Like a hungry leopard breaks up a thick herd of zebras, the illumination from the halogen floodlights coupled with that from the massive neon billboards scattered the night into thickets of shadows. I stood by the roadside, bathed in the pool of the harsh but welcomed radiance as the night bombarded me with noise. The din grated on my nerves; it was a blunted saw going through the tree trunk of the day’s demise. I was engulfed by a cacophonous symphony of blaring horns, hawking shouts, roaring music and every kind of racket imaginable. On the bridge, vehicles crawled past, shepherded by LASTMA officials and policemen, their conductors belting out “Orile”, “Mile 2”, “Airport road”, “two more chance”, and so on. It is almost hard to remember this place used to be the den of stealing, mugging and every other kind of iniquity known to man before the present Governor of Lagos state saturated the whole area with light. He equally built roads and parks and now some kind of sanity reigns in the midst of all the insanity of this bustop. This is vintage Oshodi Oke bridge at night.
I had left my office in Lekki more than three hours ago and I was still headed towards Ikotun, another two hours commute. This means that I would get home about 11pm with just enough time to rustle up some noodles, sleep, and wake up at 4am to enable me beat the traffic of another day. It is such an emotion wrecking and body breaking lifestyle that recently I had been asking myself how long I was going to keep at this vicious circle in other to make some little change. Some days make me feel like a decrepit building that has been subjected to the wrath of a wrecking ball. I have been standing here for about an hour waiting for one of the large government buses that collect N50 instead of the smaller buses driven by Shylocks who hike their fares when they see large crowds. These guys are greedy beyond belief. However, even with the astronomical fares, passengers besieged these vehicles because there are usually so many people but such few buses. The weariness that seeped into my bones as I stood observing everything made a foul mood possess me.
I saw “area boys”, delinquents that they are, purchase sachets and cups of home brewed alcohol that had the capacity to shrivel the liver. I observed them harass and extort hard earned money from bus drivers while policemen watched, waiting for their own cut at the end of the day. It is because of these touts that transport fares keep going up. I just cannot abide them. Actually, with their dirty looks, gruff voices and pugnacious attitude, I find them utterly detestable. I usually wonder what rotted wombs conceived such human vermin. They should be crushed underfoot like roaches, exterminated like pests from the face of the earth with DDT. Nigeria would be a way better place without them.
The sudden shouts of ole, ole (thief, thief), woke me from my reverie. The shouting was directed at one ragamuffin who was racing towards me toting a laptop bag. Of course, instinctively, I tripped him and he came crashing down. I retrieved the bag, gave it back to the owner then joined the throng that descended on him with the fury of yesteryears frustrations. After landing two furious slaps on his face with fiendish glee, I gave way to the more irate crowd. The miasma of marijuana, filth and alcohol emanating from him and the bile of disgust that threatened to activate my gag reflex was too much for me.
While this mayhem was going on, a custom made white Lincoln Navigator stopped by the side of the road. It was so sleek that it must have been a white Arabian stallion in another life, so bright that if I did not know angels had wings, I would have thought that it was the wheels they used in heaven. The back door opened and the handsomest man I had ever seen stepped out. He was tall, wearing a navy blue three piece designer suit, a dazzling white shirt and a blood red tie. He came out, and asked what was going on with a clipped upper class accent that made me know he had proper upbringing and must have gone to a very good school (I later got to know that he went to Oxford).
“Efile, kilo n sele” (please leave him, what is going on here)? He inquired of the bloodthirsty horde in impeccable Yoruba.
After he was told the whole story by one of the busy bodies, he offered to pay whatever it would take to right the wrong and settle the case (the laptop had gotten broken in all the ensuing madness). No sooner had he said this than the people around started insulting him and promptly told him it was none of his business. I can almost wager that Nigerians are the rudest people in the world.
The crowd would have none of that goody- two-shoes stunt. They wanted jungle justice at all cost. The tempo of the beating being meted out was getting too much and if it continued, this thief,- pile of dung in human skin was going to leave the world soon, not that anyone would miss him though. It would be good riddance to bad rubbish but something weird was going on here.
Mr. “Lincoln” got into the thick of the fray begging the bloodthirsty throng to let him go. He covered the bum’s body to shield him from the rage being dished out. This dude must be mad for getting involved in a melee that could bring him great harm because of a good for nothing loafer. I was proven right when I saw a tooth fly out of his mouth following a hay-maker of a blow. All the pummeling meant for the bad guy was now rained on him. His suit was torn in no time, white shirt besmirched, lips swollen, face bloodied and squashed like mashed tomatoes yet he did not give up in his quest to save the thief. His involvement gave the accused enough reprieve to escape and he ran like a hare on drugs still being pursued by the mob. A policeman shouted after him to stop or he would shoot. I quickly ran to the other side of the road, the police in Nigeria are about the most trigger happy in the world.
“I say make you stop or I go shoot you oooo” the enforcer shouted again in a drunken slur (when it comes to drinking alcoholic poison, Nigerian policemen are as bad as the area boys).
The law keeper took a shooting stance and as he squeezed the trigger, Mr. Lincoln threw himself in front of the projectile’s trajectory to save the escaping culprit and the bullet entered his chest and lodged in there. I have never seen so much blood all my life. This abruptly put an end to the blood lust and everybody gathered around him as he bled to death. Even the area boy was forgotten.
The boy could not believe it! Instead of him to keep running for dear life, he came back and dissolved into tears that fell like desert rain, a tidal surge that flowed from a heart that had broken like a weak dam. He kept bawling “ahh, o ku fun mi” (he died for me) over and over again especially when the dying man gasped “ore (friend), it is okay” and gave up the ghost.
I was stunned to the core of my being, he called that good for nothing bugger friend! How? Why? Now, I have heard it all. Apparently, I had not even seen it all. The back door on the other side of the SUV opened and a man wearing a white agbada came out. Grief contorted his face into a mask stamped by agony and I could see tiny rivers of sorrow streaking down his eyes. The dead man looked so much like him and it dawned on me that this old man had just watched his son die a senseless death.
He walked towards the cause of all the bedlam and fear made the boy shiver like a gale blown leaf, while the policeman was on his knees shouting; “Oga, na mistake”.
“What is your name boy”? He asked.
“Bara Abbas”, the boy replied.
A wicked thrill of pleasure ran through me, now the son of a gun and the stupid policeman were going to get their comeuppance.
“Boy, I only have one son and he has died in the bid to save you, now I do not have a choice but to adopt you and make you take his place.”Je ka lo ri baba re” (Let us go see your dad).
There was deafening silence all around as we saw the sincerity of the old man’s heart. This was exactly the opposite of the reaction we were expecting.
My eyes could not believe it when he opened the car door and the riff raff sat on those heavenly leather seats with his scruffy shorts. I squirmed within, my mind not being able to come to terms with the sight I was beholding; that dirty posterior on such pristine clean soft leather. I thought I was going mad. This was after he had told the Cop to go, that he was not going to press charges. An ambulance came and carried his son away.
As I was driven home, amazed and mind boggled at the ridiculous exchange of life that just took place, I wondered why such good fortune could have been bestowed upon such scum while I stood here in a derelict machinery parading as a bus with a sea of humanity crushing me on every side (for heaven’s sake, I was more deserving). I had never experienced the kind of mercy the old man displayed. Somewhere deep down in my mind though, buried under tons of the bricks of time, the whisper of one of my Sunday school teachers stirred within. It grew to become an incessant echo within the caverns of my soul…
For God showed his love towards us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us…
© 2013 Ekpo Ezechinyere