You get to the bus station, which is crowded and the dust from early harmattan is just about everywhere; from the white buses to boxes and bags, all are buried in dust.You ask when the bus to Lagos will be leaving. The attendant tells you it is in twenty minutes and also informs you that there are only two seats available. You quickly pay for your ticket and make for the bus. You thank your stars for having arrived just in time and skipping the waiting period.
The driver calls out your ticket number and you quickly hop in. You set your big traveling schoolbag between your legs in order to have more space between you and the next person. The spot you got, the back seat close to the window, makes you feel luckier. As the sweet fragrance of the air freshener sweeps through the bus propelled by the cool breeze from the air conditioner, a soothing feeling soon overwhelms you. For this, you are glad you did not take the cheaper but faster buses your cousin had recommended.
Before the bus takes off, a preacher comes in to preach and pray for the passengers. Everyone bows their heads except the red-eyed guy next to you. When your eyes meet with his, you suddenly feel nervous and quickly look away.
After the prayers, the preacher holds out a polythene bag and says “anything to support the ministry?” In clearer terms, he is asking for money.
You saw this coming, so you are not surprised. You search your back pocket but then reach for a thousand naira note. You put it back into your pocket since you had planned to buy things with it later.
You notice the preacher is staring at you. You wish you had a smaller note, maybe a hundred naira note, to give. But since you don’t, you put on your headphone and act indifferent.
The preacher glares at you and begins to yell “the way some people are blocking their ears because they don’t want to support God’s work, that’s the way God will block His own ears when they call Him”.
You know he is referring to you but you don’t care anymore. You believe in giving but not in being cajoled to do so, as you see this as a means of extortion.
He finally goes away and the bus takes off.
In the meantime, the bus is quiet with everyone minding their business until the driver tunes the radio to Wazobia FM. Few minutes after that, the news broadcast sparks a discussion between the two men seated at the front seat of the bus.
The fat one brags about his party, while the slim one looks for any chance to support the president.
“My brother, go and sit down abeg! Wetin Uncle Bubu don change since e enter office?” Says the fat man in irritation.
The slim man nods. “Yes, I agree that he has not changed anything. But make I ask you, wetin Brother Jonah do for you when e be dey office?”
“Oga, abeg, no ask that kind question again! Things been better with Jonah but now nothing dey work at all. To even pay my children school fees now sef na war” says the driver as he adjusts the rear mirror.
The argument continues and more people join in the discussion.
“Hope you know our new slogan is ‘Change the Change’. Get ready because in the next presidential election, we go change una yeye change”, the fat man brags to the slim one.
“May I say, sir, that it’s not in slogans or parties that change is achieved. It is in the doing. Less words and more actions is what Nigeria needs as a country. The incompetence of our leaders is getting out of hand” says a man in black suit. To you, he looks like a banker but he says he is an entrepreneur.
You sit quietly, observing and listening to them. You wonder who came up with such a dumb slogan, anyway. You imagine many men like the fat man suggesting the slogan with pride in their voices. You marvel at how almost everyone in the bus, like most Nigerians, are wasting their energies and time supporting parties that have added nothing to their lives, but have only stolen the little they have. You are glad though that they finally agree, on one thing, that selling the national assets is not a wise plan.
Your attention is drawn to the pretty girl by the other side of the window, who has been engrossed in taking selfies and has received several calls. You assume she is a ‘runs girl’ simply because she had given three different locations to her callers. Firstly, she said she was in Abuja. The second time, she was in Calabar. Also thirty minutes ago, she said she was at home in Enugu and now she tells the last caller she is about to take a flight to Lagos.
When she is done making the calls, she keeps a straight face then continues chatting with her phone.
The fat man, unable to keep himself from eavesdropping, says to her “my sister, the way you dey lie so, you sure say you go make heaven?”
“How e take concern you, oga?” She replies ignoring the general laughter in the bus.
In the mist of the general laughter, your eyes meet with that of another pretty girl sitting close to the man in black suit. She looks like the ‘good girl type’. She is holding a Francine Rivers’ novel. You are impressed that she reads. You almost make a move to ask her the title, which you’ve seen already by the side of the book, but then you remember Zainab.
You had promised to be faithful to Zainab, your Hausa sweetheart. Even though your mother is the most tribalistic person you know. You believe she wouldn’t be able to convince you, whenever you are ready, not to marry Zainab.
Knowing you have a weakness for pretty girls, you try to distract yourself from staring at the good girl. So you bring out you phone to chat a bit. You turn on your data connection and then the messages start flooding in. Four hundred and twenty messages from a group chat makes you fear for your battery’s durability. Even with your two power banks, you can never underestimate the rate at which the groups’ messages drain one’s battery.
Amongst the few personal messages, that of Ejira catches your eyes. “Hey honey! Hope your journey is going smoothly. Don’t worry I’m praying for you. You’ll get the job. Love you!”
Her sudden change within one month after you told her about the company’s invite for a test and interview, baffles you all the time.The same Ejira who mocked you when you told her your source of livelihood was blogging, saying it’s a lady’s thing. The same Ejira you asked out five months ago, and she turned down. The movement of her lips as she called you ‘broke’ registered in your mind. Now, she’s the one calling you honey?
Anyway, you play along and reply “hey babe! My journey is going just fine, though the traffic is crazy. Thanks for your prayers and love. Bye ya!”
You send a message to your cousin. “Hey bro!”
“Guy, how far? Where are you people now?” He replies immediately as though he was waiting for your message.
“I dey o! We just passed Delta state now”, you inform him.
“Ha! Since that time? Shebi I told you to use those faster buses, you no hear”, he replies.
“Guy, abeg forget those buses. This one is bae. The kind AC wey dey blow me here don compensate for the slow movement”, you reply.
“Anyway, na you sabi. By the time you sleep on the road, you’ll know yourself”, he replies.
“Chill joor! When I get to that bridge, I’ll certainly cross it. Guess who called me ‘honey’?” You reply.
“Zainab?” He replies
“I wish! It’s Ejira!” You inform him.
“Ha! Lol. Ejie baby no wan carry last. I always knew she was the ‘Obiagari’ type” he replies, with the laughter emoticon.
“Rotfl. Guy, I swear down!” You reply.
You chat with him a little longer before returning your phone to your pocket.
As 2Face’s ‘make we go’ plays from the radio, you begin to think of all the places you have wanted to go to. Lagos being one of then, a slight feeling of fulfillment consumes you. A sudden shout cuts into your thoughts.
“Stop him! He is running with my change” says a man wearing a black hat as he points at a road hawker who gradually disappears in the crowd.
“Chai! Oga sorry. How much did you give him?” A woman asks. You think she is a nurse because of the way she has been talking about hospital strikes, patients and drugs.
“I gave him five hundred naira for a fifty naira bottled water” the man says in despair.
“Sorry sir. Next time, ask them for your change first before you give them the money” the nurse tells him
“Oga, you lucky say no be 1k you give am,” says the fat man as he begins to tell stories of how hawkers run away with buyers’ change and everyone laughs, even the man in suit laughs.
Your eyes feel heavy, so you close them to rest a bit.Thirty minutes later, a sharp cry awakens you. You look towards the little boy, whom you think should be about ten years old, and a woman who is carrying a crying child in her hand as she knocks the little boy on his head.
“Now now now, I told you to hold Junior so I can sleep small, you just allowed him to hit his head. Stupid boy! You can’t even do anything well” the woman scolds him as she gives him another knock on his head.
You feel the urge to stop her from beating the boy but then you remember the last episode of Jenifa’s diary where she rushed to stop a woman from beating a girl but then got hit accidentally by the pestle in the woman’s hand. You imagine the woman giving you a knock as well.
You watch as tears stream down the boy’s cheeks. At moments like this, you wish your elder sister, who is a lawyer, was around to defend the little boy and remind the woman about the Child’s Rights Act.
The presence of the red-eyed guy, who has been quiet as you are, prevents you from bringing out your laptop from your bag. You imagine him threatening you with a hidden gun or knife at the sight of the laptop.
Your attention is drawn to the fat woman, sitting next to the young guy wearing a blue shirt, who keeps answering her calls too loudly. This time, you watch her antsy body turn from side to side as she complains bitterly.
“Abeg, the person wey get this strong body odour, try to dey use detergent abi na deodorant anything they dey call am. I don try to endure for hours now. Na advice, no be insult.”
“Madam, endure a bit longer. Is it when you’re close to your promise land that you’ll start complaining?” Says the man wearing a black hat.
There is again general laughter.
It’s now 11 pm and the bus halts in a car park. You see the driver coming down and you observe that everyone seems relaxed. You feel a sense of panic, and then you walk up to inquire from the driver if there is any problem. He tells you it’s too late to continue the journey. You ask him if there is any motel close by, so you can lodge for the night. He gives you the ‘JJC look’ and informs you that there’s none but assures you he would take off before the break of dawn.
You hear the fat man say “youths of these days, don’t have sense at all. Imagine that one, asking for a motel. No be only motel, na five-star hotel you for ask”
It’s in moments like this, you wish you were in America where you could give the old man a piece of your mind. But not in Nigeria, where replying an elder is seen as disrespect. So you ignore him and then walk back to your seat.
Back in your seat, all the stories of travelers been attacked in the middle of the night begins to play in your head. You try to pray within yourself but yet your mind chooses to dwell on the former.
Then a woman, in long skirt and tied hair, stands to pray for protection through the night. She looks like one of those prayer warriors your cousin will normally refer to as “confam”. Those he said their prayers got to heaven faster. Well, after she finished praying, you find peace within.
Observing you can’t sleep, the nurse begs for an exchange in seats so she can rest her head on the window. You quickly oblige in order to be far from the red-eyed guy. A sense of relief sweeps through your being.
You’re now sitting next to the ten year old boy. He gives you the ‘uncle welcome’ look and you respond with a smile. He looks hungry, so you sneak your coke and bread into his hands while his ‘madam’ is asleep.
You finally bring out your laptop and begin to write the post that has been in your head all day:
This is Nigeria. A place where some preachers try to extort you in God’s name and then give you a judgmental look for not ‘supporting the ministry’.
A place where some old men sit and their discussions would range from political parties to bad leadership to dumb slogans. I ask myself “who slogan don epp?”
A place where some young girls are so self-obsessed and accustomed to telling lies.
A place where even hawkers cheat their customers in the name of hustling to survive.
A place where some women treat children badly and they go as far as giving them knocks on their heads; still, they have the guts to call them ‘stupid’ and I ask myself “what do you expect?”
A place where some people can’t accommodate others.
A place where some people, especially sarcastic old folks, don’t mind their business at all, not one bit!
A place where some ‘Obiagari’ (came to eat)girls wait till you’re succeeding before they give you their attention.
A place where the most tribalistic people are the ones closest to you.
Finally, Nigeria is a place where everyone sees faults in others but never in themselves
Still in Nigeria, there are intellectuals dressed in black suit, and good girls who read. There are still faithful guys. There are still nurses who are dedicated to their jobs even without pay. There are still women in whose prayers, comfort is found. There are still children that smile even with the harsh treatments they encounter daily.
Finally, there are still those that care for others.
Now, how do we expect a better Nigeria when its people are as bad as its leaders? How can the people ask for what they can’t give? When there are more bad eggs than good ones. We all forget that life is give and take. We can’t ask much from our leaders when we can’t lead our lives properly.
These are just my thoughts today. I’m not a politician, never will be one. I’m just a regular guy filled with irregular thoughts.
As Ben Bruce would say, “I just want to make common sense!”
You post the write-up on your blog.
You find hope in the child’s peaceful sleep. You look around and notice you’re the only one awake and the radio is the only sound you hear. As Ada’s ‘I testify‘ takes the airwaves, you feel confident about the interview and begin your patient wait for the break of dawn.
Image via: busbud.com
Jennifer Chioma Amadi