After Kubwa camp ejected us corpers from its safe haven, I was constantly faced with plying the unfamiliar routes of Abuja and the foreign bus stops. For about two weeks I tackled this problem by taking drop whenever I had to go out. However, this morning I had taken a look at my dwindling coffers and decided to take the everyday cabs which usually consisted of four passengers squeezed into the back seat like sardines and one lucky passenger seated in the front seat but, I had no choice; it was either that or me going broke in the Federal Capital Territory before my next allowi was due.
So this morning I’m standing at the bus stop in my corper uniform (my crested face cap, white round-neck top, green khaki and white trainers) waiting for a cab to pass by. An unofficial cab stops and the driver asks me where I’m headed, I shake my head having being warned by friends to only take the official cabs which were painted green. After about five minutes a green cab stops “Secretariat?” the driver asks
I give an affirmative nod and get into the back seat of the cab. There are two other passengers inside, a man seated in the front seat and a woman seated beside me at the back. I settle down and the cab begins to move, I look out the window and begin to study the structures to familiarize myself with the route known as Area 11. Zenith bank, Peugeot, City plaza, I mutter to myself as the cab moves.
“Who get the black bag wey dey boot?” the driver asks. For a while no one answers, he repeats the question.
The woman beside me speaks “na me get am o”
“Why you no talk before when I dey ask?” the driver inquires, his voice laced with irritation
“I no hear you, no vex” the woman says.
“Wetin dey inside the bag?” the driver queries. At this, I turn my attention from the window to the driver wondering what his business was with the contents of his passengers’ bags. I expect the woman to voice my thoughts but surprisingly she answers “na shoes and clothes dey inside”
I shrug and return my attention to the road noting the construction going on at the side of the road adding it to my archive. Studying routes isn’t really my thing so after a few seconds my mind starts to drift.
“When we reach police station you go tell me whether na shoe abi na cloth dey inside the bag” the driver says suddenly startling me from my daydream. I frown at his direction.
“Abeg drop me for here” the woman says
“The only place I go drop you na for police station” the driver says refusing to stop the vehicle. Now I’m more interested in their dialogue than in my daydream, I align my head so I can see both the woman and the driver from the corner of my eyes. The woman repeats her comment but the driver refuses to stop and drives on. “Wetin dey inside your bag?” he asks again in a threatening tone
“Abeg no take me go police station” the woman begins to beg. From my perusal I guess her to be in her late twenties but from her physiognomy it is obvious life hasn’t been so kind to her. She is dressed in a faded polo top and a black pair of jeans. Her weave-on looks unkempt.
“Wetin dey inside the bag oga driver?” the man in front asks clearly unable to stand the suspense any longer.
“Thank you o” the driver says “na when I wan commot the bag of tomatoes wey dey inside the boot before na im I see Ghana must go bag wey full with plenty dollars” Removing the bag of tomatoes or snooping around I think to myself because unless there was a note on the bag indicating its content there was no way the driver should have known what the bag contained.
“Ehn!” the faceless man in front exclaims and though I can’t see him I imagine his Adam’s apple bobbing “Madam where you get that kind money?” he asks turning to face the woman; I still can’t see his face clearly.
“Abeg no take me go police station” the woman sobs then turns to me “Aunty abeg I be woman like you, no let them take me go police station”
“Leave that aunty alone make you answer the question we dey ask you” the driver says “if you no tell us where you get the money we go take you go police station”
“I go talk” she sniffs then begins to narrate an incredible story of her Lebanese boyfriend, a staff of an oil company, who had a locked up room in his house which he had warned her against entering. Today she came across the room with its door slightly opened and peeped inside out of curiosity only to discover the room was littered with crisp dollar notes. Being a correct Naija babe she had decided to make away with a substantial amount.
“Na our country money your boyfriend dey steal” the driver says shaking his head slowly as if his head is heavy with grief “ah!” he exclaims then says “We go take this matter go police o, how person from another country go dey thief our money like that ehn?”
“Abeg oga” the woman begins to plead again. I can see tears forming at the corner of her eyes. Briefly I wonder if I would seem callous if I tell the driver to drop me off at secretariat before taking her to the police station.
“Oga no take am go police station” the man in front puts in “if to say na police of before I go say make you take am but u sef know say the police we get now no go do the right thing”
The driver is silent for a while then he says “So madam wetin you go do for us, you know say na three people don hear this thing and no be Zuma rock we come Abuja see” I look in his direction wondering what happened to the upright citizen who wanted to do the right thing.
“Eh eh…five five thousand” the woman stammers like she’s doing some calculations mentally. I wonder how much she has stashed in her bag, for a short while I actually imagined all the things I could do with five thousand dollars-fix my faulty phone or maybe get a new one, replace my gusci slippers with the real thing, trade my imitation perfumes for the originals…”wait, what am I thinking” I say to myself, I don’t even know if its blood money! Even if it wasn’t, there was no way I was sharing any money with them.
“Five wetin?” the driver hisses as if five thousand dollars is something he makes everyday “Nonsense! na police station you go sleep today”
“Madam you know say if na police, them go collect all the money for your hand” the man in front says in a reasonable tone
“No mind am” the driver says “we go share the money into two, we go take one half, you go take the other half” he says this as if it is the law. The woman looks like she is about to protest but she doesn’t. The driver parks the car and makes to get down.
“Ha Oga no be for here we go share the money o, make we find a quiet corner wey no one go see” the man in front says quickly
At this point all the stories I have ever heard of cab kidnaps flash through my mind, I look at the woman and the driver suspiciously. I don’t know if they are genuine or if they are frauds but one thing was for sure- I was definitely not going to any quiet spot to share any money-that’s if it existed sef. I quickly search my wallet and fish out a fifty naira note “Driver drop me for here” I say handing him the note. He gives me a puzzled look “no be secretariat you dey go?”
“I say make you drop me for here” I snap at him afraid he wouldn’t.
Thankfully he pulls over and I jump out quickly. As I walk away I wonder who they really were; could there really have been a bag of dollars in the boot? Or did I just escape a kidnap attempt?