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Home Features My Encounter with Bolekaja, Lagos City Transport of 60s, 70s

My Encounter with Bolekaja, Lagos City Transport of 60s, 70s

ROTIMI ASHER

One of the highlights of the 2024 Lagos Motor Show was the showcase of Lagos popular vintage mass transit vehicle, popularly known as Bolekaja.

The site of this vintage vehicle activated in me a nostalgic feeling, as would do for visitors, who travelled around Lagos city in the 60s, 70s and even early 80s.

Those who were born in the late 80s may be acquainted with Mercedes-Benz 911 buses known as Molue, but not Bolekaja.

The word Bolekaja, in Yoruba language mean, ‘’Come down and let us fight’. A lorry with wooden body and  seats, Bolekaja came with four long wooden seats, two resting on the wall.  Other two in the middle have the passengers backing one another, while facing the passengers sitting on seats aligning the wall of the vehicle. It is possible that the two passengers facing each other could engage in head-butt duel if both dosed off while the vehicle was on motion.

Phased out late 80s, Bolekaja was replaced by Molue buses, which continued to ply Lagos roads till about a decade ago.

Surprised at seeing the vintage Bolekaja, I decided to find out where it came from.

At its stand, I engaged the young attendant, who introduced himself as Gideon Akpan, a representative of Loving Lagos Limited, owner of Onikan House and Afro-Brazilian Cultural Center, a tourism organization into preserving the history and culture of Lagos.

According to Akpan, display of Bolakaja was part of Loving Lagos’ activities of preserving the history and culture of Lagos.

He said: “We look at the history of transportation, cultural heritage of the city. We know that History is something that people don’t take seriously. Like they say, if you don’t know history, history keeps repeating itself.

‘’Last week, we had Lagos Biennial this same venue. So, when the organizer of the Lagos Motor Show came, they saw the vehicle and wanted us to showcase it at the show. We are here to showcase the history of transportation in Lagos. Like you can see, we have a Danfo and  Keke too.

“As you might be aware, Bolekaja was the means of transportation way back then. We have a lot of people who have never seen Bolekaja before especially those who were born in the 80s. We are just trying to bring back memory of how transportation used to look like in Lagos.

On how Loving Lagos came about the vehicle since it has been phased out long time ago, he said, “we had to contact one of the Engineers that used to build the vehicle in those days. They are in Ibadan. We got them to build it for us and drove it to Lagos.

For those of us who were not born when Bolekaja was plying Lagos roads, you have an opportunity to find out the history of transportation in Lagos by visiting Loving Lagos Limited, Onikan House, Lagos Island. This is because if you don’t know about Bolekaja, you don’t know the history of Lagos

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