The sun is already rising by the time I wake up from my slumber. The Lagos commercial bus popularly called Danfo is already filled up with passengers except the back seat which is packed with obsolete computer monitors and laptops. Apart from the fact that they are outdated, they seem to be in good working condition.
The conductor slides the door of the Danfo shut. He is wearing a black singlet and red jeans. I wonder what will happen to him if LASTMA official catches him that he isn’t putting on the road transport workers uniform- a yellow shirt and black trouser.
“I hope say all of una hold change,” the conductor barks before he sits. His pidgin is crisp, like a Warri native.
Nobody answers him, as everyone sits up in readiness for the journey.
“No talk o, we go see.” The conductor threatens as he snaps his right thumb and middle finger together.
The driver presses the throttle pad, and the Danfo moves on.
We all sit still and move willingly to the rhythms as the driver veers the Danfo left and right to avoid the numerous potholes on the road. Soon we hit the regular Lagos traffic jam.
A man in an ill-fitted suit seated in the second row which is directly in my front stands up. His head almost touch the roof of the Danfo when he stands. His face is brown and rumpled. He is probably in his early fifties. He opens a small plastic case and brings out an eyeglasses, he then wears it on his face; his big eye balls bulging from it like an owl.
“Praise the lord,” he shouts with a coarse voice as he brings out a Gideon bible from his bag side pocket.
“Hallelujah,” a chubby woman who is sitting on the same row with him replies. No other person talks.
“Can somebody shout- praise the lord?” he shouts again, this time louder.
Only the chubby woman replies. The man’s face turns pale, but he quickly hides it with a pseudo smile.
“I see,” he pauses and turns this head round the Danfo. “How many people want progress this morning? How many people want divine favour? How many people want to get to work and meet a promotion letter on their desk? How many people want money? Let me hear a thunderous hallelujah.”
The reply is a bit louder than before. Few other passengers move their lips to compliment the screams of the chubby woman.
“I see the Devil at work, but the devil is a liar, hmm, he is a …”
“Hey shut up old man,” the guy beside the preacher stands up and cut him off. His Mohawk styled hair stands still like a cockerel. His face is red, and his fists are balled. “What is wrong with you? Everyone wants silence, so let it be; stop soaking me with your saliva.”
“Pastor, we all prayed before we left our respective houses his morning, can you please sit down and pray silently?” says a man who sat in the first row by the window. He is wearing a well-fitted suit and half-rimmed eyeglasses.
Others join to criticise the man in ill-fitted suit. He shuts his mouth, and sits gently like an innocent child. He opens his Bible and read at his own pace mumbling some words that resembles a curse.
The Danfo remains in the same position for the five minutes, but I will not notice because of mild drama going on in the Danfo. By now the sun is fully unveil as it exerts its orange rays upon the earth from the east.
A glass slides open in the front row seat.
“Hey paper boy,” the man in the well-fitted suit calls out to a boy carrying an armful load of different newspapers. He is shabbily dressed, and his hair is unkempt. He runs towards the open window like a dog being pulled by a leash.
“Give me Punch newspaper.”
The newspaper boy passes the newspaper through the window, and the man pays him. He fixes his gaze at the outspread newspaper and reads with relish.
“God look at them, ever since President Buhari has made Nuhu Ribadu the EFCC head again, those PDP thieves are running helter skelter. Check it out.” The man in the well-fitted suit says excitedly as he passes the newspaper to the man beside him. The man has a long face and natural dreadlocks, and he bound them together at the back of his head with a band designed in the Jamaican flag. He is no doubt a Rastafarian.
“Me not interested in that man. Jah forbids,” the Rastafarian says, pushing the newspaper back. “Man must eat: man must work; man must worship Jah, not reading lies in paper.”
“I know what you mean man,” the man replies, trying to be friendly. ‘You see, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Just give these APC guys a few years and you would be amazed at the transformation that would have gone on. Presently, all the refineries are working to full capacity. Three more are being built. Soon petrol will be cheaper than water just as it is in Saudi Arabia.”
The Rastafarian doesn’t react to what the man in the well-fitted suit says. Instead, he looks straight ahead at the driver through the compartment divider at his front. I place my head on the row seat in my front because I am feeling drowsy. But sleep doesn’t come. The lady beside me to the left is chewing gum noisily while pinging on a BlackBerry Bold 10. She has an earpiece on, and I can hear the beats of the song she is listening to as it escapes from the earpiece. I look at her. She is wearing a skimpy dress that reveals her cleavages and her arms. It is obvious that she applied excess makeup on her face like those ladies that paraded Allen Avenue at night until continuous raids by the police of the new government made them abandon the spot. What really surprises me is that; Bold 10 is not just a Blackberry phone; it is the newest release into the stiff competitive mobile market. It has telepathic abilities: ability to read minds! It is worth about two million naira, so much money for a lady of her looks. She is probably a prostitute, an ultimate ashy, I conclude.
“All of una, abegi bring out your N300 change o,” the conductor calls out as he stands up from his seat.
“N300 wetin? An overweight woman beside the conductor calls out. “Diesel don cheap now, abi na aviation fuel ya own Danfo dey use?”
“Madam, you sef dey talk?” the conductor asks rhetorically. “You way be say na two person seat only you siddon on top with dat your big yash. Mtcheww, abegi, money for front jor.”
There is no reply from the front compartment
“Money for front o,” the conductor calls out again.
A five hundred naira note appears through the little opening on the metal divider that separates us from the driver’s compartment.
“Money for second person nko?” the conductor asks as he collected the five hundred naira note.
“Staff,” someone says from the second passenger in the driver’s compartment.
The driver slams on the brake pad as he hears the word “staff.” He faces the second passenger.
“Why did you stop? Abi you don’t know who staff is?” the second passenger asks.
“Staff ko worker ni,” the driver replies, “una go dey shout staff, staff, staff as if say government no dey pay una salary. Shey na staff I go use buy petrol for station? Shey na staff I go use pay delivery?”
There is no reply. The next thing we see is a head protruding over the compartment. The head has a gallant Mopol cap on and sunglasses over his eyes.
“First I will arrest your conductor for not wearing the stipulated yellow shirt and black trouser uniform. Then I will arrest you for transporting stolen property in your Danfo.”
The driver defends himself quickly. “The property belongs to the man with that cock head.” He also protrudes his head through the compartment and points to the man with Mohawk hairstyle. The face of the Mopol is hard and straight. He watches for a short while. We are all quiet and fearful because we don’t want to be delayed by the arrest the Mopol is threatening.
“Driver, can we please move on. I will be late for my meeting if we continue with this,” the man in the well-fitted suit complains.
The driver retracts his head from the compartment and sits upright. He starts the engine and steps on the throttle propelling the Danfo forward.
The conductor ignores the Mopol’s fare and continued his rounds.
“Oya ya own money,” he beckons his right hand to the first row after the compartment. Everyone else pays him except the man in the well-fitted suit.
“Oga, ya money.” The conductor barks at the man.
“Wait boy, am coming,” he answers as he opens his wallet to bring out his fare. “Take and give me my balance,” he says as he stretches a N5000 naira note to the conductor.
“Oga, wetin be this? Ori Abiola!” the conductor exclaims, referring to the N5000 note as ori Abiola because it has the portrait of late MKO Abiola. “I don tell all of una say make you enter with ya change, you come dey give me ori Abiola.”
“What’s your stress man, you asked for money and I gave you a N5000 note. Is it a crime that I don’t have change?”
“Shebi you go collect change abi? We go see,” the conductor threatens snapping his middle and thumb fingers together.
He then turns away from him muttering before he starts collecting fares from the second row. Everyone on the row pays him without any difficulty
When it gets to my row, a shallow fear grips my heart. The reason isn’t far-fetched; the lady beside me who is wearing a skimpy dress is holding a N5000 note, and my best guess is that she is going to pay the conductor with it. I am also holding a N5000 note.
“Oya your money,” the conductor asks, stretching out his right hand.
I handled him the N5000 note
“Hmm, another ori Abiola. I pity all of una.”
By the time the lady with skimpy dress pays her fare, the conductor is fuming. He sits down and counts the total fares he collected.
“My balance o.” the man in the well-fitted suit requests.
“All of una carry ori Abiola gimme, you come dey ask for change. Me I no get change o. we go reach bus-stop before I fit change all this ori Abiolas.”
I check the time. It is already 7:15am. We were still at Iyana-Ipaja. The traffic is thick and the driver snuggles it into any tight available space. Soon the driver veers the Danfo off the main road unto a state road that leads into Ipaja.
“Where you dey carry us go o,” the overweight woman calls out, “you wan use us do money rituals abi?”
The driver is silent.
“Na shortcut he wan pass,” the conductor answers, “shey you no see say hold-up dey for the main road”
I check the time again. It is already 7:20am. I will be late for my interview that is scheduled for 8:00am. I start a silent prayer with high hopes that the shortcut pays.
All of a sudden, the Danfo jerks forward and the engine dies. The conductor slides the door open and runs to join the driver who is already opening the bonnet.
“Which kind wahala be this for early Monday morning,” I voice out. I didn’t include that I was running late for my interview, and that it is 20th one since my graduation from Lautech six years ago.
The driver is quick in coming to the open door.
“It’s the radiator. The conductor has gone to get water,” the driver reports, “please bear with us.”
Cacophony of voices fills the air and everyone complains about how they will be late for this and that meeting.
We can’t see the reaction of the driver to our complaints because the bonnet is covering the windscreen. Five minutes goes by and nothing happens except the complaints that don’t stop. The guy with Mohawk hairstyle grows impatient with the wait, so he gets down to check the driver to see what he is up to.
“I can’t see the driver and conductor o,” he shouts.
We all get down with mix thoughts running through our heads on what could really be happening. My mind flashes to the ori Abiola’s the conductor had collected. A total of N15, 000! After that, the whole scandal dawns on me. I place my open palms at the back of my head and cry out… the intensity I have never achieved before…