Christmas comes like a thief. It comes armed. It comes with lots of thoughts and excitement; one of such led me to Lagos in December, 2011.
Alighting at Jibowu in Yaba, the town looked familiar. I had dreamt about Lagos from Adam. And I had always woken up in Port Harcourt, the assumed City of Affluence. I looked around with contempt for all I had been told about Lasgidi and prayed to God for something close to sanity. I dialed Alfred’s number, my host. It rang and direction flowed through the phone so perfectly.
Alfred, my friend, should start a navigation firm. He seems good at giving description.
Without much excitement I signaled an elderly taxi-driver. He looked at me like I was confused. “I’m not!” I screamed at his thoughts. “You won’t be the first to make me feel lost in Lagos!” I told him about Lekki, my destination, he smiled. He requested I waited. I patiently did. He called out to a colleague, an older and bigger man. The man studied me. He gestured at my height; short and depressing. He thought for a while and announced his price. “Six Thousand Naira!” Of course, with a spice of Yoruba! The amount sounded annoying and extorting. “It’s close to the dowry my dad paid on my mum” I murmured without an optional thought.
I tried to convince him to reconsider his outrageous venom for a price but he relaxed, even at my rage. I called Alfred to announce my displeasure and confirm the actual price. Alfred spoke to the driver using my phone. The driver answered like a Head of Department, lazily. He handed the phone over to me. Alfred had agreed I pay him Three Thousand Naira. “That’s so much money. That’s same salary I had received from a bloody Chinese company I once worked for in Port Harcourt.” I complained throughout. The retards made slippers. Dad had taken me there after Junior WAEC to learn the trade of being a man. I left there after weeks. I got only Three Thousand Naira and a pair of slippers, which I had sneaked away under their ‘due security.’ The taxi-man laughed and called me to a box-like painted vehicle packed around the corner. It took some enchantment for the engine to pick up. I wished for good luck. He suggested I took my bag to the boot of the car so hungry police officers do not feed on our sweat. I was already sweating. Anyone could feed on it. I wiped my face with my palm. And we proceeded to the road like we were friends on a ride.
I refused him any rest. I asked him questions about Lagos and the reason for the high charge. He laughed and told me how I was coming from the Oil City. I cursed him under my breath. He smiled back at me like it was a compliment. I turned my face away from him to the large water which housed the Third Mainland Bridge. He told me that Lagos paid for all services. And I should be assured more money than I had come with. He sounded magical. He told me he would pay toll too. I asked what toll meant and he smiled again. Before then he had heard some sound in the car. He stopped in the middle of the road like a retard and opened the bonnet. I saw his face through the windscreen. He looked at me with a smile. I returned a frown, and a mischievous nod. He told me his fan wasn’t working.
The driver repeated abrupt stopping and the fan scene like a boring Yoruba movie. I got angry each time. At the toll-gate, billions of cars line up. Ten green lights on each side of traffic signified pay-booth. I watched him squeeze some money to a man who looked rather imprisoned in the booth. And a barrier in front opened. We drove and shortly, Mr Driver stopped again. He apologized and opened his bonnet. He told me there was no water in the car. He opened his boot, brought out a dirt can of water, played around with it and applied the content to whatever part of the car. He struggled with the fan and started the engine. I tried to announce my anger but I realized I knew nowhere around except the open sea that welcomed me if I would jump into it. I held faith.
At a joint, he pointed, “This is Jakande Estate. One amongst the many built by Mr Jakande, when he was governor.” I nodded and pleaded with him to proceed into the Estate. Alfred’s brother had appeared on the street, waiting for me. Alfred’s brother later told me how prominent people amongst them, Duncan Mighty – the self-styled Port Harcourt First Son, grew up in the Estate. The Estate had little compared to the magnificent structures that defined Lekki, but it had dreams. And as I painstakingly paid Mr Driver his Three Thousand Naira fare, I knew I would find my muse somewhere in the dilapidated buildings of Jakande’s and tell my story.