It is very sunny this afternoon, not the usual kind of Lagos sun your cracked back and fast balding head are accustomed to. This sun is an unusual kind; the kind that reminds you of hell. And convinces you it won’t be such a good day. The weather was much better yesterday.
Your shirt is soaked at the back with sweat. It must have formed something of a pattern by now, something looking like the map of Lagos.
You are now at Cele bus stop, resting for a moment at the rear of your bus, while your sidekick, the conductor of your bus is stretched out languidly on one of the wrought iron chairs in the bus, sleeping. You cannot see him, but you know he is. You can hear his snore.
Kunle sleeps a lot.
It is your turn to load. You see passengers as they move to and fro. A woman asks one of the agberos where to get a bus; she is going to Oshodi. The agbero is doubling as a conductor for one of those drivers who never stay in line to load. Those agberos, you don’t like them. They sweat you even more than the passengers, or Kunle.
The agbero corners the woman, and proceeds to carry her luggage. You quickly run forward. You cannot allow him cheat you. You have to be smart. Everyone has to be, in Lagos.
‘Ogbeni, Ki lo n se e now? Wetin be dat one?’ You accost the agbero in the lingua franca of the danfo community; a mixture of Yoruba and pidgin.
The agbero manages a wide grin ‘Baba oh!’ he hails you in the traditional style, patronising, both his hands raised up.
You ignore his patronising salute, your temper already frayed by the harsh sun and your sleeping conductor. You guide the woman towards you and call for Kunle to come and carry her luggage. You watch Kunle rise lazily from the bus, his unbuttoned shirt stained with dried spittle and his eyes red.
He stumbles towards you and picks the luggage.
In less than fifteen minutes, your bus is full, and you set off, with your conductor hanging from the door frame like a bad leg held in a cast. There is mirthful banter somewhere in the back of the bus as you take off and head for Oshodi.
As you drive past Iyana Itire, your mind is on how much I have made so far today, how much have gone to the cheeky agberos and how much will eventually go to Kunle.
Just as you pass Isolo, you hear a voice in the back ‘Conductor I’ll alight at Isolo please’
‘Wetin? Your eye blind abi o ti fa igbo ni?’ Kunle’s harsh voice in the back hurls insults at the owner of the voice. Kunle has a short temper, you know. You’ve joined issues so many times with him on the smallest things.
‘Didn’t I tell you I was alighting at Isolo before I boarded?’ the voice
‘Ma so oyibo fun mi jaaree’ Kunle is pissed that the passenger is speaking English, since he doesn’t communicate very well in proper English. He is not like you, who at least had up to secondary education.
‘Oga conductor, e don do now’ a woman in a beige-colored gele responds in Yoruba.
You do not want to cut in. You will worsen things if you speak. You keep driving.
‘Driver, stop now. Stop!’ you hear various voices from behind. They have involved you now. They keep shouting. You have to respond, and in a firm manner too.
‘Make I stop on top wetin?’
‘Person wan come down now’ Almost all the passengers chorus at once. You hate passengers for this. They always stick together.
You peer into your rear mirror, trying to find the owner of the ‘oyibo’ voice that had angered Kunle. You know it is a man. You do not look long. You find him, a bespectacled bald-headed man with long beard
‘Oga na u wan drop for Isolo?’ you ask, and without waiting for a reply you continue ‘Why you no talk since? Wo, I no go fit drop you for here oh, until next bus stop’
The roar of passengers fills the bus, as they have taken up the ‘oyibo’-speaking man’s cause
An elderly man at the back who looks somewhat like your father says in an imperious voice ‘Driver, find a place to drop this man or you take him back to Isolo’
For the respect you have for your father, you begrudgingly check out the road ahead, negotiating a good place you could park.
In your fury, you do not look properly.
You park. The ‘oyibo’ man pays Kunle. Then you hear Kunle’s voice rise
‘Se una dey see? Five hundred naira for fifty naira. Where I wan take get change na?’ At this point, you can feel Kunle’s frustration seeping out of him like gas from a punctured cylinder.
You are about to swear at the man. That is when you see the pickup truck, with the men dressed in butter and wine-colored uniforms. You raise the alarm.
‘Kunle, Kunle, leave am, leave am. Make we dey go. Yellow fever! Yellow fever!’ Kunle notices your reason for alarm and immediately jumps on the bus.
You throttle and speed off.
LASMA is after you. They are chasing after your bus. You are annoyed at the voice of the passengers that you hear in the back telling you to stop. They put you in this.
The bus careens off the road then swerves sideways, like it has a life of its own. You race at breakneck speed and soon you are at Toyota bus stop. The passengers are still shouting. You do not care for what they say. Even Kunle is shouting something in Yoruba, but you do not bother to listen.
You are sweating profusely. You have to get away. You shift the gear to five and pedal the throttle to the ground. You are way above speed limit.
You have now gotten to Five Star, and the officers are still on your tail, in hot pursuit. You just need to get to Oshodi, then you will be home free. You would get lost in the haze. Your bus is unmarked. They won’t be able to differentiate.
Just then, a car swooshes in front of you, obstructing your path. You try to veer off to another lane. You do not look.
You see it before you hear it. The front of the bus bashes into a black Honda approaching from behind on the lane you veered off to. Luckily, the Honda had not been speeding, so nobody is harmed.
The front of your bus is damaged though, and the man’s car too. The man gets out of his car, angry, and heads towards you. Your passengers begin to come out.
Then you see LASMA men closing in on you.
‘Mo gbe’ you exclaim with both hands on your head.
Kunle is counting money. You are done for. The hot sun was a bad omen after all.