Everything About Nigeria Will Kill You! (With Laughter!)
There are two things you need to note: first, the title above is not a panic propaganda. Of course, it sounds like one (…), yet it’s no propaganda, it’s a fact. But even if you disagree with this premise, then let’s call it a propaganda, but it is one that has become necessary and urgent at this point. – Ayo Sogunro, May 2014
Everything about Nigeria will kill you! With laughter! Or not! One is but not always able to laugh considering how pathetic things are in this space. No doubt, Nigerians living in Nigeria have grown thick skin, hardly any of these things affect them the way it would Nigerians in diaspora. I am one of the latter. I live in Dortmund, I died many times in the past ten days, I resurrected almost immediately so I could see more of these things that killed me (with laughter), then I died, to wake again. Naija wenjele!
Think of a man who would be willing to get killed at dawn when what anybody wanted would be to make it to a destination as early as possible. So, it happened that I boarded this Lagos black-yellow bus to Oshodi. I jumped in without a second thought because it was unbelievably cheap at 100 Naira; from Stadium Bus stop. The bus filled up on time, most likely with awuf-liking hurry-hurry passengers like me. A mobile police officer sat beside me in front. With the driver. Three people in front. Of course, the police officer was not expected to pay a fare. It is an unwritten pact between officers and commercial bus drivers, a give-and-take arrangement; there is always a payback time.
Well, I will talk more on that later, lest I talk too much, forgetting the man who was willing to get killed. The bus conductor called bus stops, passengers responded and got alighted until trouble started. The bus driver and conductor must have seen trouble coming long enough to be prepared. I knew this when attempts were being made to beg the trouble-passenger to leave in peace. He had paid 50 Naira for a route worth 100 Naira. The driver said his fare expired two bus stops ago, yet he did not come off the omnibus. He stayed put. To add salt to injury, when the bus conductor called out for passengers who wanted to alight at Obanikoro, this passenger demanded to be dropped at another bus stop, purportedly the “correct” Obanikoro bus stop. He would have no nonsense of being dropped off at a stop other than his wish.
The bus driver begged him to come down NOW! The conductor begged him to come down NOW! He refused. That was when we knew trouble has met us unprepared, except for the two men who knew how much he paid, this trouble-man happened on us all suddenly. The bus drove past the wished bus stop. Upon stopping at another stop, the trouble-man punched the bus conductor in the stomach, the poor busboy was then dragged off the bus, being held at his waist. It was the trouble-man’s voice we heard, even though it was the conductor who was being hit! He shout-promised trouble, trouble, and more trouble in abundance! “I will show you that you cannot do anyhow. I told you where I wanted to stop, you refused to drop me, you wanted trouble this early morning, now you can have it in full.”
The driver jumped out of the bus, going to rescue his boy, passengers begged the man to let go, there was another police officer on spot to intervene, yet the man would not be appeased. When the police officer beside me jumped out to help settle the matter, the trouble-man threw away his only belonging of a nylon-bag, he declared convincingly he was willing to get killed; only death was going to pacify his anger. He threw tantrums here and there, insulting anyone who thought it was not the driver’s fault to stop him at a different stop, nobody could even touch him because he threw shout and spit in all direction.
When I realized this was not stopping anytime soon, my fear spiked. I took 100 Naira from my purse to appease the trouble-man. By now, he was talking on phone, only hell knew what he wanted. “Here is your money, take and go, please, just go, let it be! Here! Take! Take! 100 Naira! He refused still.
The driver did not want me to give him the money, some passers-by cum onlookers wanted to take the money out of my hand, I did not give them, I wanted the right man to collect it so there could be peace, the police officers pointed him to the money. “Oga, take your money and leave!” Yet, he did not bulge. At that point, I was lost, I knew no further.
Then suddenly, just like the whole theater started, he was pacified. All by himself! But that was not before he accused one of the police officers of watching him get slapped by the bus conductor. He told me not to worry, he thanked my kindness. Now, passengers who had alighted when trouble started got back on the bus, the driver ignited, and we moved on, I pursed my money. I did not stop wondering what the trouble-man was all about. The mobile police officer said the trouble-man had a “mission”. The driver talked and talked, the bus conductor was quiet, passengers continued talking. And on we moved to other things.
Allow me talk about two other incidents on commercial buses.
One- on the road to Ibadan from Akungba-Akoko. The driver wanted four passengers seated in a space barely enough to house three. When I did not “shift” to accommodate a fourth passenger who was going to seat just as uncomfortable as I would have, the driver threatened to throw me out. One would think the passenger about to be picked was going to see reason and go away. How wrong I was!
He stayed put. He abused me, called me names for being inconsiderate. “And people like you would not be ready to pay for space, yet want to sit as if they owned the bus!” I was at a loss. The driver was all smile. He won the bet. My frustration was boundless. I changed tone, talked with the driver who agreed to take 500 Naira extra to leave three passengers in a space best suitable for two. We continued our journey to Ibadan.
A young lady seated next to the Muslim woman beside me busied herself with a Christian literature, it was a self-help on getting motivated, Osupa Saheed blasted in his fullness from the louder-than-loud speaker mounted somewhere in the bus, at interval, he was replaced by another song. The replacement was not as beautiful as Osupa Saheed’s. I wished he could sing forever; he was my only redemption in this house of chaos.
We arrived Ibadan in peace, the Christian bookreader would not come down. She insisted on being carried further, she threatened to not accept this madness, she was deadsure she told the driver a different destination. I was too fainted to beg her to leave in peace, I carried my luggage on my head and walked into the night.
Two- From Kila along Abeokuta-Ibadan road. The Agbero began to shout, he insisted a market woman insulted him, he bragged and bragged until I caught fire and told him to go away or keep quiet, my personal assistant was seated at the back, she was watching, she said nothing. I was soon to realize my intervention was futile when I saw the crazeman increased the pitch of his rage to an incomprehensible level.
By now, the market woman was not relevant anymore, he wanted to throwback my own insult at me. The issue was, how could I ever dare insult him and his reputation. For the driver’s timely intervention, I am sure he would have shouted forever to “restore” his dented reputation.
Beyond doubly overloaded, our road-unworthy omnibus began its journey to Apata in Ibadan. I gave up trying to make the driver see reason not to overload when he told me that a conductor was still going to share my space with me. “This is how it’s done here, sir. If you want change, please talk to NURTW.” He said this with a tone of friendliness I have not seen a long time that I was willing to agree with this helplessness for once.
I have many tales of killing encounters on my omnibus journeys in my short stay, but lest I bore my readership, I will go on to other killing stories while I visited the land that my ascenstors call home. Next, I will talk about two dogs I met, I will show you a pig on a motorcycle, then go on to talk about bad roads. I will talk about toilets in Nigeria before I move on to a motorcycle rider who was bent on dissing a woman foodseller, until I blessed the woman with 200 Naira; the money was to make a point.
Beauty is my cousin’s dog. She is indeed a beautiful dog. I fell in love with her on first sight. When I asked for her name and I was told she answers to Beauty, I knew I was right all along. Beauty likes to play wild, she runs up a distance, comes back to be cuddled, then runs away to come back again. When I carried her in my laps, she was full of happiness; my nieces and nephews looked on in excitement, they called out to their dad to see me carry Beauty on my laps. Beauty and I enjoyed our short meeting so well. I am sure if I stayed longer, I would have taught her a few more plays, like getting to catch a thrown stick. I suspected she was afraid whenever I picked up a stick, so I stopped, she definitely thought I wanted to hit her. We played other plays without sticks.
The other dog I met is resident in Ikorodu area of Lagos. He barked and backed off, not so friendly unlike Beauty. He was scared to come too close to us. His master dragged him to us. Reluctantly, he took a picture with us. Unlike Beauty, who was glad to take pictures with me and her family. The pig on the motorcycle. I met her on my way to Ibadan; on her way to death-the slaughter’s slab, that much was sure. I pitied her condition. I requested the Okada rider to allow me immortalize this cool creature before she would be no more. He agreed, and we took shots together.
Good roads are not existent in Nigeria. If anyone tried to convince you otherwise, look him in the face and tell him this truth- “Now I know how a liar looks!” I swear, we hardly traveled a 20 kilometre stretch without something wrong with the road; talk of potholes, untarred roads, worn-out coaltars, unleveled paths, stony to water-logged ways, an unsecured bridge(-like) roads, just any badness imaginable! To travel safely in these roads, I would recommend a speed limit of 80 km/h, anything else is suicide.
Toilet matters. This is what my cousin said when I showed a picture of a toilet of a private hospital: “This is still manageable now. There are more terrible toilets.” He was right. Toilets in Nigeria are anything between manageable and outright disastrous. In eateries and fastfood joint, in other public and private spaces, the condition of toilets are bizzare, only a handful are usable, I found handwash in one or two, hand-dryers did not work, no disposable towels, I could not sit on many, my business would simply not be done upon sighting some, I refused food and drank water instead so I got pressed less frequently. I did just anything to avoid using a restroom. In short, I would be anywhere but in a toilet in Nigeria.
I visited a primary school where I had to use a restroom. The pit-latrine stank to high heavens. Of course, I was not expecting a five-star pleasure from a pit-latrine, but the condition in which I met the adjoining pit-latrines meant for the school pupils were appalling. Excreta littered everywhere, I picked my way carefully so I did not stumble on a shit, I opened the padlock to use the staff pit-latrine, the condition was only better because no shit littered the locked shithouse.
While I squatted to do my business, I was carried in thought to my primary school days when Babangida was president. We had same terrible shithouses. Our teachers had same, just like present-day shithouses in that primary school in Kila village, they were full of shit, we shat everywhere, we shat until we had no more space to shit on, then we shat on shits. Just like now when Buhari is president, nobody cared where we did our business.
There is no other way to put it, the truth is, a people who cannot create for themselves a toilet fit for human use, talkless of manage one, is unable to create and manage change, in fact, such a people is far away from change, they are ready for anything but change because there is (and will be) no change!
Enough of toilet shits, I must remember to talk about the foodseller who was being dissed by the motorcycle rider. That was in Akungba-Akoko. We had negotiated to sit only three passengers at the backseat, the driver agreed to take 1900 Naira instead of 2000 Naira to seat four. He agreed after I called a NURTW unit-chairman in another city. I crossed the road to eat before we took off.
“How much rice do you want?” “I don’t know, just sell me little, scoop a spoon or so, add a little beans, just a little, and one ponmo will do, no chicken abeg, no, that is alright.” While I talked with the woman, the Okada rider stood behind, waiting for his turn. I ate while he ordered. “Put more now, haba, is that 50 Naira worth of rice!?, what a cheat you are!, add more joor!, more meat, more spaghetti, beans, more beans, dodo too!, everything, add jaara o!” He abused this and that about the foodseller and the food he was about to eat. The woman did as instructed. I was taken aback by this rudeness.
Here is a woman who sold you good food, trying to feed your hunger, yet all she deserved was insult. I finished my food, gave the foodseller 200 Naira. I asked for water, she pointed to a bag of pure water. One cost ten Naira, I took two and gave her twenty Naira. That was when I noticed the big smile on the woman’s face. She knelt down and thanked me. “Not to worry, you deserve more than the insult of a motorcycle rider.” I did see the Okada man was now quiet. He looked at me and spoke softly. “Oga sir, find something for your boy too o, sir.” I gave him 50 Naira to add to his food money, but that I did after I told him it was irresponsible to talkdown a woman whose only offense was her kindness to feed a hungry motorcyclist. He collected the money with respect, and thanked me.
While I made to cross the road to join other waiting passengers, a woman dressed in Ankara greeted, her intent was clear from the way she greeted, she wanted to be blessed with money. I ignored her and ran into the safety arms of the commercial car hungry to eat the road leading to Okene.