The Chronicles of Okiemute in Lagos
Lost in thoughts, he fell asleep as the bus continues to drive slowly, due to the infamous traffic on the third mainland bridge. The croaky voice of the bus conductor jerked him to consciousness as he kept shouting “Owo la te yin oooooh, mi o ni change oooooh, 250 pere!”
Despite the warning from the conductor for all the passengers to enter with the exact bus fare, as he was not having lesser denominations of Naira notes to start giving them change, most of the passengers still entered with high Naira notes, including Okiemute who also had a thousand Naira with him. The conductor got angry at the passengers and told them they will marry their neighbour. That means he will pair them to look for change themselves. He then paired Okiemute with one elderly man and gave him the 500# note for them to split it into 250# each.
The more the passengers complained, the more he too reminded them that he asked them to enter with the exact bus fare ab initio.
By this time it was getting brighter little by little, as the rays from the early morning sun was trying to find its way to the earth. Okiemute looked at the elderly man attached to him, he recalled how he has heard stories of how Lagosians had outsmarted fellow passengers in the bus when such pairing was done. He thought of how it will feel if he tells his friend that he too was a “sharp Warri guy” if he can find his way and keep the whole 500# to himself.
He smiled and looked at the old man, he was wearing a Navy blue trouser that was looking like black, due to the poor lighting at that time. With a customised T-Shirt, one of those types used by churches to advertise their crusades. He rehearsed in his head how he will laugh and tell his friend that Lagosians are still learning when it comes to “smartness” as compared to their Warri counterparts. As he laughed within himself, he had a sober reflection; is the challenge fair? Is this man not too old for him to use as a measure of his “smartness”? Won’t it have been better if he was playing the prank on a young guy like himself with same agility, and youthfulness? Stealing from an old man, is it not too demeaning for a ‘software guru’ like himself?
But these Lagos guys boast too much about their activities in Lagos. They make every other state look like a coalition of dull and grossly incompetent people. So any opportunity to let them know that Warri Nor Dey Carry Last must not be missed for anything. With such thoughts, he sealed his mind. He waited patiently for the Bus to get to CMS, the final destination for him and the old man.
The conductor shouted again, “Obalende! Ati de be, oya come down”. With those going to Obalende getting down, the bus became more spacious and somehow created space for him to observe his victim well. Or perhaps it was an opportunity to have a change of mind.
It was time to act the long-rehearsed script. As soon as Okiemute stepped down from the bus at CMS, he signalled the old man to please catch up with him. The man was walking behind him until it became like “wili wili”, at a blink, Okiemute was nowhere to be found. While the man was running forward and backwards, looking around for traces of the young man with his money, Okiemute was hiding behind one of those joints where they sell “agbo”.
Sade was driving to work when he saw Mr Uzor looking like someone stranded, stretching his short fat neck beyond limits. It reminded her of those days in the university when some students will be spying from another person three seats away. She used to wonder how they could see that far when she could hardly see the note of the person just in front of her. She honks to draw the attention of Mr Uzor, but it was obvious he was more concerned with whatever it was he was looking for.
She found a place to park some metres away, and walked back screaming as loud as she could, “Papa Uzor! Papa Uzor!!” As he was fondly called. The old man heard his name and saw her standing a pole away. He walked briskly towards her and they drove in her car together. As they drove quietly, he broke the silence when he started to narrate how a young man he was paired with suddenly disappeared with the money. She struggled to hold her face from having a good laugh each time Papa Uzor describes how the guy became invisible right in front of his eyes. So she asked, “why were you looking for him so intently? Was it because of the money?” “Not really”, he replied. “He was right in front of me, and I could have placed a bet with my life that he can’t miss him with all my years in Lagos”, he said still very disturbed like a boxing champion that just lost his bet to a newbie.
She stared at the old man not knowing how to comfort him. Then she asked, “will you be able to recognise him if you see him again?” While she was laughing at herself for asking such a dumb question, as it is almost impossible to recognise a stranger that stole from you in a state like Lagos, with over 20million people and the heavy human traffic, papa Uzor did not see the question as dumb. In fact, it was a perfect way to restore his crushed ego. “Of course I can recognise him!” He replied with so much audacity, “have you forgotten that I am the Chief Security Officer with the eye of an eagle?” “That was trained in Vietnam, Pakistan, Iran, and America”, Sade helped him to complete it. Those were his favourite lines each time he tries to defend his title as a Chief Security Officer.
He gave the description of the guy to Sade, but it was just like everyday people in her eye. This is Lagos, people come in regular sizes, tall or short, dark or light complexion, big eyeballs or small eyeballs, etc. How many million people will you scan through to pick out the guy that stole from you? She thought within herself.
They got to the office, and Papa went to address the security guards and to do the daily drill before work starts, while she walked inside to get prepared for the day’s work.
Snatching of bags, necklaces, wristwatches, wallet, and running away with fellow passengers money don’t move her anymore. She has heard too many of such stories to be bothered by it. To her, those are the things one has to deal with staying in Lagos!
IDEDE Oseyande, a graduate of the Federal University of Technology, Akure, is an unrepentant believer in the Nigeria project.
His concern for the actualisation of a prosperous nation and the continent, in general, is reflected in his written works.
He currently runs an online advocacy platform (www.socialwatchdog.ng) where he engages the government and the people.
Among his published works are ‘What is Left of What is Right?’, ‘The Portrait of a Revolutionary Leader’ and ‘Warri No Dey Carry Last’.
He is a guest writer for several blogs and his Attitudinal and Behavioral Coaching classes has transformed many lives.