“Madam, commo’ for dia! Wetin dey worry you sef?”
“Driver, you sef you get wahala. Where you wan make she go for this kain hold up? We wey be passenger for your bus, you think say we no dey hurry too?”
“Oga why you dey talk like this? You no see sey na learner she be? Abi you no know sey if I hit am now na me go enter wahala?”
“Ehnnnnn… I know. But e no mean sey you go come dey harass am like that nawww. But I hear you. Me sef I don taya for this kain holdup wey person no dey quick commot from. Person don close from work naww and person no fit go house jeje go sleep. Na wa for this Lagos O! Chai!”
“Abi O my brother! Me mah sef I don taya! Since morning I dey under sun dey sell food. The sun maaaaaaaah mah me join the way this small small boys wey no get respect for their mama, con dey abuse me. Sey dem be banker. Go dey waka with dat their black suit like sey na only dem go skool. If no be sey Longinus pregnant me for standard four I for no be banker like dem…or be wetin even pass dat one? If dem get moni nyafu nyafu why dem dey come chop for mah shed? Why dem no go Mr Biggs or Tantalizer? If no be sey dem dey buy mah food, I for shoooowww dem pepper today. But how ah go do iyanga when money no gree frend person again after govment commot subsidy? Naaaaw…me I wan go house jeeeeeje make ah lah dawwwwn and go slow no gree me go haus! Na God hand Eko people dey O!”
The traffic jam on Third Mainland Bridge is horrendous. Sedans, SUVs, BRT’s, molues and all other assortments of vehicles are struggling aggressively for passage; in a palpable cloud of smoke, dust and deafening noises that seem intent on perpetuating their distressing presence. The driver of the yellow danfo is sick of this female ‘learner’ who acts like carefulness is really what is next to Godliness. For God’s sake does she think driving on Third Mainland Bridge on a Wednesday night is stuff for learners? With the way she is driving–afraid to make decisive shunting decisions–he and his passengers are surely going to remain on this bridge till midnight! The time is 10pm, Iyana-Ipaja is still a long way off, and he has just ascended the bridge! And this man behind is asking him not to ‘harrass am like that naww’. “Make im no even vex me for here…,” the driver mutters under his breath.
It seems something has gone terribly wrong somewhere on the bridge. This is now a traffic jam that has come to a complete standstill. Anything can cause an insanely irritating jam on Third Mainland Bridge. It could be as small as a danfo scratching the side of a big man’s SUV and the heated exchange of words that follows, or something as serious as a fatal accident. In fact there are even spiritual explanations to the ugly situation. Some say that on Wednesdays, over eighty percent of all active witches on Lagos Island congregate in the airspace above the entire length of the bridge. They gather here to invoke the Supreme Lagoon Mermaid and her legion of water spirits. The sole purpose of doing this is to disrupt All-Night services of powerful churches on the island that usually hold on Fridays, especially the last Fridays of the month. These services are said to cause untold hardships for the witches and some other agents of spiritual wickedness in Lagos. It is even hyped in some quarters that the Devil himself has giving a very frightening ultimatum to these witches who have in turn been triggering this mind-boggling kinds of traffic jam on the bridge; so that their supreme master-Satan, can have the impression that they are working assiduously to reverse this distasteful fate of they and their allies. After all, why hold such a grand convocation of witches without any form of commotion and human suffering to proudly announce it to the spiritual community?
Something unpleasant has truly happened right in the middle of the bridge. The jam is caused by a trailer that tries to shunt aggressively. Horning at this section of the bridge is unbelievably loud and consistent; so much that it transmutes into a monotonous kind of music that numbs the mind. Yes the mind, because it is equally unbelievable to find that many people are snoring right in the middle of this nightmare, in the discomfort of the rickety molues and danfos they are packed in.
“The Lagos State Government has mandated that no trucks and trailers should ascend this bridge because of the debilitating signs of deterioration that have been unearthed within the bridge’s structural elements but the proletarian drivers, whose obdurate minds have been clotted with much drugs would not listen!” The man in white suit, seating at the farthest right on the last row and of the molue, is fuming as he expresses his anger in words that confound the mostly low-income earners seated in the bus. The bus they occupy is just five cars away from the trailer and so everyone is really frustrated as they can see what is wrong but can do nothing about it. The man continues, “I posit that Nigeria is negatively exenterated and cannot arise from the pitiable, farcical, and highly appalling socio-economic quagmire that it currently paddles in when the sacrosanct tenets of altruism and social engineering are not followed with unalloyed patriotic zeal by the masses. You can…”
“Bros! Make we hear word jooor!…shoooh? Na only you dey vex? Na we you wan show sey you go school abi? Abeg jooor, may we people here word! Your Papa!”
The man in suit is stunned. He accesses the aggressor and wisely refrains from a counter-attack in the face of massive biceps and six-packs that seem even more frightening than the dreadful contortion on the other’s face. He hears the other passengers giggling, hissing and murmuring. This embarrasses him greatly. He keeps the lecture he has been planning to deliver to himself. Better next time for a more friendly and enlightened audience.
The driver of the culpable trailer is not fazed by the incessant drone outside. His glass has been wound up, so a drone is what the extremely loud noise and anger outside is now. He seizes the time to think of his family and can’t be bothered by the irate youths outside attempting to open his door and beat him up. Besides, his vehicle silently speaks for itself–PLAY ROUGHLY WITH ME AND YOU ALL DIE! And true to that silent threat, the young men outside continuously switch from pleas to shouts to outright threats to his life. Some of the youths know, rightly so, that this driver can’t solve this traffic puzzle all by himself so some of them resort to engaging with the drivers of other cars around to find a way out of this mess.
The driver thinks of his wife and six kids back home. He loves his family very much but life keeps throwing him difficult circumstances that constantly keep him from his loved ones. He remembers Halima, who is six now, and how she loves to play with his moustache whenever he is home. Abu, his last child, is teething and he feels sorry for Aisha his wife, who would be quite stressed out now by his constant yelling. Life isn’t fair–but who says it is? Heaven is the only place where joy and love and peace can be perfect. He thinks of Heaven and all the beautiful things to be enjoyed there. He thinks of earth and of the treachery, profanity, greed and debauchery that make earth stink.
His phone rings and he is jolted from his musings. “Haruna,” a gruff voice calls out from the phone. “Take the noble route,” it says in Arabic.
“I will take the noble route”, the driver replies. He mutters some things in Arabic and then lights the fuse. In five minutes, he would go back to his God.
“Yesu!” Segun yells, clutching his head as he dives for cover under his dashboard. He just heard a powerful explosion and could swear he was lifted by the shock wave, even if a little, from his seat. Where the hell did that come from? He feels the rhythmic pain that sears through him as his heart hits its cage in fast and heavy adrenaline-fired punches. His car alarm and that of many others are ringing out in varied sounds. He is too scared to raise his head to find out what has just happened but a greater fear of what might happen next heaves him up to face what he would never have wished to see in his lifetime. His windscreen is badly stained with a streaky silhouette of blood streaming from a serrated human hand. He can see the gore clearly, thanks to the raging fire, fifty car lengths ahead. He screams loudly as he struggles to get out of the car. The big fire–with a tanker at its epicentre–is rapidly consuming cars and definitely humans. It would surely get here soon and he wouldn’t wait for it to come claim his life.
He finally succeeds in removing his seat belt and opens the door. The people he sees are terribly afraid and this is clearly visible in how they panic and run in the opposite direction from their planned destination; to escape this advancing inferno that has stretched over the complete breadth of the bridge. Running quickly towards Lagos Island from where he came, Segun makes up his mind to come out of this alive. His car that he has laboured all this years to buy would have to be his painful sacrifice for a shot at keeping his life. He feels it in his gut that a terror plot is in motion. All this while that terrorism raged in the North, he never believed it would one day get to this part of Nigeria, despite the threats he had been hearing of late. This was no ordinary tanker explosion. This was a bomb. A very powerful bomb. But how did terrorist bombs get to Lagos with all the security beef up?
Sadiq can see the raging fire in the distance and he is smiling. Many people are running in his direction and he smiles again. What would happen tonight would surely bring the government to its knees, acquiescing to any and all of their demands. He thinks of the painstaking way they had planned and made this ingenious undetectable kind of bombs. They had decided this time, to go for a vapour cloud explosion that would ignite from within the petrol tankers. The IED expert had told them that a virtually empty tank is needed to achieve this kind of explosion and so they had used only a few gallons of petrol in each tanker so they could get close to the seven percent Upper Explosive Limit of petrol. The good thing is, petrol has a flashpoint much lower than room temperature and so by now all the petrol in the tankers would have become vapour thus rendering the tanker ’empty’. They had also filled in a sufficient quantity of air that could burn the vapour once ignited and ensure a mighty blast. All connections between the detonators and the tank had been carefully treated and concealed to ensure the vapours don’t leak, nothing causes an accidental spark and nothing arouses suspicion. The expert had assured them that if everything went just right, they could get a blast from each tanker equalling a 150 kg TNT explosion. There were six tanker bombs on the bridge. And so far so good.
His phone rings and the gruff voice calls out in Arabic: “Sadiq, take the noble route”. Sadiq doesn’t reply. The ear-splitting blast that follows is louder than words.
To be concluded next week.