The okada came to a stop just by the side of the road. Peter dismounted and paid the okada. The bike noisily clambered along the sand strip before it joined the main road.
Peter dusted the grains of sand that had clung to his trousers during the undulating ride along one of Lagos’ finest pathways.
He took a look at the road. Good. The traffic was gradually building up. He looked at his watch, a Seckiko, his pal Jude had given it to him in lieu of the N1,000 he owed him. Cheap rubbish, the thing had begun to fade. Anyway that was not his problem today. It was 4:30pm and he had arrived early.
He took out his handkerchief and wiped his face. The sun was slowly going down but still doing its job. Well, he had his to do. He swung his satchel to the front of his waist and removed his fez cap from it. Hat on head, he rolled up his sleeves. Someone whistled in his direction. He looked up and saw Chidi, one of the competition.
“Pally, how far?” Chidi said in greeting.
“I just dey come o.”
“How your people?”
“Dem dey, we thank God.”
Peter wasn’t sure he was happy that Chidi got there before him but sometimes it was not about the early bird but about who had the sharpest eyes and his eyes were sharper than Chidi’s.
Peter brought out his stash from his satchel and quickly checked it. Everything was okay. He took a look at the oncoming traffic and when it slowed down a bit he darted in. He unrolled his dummy cards and looked for prospects.
He had spent an hour and was making good sales, roughly N12,500. He wiped his brow again. Looking neat was important in this business. One had to look presentable and responsible especially when it came to those girls. Yes, the ones in their new SUVs and Korean cars, looking like they did not fart. They were heavy buyers as against the men who mostly bought in N500s.
He heard a car horn. He quickly turned. It was the blue Passat that had just passed. Indecisive people, didn’t they see him before? He ran after it. The driver wound down and showed a one thousand naira note. Zain he guessed. He caught up with the car as it slowed down.
“Please, give me one Celtel, one thousand.” He guessed right. He was getting good at this. He could predict within a good degree of accuracy the network provider a particular person wanted to buy.
Ssssiii! He looked up. A woman in a danfo was beckoning to him. Mmm…. Glo, five hundred. He crossed to the other lane just missing an okada man. “You no dey see?!” the okada man spat at he whizzed by. “You sef, you blind?!” he shot back.
“Abeg, give me Glo, five hundred.” Another satisfied customer.
Where was Chidi? He searched. He spied Chidi further down the road trying to pick up the ones he had missed. It was getting dark and he was thirsty too. He saw Sunny the guy selling drinks. “Sunny, you get water for there?” “No o, e don finish, na only soft drinks remain.” No, that was above his budget. He would look out for the other guys who sold drinks.
He really could not afford to be reckless with his money. Especially now that Helen, his girlfriend had told him she was pregnant! Chei! God had caught him! It had been a surprise to him but he had taken it like a man. It must have been those few times they did it without a condom. Na wa! Just like that? Well, he was a strong man, a goal scorer.
What would he do for money now? He needed more money. In a few months a baby would come and preparations had to be made for his first child, a boy… or a girl? Fear gripped him suddenly… maybe twins?! Ah no o! He wasn’t looking for a brace or a hat trick! He offered a silent prayer. He would have to accommodate Helen, and eventually perform the marriage rites. See wetin person come find for Lagos!
He considered his options as he was almost hit by another okada. Mmm… maybe he could buy a bike and rent it out. He had no interest riding it himself. The wahala was too much and he had witnessed a few okada accidents. Not a pretty sight. Option one.
Option two would be to take his uncle’s offer of assisting to manage his carpet shop. But was he really interested in doing that? After all, he had turned down the man’s offer and his pride would not permit him to take up something he had rejected. He wanted to be his own man and make his own money and drive a nice car like the End of Discussion that was in front of him. He looked at the driver, a young man he was sure could not be older than he. Chei! All fingers are not equal true true! Another option popped into his head as he looked on with envy; he could look for driver work! He had learnt to drive in his hometown before he came to town and he was sure that he could handle these new automatic cars. Didn’t he teach John how to drive? Now John was a driver for JB! Maybe John could help him out. Oh! He just remembered John had his WAEC while he didn’t. Enh, he could get one as a private driver, couldn’t he? But could he really do the work of a private driver? He took a look at the traffic around him. No way, he thought. Some of these ogas and madams could be nasty! He heard about one man that used to knock his driver on the head whenever he felt he had made a mistake. He had witnessed a few women shouting at their drivers too. No, it wasn’t for him. He had too much pride for that kind of rubbish. But he thought about his situation and reconsidered the option, after all na condition make crayfish bend. Money, money, money.
He heard an approaching siren and quickly got his bearings. Another big man was passing slowly but surely as the other car owners moved aside to allow the convoy to pass. Peter always wondered how space was always readily made available for the siren blaring police officers, military men, commissioners, council chairmen, etc. wait o! Couldn’t he join the police or the army? Maybe even the air force? No, his mother would disown him. Besides could he go and fight in a war if he was ordered to? Mba, no.
It had gotten dark and it suddenly looked like rain. He did a quick mental calculation. He had sold about N37,000 worth of recharge cards in three and a half hours. It was time to go home before he tempted fate. What with thieving policemen, taskforce raiders and okada riding thieves it made sense to call it a day.
It began to drizzle. He looked around for a free okada. The traffic had really built up and people were moving bumper to bumper. The road was bad and grossly inadequate for the volume of traffic it carried. And all these people will wake up at 4am to leave early for work again tomorrow?! He felt sorry for them. Anyway he had his own problems.
He hailed a passing okada, spoke with the aboki briefly and asked him to go. Nonsense! The guy couldn’t understand or speak English and he was rather young. No be me he go kill today!
He was beginning to get wet. It is going to be a cold night he thought. He quickly found another okada, negotiated with the guy and rode on home where Helen was waiting.