In the line of the direction and location of my last few posts, I decided to dig this one up from my archives. It has been polished and now re-offered for your literary palates. I hope you find it tasty. Would so love to have your comments. Awaiting them with feverish anticipation. Thank you. lots of love.
The illumination from the halogen floodlights coupled with that from the massive neon billboards was like a hungry leopard unleashed on a thick herd of zebras. A predator with deadly intent, it scattered the night into thickets of shadows. I stood by the roadside, bathed in the pool of the harsh but welcome radiance as the night bombarded me with noise. Engulfed by the cacophony of blaring horns, hawking shouts, roaring music and every kind of racket imaginable, the din grated on my nerves. The noise was a blunted chainsaw going through the tree trunk of the day’s demise.
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 was hard to remember this place used to be the den of stealing and every other kind of iniquity known to man before Fashola, the last governor of Lagos state saturated the whole area with light. He equally built roads and parks and now some kind of sanity reigned in the midst of all the insanity. This was vintage Oshodi Oke at night.
The traffic tonight was more hellish than usual, a river of crippled metallic centipedes that stretched all the way to Anthony. Oshodi oke was notorious for its traffic but things had gotten worse since the new governor took over. Dude seemed to be way in over his head. I had left my office in Lekki more than three hours ago and was still headed towards Ikotun, another two hours commute. This meant 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 was such an emotion wrecking and body breaking lifestyle. Recently I had been asking myself how long I was going to keep being locked in this vicious cycle in order to make a living. Lagos could do this to you; turn one into a decrepit building subjected to the wrath of a wrecking ball. I had been standing here for about an hour waiting for one of the large government buses that collect N50. The smaller buses were driven by Shylocks who hiked their fares when they saw large crowds. These guys were greedy beyond belief. 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 of home brewed alcohol that had the capacity to shrivel the liver. They extorted hard earned money from bus drivers while policemen watched, waiting for their own cut at the end of the day. It was because of these touts that transport fares keep going up. They left a very horrible taste in my mouth. With their dirty looks, and pugnacious attitude, they were utterly detestable. Most of them had sagged trousers with dirty boxers and briefs peeping through. Their gruff voices had been assaulted unremittingly by the squads of alcohol, marijuana and nicotine. I usually wondered 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. These guys typified all that was wrong with this country. Nigeria, especially Lagos 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 the rascal 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, so sleek it could have been a white Arabian stallion in some fantasy world. 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 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, which stunned me. The man seemed to be a polyglot amongst other things.
After he was regaled with 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 the ensuing madness). No sooner had he said this than the people started insulting him and promptly told him it was none of his business. The condemned deserved his just deserts!
Passers-by naturally had formed a half moon around the happenings ravenous for anything that will emblazon the horizon of their boredom riddled lives. The crowd would have none of the goody- two-shoes stunt. They wanted jungle justice at all cost. The tempo of the beating being meted out was getting too much. If it continued, this thief, pile of human dung 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 the robber go. He covered the bum’s body to shield him from the buffet of rage being dished out quite generously. The polished man 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 pummelling meant for the bad guy was now being 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 criminal. His involvement gave the accused enough reprieve to escape and he ran like a hare on steroids 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 one of the most trigger happy in the world.
“I say stop ooo or I go shoot you oooo” the enforcer in a drunken slur shouted again in Pidgin English (when it comes to drinking alcoholic poison, Nigerian policemen are as bad as the area boys). The law keeper took a shooting stance and squeezed the trigger; Mr. Lincoln tried to stop him from but was too late. He was in front of the projectile’s trajectory and took the bullet meant for another. It went through his side and ripped open his innards. I have never seen so much blood in my life. This abruptly put an end to the blood lust and in a country where 911 doesn’t work, everybody watched him bleed to death. They stood, shaking their heads, hands folded, heads tilted to one side. Some were snapping their fingers, shouting “ewo.” Even the area boy was forgotten.
The boy could not believe it! Instead of running on for dear life, he came back and dissolved into tears. The dam of his heart broke and a tidal surge of sorrow and unbelief flowed in torrents. He kept bawling “ahh, o ku fun mi. O ma ku fun mi ke,” 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; my ears had heard the unimaginable. The distinguished man called that good for nothing bugger friend! How? Why? Now, I had heard it all but I apparently had not 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 grieving mask. 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. When people saw him, weeping started afresh. If there were a weeping Olympics, Nigerians would be natural gold medallists. It was a symphony of agony, an orchestra of anguish. The good had died for the bad and ugly, a purposeful life lost for a useless one.
He walked towards the cause of all the bedlam and the boy shivered, became a leaf seized by gales of terror. The policeman was on his knees shouting; “Oga, na mistake”.
“What is your name boy”? He asked.
“Bara Abbas”, the boy replied in his guttural voice.
A wicked thrill of pleasure ran through me, now the son of a gun and the policeman were going to get their comeuppance.
“Peter,” he called on his chauffeur, take this boy to the hospital. There is really no good one around here, so drive him to Ajao Estate where he can access care in a relatively high-quality one. I will catch up with the two of you there later.” 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. The father of the dead was not pressing charges!
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, soft leather. I thought I was going mad. This was after he had told the cop to go. All through, the old man’s face was a map of grief. An ambulance came and carried him and his son away.
On the ride home in falling to pieces machinery parading as a bus with a sea of humanity crushing me, wonderment seized my soul. I was amazed 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 in the midst of unwashed armpits in a horrible vehicle (for heaven’s sake, I was more deserving). The mercy displayed that evening was one that had been alien to me all my life but it reminded me of another. Somewhere deep down in my mind, 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….
© 2015 Ekpo Ezechinyere
IMAGES FROM GOOGLE