Mr Illegality

I hate Lagos.

No, not exactly. I hate Lagos only when I’m broke. Flat broke. As broke as an underpaid government official in charge of a remote village outstation. Forget all the hullabaloo of the infamous Lagos traffic, the sheer human and vehicular movement on the road at any time of the day. Forget the deafening noises emanating from a thousand places at once that threaten to permanently reset the ear’s natural frequency. Forget the cluster of homes. Forget all those. Lagos can be fun, mad fun, if you’re loaded. At least to me.

But when i’m broke, Lagos loses its allure. Its night time becomes a cacophony of sadness and the girls suddenly irritate me. Even my favoured two-bedroom apartment, located somewhere between Egbeda and Idimu, gets stuffy, nauseating and unwelcoming, like a bowl of ewa agoyin left unattended to for days.

It is then I won’t be able to go to the muvees with my girlfriend of three years; it is then I won’t be able to order Debonairs pizza for her every Friday afternoon; it is then I cut down my dear bottles of mortuary standard Star Lager to two from the normal six, every other day. It is then I wake up early -too early sef– to go to work. For it is a secret of true Lagosians that transportation fare is much cheaper the farther from daybreak you get to the Bus stop.

That fateful Thursday morning, one of those days Lagos brings the bile to my mouth, I woke up very early such that I was at my bus-stop at 5.00am, awaiting a bus to Oshodi. Ordinarily, traffic and other factors remaining as usual, getting to the bus-stop at 6am would still see me getting to Oshodi around 8am, the official resumption time at work. But this Thursday, the state of my wallet would not permit the luxury of an extra thirty minutes in bed.

I stood with three others at the bus-stop, each one of us not looking the other in the eyes. Not that we could see one another’s eyes unless we peered really deeply and closely, anyway, but there was this unwritten rule that said ‘MIND YOUR BUSINESS.’ And so, I minded my business and waited for a bus. If I had the guts to break the mind-your-business rule, maybe i’d have been privileged to meet, before hand, the man who inspired this story. Anyway, meeting him was destined to be a sooner than later affair.

I was at the bus-stop exactly five minutes when the full-lights of an approaching vehicle scared away the darkness that had engulfed us. The vehicle turned out to be a Toyota Camry, the one they call pencil light. At the wheels was a young man of around my age looking sharp and prim, ostensibly on his way to work too.

“Oshodi,” he called out, straining towards the passenger side so we could hear his voice. We all rushed towards him as he opened the passenger door for us to enter. I chose the front seat while my two other ‘companions’ sat at the back; the car’s inner light gave faces -though blurry- to the silhouettes that had waited at the bus-stop with me earlier.

As the driver was about to move, someone from a side street came running towards us, a backpack dangling from one shoulder, shouting ‘Oshodi, oshodi.’ The driver waited for him to join us before setting the car in motion.

As we moved, I took a cursory glance at my fellow passengers as a matter of course. When you enter any vehicle that early in Lagos, it is imperative you scanned the faces of your fellow passengers as subtly as you could. I don’t know why people do this but I guess it’s out of an inherent attitude rather than any security measure. For really, one would never know a criminal at first sight nor by dressing; even the best dressed are the most likely thieves. In a quick scan, besides the backpack guy who had come in later, the other two passengers were words and opposite. While the one closest to the door by the driver’s side wore a brown check shirt, donned a yellow tie and brown trousers; the other wore yellow check shirt, brown check tie and brown trousers. The yellow-tie guy looked like someone who had had an early morning spat with his wife while the other looked dreamy like a sleepwalker. I wondered if he was really not sleep-riding. The third guy was just the backpack guy to me as he was seated directly behind me.

“Oshodi is one-fifty o,” the driver said as we took off.

Nobody said anything; we all knew the same ride would cost two hundred naira and two bus rides at day break. I adjusted in my seat and settled for the ride. “He must likely work on the Island,” I said to myself as I pulled the seatbelt out of its holster and clicked it into place. I believe only those who worked on the Island left home that early.

Just as I clicked my seatbelt into place, the driver brought out a CD from the side pocket of the driver’s door. He checked to see which one it was. Satisfied it was what he had in mind, he inserted it into the CD player.

The unmistakable percussion of Dr Orlando Owoh’s 1970s classic, Logba Logba, filtered from hidden speakers somewhere on the dashboard. The music found its way into my soul and I smiled sheepishly, like a girl whose boyfriend had brought her a box of her preferred brand of chocolate. Before the music was three minutes gone, I fell asleep. Give it to the Kennery Master, nobody did therapeutic music, aided by unique konga and guitar, the way he did.

I was getting comfortable in the sleep when a development in the car broke into my peace.

I got to realise that as soon as I fell asleep, the driver had asked for the transport fare and everyone awake had paid the pre-agreed one-fifty naira save the man in yellow tie. He had paid one hundred naira.

“Oga, your money is one-fifty,” I heard the driver say from dreamland, his voice calm and patronising.

“Why one-fifty? Ehn? Why one-fifty?” the man voiced out, his accent distinctly eastern, the aggression in his voice hard to miss. It was that aggression that brought me fully awake.

“But, sir, didn’t I tell you it was one-fifty from when you got in?” the driver asked again, the calmness in his voice intact.

“I no hear!” the man answered matter-of-factly.

“You no hear?”

“Oga, we were all here when the man said one-fifty now and you didn’t object, why…” the backpack guy tried to interfere but yellow-tie would hear none of it.

“My friend, please, mind ya own business o! Ahn! Wetin concern agbero concern traffic? Abeg, face ya front o!”

The man in the middle, the one donning the brown check tie, was quiet all through as the sparks flew around. Even when yellow-tie nearly brushed his jaw while trying to point a finger at the backpack guy at the other end, he only slightly moved his face out of harm’s way and looked on. Not one word or glance at the feuding parties. It was almost as if the duo didn’t exist to him. He must be truly sleep-riding.

“Sir,” I joined in the argument, trying my best to be as courteous as possible, “all of us dey here wen hin talk say na one-fifty, why you wan cause trouble na?”

“See, you beta go back to ya sleep. You know wetin dey happen for here? Ehn? Talk na! Sebi na you wan do peacemaker, ehn?” Yellow-tie retorted, his face twitching and un-twitching like someone in a fight with himself.

“But sir, you no say anytin na!” I quipped in, not minding the man’s increasing aggression.

“Ol’ boy, you beta keep ya mouth shut dia! Wetin be ya own sef? Ehn? The driver no talk anytin, ehn? I say na hundred naira I wan pay, una dey query me. Abeg, make una leave me o.”

The words he uttered made sense. Really, what’s our own with the fact that he chose to pay one hundred naira if the driver that was supposed to be emphatic about it had said a few words and kept quiet?

“I don’t know why we dey always make life difficult for ourselves in this country. Transport from hia na hundred naira before and we even know sef say d money too mush dat time. Wen Oga Jona increase fuel to 140naira, d tin jump to two hundred, now wey we don go protest for Ojota, dem bring am come 97naira but all of una no wan reduce una own, ehn! Why? I no know why we dey like to legalise illegality for ds we country. Ah!” The man ended with a prolonged hiss which reminded me of one of my ex-girlfriends.

A barrage of sweat had broken out from the millions of pores on his skin and he resembled a preacher delivering a sermon under the sun at a motor park.

As I opened my mouth to talk, the driver who had been largely inactive all the while just slowed down the car and parked. Before anyone could say a word, he killed the engine.

“Mr Illegality, please get out of my car.”

The voice was now firm, courteous and daring. There was silence in the car as we all turned to look at the man with the running mouth.

The man didn’t answer. Instead he pouted his mouth and began looking at some indeterminate object only he could see.

“Mr Illegality,” the driver repeated, “get out of my car.”

“I no go get out!” he answered this time, pulling at the driver’s seat. “If I no get out, wetin u go do me? Ehn? We just like promoting illegality in this country. From hia to Oshodi no suppose pass hundred naira, eh, wetin?”

The driver didn’t utter any other word. Instead, he leaned across to the glove compartment and pulled out a bright green beret I immediately recognised as a MOPOL service issue. An officer’s belt followed. He then opened the door and got down. He wore the beret, folded the belt into two and opened the back seat door.

“Mr Illegality, come down please.”

“Ah Oga! I no know say you be my person na!” Yellow-tie -Mr Illegality- responded, a broad smile stretched across his mouth. “You suppose don know say na play I dey play na. How I go wan enter Oshodi from hia for hundred naira? I dey craze?” he asked rhetorically, still smiling but refusing to get out of the car. “No vex Officer, no vex at all.”

“See, I no want wahala, but if you ask for it, i’ll give it to you plenty,” the driver, whose voice by now brought back memories of our Commandant from way back at the Navy School, stated slowly.

“Me sef no like wahala, oga. No vex.” The mopol-driver didn’t bother to answer him, he just slammed the back door, got into the driver’s seat and restarted the engine after he had dumped the beret on the dashboard.

“Oya, Oga, take money.” Mr Illegality passed the fare from behind to the driver.

The rest of the journey was spent in silence. No one thought to say a word. In fact, the sleep I had so much enjoyed went off the radar like a missing plane. But deep inside of me, something craved expression. I held it in there, like unwanted sneeze, hoping it’d pass. It refused to. And I had to let go.

The laughter that ran out of me was the needed impetus for the whole car to erupt. Even brown-check-tie, who I had assumed was sleep-riding, joined with a wide grin. Only Mr Illegality didn’t find anything funny. Or maybe he did but couldn’t muster enough courage to join the hearty laughter.


The End.

46 thoughts on “Mr Illegality” by Da Writing Engineer (@banky)

  1. “it is imperative you scanned the faces of your fellow passengers as subtly as you could”

    You messed up your tenses in there. You started with present continuous (it is imperative) followed immediately with past tense (you scanned) and then ended with past tense (as you could).

    See this:

    “It is imperative you scan the faces of your fellow passengers as subtly as you can’

    You dig?

    It’s a good story, but I think it fell short of its mark. You spent an amount of detail showing the background of the guy, and that raised expectation for something more. At least that’s what I think.


    1. @seun-odukoya, your analysis sire… #respect.

    2. Bros eh!

      Of course I dig! hehehehehehe.

      Thanks for reading and commenting sir, @seun-odukoya

  2. Early morning traffic drama for Lag. But this your MOPOL too gentle o. Makes it read like they courteous pips the policemen. Anyways, cool write. Not as spunky as the wages of sin, still a good work from a cool writer.

    1. *smiles*

      Thanks @daireenonline. I guess Wages of Sin don become standard now, ba? I am sure @seun-odukoya may not agree with you, he believes i’ve written better. I don’t know what I believe for now…

  3. Seun pointed out the glaring error. Otherwise it’s ok, though the writing was a bit too deliberate to evoke the spontaneous laughter I saw at the end.

    1. @myne, its been ages!

      Yes, Seun’s right.

      I’ll take your comment on board too, still learning ma’am.

      Thanks and pls do come around more often o!

  4. ghandi (@laavidaalocaa)

    actually, it was out of curiousity that i found myself here. i wanted to see what you have written after your harsh analysis of moi. i’m impressed though. had a good laugh. nice story.

    1. @laavidaalocaa, harsh analysis? Bros, be sure I was only trying to be of help. I like to let the writer know my mind about his/her work. It’s funny I cant even remember the story (could you post the link here?) I supposedly harshly criticised but I hope you have seen the truth in the criticism and learnt from it. We are all here to learn. I am sorry if you felt harshly criticised, I was sincerely trying to help out.

      Thanks for reading this bro. God bless you.

  5. This was very very hilarious. I don’t know how people can spot errors when they are laughing.

    1. @kaycee, everyone go be like you? hehehehehehehehe. But really, they have to find one jare, it makes the work better. Thanks for reading my brother. We should hang out soon…before the meet sef!

  6. You are never bereft of drama in the typical Lagos bustle.
    Who would dare scorn the whip of an angry Mopol?
    Funny this is, though I sense that the humour could be better heightened to maximum effect.
    I do not know what technicalities to deploy in order to achieve this but my sixth sense tells me so.

    1. I agree bro. I think I now know how to achieve that which your sixth sense tells you. hehehehehehehehe. Thanks man. @midas

  7. Loooooollllllll…the MOPOL for tawa d guy like 2 slap…hin for pay for everybody by force…
    very good bruv…easy read…

    1. @sleeickstories, hehehehehehe. Abi o! Thanks for reading bro.

  8. I loved this piece. You put disparate characters in a box and shook it. Brilliant. I liked the fact that you captured the essence of an early-morning Eko sojourn. Being descriptive didn’t hurt. Kudos.

    1. @howyoudey, bros eh! Thanks for dropping by bro.

  9. ‘muvees’?

    lol…Was that deliberate abi na so u dey spell am?

    I liked the flow of the story…your similes were funny though a bit forced in some places.
    Still I like the way the story brought out its title and sprung the surprise of the mopol driver.

    Nice ending too.

    1. yep, it was, @afronuts.

      Thanks for reading bro.

  10. Kaycee Kaycee, I was about to ask same question too oh, loooool.

    This is very funny. I could imagine trying hard not to laugh and then letting go all of a sudden.

    Nice one man.

    1. lol! Thanks bro. longest time, @jaywriter

  11. Pretty funny. I pray I don’t end up in Lagos at some point in my life. I couldn’t survive it

    1. Ol’ boy, na correct prayer o! Lagos na wa! hehehehehehe @vescucci

      Thanks for reading bro.

  12. hahaha…why does it seem I only caught the “Mortuary Standard Star Lager” something?

    1. mtcheeew! Wetin u for catch before? @shaifamily

  13. @banky I was howling with lafter (not really actually). It was hilarious though…very.

    I no too much know these things that others pointed out…but, they must be right (hehehe).

    1. yeah, they are largely right. Thanks oga mi sir!

      1. @banky stop ds “oga|” nonsense jare!

  14. what I like about this is how you made a seemingly simple event of the everyday Lagos life into a story.Lotta kudos to you for that.Enough has been said on the grey areas.

    Well done!!!

    1. Guy!

      Long time o! I never forget you o.

      Thanks for reading man. And you should give us something soon too…yeah? @easylife2

  15. Detail. Detail. Detail.

    Fantastic weaving of detail into a narrative.

    This is brilliant writing. I like the way you exploded an ordinary activity like going to work into a firework of pleasing detail.

    I noticed that ‘scanned’ error too.

    Nice one my brother. Keep improving your art.

  16. The ogas hv spoken abt d errors…as fr me i loved it o…nice one

  17. Why put it under fiction? Nobody would fault you for being broke jare… Hehehe.
    If na me be mopol-driver, that belt must touch am. Shey im get mouth to analyse fuel price ni?
    Nice one @Banky…Well done…$ß

    1. @sibbylwhyte,hehehehehehehe! Longest time. You sha don divorce me by force now? Ok o. I believe you’re good baby. Miss you!

  18. Divorce you? Not now not ever. The day I do, the courts wouldn’t be through with the case in a long while. I am good-always am. Just missed u much.

  19. LMAO! But hand suppose touch that guy… The mopol guy is gentle sha…lol

  20. Thanks @poshdr, your head dey dia. I guess the mopol na born-again, e no dey violent, by Thanks for reading bro.

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