Friday, November, 2004
“Booaahhh!” It was a thundering sound, like someone was struck down from heaven. Maybe it was Mr. Satan falling, or maybe it was Mr. God. I could not tell. With rat speed, I drew backwards to notice that it was not Mr. Satan or Mr. God, but a tall young man descending from the sky. He flew like a helicopter that has lost its brain and crushingly slammed into a signboard across the express road. It was a fatal view. A fatal fall. People could not ignore scene, they poured out like water and began to scream and wail like hungry blue whales. [pullquote]While few people, watched bitterly with their hands either placed on their mouths, bellies, heads, or folded into their armpits to show how tormented they really felt.[/pullquote]
They kept making weird sounds. “Jesus oo! Chieee! Help am oo! Abeg stop motto! Stop a car…rrr..!” they hurryingly flagged for vehicles to stop so they could rush the young man to the hospital. But the taxi drivers and private vehicle owners; drove past with their faces kept straight like dry-fish. The ones that managed to slow down; gazed at the victim like it was an unusual sculptural piece of art and they nodded their heads in pity and drove off almost immediately.
It all started like this, it was a dusty and busy Friday, November, 2004, Ojuelagba, Lagos, Nigeria. The December scorching uguru wind had set in. I was passing a group of suntanned children playing football on the street, admiring their rough laughter and agility. The ball accidentally ran close to me and I wasn’t ready to pass the ball back without exhibiting my natural brilliance for football. So I playfully tried dribbling one of the kids, but he collected the ball and laughingly dribbled the hell out of me, and I fell, and, I felt like beating the hell out him, but I shamefully walked away. That was my best choice.
“It’s a privilege to fall, so you would learn how to stand tall and walk away next time.” This I said to myself for moral support, as I dusted myself. I didn’t feel so bad, and I felt youngish because I had achieved my aim ―I did not pass back the ball, and I did not fall flat, okay…I guess I did, just a little…once or twice, but, at least, I stood and I did not pass back the ball.
I got to the busy express way and looked, left, right, left, right, and left again. I didn’t want to fall again, and I couldn’t dare to cross. Vehicles were flying to and fro as if rapture was about to happen. I needed to cross as fast as possible because my journey was still far. [pullquote]Although, I was new in Lagos, I knew that if darkness mistakenly catches up with me, my name will turn to capital letter “SORRY”. [/pullquote]So I was left with two options: cross and get crushed, or stand and get lost in “SORRY”.
Even a retard will choose the second option, so I stood, waiting for a danfo bus going to Akoka. All of a sudden, a multitude of Okada motorcycles and a “milk colour” 404 Peugeot drove past with jet speed and almost brushed off my patient soul. Few seconds later, I noticed that the Okada riders were pursuing a hit-and-run 404 vehicle running for his life. They caught and brought back the Peugeot driver to the scene where the accident victim lay with almost half of the skull skin smashed off. It was a gory sight, and I could hear the unconscious victim gasping for breath, while his voice rattled in his throat and drops of red and yellowish substance trickled down from his skull. I nearly died of fear.
People notoriously pounced on the driver like he was a thief and started beating the hell out of him, while some Lagos Ogbero moto-park hoodlums energetically ran around with vexation, sneeringly looking for bald tyres to roast the driver alive.
Anger flowed steadily as the driver kept crying heavily. He cried and cried and his eyes almost became a pool of water. Within few minutes the driver was already soundless and stark naked, but he managed to continue begging with signals, nodding his head up and down in a pleading manner. They eventually found two completely bald tyres and they wore it around the driver’s neck, asking if anyone had matches or lighter.
They were impatient, blood hungry, and arrogantly mean, forgetting the most important thing they should do to save the life of the accidental victim.
“[pullquote]My pikin, make una come collect fire for here! Na so dey go drink kai kai come dey drive like James Bond.[/pullquote] Make una burn am well, well, so that others go learn,” an old woman that was roasting corn and native pear close by said.
One of the Ogbero’s went close and dragged out a log of wood. “Madam, dis your firewood wet. Oya, heat your fire up well, well, so we go use am burn am before foolish police people go come.” He said, slotting the firewood back into the fire.
The old woman blew the fire with her mouth, heating up its temperature, while the hoodlums and few people kept cursing painstakingly and uproariously. The people that were not in support of the jungle justice, cried, while some others with their mobile phones videoed the jungle justice instead of calling the police.
I was paused. I was nonplussed, and I saw their acts to be atrociously incongruous and pretty inconsequential to the state of what was happening. The more I saw, the more I frowned and drowned in anger. But I couldn’t conquer their uncontrollable aggression. I felt like I was the only sane person in the midst of an angry generation. I remained blocked.
The fire was ready and half bottle of fuel was already resting close to the unconscious driver. While the barbaric drama continued, I became more confused and wanted to rush out from the crowd and save the reckless driver, but I couldn’t.
I quickly drew out my mobile phone, searching for help. And then police number clicked on my head. I quickly dialed it, and I heard: “The number you dialed is temporary unavailable. Please try…” I cursed, hissed and hang up the phone. Before I could put down my phone, the next thing I heard was noisy siren approaching with full speed and everyone scattered.
I wanted to run, but it was too late, so I stood with very few people, with my hands up, head up, and chest out.
The vans stopped with a screech of brakes. “[pullquote]Hey, bloody civilians! Make una lie flat! Bad people![/pullquote]” the army men shouted furiously at us and pointed their tall guns, ready to riddle bullets into anyone that dared to move an inch.
“Please o! We no do anything. Na that man hit person won run. Abeg!” some people pleaded, but I stayed frozen, avoiding eye contact.
“Shut up, fools! Na why una won kill am? Animals!” the most senior officer said with red eyeballs hidden behind the black gates of his eyeglasses. He then ordered the second van driver to rush the hit-run-driver and the accidental victim to the nearest hospital. “All of una go pay for their bills!” He spat.
“No sirs, I just dey waka pass, come see weytin dey happen, come stop dey look. We no fellow. Abeg oga,” a pregnant woman said, rapping in strongest Yoruba accent. She threw her hands on her head and kept rotating on the floor.
“Sharrap! If you roll any further, I’ll shoot!” The officer cocked his guy, and ordered. “All of you are under arrest!”
They frog marched each and everyone into their vans. When it got to my turn to frog into their van, I looked at the most senior officer like an adult that has bed wetted. He walked close to me with anger and said, “Hey you, come here! Why you dey look me like that, I resemble your papa?” he asked.
“I…I…” I stuttered and realized that my eyes had started releasing watery substance.
“What![pullquote] Why are you behaving like someone that is faking orgasm? You must be contumously contumous![/pullquote]”
I have never heard such word before. I ignored the word and gently put my hands down and showed him my mobile phone, saying to him that I will never be in support of the burning of any human being.
“Sir, check my last dialed number, it will show that I’m telling the truth.” I said, and pointed at an uncompleted building that the hoodlums had sheltered into with the old woman that fired up their monstrous intentions.
“Young man, keep your hands up! Quick!” he punched the door of the van, hard, as if it’s made of bread. He didn’t even wince. “Are you sure of what you have just said? If you are lying, I’ll shoot off your two chicken bastard legs!” the senior officer threatened and ordered his men to go and cheek out the uncompleted building.
They got there and saw all of them whispering conspiratorially in their hideouts. The angry army men knocked the living shit out of them as they marched them out. One of the army men wanted to brutalise the old woman that gave them fire, but their senior commander stopped him and they threw her into the van like volleyball.
The senior commander looked at me and said with a deep voice, “Young man, you are very very lucky! Thank your stars.”
“Okay sir.” I bowed, still shaking.
“Young man, continue to be a good citizen of this country. Now turn around!”
I was scared to do so. I remained still. I did not trust that word.
“I said turn around!” He shouted, ordering me to run off very fast before he closes his eyes and opens it.
“Ok….” I disappeared before he could even finish his last sentence. They drove off with every other person.
I kept running till I got to another bus stop and I dragged off my shoes. Everything looked faded. Minutes later; I wore them back and waited for a bus. The buses passed with awkward looking conductors mounted on their doors, speaking very fast, making it annoyingly difficult for one to understand.
“Age ge! Ajegunle! Mushi! Ekutun Egbe! Akoka…,” the bus conductors screamed and frowned.
I quickly noted the conductor that was crying out, “Akoka! Akoka…” and I ran and jumped into the danfo bus, because the drivers always move hurriedly like bats escaping from a burning building.
When I got into the bus, I tried relaxing, but then I noticed that my pockets were empty. Immediately, I searched myself and quickly looked out from the danfo bus and I saw an old man in his late sixty’s pocketing my phone and at the same time quickly searching my wallet, trying to uproot all that’s in it.
“Driver! Driver! Abeg, stop the bus!” I screamed loudly.
“Na wetin?” he swallowed saliva. “Weytin bite you?” the driver asked.
“Driver, please stop the bus. That old man wey drop for bus stop stole my phone and wallet, and I don’t have any money on me. Abeg stop!” I ordered.
The driver held the inner rear view mirror and gently rotated it so he could see my face. Afterwards he said, “Oh boy, do you have the recites for your items?” he kept murmuring.
I thought of jumping out from the window, or attack the driver, but I did nothing, rather, I remained silence; for we had gone far from the old man.
None of the bus passengers spoke or laughed. Everyone remained absolutely calm. On getting close to my bus stop, the conductor said to me, so reluctantly, “Oga, pay your money,” he held his left ear and said again, “Bros, I no get change o,” while he switched his money to his right hand and held it very tightly.
“Conductor!” I called querulously.
“Passenger!” he mocked angrily.
“Conductor, so you didn’t hear when I was screaming and begging your driver to stop?” I lamented.
The conductor said, “Bros, that one concern you. Pay your money! “Kilode? Oga, I no want trouble, so no try me o,” he kept stamping his feet and tapping his chest with his fists.
I humbly raised my index finger and said, “Big Bros, I swear, I no get any other money on me here.” [pullquote]I sadly looked around at the mute passengers, to see if anyone was ready to help out or plead on my behalf. But they all posed in a praying mood[/pullquote], except a sweating young man, who sat just right beside me.
I twisted my neck like a giraffe; and stared constantly at the young man, while he voraciously kept chewing Gala. I had high hopes because he looked very fat, kind, and I believed that people that eat much normally give much.
I buried my pride, and bent my head and said. “Good day Bros. Please, I beg you in the name of God, I need 100 box. Abeg!”
He swallowed and said, “Guy, na only 100 naira I get for here. Sorry!”
“Okay. Thanks.” I faced the conductor. “Weytin you won make I do now?” I gazed.
“Na me you dey ask? If rat steal your money, make you steal rat money too. Do fast make I collect my money from other passengers.”
I was incredibly confused and I kept looking at him. He stood, murmured for few seconds, and he hissed and walked to another passenger. When he had left, I noticed that he had absent-mindedly dropped something while he was busy shouting. I waited for him to start collecting money from other passengers. When he did, I bent down and saw that he had mistakenly dropped one thousand naira note, so I pretending pretended as if I was coughing and picked it up.
“Hey, collect, give me my change, now,” I used the money to pay him immediately.
He chuckled. “Choiii! Bros mi, all of you for Lagos na barawo, original thieves. I think say you say you no get money to pay?” he laughed satisfyingly, and said again, “You for try me, I for naked you,” he raised the money to the ray of light, and checked properly to be sure that it was not counterfeit.
The fat guy that I had begged money earlier on, folded his hands across his chest and whispered, “Bad guy,” he smiled briefly.
I gave him thumbs up in return, he also gave me a sign, that he saw me, but it’s okay.
The conductor flapped the money with delight as he gave me my change. I collected it with super speed.
“Driver, I won drop here.” I smiled lightly as the bus slowed to a snail crawl, and I jump off like lightning.
Finally, I got home and and the first thing I did was I picked my dictionary and I kept searching for the word “contumously contumous.” I never saw anything like that, or anything similar. I believe he meant “I was highly stupid.”
The next day, I told my uncle what had happened and that Lagos is a terrible place. He kept laughing with his wife, telling me that my story is an immature one. He explained further by telling me about the day they entered “one-chance” criminal bus. I was shocked. I remained absolutely calm, thinking of how I was going to disappear from Lagos the very next day. But eventually, I stayed five more years, and brewed into the mentality which states that: [pullquote]the only way one can conquer Lagos, a beautiful city of countless rats and holdups, is to transform into a full-blooded LAGOSIAN.
Oluwafemi Oloidi was born in Nigeria. He has an M.A. degree, and he is a Ph.D. student at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He is an artist, fashion designer, and a published author. His first book, titled “Shoeless Night,” is a true life story which has sold thousands of copies. And his second book, “In a World of Their Own,” will be out next month. He believes that the sky is his kitchen, because, for him, inspiration has no bounds. And he also believes that through writing one can immortalize, accomplish, and create a voice for the unheard. Oluwafemi, is an active citizen of Nigeria. He is very grateful for the good will and support of his readers.