Water splashed as my feet hit the ground
“omo I don tire o, I no fit dey wait again abeg” - I said as I came down turning around to see the aged grandmother and the newly born who most likely would have no choice but to wait until the hold-up clears up. And from the look of this endless line up of vehicles, it was probably going to take a while. I felt pity towards them.
The gaze from the little girl who sat next to me in the passenger’s seat made me feel like the recreation of the reception of Judas’ kiss. And I couldn’t help but wonder if I was such a bad person for saving myself and leaving them behind. As if to confirm my actions, two teenage girls asked if I was going.
“Omo I gats move oo, the last time wey I dey this kind hold up, I reach where I dey go eleven o’clock” - I replied
“Oya close the window abeg make mosquito no for enter motor, e con be like say we go sleep here this night”- The driver added, agonizing them even more.
Meanwhile, the man who had left us in the bus earlier to go find the cause of the road block came back to meet us not so far from where we once were, and he had been gone for over 45minutes now. In that moment he decided it wasn’t a wise decision to wait, he picked up his bag pack and the driver assisted him to wear it and handed his other belongings over to him. It offered me some relief knowing that I wasn’t alone in this journey to find another way to our destination and even if it was a lost cause, I won’t be all by myself.
That mattered more.
“Oga you dey go Benin?”
“Oya make I help you carry your load , make we they go na there I dey go”
Taking his polythene bag from him, I followed behind me as he led the way. Helping him with his bag must’ve seemed selfless at the time but truthfully, helping him was also helping me. I knew that the only way he would keep an eye on me was if I was with his property. As long as I helped him relieve some burden he wasn’t going to abandon me.
Horns blew loudly and bright lights flashed into my eyes almost blinding, I kept moving behind him but he was too fast, I soon caught up to his speed but now we were working vertically, while he was on the muddy part of the road at the side, I found myself in the middle of vehicles, tall as trees and loud with raging drivers at each other’s throat. I kept my head face forward and continued moving, the vehicles were slowly moving and I was in the middle, as the smoke blew from the exhaust pipe into my face and the honks became even louder now, colored lights blinked, siren lights rotated and bright head lights flashed into my eyes yet again. It felt like I was in the sinking titanic.
My pace increased even faster as I noticed strange figures approaching from behind. They were people whose intentions were unknown to me, I clenched unto my red tote bag and silently recited Psalm 23, I raised my head to look for the man who was leading the way and he was still sideways so I continued walking, it became louder and even violent as we walked ahead.
Those who have decided on staying the night on the road turned off their engines but played loud music, while violent and impatient driver were honking and screaming at the young thugs who held out their cigars yelling back at them. These thugs were attempting to clear the road block but for some reason walking pass them made me grow anxious and I couldn’t help but wonder if they weren’t out for an ulterior motive.
Further ahead in the road, Men on uniforms with tall guns appeared and marched passed me with a stiff impression as though their presence alone would clear up the road one way or the other. We had walked almost 5miles now and we were not alone, we found fellow travelers on foot who were seeking out their personal salvation like we were. Slowly the noise and the lights disappeared and it was getting much darker and cold with rain drizzling. We had walked from Koko, and cross the delta state bridge and our legs were tiring out, meanwhile, I was teaching my legs new ways to walk to maintain a steady consistent speed.
“Benin, Benin, Benin, Benin!!!” – We would yell at any moving vehicle going our direction that managed to escape the road block. We needed help getting to our various destinations in the dead of the night, but all the cars we called, passed without stopping. The man and I stood to ease ourselves and when we were finished, I asked
“ Oga abeg wetin be your name?”
“Eh Solomon, Why?”
“No nothing oo, I just wan know incase I wan call you, make I no loss”
We took a short breather and continued our journey, we met up with our newly acquainted companions who were also looking for a way to Benin in this very cold dark night. We had walked a very long distance but it was okay because Mr Solomon had more people to converse with and complain to as we face the same predicament.
We were moving in the dark and almost lost our way when a commercial bike rider passed us and his passengers directed us on where we would find a vehicle that would take us to our destination. We crossed over to the other lane and arrived at Ologbo where we were faced with bike riders who charged One Thousand Five Hundred Naira (N1,500) to Benin. We ignored them because I mean we were desperate not stupid. We were told that just opposite the bike spot a bus will come to take passengers going to Benin city.
It was getting even darker as we waited and the bikers began to tease us like were common prostitutes desperate for a service, only in this case we have to pay. They were preying on our desperation and soon enough some impatient travelers went over to them to negotiate. And although it crossed my mind to do the same, Mr Solomon didn’t move an inch, he strongly believed that the bikers intended to exploit us and take advantage of our situation. He decided to wait for the bus, and so did I.
In no distant time, the bus came, and passengers couldn’t wait for the moving vehicle to park properly before jumping into it. It was such a horrid sight, an experience you only here in stories of the famous Lagos shuffle.
With no further hesitation I climbed in as well, and Mr Solomon followed right behind me, and we sat on the same bench. The last 3 to enter were girls, those who couldn’t enter sort other alternative.
“Abeg come down, see as e fat , na only your full yanch cover where two people suppose sidon” The first girl said as the passengers burst into a mild laughter.
The fat girl got offended and stepped down.
“Abeg come make I lap you” The first girl said to the second girl, after which there was space to accomate the fat girl.
“Come sidon, wetin you still dey stand for outside, make we comot leave you?”
“Abeg leave me no be you say I fat? I no dey enter”
“Come enter motor, you dey there dey mumu yourself”
Abeg close those make we dey go e never ready- The passengers reacted.
The fat girl finally entered but the door of the bus couldn’t close, she complained that it wasn’t convenient for her and she left as so did the other two young ladies.
We began the journey to Benin without them and on the road we encounterd new passengers
“Benin Benin Benin 400 with your change”- The bus driver instructed
“Abeg shift” said an elderly woman who jumped in as the bus door opened.
She sat so uncomfortably, you could tell she was holding on to her seat with just a part of her buttocks.
The journey started and even though we were so uncomfortable, legs twisted and bent out of shape, bodies touching and barely holding on to the parts of our body that received circulated blood flow, we talked and laughed and joked our sorrows away, a man advertised his business, we had those who boasted of how far the distance they had trekked in the past, the bad road which was the representation of how the Federal government looked, voting system being a lie, how the people are just as corrupt as its leaders and how it’s in our hands to end the destructive cycle if we truly choose too. The ride back was truly a jolly ride. We laughed away at our sorrows, and it left temporarily. And in that moment I felt a sudden hope for this country Nigeria. A car sped off with travelers in the boot, and a wrinkled elderly man held on to the mama who was seating uncomfortably and they didn’t know each other, a father with black hands coated with signs of hard labor checking his little girl’s temperature to check that she was okay.
Love and laughter was in the air and even in the midst of our hardships, we Nigerians chose to remain smooth sailors in turbulent seas. We are our problems and our very solution, it’s funny how me manage to turn every horrible experience into something to laugh about. And in that moment, I stopped to think of 3 things in my head
1. Wow, I’ll get to eat Edosa’s Indomie tonight, God I’m so grateful
2. Imagine if I had stayed where I was what would I have been going through? I was raised up to follow my instincts and I’m thankful everyday for the courage to always do so.
3. I’ll miss this country so badly when I leave it, We have the best people as citizens as worse people as government. And I wished we realized that unity amongst ourselves is great enough to turn this nation around, but would that happen?
In the end, Mr Solomon paid half of my transport fair, and I ate Edosa’s noodles while narrating this story because na God get power!
Water splashed as my feet hit the ground