Part 2: The Okada Ride
“No mind am, Oga!” the Okada rider sympathized with the fare in the peculiar Pidgin English of northern Nigeria as he handed the fare a helmet, “na so I dey do.”
“What?” the fare asked, not sure what the rider meant.
“Lagos taxi driver. Na so I dey do,” the rider repeated.
The fare felt saliva from the cyclist’s mouth spray onto his face as the motorcycle raced against the hot breeze. He decided not to encourage the conversation. He pulled the formerly white handkerchief from his trouser pocket and wiped his face vigorously before he inspected the helmet which the cyclist had handed to him. The inner padding was dirty and smelt of sweat; it was a lightweight hard hat that was better suited for construction work. There was no strap to hold it to his head. He wondered how this will protect his head if there was an accident. The law mandating passengers to wear helmets while riding on bikes was just another show of policy making by government as far as he was concerned. Another reason for the police to extort money from citizens…
“Oga, wear helmet!” the Okada rider instructed. He felt the fare’s reluctance, “Oga, wear helmet, make police no catch us.”
The fare looked at his wrist watch. He had a little less than thirty minutes to make it on time for the meeting. He could not afford any more delays. He spread his handkerchief on his head, and gingerly put the helmet on his head, making sure that no part of the helmet made contact with his bare skin. He grimaced as he imagined all sorts of skin diseases inhabiting the helmet. He held the helmet atop his head with one hand to avoid it fitting into his head and accidentally touching any part of his balding scalp.
The Okada rider swerved and feinted wildly in-between cars as he made his way through the dense traffic.
“Please take it easy,” the fare pleaded with the rider, “I’ll like to get there in one piece.”
“No be you talk say I dey hurry, Oga” the rider said irritatedly, spraying yet more saliva in the fare’s face as he collided with the side mirror of a Toyota Corrolla that was stuck in traffic, bending it backwards. The rider struggled to regain his balance as he kept moving with his slippered feet dragging on the tarred road while he struggled to avoid the maze of side mirrors of the cars that were stuck in traffic.
“You must be crazy!” the Toyota’s driver shouted through the window at the rider’s back as he steadied the bike on course and continued on his way.
A few more drivers shouted and waved their hands angrily at the okada rider as he sped away.
The fare let the helmet slip onto his head and grasped the rider’s waist with both hands to avoid falling off the bike; better to have scabies than a broken leg, he reasoned.
As they approached CMS bus stop, two thugs jumped in front of the rider forcing him to stop.
“Pay your money,” the first one demanded fiercely as the second one reached for the ignition keys of the bike, pulled it out and stuffed it into his pocket. The fare recognised the “area boys” as the variety employed by the local government authorities to use strong-arm tactics to collect revenue from the commercial motor-cyclists. The first one had at least a dozen scars between his balding head and his face. His eyes were bloodshot from the smoldering jumbo sized wrap of marijuana he had cupped in his right hand despite the couple of policemen that were stationed a few meters away.
The fare dismounted and stood aside as he watched to see how things will play out.
“I just dey start work abeg,” the rider pleaded as he dismounted and put the bike on its stand.
“Which kind story be that?” the second thug shouted in a voice made husky from local gin and marijuana, “Pay your money jo!”
The two thugs ignored the rider and walked off in search of other prey as the rider ran behind them pleading for his keys.
The fare stood on the curb, clutching his laptop bag close to his chest, pondering his next move, forgetting the plaguey helmet was still on his head. He had other worries now; CMS bus stop was a notorious preying ground for pick-pockets and robbers. His laptop not only contained the presentation he was going to make but also a few years worth of data that were not backed up. He could not afford to lose it.
“Alex!” he heard a familiar voice shout his name from a passing car and turned to see his friend, Akin.
“Where are you going, Akin?” he shouted above the roar of passing vehicles.
“Victoria Island!” Akin responded.
“Wait, please!” Alex shouted as he ran towards the motorcyclist still arguing with the thugs. He pulled Naira300 -the full price of the trip- out of his pocket and tossed it at the rider and turned to run back towards Akin’s car.
“Abeg give me my helmet!” the rider shouted angrily as he realized there was no way he was going to avoid paying the thugs now.
Alex only then realized that he still had the helmet on his head; he pulled it off and tossed it at the rider and ran off to join Akin.