other. We hope we can get back to the moments when bodas dent our cars yet claim to be the ones in the right?
Boda bodas may be a burden, but it is a burden we want to carry. At such a time when we do not need this burden any longer, our pockets shall speak. #Bodabodalivesmatter

Twitter: ortegatalks

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