Beside me in the State Transport Corporation [STC] bus with registration number GE 402-16 was a beautiful, dark-skinned lady. She wore [what appeared to be] a Denim blue-faded jeans trousers with a black sleeveless top matching it.
It was the 21st day of June 2019 and we were headed for the Ashanti Regional capital, Kumasi, from the nation’s capital – Accra. Before our bus could set off from the Kwame Nkrumah Circle Interchange, passengers chorused one thing― they were dying of heat and that the driver should switch on the air-conditioners in the bus. However, the driver sat still. He did not utter a word.
Then, the voices drumming home their discomfort roared again. Yet, neither the driver nor his conductor [mate] showed concern. My new friend – the lady in jeans – stood [up] from her seat and walked to seek for answers from the STC bus drivers.
“He says there is nothing he could do about it. That, they [air-conditioners] are not working properly,” she said to me and other passengers who could hear her sleek voice.
The air-conditioners were actually switched on but the air that flowed from it was nothing to write home about. For four solid hours and some minutes, we sat and endured the heat in the ‘oven’ bus before reaching our destination.
Before my traveling to Kumasi, I had spoken to 3news’ cartoonist – Tilapia – on persons [seemingly] doing well in society whom we could both write and draw about. We aimed at praising such people so it spurs others on to emulate. And, one of these names that came to mind – readily – was the Manager of STC, Nana Akomea.
We had learnt from media advertisement and word-of-mouth how STC had transformed. It now had a crew onboard to readily attend to passengers. The STC of old now serves snacks to passengers to get them enjoy their journeys.
Of a truth, I actually had a very good friend – a lady – who used to work with the STC crew who catered for passengers. When I decided to travel to Kumasi, I sent her a message on whether she would recommend I went by an STC bus.
She said yes, affirming Tilapia’s call on me to go by STC bus so we get to do a better job [of writing/drawing] on the Managing Director of the state-owned transport. Today, if I am to recommend STC bus to anyone, it would probably be a word of discouragement.
On Tuesday, July 9, 2019, I sat in the vehicle of a colleague at work [TV3] and it happened that two STC buses passed us by.
“You see Nana Akomea’s STC? That’s my subject for this week’s write up on my column,” I said to my friend. Little did I know that he similarly had a bad experience of the State Transport Corporation.
“My wife travelled to Kumasi not long ago by an STC bus. She says she had a hell of an experience. The air-conditioners were uncontrollably high that everybody complained in the bus,” he said to me.
So clearly, two different worlds. While we had to endure heat from Accra to Kumasi, another group of STC passengers had to battle frigid temperatures. My checks with some insiders at STC reveal that these buses of malfunctioning air-conditioners were mainly added to the Corporation’s fleet from another transport service and that these buses would be perfect on the road if they were properly maintained.
My air-conditioners rant aside, I again noticed something at STC’s makeshift terminal situated close to the VIP Bus Terminal. After the recent Kintampo-Tamale accident that claimed over 70 lives, transport operators were advised to properly document their passengers. This, the STC needs not to be told. Nonetheless, STC out of laziness – I think – refuses to get the bio data of its passengers as there are provisions made for the computation of the name, age and gender of their clients on its receipt.
“Name: NA [Not Applicable]. Age: NA and Gender, NA,” the receipt I had from STC indicated. The STC cannot spend five minutes on each of its passengers to put down these details? A state transport joining the mediocrity of bandwagons? If airlines are able to properly document passengers, why is it difficult for long journey transport services?
My STC experience and that of my friend’s wife could probably not mean that there is a total gloomy picture at the corporation. I am tempted to believe that there are some [or many] of their buses in good shape. However, Nana Akomea must be reminded of the adage which says that the spoilage of a grain of groundnut affects the wholesomeness of a barrel of such.
I understand that STC no longer has the crew on its buses to attend to passengers as it used to previously. If this is true, as they were absent in my bus, attempts must be made to bring them back. They save drivers of passengers’ complaints and all that. The drivers need a peace of mind to do their work while driving. And it must be stated that if people call for the comeback of STC serving its passengers snacks, it does not mean they [passengers] cannot buy same for themselves. I only think that that treatment to passengers distinguished STC from the fleet of other transport services making them the preferred choice.
In the world of business, it is all about branding. Someone says, the difference between Spiderman and Kwaku Ananse is but branding and that is indisputably true.
Dear Nana Akomea, deliberate efforts must be made to ensure all your buses are well maintained. STC’s success story must be told with a broad smile. All is not lost. You have started a good fight. Finish it well.
Lest I forget, on my way back to Accra from Kumasi, I chose another transport. Someday, God willing, I will travel by STC bus again and if I realize that things are in good shape, I will write another lengthy piece – this time – to praise you. Until then, I wish you the best, Sir.
By Solomon Mensah
The writer is a broadcast journalist with TV3/3FM. Views expressed here are solely his and do not, in anyway, reflect the editorial policy of his organization.