“Oga come down Na! come down!” The molue conductor screamed at Him, angrily.“I no fit! I no fit!” he replied painfully as he struggled without success to stand up from his seat . Unlike a scene from a Nollywood movie, this was not the brainchild of a good script writer and a special effects guy.
My guy nyash don gum for the seat.
“Hei….. I don die….temi ti tan” he said in between sobs and the sudden perspiration that poured unrestrained from his sweat pores. When situations like this arise, Nigerians are very skeptical about being their brother’s keeper. His outstretched hands seeking assistance in pulling him out, was met by an unspoken agreement by the other commuters to give him space and observe from afar. My village people are good at three things: Going to the stream to fetch water, ‘Doing’ new yam festival, and knowing how to manipulate situations like this to ensure that I end up in the worst seat available. With the myriad of sitting and standing options available in this bus, I had somehow become posited beside this sit-tight “Mr. Mugabe”. I wasn’t just beside Mugabe but at the window seat while he was on the aisle meaning I could go nowhere and was a firm fixture of his government.Being the closest to Him as others had either fled the bus or were beyond reach, he kept dragging my hand crying that I help him. However, all I could see any time a part of his body touched mine, was osmosis of the jazz molecules making him and the power holding him to the seat inseparable.
Most times, the signs are there. Various unseen pointers, whispering to you as still small occurrences try to give you foresight about how the day is going to pan out but we never notice. It’s like Pastor Yemi -who-drinks-Big-stout says, “u shidren ov the world u don’t have a dizanin spirit. If only u can leen down and pray you wee ear from d lord” .
First, it was NEPA playing the game of ‘Change your style’ with the light. I can’t fathom how you take and restore power 5 times in 10minutes. Azzin don’t you have the fear of God? Times like this, I always imagine people’s fathers, grown men going to the panel singing “change your style” Light goes OFF “Another style” ON. I often wonder. Don’t they care about the plethora of curses being heaped on them by Nigerians? Some say these curses don’t work. Then how do you explain the misadventures of my friend Progress Onwubiko for whom probably to spite his name, things always seemed never to work out for. Who always blanked out in the exam hall when only the night before he was surfeited with knowledge on whatever course it was he was to take. Who if he was in front of you in a Long ATM queue, you could be sure that the machine will write on its screen “FOREVER UNABLE TO DISPENSE CASH” once it got to his turn(I kid you not I have seen it happen innumerable times). Friends and foes alike were in agreement that there was only one explanation. Mr. Onwubiko was a Transmission Station Operator which translates to the guy who switches your light off or on. He was the guy who all our pained vitriol are indirectly directed at. Consequently, this was a classic case, of the sins work of the father was being visited on Progress.
When Mr. Onwubiko Nepa managed to stop changing styles and keep the light Long enough for me to Iron my trouser, the electric iron like a scorned lover gave my trouser the kiss of death. It Ensured that this particular pair which I wore only for important occasions was no longer fit for purpose forever. (Sign Number One). When I managed to come up with a denouement to my what-do-I-wear situation that didn’t break the “what not to wear for an interview rule”, I didn’t feel as confident as I would have if I was wearing what I had ab initio planned to. The fact that I was wearing my good luck boxers did nothing to assuage my somber demeanor.
Ehn eh! Excuse me. Don’t even give me that look. I have good luck boxers what now happen? Let me not give you an anthology of my good luck boxers. Ok maybe some laconic ones. It was what I was wearing the day Ngozi with-big-nyash, who said she would never Love a guy like me, kissed me and revealed that she had been besotted with me for a long time. It was what I was wearing the day a stranger gave me 20k on the road saying that her pastor revealed she should do good to a stranger if she wanted the fruit of the womb. I collected the money and did not change to Yam. You think its ordinary eye? Good luck boxers noni.
I stepped out of the house feeling like a million bucks rumpled N50 note given to a police man at an illegal check point,locked the burglary proof,and turned around to see her. Sitting, looking at me like “Ehen so you finally came out eh?”. It was my neighbor’s cat Jennifer. You can call me Fetish, jejune, callow, whatever you want. In retrospect, this was Sign Number Two. Why? See this is not the abroad. The Widely accepted pet here is dog not busu! as my grandmother calls cats. Any type of Dog- Ekwuke, bingo, sparky, Buhari and we are okay with it. (Ok! Any name except buhari. I mean someone got arrested for naming their dog Buhari). Even in the highly educative nollywood, when witches and wizard want to change to something. What do they change to? Is it not Cat? Not lion, not tiger, not elephant. They change to Black cat. Even more reason why i was convinced that this was a sign of a bad foreboding, was that I have never had good experiences with Jenifer’s, talk more of black ones. From the one, who copied my work in exams and got an A while I got E, to the one who arrested me and my friend because my friend, not me, broke her heart. To the Jennifer who was infatuated with me and her boyfriend, a capon of a deadly cult in another school, showed me that after the reggae, comes the black and blue beating. (remind me to tell you this gist on another day)
So also, I should have known this Jennifer, slowly walking behind me as I headed to the gate and letting out a sinister “meow” as I faded from view, wasn’t going to be any better. If like Pastor Yemi-who-drinks-big-stout would say, I had the eyes of my unastanin open, I would have realized that “meow” translated to “your own don finish today”.
“hayssss bike, bustop” I flagged down a bike man who in trying to stop for me, nearly “jammed” me. As I spread my Legs to mount the bike, I heard it-the slow quiet hiss of my trouser like a dissenting wife who didn’t agree with her husband’s view on a matter but couldn’t express it loudly. Sign number what? Number Three. On Later examination of the tear, I realized that I could manage it if I spent the day pretending I was wearing skirt and sitting with my legs not too open. On alighting from the bike, the “okada” guy gave me one of the most wretched N100 note I had ever seen in my life. The N100 note and Chief Obafemi Awolowo on it were weary from their journey through various squeezing-happy hands. If you looked closely at the money, you could see it crying for help. Like “baba abeg free me. Use your church mind, your fear of God mind, no spend me again abeg. Just plant me.I don waka tire”
There was a ruckus at the bustop. I was trying my best to ignore it and walk on seeing time was a luxury i could not afford. Undeterred like those pastors in commercial buses in Lagos, the message invaded my ears nevertheless.
Someone’s Penis had been stolen.
Sign Number “Capital Letter” Four.
Tell me. How many times do you actually come across a situation where someone’s penis was actually stolen? This is the kind of news you read of in PM news Newspaper alongside a story that someone gave birth to Yam in a hospital in Sango-ota or ikorodu. That kind of thing never happens at Reddington hospital in Lekki or those hospitals where they pay huge money to deliver children (not pikin). After you pay big money for that kind atmosphere, even Yam go change begin cry sexy cry like human being. This is why i say unreservedly, may thunder fire poverty. Commingling the piecemeal stories from different sources at the bustop, someone had asked a man for directions, touched the man, and made away with his penis. (Ok! LOL maybe made away isn’t the proper word but I couldn’t resist. I know it paints a picture in your head that the guy just took it, started running and had the other guy shouting thief! Thief as he tried to “RECOVER” it).
I have never understood the workings of this penis disappearing business. Some say it disappears and the region becomes completely flat. Others say that it only shrinks.Some say it just doesn’t rise again while some believe that what actually happens is that it’s just some “balls” that get missing. Personally, I Don’t care for how it happens just make my thing no Loss.
No doubt sent by my village people, as I alighted from the bus at Ikeja Under bridge to take a keke to Allen, after escaping the hands of those boys steady asking you to do “pink lips”or draw “tantuuu”, Someone tapped me on my shoulder and asked “bros please where do i get a bus going to maryland”. “In hell fire if I don’t find my penis” I replied in My head while spinning around immediately to see this person who wanted to take the Joy of manhood away from me.
I sized him up.
He was well dressed and didn’t look like someone who was into that kind of business. In any case, you can never be too sure. It could be that the black “Jehovah’s witness” bag he was carrying wasn’t filled with documents like he wanted us to believe and was rather filled with presidents, inventors and world changers who would never see the light of day.
I answered Him pointing out where he should go. He thanked me and i was then faced with an arduous task. How do I in a public,rowdy place like Ikeja carry out like the Rotracts have, the 4 way test to ensure intactness of my Something. How do i confirm the following without looking like a pervert- Is it still there? Has it shrunk? Are the balls still complete? and the hardest of them all, like the biblical Dry bones can it rise again?. I managed to carry out three of the 4 way test, while my eyes were following the movement of the suspect religiously. Peradventure, like the Israelite in the bible, i had to pursue and recover all. I left the last test to my Lord who never fails because there was no real way of establishing its veracity.
I implore you, never for a moment think those unemployment percentages they read out in the News are mere numbers until you go for a test or an interview. Every so often,it becomes a kind of reunion. People who you haven’t seen for years are there. Senior’s who left secondary school when you were in JSS1 and you thought must have gotten grandchildren are also there. Ex-girlfriends who swore that e no go ever better for you are there, and of course, as i got to the venue for the interview, settled in and scanned my eyes around the room, Progress Onwubiko was also here.
I tried my best to believe, that today would be different. That maybe all the other times it had happened were just coincidental. That as one of the HR person called Progress to come for his interview and someone else whispered into her ear as she was about to lead him to face the panel, they would say something different but no. It happened again.
“sorry candidates we will continue the interviews tomorrow. we apologize for whatever inconvenience we might have caused.” That terse statement and that was the end. Nna eh! tufiakwa this progress of a boy.
Over five hours of waiting, a torn trouser and probably a penis that may never rise up to a challenge again, i asked myself Can it get any worse? In time i was answered.
Like a snake swallowing a prey greater than its body size, Molue buses are known for carrying more passengers than should naturally fit into them. Inside it, some passengers are seating while some are standing. Sweaty bodies are rubbing against each. Concurrent conversations from commuters are merging together to form noise which competes with the tired,earsplitting sound produced by the engines, to raise the decibel levels to within the margin required to become deaf. Unavoidably most times, you find a troublemaker who just wants to pick a fight with any and everybody in the bus.
Barely 15 minutes from when he boarded the bus, he had quarreled with the conductor, threatened to Slap someone else, Asked another “you know who I be?” and was currently giving it hot to another woman with the words.
“your mama left nyash”.
“stupid man”the object of his vitriol replied.
“oga. e don do na. why you dey exchange words up and down like woman” another passenger said trying to calm him down.
“ehen. Lawyer without certificate. who bring you inside this matter” he replied the peace maker.
The melee the man was causing was so much that an old man told him in the most reasonable way possible, to keep shut and please allow peace reign in the bus. To which he replied “na your children, your mama, your papa and even your igwe and village people go sherrup”
GHEN GHEN GHEN GHEN
Some people don’t know when to stop. “dem say the last piss na im dey stain nicker”. He had gotten away with insulting everybody but him no look face well before he talk this last one. He had just insulted the wrong person. How often do you see an old man who looked as fetish as this one did. Albino, completely white hair kept in an afro, sporting a red shirt, a cowrie looking bead on his wrist and deep set darting eyes. He looked like those Baba’s that ask Kanayo O. Kanayo “can you do what it takes?” when he comes to do money ritual in Nollywood movies. Like the god himself not even the native doctor, that gives Patience Ozokwor the Charm she uses to poison her husband’s first wife. To make matters worse, the seat beside my opened up right at the time Mugabe insulted the baba and even though the baba was closer, he somehow muscled his way to the seat before old age let the man do so. When others tried to reason with him, he hurled more invective words at them.
Baba looked at Him, and smiled. Looked at me also as if to say won’t you say something to help my case? but as Lagos will teach you, it is better most times to keep quiet and that choice, became my undoing. He face was smiling, but his deep-set eyes were seething with rage. In my mind’s eye, his head was burning with the thought of what evil thing he was going to do to Mugabe making his white afro seem like the resulting smoke from the furnace going on within his head. As if on cue, my mind replaced the noise in the bus with the soundtrack from that old nigerian movie Igodo that comes on, whenever something bad was about to happen to them in the evil forest “hmmmmmmm ebelebe iya!(repeat until chorus fades)”. I expected the old man to bring out a chicken draped with red cloth to curse Mugabe. Instead, with his pseudo-smile, he touched him on his shoulder, touched the seat, and said “keep sitting down eh! my son”
“mile two?” The conductor Inquired. “owa” several voices responded. Mugabe’s voice the loudest of the bunch. “better no even try pass the bustop o…. or thunder go fire your mama boyfriend”. Two minutes Later, the bus arrived at Mile 2, and there was chaos because Mugabe had become an item with his seat. He tried severally to get up and each time he tried and failed, I died inside because i was sitting on the same seat. I tried to get up, but something held my shirt back.I refrained from trying again, because if i did and i was unable to get up, i will just die.
I mean how does this JAZZ thing work. For example, say you were frolicking with someone and another person sent all this “bouncer” thunder that use to have chest and do Press up before coming, to fire the person you were with. Will it be able to separate and just fire only that person, or fire the both of you. So how was i to know that the jazz on the seat knew were to draw the line. shey jazz dey dey logical?
We all knew that baba was responsible for this but no one wanted to confront him and beg. Especially not on behalf of Mugabe who had made enemies of lots of people in the bus. With each try to get up, his faith waned while mine was long dead and in the tomb.Mugabe cried, pleaded with the baba, begged in English ,Yoruba and Ibo while i did the same, but in my heart. Eventually,people mustered up courage to join in his pleading. After what seemed like ages, the baba stood up, and declared that Mugabe would only be free if he brought the tail of a tortoise, the teeth of a snake, the Liver of an elephant, and most importantly, the eye of a spider. LOL. He really didn’t say that but that was what i was expecting based on what you see in movies.
Instead, he plucked out a strand of hair from his head, asked Mugabe to swallow it. Brought out a ring from His pocket, hit it on his head, and then declared that for him to be free finally, he had to be slapped by Seven Women, whom he pointed out(4 of them had even been insulted by Mugabe).
There was also a catch. He could not scream.
According to the baba, if he screamed, the gods would cancel that slap. See ehn, me too i didn’t really think the gods said that but as my friend ONOS will say, “when mad man don pursue your mama before. If she see mechanic na she go first run”. The women were reluctant to comply, but one of the women who Mugabe had told that Her head looked like bicycle seat, stepped forward and Landed one.
It resonated deeply within my soul. Hell hath no fury like when an angry woman slaps you. Mugabe wanted to Shout. He wanted to call on His ancestors, but last minute he held it back like,
Tozaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii, Taiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii. The slaps kept coming. It started becoming funny, and people on the bus were even Laughing. Other women were even wishing they too could slap. I could even see a wry smile forming on the Baba’s face. When it was time for the last two women to slap, he insisted that the slaps must be backhand slap. Mugabe was in pains. He needed to call 911. He was sweating and looking like.
Women can slap abeg. Me i was just praying that the slap was going to be enough to release the two of us. Because if these women slap me my own eh
After slap number 7, the baba told him to apologize, to everybody he had insulted which he did amidst his tears and sniffs. He looked like what we were like in secondary school after our further maths teacher thrashes your soul and tells you to tell him Thank you. Your mouth is saying thanks but in your heart is an unspoken God punish you. He then held his hand, and lifted him up. The baba also promised him, that any day in His life he was ever rude to an old person, something worse would happen. Mugabe laid on the ground, thanking the baba profusely, swearing on his Life that he would never be unruly again. He came down at his bustop and the Journey Continued. I was to alight at the next bustop. Others said “owa” when the conductor called “Maza-Maza” but I was quiet. Deep in Prayers. I tried to stand up but something held me back. I tried and tried gently, careful not to draw attention to myself. I did not want to look back lest i see the hand holding me back.I tried one more time, heard a rip, and i was set free. My shirt had hooked on to one end of the rickety seat and that was why i was being held back.
PrAY PRAAAAAAISEEEEEE MASTER JESUS
I alighted from the bus and it sped off. I crossed over to the other side, bought pure water, before thirst kills me. I found a bike home, who do I see also alighting from another bike as i was trying to pay my own bike man?.The baba. He was also walking into my compound. I look in front of me, there she is again. The cat Jennifer. So baba behind me, Cat in front of me. I tried not to walk too fast so the man does not suspect i am trying to get away from him. I had almost made the staircase, when he called me, asked to confirm if i was actually the one beside Mugabe in the bus, and if i lived here. As i was about to respond, my neighbor, the owner of Jennifer screamed “Daddy”.
I said it….
Is not ordinary hand they used to use and have cat as pet. Her father was a baba. I knew it.
They hugged, and as they were about going upstairs, he turned, winked at me and put his hand across his lips to indicate i don’t say anything. Look at this man. Say what? Do i even know you? Have i ever met you before? Am i fool who-says-there-is-no-God that i will say anything? So that I’ll talk and my lips will gum together. Thank You sir. I say nothing.
I had my bath, relaxed into the sitting room couch, switched on the t.v to see if i could see something that would take my mind off the crazy day. Showing on the Television, was a Documentary on Mugabe.I knew enough already. He talks anyhow, holds on to power, and it will take something supernatural to pry him away from his seat of power. I switched channel to a church program where the pastor’s topic was “dry bones shall rise again” I remembered the last of the 4-way test, which i had not completed, and promptly placed my hand at that part, when the television pastor requested us to put our hands on any place in our bodies we had an ailment. At that same time, my phone rang “progress Onwubiko“and i heard Jennifer Meow loudly outside.
I shook my head. na wa! These village People never relent.
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NB: I found a picture of what the baba would probably have looked like, when he was younger.
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For those who continually comment here, mail me, reach out on BBM and all other platforms whenever i disappear see eh! thank you very much. Combining humor writing and this administration is not easy but your kind words keep me coming back. I pray for you today, that Your children will not look like your landlord.