‘Bodaboda Land’ A Satirical Story

Written by Dr Ian Clarke.

In the book ‘Alice in Wonderland’ the child Alice found a whole new world called ‘Wonderland’ where she could live in a world of childhood fantasies and adult rules did not apply. Of course this world was also full of distortions, and eventually she became too big for it and re-entered the real world.

In Uganda there is also a make-believe world where reality is distorted and the rules do not apply, but it is not called ‘Wonderland’, it is called ‘Bodaboda Land’. In Bodaboda Land bodaboda men live out their own fantasies in which other vehicles are not real. In this world the only things that exist are bodabodas, while vehicles with more than two wheels are just illusions. So when a bodaboda appears to be hurtling towards death and destruction in a collision with a forty-ton truck, the bodaboda man knows that the truck is not actually real, and he will miraculously miss it at the last moment.

At least this is what I think must be happening when I witness the world of greater and greater disconnect from reality which bodaboda men inhabit. It is now a matter of normality that a stream of boda bodas ride around roundabouts in the wrong direction, leaving those of us who drive by conventional rules to take the necessary avoidance action. It seems that the traffic police also live in Bodaboda Land because they just stand there and watch this abnormal behaviour, making no effort to teach bodaboda men that there are accepted traffic rules for road users.

I also feel that bodaboda riders must be living in another dimension of reality because I see the glazed look in their eyes as they ride towards certain death, and then dodge out of death’s reach in the nick of time. That vacant look of emotionless calm in the face of death must mean that they are living in a world where death holds no threat.

The rise of the alternative reality of Bodaboda Land took place imperceptibly during Covid, when most of us did not even realise what was happening. During Covid, when four wheeled vehicles were a rare sight on our streets, bodaboda riders realized that they had become the masters of the universe and could dominate the world. They could finally ignore the existence of other vehicles, and the traffic laws they had previously loosely been subject to. During this period when they completely dominated the roads, they honed their skills to a fine art. They learned to carry out smooth U turns without looking behind, or using their mirrors because cars no longer existed. They learned how to arrive at a blind junction on the wrong side of the road because there was no oncoming traffic. They learned how to weave along the road on either side, or suddenly cut across the road without apparent reason because only bodabodas existed.

Then, when cars returned to the roads, they knew they could continue with the same practices because other vehicles were now virtual. Thus even when they did U-turns on busy highways without looking behind, cars would somehow find ways to avoid them. They knew that when they took over the right hand lane of the road, oncoming traffic would find a way to get out of their way. After all, if there is a stream of one thousand boda bodas coming down the wrong lane, other road users had better move over.

Their numbers were now so great that bodabodas had undoubtedly become the kings of the road, and traffic rules no longer applied. Traffic lights became places for bodaboda festivals, where thousands of bodabodas could congregate for mass takeoff when the traffic lights changed. No, not when they changed to green, just when they changed colour, indicating that bodabodas could swarm in any direction, while other vehicles waited respectfully.

In the book ‘Alice in Wonderland’, Alice finally finds her way out of Wonderland back into the real world, but in our tale, Bodaboda Land finally merges with the real world. Bodaboda men then take over the world and exact revenge on any road user who dares challenge their authority, or (God help him) gets into a collision with a boda. Then they descend on the unfortunate motorist like the marauding hordes of Genghis Khan and destroy him, because they have now become the undisputed Kings of the Road.

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