LAGOS DIARIES XVIII

It was the end of another work day. A Friday actually. And I just couldn’t wait to embrace the weekend. To prepare for it, and because the closest bank and ATM to my place would require a trek that would ruin the unmitigated laziness I had planned for the weekend, I had to withdraw some money while I was at work. I closed early from work, and did a quick run in Ikeja for some purchases, enough stuff that filled my backpack and made it hang heavily behind me. Now add that to my wallet bulging from my back pocket and my phone snugly tucked inside my side pocket, and I was feeling very vulnerable. Every face I walked past on the crowded road as I headed to the bus-stop, Ikeja Along, was a potential robber. You stared at me too long before you walked past, you walked a little too close beside me, you remained an unshakeable presence walking behind me, and my entire self-preservation system kicked up into overdrive. I felt like a thief magnet, but for my own sake, I prayed the Fates were not about to prove me correct.

So eventually, from Oshodi, I was home-bound in a bus headed for Mile 2. I was tucked in at the end of the seat, closest to the window. On my right side was a scrawny-looking dude, with shifty eyes and a face that looked like Lagos life had given him a touch too many bitch slaps. He had ‘No Good’ written all over him, but I wasn’t judging. How could I judge when I had my backpack firmly sitting on my laps, with my hands clutching it, with my wallet in my hand and my phone a snug fit in my side pocket. On this guy’s right was seated this other man, an Igbo man, yes, I know he’s Igbo because he was one of this annoying people who just don’t understand that when you’re on the phone in a bus, you don’t have to let the whole bus know your business. Carrying on in Igbo, he yelled at Boniface to make sure he collects the money owed by that customer before closing up the shop. And then he snapped at Nkechi when she called to say that there was not enough stew for dinner. And he grumbled his impatience with Mama for pestering him for the credit he promised her he would send. Yes, I felt like we were all one big happy family – me, him, Boniface, Nkechi and Mama – just by listening to his loud, raucous rejoinders on the phone.  

There were a few disgruntled murmurs of ‘Oga, bring your voice down abeg.’ He ignored them. When the woman beside him, whose eardrums must have been bearing the full brunt of his tirade, finally urged him to take it down a notch, he responded sharply with: ‘Madam, biko mind your business. How is my call consine you now?”

When they start shelling the gba-gauns, that’s when you know the battle is not yours to win.

Anyway, our journey commenced nonetheless. Passengers dropped at bus-stops, and passengers got in. Business was brisk for the conductor, the driver ruled his little fiefdom behind the wheel very well, and the bus rumbled on smoothly on a very sound engine. It was a matter of minutes, and I’d be home. I was thinking: a quick shower, a quicker something-to-eat, and a touch-down on my bed. Hello Saturday, I’m coming to you, live from Friday evening.

And then I snapped out of my day-dreaming when I felt a slight tug on my side pocket, you know, the side pressed up against the scrawny fellow seated on my right. The side pocket that had my phone in it.  I shot a scowl at him before descending my gaze on my side. His hands were on his laps. Whether what I felt was real or imagined, I couldn’t tell. The guy’s profile was placid, and his posture held straight up. Those hands didn’t seem like they’d strayed from his laps.

But just to be on the safe side, because I know firsthand how light the fingers of these pickpockets can be, I slid my phone out of my pocket on the pretext that I was about to respond to a ping. And Goodness Gracious, there were pings to answer. Lots of them. I mean, my Blackberry just had to be in my hand because I had to answer so many people.

So, go ahead, dude, finger me all you want. Okay, that didn’t come out right. But you get the point.

And he got the point, that there was nothing to pilfer from my pockets, because I didn’t feel anymore surreptitious tugs on my jeans as we moved on along.

“Cele!” the conductor barked, announcing an impending bus-stop.

“Cele owa oh!” a chorus of voices answered.

“Cele owa!” the conductor echoed to the driver from the bus’s doorway where he hung, slapping the side of the vehicle to alert the driver just in case he hadn’t heard him the first time.

The driver veered from the fast lane, easing up on his speed until he pulled up at Cele junction. The conductor jumped nimbly down on the ground and said, “Cele, oya con dan!” And he whirled around and started hollering, “Mile 2 – Orile! Orile – 100 naira bus! Mile 2, 50 naira, Orile, 100 naira!”

“Bia, mister man, what do you think you are doing!” someone barked. The voice was annoyed. Querulous. Gaining steam. With the kind of timbre that told you there was drama on the way. But people were still clambering in and out of the bus, minding their business. “Mister man, I’m asking you, what do you think you are doing!” And my Igbo man family member rose indignantly from his seat, his furious gaze stabbing at the scrawny man sitting between us. “So you are searching my pocket, eh? You thief!”

That instantly got the attention of the people around. Those passengers who were alighting from the bus, who had wives and husbands and children to get home to, stopped and turned around to watch. Those entering the bus got comfortable and watched. The conductor paused to watch. The driver craned his neck around to watch. I sat and watched.

The offended man now had his fist clenching the front of the other man’s shirt, and his voice was tottering up several decibels of outrage. “Can you imagine! So you are searching my pocket, eh? You want to steal my thing, ehkwa? You no dey fear face! Comon, will you gerrup from there!” And he yanked the scrawny man to his feet, swinging his other hand and striking his cheek with his open palm. The slap resounded.

The scrawny man’s protestation was a bleat. “Oga, I did not search your pocket…I am not a thief –!”

“Comon, will you shettup!” *slap* “You think I’m a fool?!” *another slap* “I say you were searching my pocket, and you are a thief!”

Tried, judged and awaiting sentence.

“Drag him down, oga! Drag him down from the bus!” a woman screeched.

“Yeye! Thief! All these yeye people that will keep on stealing people’s things!” another shrieked, clapping her hands with bloodthirsty delight.

“Oga…I did not take your thing…I did not take your thing oh!”

“I say shettup!” *slap* “Come down here, I say, will you come down here!” And he began pulling the man after him as he got down from the bus. “You are searching my pocket, abi? You want to steal, eh? Aka akparalagi na konkri today!”

“Oga, I swear” – the man was starting to blubber through tears – “I did not search your pocket. I swear. Oga, you sef know that I did not search your pocket….please, oga…!”

The crowd inched closer around the two men, their faces hungry, as though waiting for an excuse to pounce. I felt like I was watching a time-bomb ticking away, quickly counting down to zero. One or two men had started striking the man across his face, even as he suffered the blows of his first assailant. Snatches of his frantic declarations of his innocence could be heard in between the smothering outrage of the crowd. I watched in disbelief, fervently praying that this wouldn’t turn into a lynching. And if it did, I really, REALLY did not want to be a witness.

Eventually, sanity – unbelievably of its own accord – descended on the crowd. It was like the sudden deflation of a tire. The Igbo man gave one last hiss and shoved the scrawny man away from him, causing him to stagger down on the asphalt. More people hissed and kicked out at him, before stomping off. The driver got back behind the wheel, the conductor latched himself against the doorway of the bus, and we continued our journey from Cele.

I am @Walt_Shakes on Twitterpickpocket

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28 Comments

  1. carsten

     /  October 4, 2013

    a shame to the scrawny tribe. Hmmph! *spit*

    Reply
  2. Hehehe….nice one

    Reply
  3. Nonso Uzozie

     /  October 4, 2013

    Walter, I just like the way you deal with Lagos life. You write!

    Reply
  4. Mehn…this was really interesting to read. I may just move to Lagos, seems that place is the most write-worthy place to be in.
    Sad, how bloodthirsty we really can be at the slightest provocation.
    Well done, Waltzer.

    Reply
  5. rachaelzheart

     /  October 4, 2013

    LORL…..very apt and funny description. However Walt, I’m worried that you did nothing to intervene, even though you were a near-miss victim. What if sanity hadn’t prevailed? Would you have really sat there until it blossomed into a lynching?

    Reply
  6. rachaelzheart

     /  October 4, 2013

    Reblogged this on rachaelzheart and commented:
    Life in everyday Lagos, seen through the eyes of my friend Walter Udeh. Enjoy!

    Reply
  7. Newton

     /  October 4, 2013

    “How is my call consine you now?” killed me! Typical Alababoys-kinda-Ibo.
    And “…live from Friday night” got me too.
    And what’s that with the fingering? Ok, it almost didn’t go down well…
    Nice narrative, Urch.

    Reply
  8. Sometimes I look at us and wonder…

    How frail our humanity. How easily we descend the nature scale.

    Nice.

    Reply
  9. Gold

     /  October 4, 2013

    Nice piece…i was on the bus too jes i didn’t know when you alighted.

    Reply
  10. anderson

     /  October 4, 2013

    Err…Walts, what are the emm…other ways you deal with Lagos life?

    Reply
  11. stotle

     /  October 4, 2013

    Lol… Enever see anytin

    Reply
  12. nik

     /  October 4, 2013

    akakpara ya akpara.
    another day in lagos.

    Reply
  13. Izuchukwu

     /  October 4, 2013

    lol…this is good. I wrote a story like this two months ago. Well written

    Reply
  14. Very well written! I almost thought it was fiction!
    Thank God there was no loss of life.. Most people are thirsty for bloood in Lagos.. I blame the frustration of Lagos life.

    Reply
  15. Jake

     /  October 4, 2013

    Fine narrative. Very funny.

    Reply
  16. Sojiment

     /  October 5, 2013

    Nice piece bro. I need to ask, what’s “Aka akparalagi na konkri today!”?

    Reply
  17. Excellency

     /  October 6, 2013

    Nice one, Waltz, & maybe one day, the “King’s Happiness is better” would appear live in Lagos Diaries… 😀 😀

    Reply
  18. Veronica

     /  October 8, 2013

    Hahaha! This one na very good script for Nollywood. Hahahaha!

    Reply
  19. Bello Yahaya

     /  October 16, 2013

    Hahaha… Oga u really tried, u gave a clear n realistic lagos life. Nice one

    Reply
  20. gidi angel

     /  December 4, 2013

    Very witty. L like

    Reply
  21. Abikoye Oluwatosin

     /  January 27, 2014

    Would never forget how they stole my phone twice in a bus, from my bag 😦 ………………..nothing made me laugh more than “Yes, I felt like we were all one big happy family – me, him, Boniface, Nkechi and Mama –”

    Reply
  1. LAGOS DIARIES XVIII | bharieythiboy's Blog

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