The once bright clouds had turned furious, and it gently swallowed the ball of glory that turns darkness into light. The resulting rain was torrential. The vehicle I boarded was a white coaster bus that belonged to the mass transit programme developed by the federal government to ease transportation in the country. The Journey was lifeless, so I fed my eyes on the flood that was slowly overflowing the road side gutters built for them. When we reached Abule-egba bus-stop, we had to go through a terrific traffic jam because the flood there was so intense that it covered the road entirely. Our rear tyre burst while we were wading through the flood, so the driver had to park the bus, so that he and the conductor could replace the burst tyre.
The lack of maintenance of the bus became evident within its few minutes of stopping.
Before long, many water dripping points began to show up at the roof of the bus as the rain intensified. Affected passenger cried out in protest to the driver and conductor who were definitely not in the mood to attend to any passenger’s request. In no time the driver and the conductor returned, they were heavily wet like a towel dipped into water.
The lady beside me had her seat pretty soaked with water. She turned to the conductor who was shivering after been in the rain for so long.
“Conductor come clean my seat o, I paid you to sit comfortably, not for me to arrive at the office drenched”
“Shey na me talk say make he rain ni? Abeg use this rag take clean am”, the conductor replied, rudely stretching a rag to her.
The lady stood up and faced the conductor with a fierce look. “Who do you think you are talking to? Come and clean it yourself jare”
We saw the brawl that was about to happen, so everyone in the bus stepped in to avoid it. We all begged the lady to manage the seat, and to forgive the conductor’s rude approach. She couldn’t resist our pressure, so she bowed to it. We could see the disappointment in her eyes, even though she tried to hide it by looking sideways towards the window.
There was this man who sat at the second row of the bus, just a row ahead of where I sat. He was dressed in a stripped maroon T-shirt and deep blue jeans. He was clearly a funny type and he had being displaying his vocal skills ever since the rear tyre burst. He looked at the lady that was sitting beside me. He ogled at her, and I gazed at him with curiosity awaiting his move.
“Sister wetin be your name”, he asked.
The lady didn’t bulge. She only changed her posture to reveal her left hand with a shining golden ring on her fourth finger. The guy didn’t notice it, so he went on with his flirting.
“Wetin dey do you sef madam, shey Bible talk say make you no tell people your name ni?” the man asked with a pondering voice.
“I am married”, the lady replied, hoping it would throw the man off.
“Married to Jesus abi? Yeye”, the man said mockingly.
The lady adjusted once more and she looked at the man before she took a deep breath and decided she could use the medium to preach the gospel to the man. She turned to him and said softly
“Give your life to Jesus sir; he loves you that is why he died for you on the cross of cavalry”, her voice was now sounding confident, “without Jesus you can’t be saved, I mean you—-”
“Enough sister”, the man caught her short. “Me sef get Muhammed. Na wetin”
“I tell you Jesus is the saviour, he is the—”
“Wetin madam, na only you dey go church? Wetin be your church name sef? You just tell me, we go come blow am within two weeks”
“Who you be?”
“I be Boko Haram now. You just try me, I only need your church name and we go blow am up within two weeks”, the guy threatened.
“You no go fit blow my church, Jesus dey there”, the lady defended.
“All the churches wey we blow for Kano, shey Jesus no dey there. You just try me. I only need your church name and I still promise you sel, we go blow am up within two weeks”
The bus atmosphere was now arid and lively. The other passengers eyes were glued to both of them as if they were the actors in a theatre. None of us intervened in the matter as we were all throw into fist of laughter as the conversation continued.
“Sister you dey fear? Just your church name and you go see wetin go happen within two weeks”
“You no go fit do nothing” the lady replied in defence. It was clear from her eyes that she was fear filled. She couldn’t see that the man was Igbo and Christian like she was, and that he was merely joking.
“Why you dey disturb me Mr Boko Haram, I cast out the devil in you in Jesus name, I pray that—”
“See madam I no wan disturb you again, just proof to me that Jesus would fight on your behalf by giving me your church address”
The lady had her fears on the increase; it was vivid in her eyes. The bus was nearing Iyana Ipaja. The man had his voice dominant that the lady simply kept defending without naming the address of her church. It was getting too much for her and the man was relishing the moment.
“Madam you no wan talk? You get Jesus, I get Muhammed. I just—”
A man with a round shaped head at the row directly at my back coughed out loudly. From the sound of the cough, we knew it was deliberate and that he was unto something; so everyone placed a gaze on him.
“Hey Mr Boko Haram or whatever you call yourself. What kind of stunt joke are you performing? Do you even know what Boko Haram is?”
“Who don’t know Boko Haram, those radical Muslims who kill people like animals”, a man with a grey hat answered with a placarding voice from the back of the bus.
The man with the round shaped head shaked his head clearly indicating pity. He then said, “I don’t like talking much about this Boko Haram Brouhaha, but when I come across people getting it all wrong, am usually forced to say my view. Many of you are with the claim that Muslims are terrorist, or that their religion supports war and unrest through the Jihad terminology, but the truth remains that majority are ignorant of the truth”
The bus was quiet. There were no side talks, and everyone focused their attention towards him. The man having noticed this, stood up with his self-esteem at the peak. He adjusted his bifocal glass and continued his address.
“Islam has nothing to do with violence. The most referenced thing is the issue of Jihad which is usually translated as “holy war”, but the truth behind this is that Jihad doesn’t translate to holy war. It means struggle, especially against ones evil incarnation.”
A man with a white T-shirt and a blue tie who was sitted on my row raised up his hand. The round headed man who had now turned to a lecturer paused and focused his gaze at him. The man who had raised up his hand then asked, “Wasn’t Islam spread by the sword?”
The man who has become our bus lecturer smiled. “Do you know that Q2:256 says: there shall not be compulsion in religion”, he then smiled before he continued. “So the issue of Islam being spread by the sword is defeated. Also, you should know that Q5:32 says: if a man kills another man unjustly unless it is for murder or sedition, he should be treated as if he has killed the whole mankind, and if a man saves another man’s life, he should be treated as if he has saved the whole mankind.”
The bus had stopped at a petrol station near Dopemu, but none of us had noticed. We weren’t interested in the ambient events for now. We were seeing a Muslim that wasn’t portrayed by the media. We didn’t even believe the verses he quoted could be found in the Quran. Many of us asked him to repeat the verses again, and we wrote it down with passion. The Driver resumed driving as soon as the conductor finished buying the petrol.
The man’s face was lit up with smiles because he could see the enthusiasm of the passengers. He continued
“The issue of Boko Haram is purely political, and they only hide under the disguise of religion. They bend rules in Religion to justify their inhuman acts. The ignorant public doesn’t take a second look at their claim and go ahead and blame Islam for their acts. How can they say that, “western education is a sin”, when it was Islamic civilisation that laid the foundation of modern science. From Avicenna: who was regarded as the doctor of doctors, to the creation of Algebra, Geometry and the concept of zero. The first university in the world was an Islamic university. There is even—”, the man stopped and checked outside the window,
“Oops, am sorry, I would get down at Dopemu”
The bus stopped and the round headed man alighted from the bus. Voices of opposition began to rise. To me I felt the man had done justice to the matter. He was like Mr Quinn in an Agatha Christie novel; he comes, solves the case, and mysteriously disappears when the case is solved.
I think religion should not be blamed for crimes committed using its name. Just as the way the Oklahoma bomber or the Norway’s Ander Brevik killing spree shouldn’t be blamed on Christianity, so is this issue of Boko Haram shouldn’t be blamed on Islam. But that has not been the case. I just hope one day we would be able to live together without intimidation and oppression based on Religion…I hope, I hope….
The sights of the 2nd bridge at Airport bus-stop flooded my eyes. It then dawned to me how forgetfully I was. The Boko Haram fiasco has made me missed my bus-stop. I shut my previous thoughts, and engendered the thoughts on how I would walk from Airport bus-stop back to Ikeja…
Boko Haram is an Hausa name for an Islamic movement called “Jamaatul Ahlis Laddaawatih wal-Jihad”. Their major believes are the rejection of man-made laws and modern science.