Dear Nii Kpakpo,
As usual I have to travel on one of my weekend trips and the choice of which transport to use is a major headache around here. With the proliferation of transport companies on our roads now a simple journey which hitherto only involved getting to a station and getting a bus is not that simple anymore.
Most of these transport companies have packages for patrons to attract more passengers to them. Usually packages are tailored to suit client needs and also convenience.
Especially when you’re traveling from the savanna most of the buses such is OA, GH & (V)VIP leave in the evenings and drive through the night so that by morning, clients will be in Accra. Leaving after work hours in the savanna ensures that it is possible to report for work in Accra in the morning and go about any business.
There are other buses that also leave in the morning and these include Imperial Transport and our very own STC. They drive through the day and join in the traffic melee in Kumasi and subsequently Accra as their final destination.
Kpakpo our age old STC has proven over and over again to many a Ghanaian that state owned enterprises don’t thrive with mediocre services and constant disappointments. Gone were the days when the state’s transport company run on its ‘proper four tyres’ when we were in high school. Mention their name now and Ghanaians wont even give you a ‘tweaa’ but an ‘apuu’ which is a deeper sense of contempt. You’d be lucky that they wont even spit as they do in disgust as they do in some jurisdictions.
Anyemi as I’m writing this letter on a Thursday it must be coincidental that I’m sitting in the STC yard with a friend talking about the good old days when we get to the “transport yard” carrying yo trunk and chop box and you didn’t have to struggle for a ticket because some influential parents went up to the transport manager and got us a student bus that ‘dropped’ everyone in their respective schools in Cape Coast or in Takoradi.
Indeed! Those Setra buses were built like German tanks and we had absolute confidence in our drivers because sometimes we saw their training driving heavy fire tenders.
BUT NOW! LATELY!!
STC is a pale shadow of itself and I like to think that only loyalists still take them for one reason or the other. One famous radio presenter friend of mine, a staunch vocal supporter of the company told me his final straw was when he traveled to Takoradi and when it was time to get back he went to the ‘transport yard’ to book a ticket to leave at 4pm but was told even as at 2pm that he got there that those who even booked for 11am were still in the station. There was no bus to convey them to Accra.
WHAT?? THIS IS INCREDULOUS!! He screamed.
Kpakpo, he said the people looked at him like he was a raving lunatic. What kind of service is this that a bus scheduled to leave at 11am as at 2pm still hadn’t come.
Dude just picked his bags and walked across the street to take one of the Ford vans bound for Accra. Suffice it to say if STC was the last option he’d hire a rental car to his destination.
Nii Kpakpo Thompson just imagine what happened today. When I made enquiries I was told reporting time is 5am and you know the time I go to bed around 3am earliest so I decided to just reserve the ticket and not pay for it. If I couldn’t redeem it then fine but if I made it too, all the better. So luckily a bad headache as a result of dusty allergies (went cleaning our new place, story for another time)had to go to bed a wee bit after 2am. You know your sister is a tickler for time so latest by half past 4 she’d started her usual wake Kola up routine of kicking me deliberately out of bed. It is so uncomfortable and very annoying that no matter what you do you have to wake up. Took my shower, got dressed, lay by her side for a while, there was still more time, then she prayed for me and sent me on my way.
Kpakpo, the lady at the counter said reporting time was 5am and when I got in at a half past there was no bus. They were at it again I thought. Went out to get some koko breakfast, came back and still not bus. It was at the scheduled departure time that the bus arrived and started checking in passengers. Would you believe it was now that the lady at the counter had finished nipping her brows and browsing on her phone and was ready to check in passenger’s luggage. Kpakpo isn’t that what you do first even before you check in passengers on the bus?
Here every thing is reverse.
I’d bought my ticket and she didn’t have change and so she indicated that the outfit owed me ten cedis on the back of the ticket. Woman at counter says she wont give it to me cos other woman didn’t tell her anything before she went off duty. I was about to explode because here I was towering over a crowd of people trying to get their luggage tagged properly into the buses and you were taking money off them all but still wont give me my change. Now she tried to call the other woman to make enquiries but I’m glad the line didn’t go through or they’d have got a piece of my sun baked brain even tho the sun was not out yet.
Nii Kpakpo not only did I have to contend wits the other passengers over their luggage claims but also had to contend for seat numbers that didn’t work. And here’s evidence of the result.
So another friend of mine is on leave and wants to spend some time.with his family. Books tickets to go but was later told when he got to station that bus had left earlier due to other factors and he gets to leave on this bus with me. Whilst he’s trying to tag his bags we are at the counter when news comes that manager says there is an extra seat on the bus so they should fix somebody there. Order from Above syndrome. It needs to be obeyed. Dude gets on the bus and there is no seat for him. Remember he’s been transferred from the bus the day before that had left under “mysterious circumstances”.
Chale! Even the driver of the bus is peeved and goes to call the transport manager to sort the issue out. The manager, who had checked in the passengers explains to the “plus one” that the seat owner has been found so he has to vacate the seat but he will have the option to still go if he’d sit on the small seat besides the driver. Just when he agrees and gets up to go my friend is waiting to take his seat when the transport manager asks if my friend, being a younger man can come to that small seat with leg cramp options but my friend blatantly refused to which he drew from the manager a few mutterings about children and lack of respect for old age. Dude just sat in his seat. You don’t know his story so don’t tend to judge. He was very frustrated which is a trade mark of the STC.
Chale Kpakpo I can go on and on including the worst travel story I’ve heard of one bus with a bad infestation of roaches. I was told it got worse when that particular bus bound for Accra got to Ksi and an inferior bug spray was used to try to exterminate them, only made them all come out to play. So I was telling my seat mate we’re only lucky to have mosquitoes on this bus as he gingerly chases one around and tries to kill it. Hope he gets it cos I think I’m already coming down with something that I hope this lone mosquito wont contribute to malaria.
Nii Kpakpo Thompson, well the drive is uneventful apart from the usual picking of passengers on the way and dropping them off on parts of the journey like the bus is a trotro. I’m not quite in a hurry but that is so typical of STC that you think it’s slow but you get to yo destination and you realize you are within the stipulated time range of the number of hours a bus is supposed to take on the road.
Anyemi it is pretty obvious what our famous STC has been reduced to – a complete sham of its glory days, and they have let mediocrity become their byword but some of us will still ride the buses not only when it is convenient but for nostalgic purposes.
Kpakpo, wish me safe journey like your sister did. Will write to you again soon.
Till then I still remain
Your Cousin in Law