(Published in The PUNCH on Monday, June 4, 2018)
Today, the sun didn’t hide behind the cloud. In the fullness of its blinding brightness, the sun stepped boldly outside the firmament, and blazed down intensely on planet earth, without mercy. It was 2pm, tetchy Lagos slum, Oshodi, had turned into a melting pot of emotions – rage, agitation, passion, sweat and blood. A pickpocket, who stole N200 from a beggar, was placed on the cross of jungle justice by a frenzied crowd. A hefty, hemp-smoking ruffian among the crowd brought down a thick plank on the hairless head of the pickpocket, pow! The plank snapped into two, turning the head into a fountain of blood. “You lazy bedbug; you don’t steal from a beggar, go after politicians!” the ruffian counseled.
Rising above the bedlam of a multitude talking all at once amid the honking of countless vehicles, the guttural voice of a motor park tout bellowed nearby, “Ado! Ado! Ado Ekiti! Ado! Ado, one shans!!” Shortly, a female passenger arrived to complete the number of passengers for the Ado-bound bus. “Why are you carrying four passengers per seat?” the newly arrived female passenger asked the agbero, adding, “you pack 20 people like sardine in this pangolo that should take 11 passengers, charge exorbitant fare, and yet your yeye bus is as filthy as a latrine. Mtcheew!”
A breezy fella wearing a snow-white singlet atop a pair of jeans and white canvas shoes, hopped into the driver’s seat after the time-wasting rites that characterize takeoff at motor parks. He gunned the engine and revved up to high heaven while his colleagues and hangers-on shouted his nickname, “Professor!!” The bus croaked out of the park jerkily as the hemp-smoking ruffian, aka Codeine, continued to hold court over the almost lifeless pickpocket. And Eedris Abdulkareem’s song, “Nigeria jaga-jaga/everything scatter, scatter/poor man dey suffer, suffer/gbosa, gbosa, gunshot inna di air…” boomed from the dusty loudspeakers on a rickety, stationary car selling Ajase-Ipo aphrodisiac nearby.
“Someone should pray for us,” Prof, the driver, urged the passengers as he snaked the bus through a filthy road to link the Oshodi-Oworonshoki overhead bridge. A passenger with a huge cross drooping from a silver chain across his neck rose to the occasion. “Good morning, brethren; my name is Pastor Joshua. Let us pray. In Jesus name, in the Mighty name of Jesus…” After the pastor prayed, an Imam with one silver and two gold teeth enthused, “Soluu ala nabiyil Kareem…,” launching into an Islamic prayer.
As the vehicle eased out of the Oshodi gridlock, the female passenger recalled the plight of the pickpocket, saying, “Is that how they’re going to kill that young man? This our country has totally turned into something else. We can’t wallow in sin and ask for abundance of grace.”
Imam: “Are you saying that what the thief did was good?”
Female Passenger: “I didn’t say so. Somebody who steals N200 from a beggar is hungry and should be pitied. He shouldn’t be killed. Nigerians don’t go after those stealing the nation’s wealth; it is petty thieves they would be killing.”
Imam: “Abi the thief is your person ni? Why should anyone steal from a beggar if that person isn’t ungodly and callous?”
(Music) “If you be president, lead us well/If you be governor, governor us well/If you be senator, senate am well/If you be policeman/police well, well; no dey take bribe…” The song of African China breezed from the bus radio, and Prof sang along loudly, wiping sweat from his face with a big towel. Then he cleared his throat loudly, spitting out phlegm into a heap of refuse by the roadside. “See, I’m a 2/1 graduate of 15 years. When I nearly died pounding the streets for job, I had to settle for this driving job. I started out as a conductor, I thank God this is my own vehicle.”
Pastor Joshua: “You’re lucky. Millions have died because they lack money to treat common malaria. Millions don’t have roofs over their heads. Millions are hungry. You should thank your star.”
Prof: “Do you think Nigeria can ever be good with the way everyone is stealing? Won’t our oil finish the way they’re stealing it every day?”
Pastor: “Ha, don’t say that o. It can never finish because it hasn’t reached my turn o. Nigeria is inexhaustible. Just pray God to bless you, too – as He has blessed and chosen those leading us now. If you get the opportunity, you too go chop. Me, I go chop, everybody go chop. It’s our money. It’s God’s blessing.”
Imam: “No mind the driver. Na dis kain people dey chop pass when dem get power. Look, if I get the opportunity to rule this country for just one week, na for inside Central Bank I go live.”
Female Passenger: “Can you imagine what you guys are saying; you will ‘chop’ your country? Is this what your Bible and Quran teach? ”
Pastor: “What do you know, young lady, the earth is of the Lord, and the fullness thereof. Nothing happens without the approval of the lord. You better pray to God to find you a man that would buy a G-Wagon for you, too.”
Imam: “Let her be arguing there. Who told you I don’t want to buy Assurance for my eldest wife, Sikira? Is it haram if I wear N10m designer Saudi robe, turban, goggles, slippers, and use pure gold ‘tasbih’ to pray to Allah?”
“Aunty, are you saying a man cannot ‘assure’ his wife with a car?” a female teenager, who donned a T-shirt with the inscription, “$30bn Gang”, asked sarcastically from the seat at the back of the driver.
Female Passenger: “If your husband has a legitimate source of income, he can buy you a plane. But it’s wrong to live on the wealth of a hungry people and engage in ostentatious purchase for your wife. A servant shouldn’t live like a king while the owner of the house lives in penury. This isn’t how democracy is run. Democracy caters for the people.”
Prof: “God bless you, my sister. There’s no difference between our politicians. When they’re sharing monthly allocations, you won’t hear any noise. Have you seen any Nigerian politician who didn’t go back home richer after his tenure? Democracy ko, dem dey crazy ni! When kasala go burst for Nigeria, na all of us go hear am. Everybody sabi say the former party na confirmed armed robber, and the current one na ogbonge bandit. We, the masses, are also part of the problem. Do you know how many buses have left our garage for Ado today?”
Imam: “Buses leave for Ado to do what? What’s happening in Ado?”
Prof: “Ha! So, you don’t know Ekiti lawmakers are holding a parliamentary session under Fayose’s newly constructed Ado-Ekiti Bridge?”
Pastor: “Holding a parliamentary session under the bridge? Why? Under the bridge is where madmen and women sleep in Nigeria. Are Ekiti lawmakers sick?”
Prof: “They’re ok, they went to pledge allegiance to the governor under the bridge ni. It was the former President, who never had a shoe, that inaugurated the bridge, and he described it as the best in Nigeria.”
Female Passenger: “I’ve seen the Ado-Ekiti Bridge. How can the ex-president declare that gada as the best in Nigeria? What’s wrong with our leaders? Must everything be about deceit? So, the Ado Bridge is better than all those architectural wonders floating on water in Lagos? Haba! What stopped the ex-president from constructing this Ado type of bridge during his tenure? Doesn’t the ex-president know that the so-called best bridge is an indictment on his eventless and corrupt administration?”
Alhaji: “Women and bad mouth! Na you sabi the grammar you dey blow o. My Sikira must ride a G-Wagon on top of the best bridge in Nigeria soon, insha Allah.”
Pastor: “Amen, and my own Delilah, too.”