Lightning shone into the black night, forewarning about the fast-approaching downpour. Then thunder bellowed from behind the ominous clouds, forearming mortals to scamper to safety for the gods of the sky were about to embrace their earthly counterparts in a seasonal relationship that multiplies the toil of the farmer.
To be caught outside your home in this type of an unkind weather is ‘baba nla’ bad luck. Atmospheric commotion; dust replaced air, swishing and filling all mortal crevices; eyes, ears, noses, mouths, all. With my index finger, I rubbed dust out of my eyes and also blew my nose. Ah! Thank God, I didn’t have my laptop with me. Oh, wait! I have my phone! My phone of inestimable contacts! I grabbed a piece of black cellophane the angry wind blew my way. What kind of ‘lylon’ is this, I muttered. It was even wet. Could the wetness be urine? I was past caring. I switched off my phone and wrapped it with the ‘lylon’, tucked it into my black suit.
‘Agbotikuyo!’ ‘Agbotikuyo!’ I shouted to the oncoming rickety, noisy and dangerous looking okada, which braked temporarily to hear the destination I was calling out. ‘Agbotikuyo!’ I raced up to the commercial motorcyclist, who had sped a few meters past me. The lanky rider, who did not cut the engine, winced on hearing my destination, engaged the gear, and revved off, saying ‘Agbotikuyo ko, mortuary ni’.
Luckily, another rickety okada soon pulled up, bearing a passenger. ‘Agbotikuyo!’ I shouted. “Na N200 o, I no get change o,” the okada rider said. “I have change,” I said, struggling to sit in the little space left by the passenger on the okada, who cared less if I sat on needles. The passenger, on whose T-shirt, ‘Call me Emeka’, was boldly written, just wouldn’t budge despite entreaties for him to ‘shift’ for me. I clambered up the iron rack adjoining the seat, and off we zoomed. The okada tore into the night like an accursed arrow shot from hell. Despite the dust and dirt, I opened my eyes to the squinting wind while the teary journey lasted. To take your eyes off the road is to walk into your grave. The wind got colder, bearing with it a drizzle. The okada man asked if he could park somewhere while we wait for the gentle shower to subside. As we all were discussing this, a lightless tricycle, as if being pursued by the anti-Christ, whizzed through the dark and came headlong at us from the opposite direction. There are times when fate cages freewill; this was one of such times. There was nothing I could do; I only braced myself up, opened my eyes in horror and was waiting to hear gbooaaa!!! I didn’t hear gbooaa!!! I heard tyres screeching. I heard curses. I saw the marwa tricycle suddenly switch on its light, giving our okada rider a nail-biting nanosecond to swerve. Vrooooooowwmmm gbaaa!!!! We, the two passengers and the rider, all ended in a gutter – with the okada. Luckily, none of us sustained any life-threatening injury except the other passenger who had some bruises on his legs.
“Sorry o, sorry o, shey una no injure o,” sympathizers rushed to the scene, cursing the marwa and offering thanks to God for our miraculous escape.
“Make una wait make rain stop before una go continue una journey nah, no be house una dey go?” a sympathizer said. Our okada man, referred to as Adamu by his fellow okada riders, who came to our rescue, advised we go to an aboki’s ‘mai tea’ shop by the side of the road – to wait for the rain to subside.
“Person wey dey smoke among una should just buy cigarette smoke o, maybe una for don dey knock for heaven gate by now. Person wey sabi shack ‘mai tea’, make e drink o,’ another customer of the aboki said. “The way wey okada accidents dey happen nowadays sef, e be like say God dey vex for Nigeria. You no hear say Buhari son too get okada accident?”
“Why you dey call a motorbike an okada, idiot? The cost of that Buhari son motorbike fit buy five Tokunbo o,” one of the aboki’s customers remarked.
Emeka, who had been listening to the conversation, quipped, “Buhari dey blame im pikin for riding motorbike, abi; where the boy get money to buy the costly okada? If you buy toy for your pikin, no be for him to ride am?”
I expressed concern over Yusuf Buhari’s friend, who was also involved in the accident. Adamu said, “Oga, nobody mind if anything happen to that one o. You see any of our big men wey dey greet Buhari since this accident happen, greet the family of the other boy? Dis country na Eye Service PLC o. Half of those greeting Buhari go dey talk for back say na God catch am. You think say dem like am? Sai Baba too stubborn.”
A bald man sipping hot tea from a big jug cleared his throat and blamed Buhari for openly condemning the Aso Rock security operatives for letting Yusuf out by that time of the night, saying as President, Buhari cannot claim not to know that his son owns ‘several motorbikes’. “The President should have just kept quiet. What if Yusuf locked his bike in a vehicle and drove the vehicle to his friend’s place? Buhari should just accept that children can beat any form of scrutiny. He shouldn’t try to shift the blame. If the kidnapped Boko Haram girls got a fraction of attention this accident is getting, the girls would have been rescued by now. When the whole country didn’t have fuel, your son filled up a motorbike with fuel and went racing.”
“The lesson wey me I see for this whole matter be say the rich also cry. As we lay our bed, na so we go sleep on top of am. If to say we develop our country well, if we get accident emergency units for our expressways, dem for rush to the scene of the accident and give Yusuf and im friend first aid treatment. Na God save the boy nah, if to say e lose too much blood, na another thing we for dey talk now o, God forbid. Can you count how many of our big men and their families die for abroad this year alone? Why dem no build good hospitals here, shebi we get good doctors?” Wale, a customer who wore an Arsenal team jersey, said.
“Nigeria no go ever get better if our leaders no dey feel wetin we poor people dey feel. Make dem make law banning our leaders from travelling abroad for treatment, make dem ban dem from sending their children to school abroad; ban dem from spending holiday abroad, buying houses abroad or going abroad to born. Make dem ban dem from having more than two cars, and building more than one house. If dem do so, Nigeria go better,” another customer said amid a mouthful of bread, egg and tea.
The song of Fela Anikulapo Kuti – ‘Shuffering and Shmiling’ – blared from the transistor radio of Adamu, further fueling the conversation on Nigeria.
“Wetin Fela no sing? He sing ITT, Zombie, Original Sufferhead, Teacher, Sorrow, Tears and Blood, Mr Follow Follow, Palaver, Coffin for Head of State, dem listen? Gani Fawehinmi no talk? Ken Saro-Wiwa no talk? Tai Solarin no talk? Awolowo no talk? Ojukwu no talk? Bamidele Aturu nko? Una listen to Aminu Kano? No be kill una dey kill people wey dey talk true? God never vex for us o, God still dey sandpaper the cane wey he go take wipe our yansh,” Wale said.
The man with the big jug said he did not understand why ‘bad things’ were happening around the Presidency, recalling the President throwing a blanket of doubt over his age, fuel scarcity, the ill-timed presidential human side PR and the resurrection of the dead in federal board appointments – all in one month!
“When I tell una say Buhari too stubborn, una listen? Why you go draw up list of federal board members since 2015 and you no announce am? Why we come vote for you nah? To dey do smeh, smeh? Adamu hissed.
As the rain stopped, we left the mai tea’s shop for our okada, bending our heads against the moist wind. I have had enough for the night. All I need now is a bottle of beer, a prayer and sleep.
Agbotikuyo dey o!
Odesola was a former editor, politics, Punch Newspaper