LAGOS DIARIES XIX

My father was in town for some concerns. And he was staying with my uncle in Yaba. As his child, I was supposed to go and see him, to welcome him, to take in news of home and my siblings, to acquire whatever goodies and provisions from home he brought with him, and to let him see that I was hale and hearty, and doing fine in Lagos (The man can like to fret, he nearly turned into a basket case when news of my attack got to him). But you see, I had an obstacle – two, infact. The kind that will leave Tom Cruise stumped in the Mission Impossible franchise. The two of them – distance and work. I stay in Festac side and I have the kind of job that pulls me in behind the desk sometimes on Sundays. Plus there’s nothing I find more cumbersome than a visit in Lagos that requires more than, at the most, two bus rides. Any more than two, and you had better be a very, VERY good reason for dragging me that far.

But he’s my father. And I am a dutiful son. And where there’s goodies from home awaiting, there’s a way. And that way was provided in two words – overnight bag. I would go on to Yaba from work, spend the night catching up with Dad, and leave for work from there the next day. See how I solved that particularly knotty problem? Paramount Studios really should consider me for the next Mission Impossible installment. #TeamTomCruise

Anyway, that morning saw me packing the barest essentials in my backpack. In fact, the only thing that made the bag weighty was my laptop. I wasn’t about to go spend an entire twelve hours of the night without at least tinkering on the computer and getting down a few lines of whatever story popped into my head. And then I went to work. After several hours of handling customers and swallowing my condescension and stifling sarcastic retorts and smiling until it felt as though my facial muscles were going to be perpetually hewn like so, I finally called it a day, slung my backpack over my shoulders and started out of the work building.

I took the first bus ride to NAHCO. Took the second bus ride to Oshodi.And took the third bus ride to Onipanu. It was a hot day, and with each passing minute, I felt a fresh layer of grime on my skin, a fresh slick of sweat, and a fresh ounce of exhaustion heave down inside me. The heat was getting to everyone, and tempers were running short, as was evident in the frequent spats that broke out between conductors and passengers over very trivial matters. And while some people like to blow off steam when they are cranky, I like to internalize. And so, in the midst of this furor, you would find me quiet in my corner, ears plugged to the media on my phone, eyes staring off through the window, mind conjuring up the cold bath and heavy meal and bed rest that waits at the end of the journey. That’s my way oh. Me – shout inside bus? Puhleeze! I may be a Lagosian, but I’ve still got the blue blood of an ajebo running through my veins.

So when I got to Onipanu, I got down, and contemplated briefly the stretch of the expressway. There were people dashing across the road, weaving through BRT buses and angry honking of horns, and breaking all sorts of pedestrian road rules. Just the sort of thing I would do. If I were in the mood. But I wasn’t. I was too tired, and happened to be feeling low on Lady Luck’s affection. There was this still small voice in my head telling me that if I step foot on the road, instead of up the overhead bridge . . . well, another two words – LASTMA officials. I can’t fit to shout.

I jejelly started up the stairs of the overhead bridge, feeling my exhaustion mount with each trudging step. Finally I got to the top and was about to continue across the walkway when I saw this elderly woman standing just at the edge of the top of the staircase. She was obviously Yoruba, with her corpulent build, her dark-skinned doughy features and the faded lacy material of her iro and buba. But it wasn’t her appearance that caught my attention. It was the abject terror I saw on her face as she eyed the walkway. Her eyes were widened, her hands fluttered uncertainly over her huge, pendulous bosom, and her body quivered on the legs that were planted so firmly on the ground, it was obvious they were going nowhere. She was obviously terrified of walking across the bridge.

And who can blame her, really? I caught a fleeting glimpse of the highway beneath the bridge, at the fleet of speeding vehicles, honking and vrooming their way up and down the road, at the sharp drop that was the distance between the bridge and the heartless face of the road’s asphalt. Many a time, I have moved across a bridge and caught myself thinking: What if a disaster should happen? A suicidal Boko Haram member . . . a weak link in the bridge’s structure . . . a sudden and unexpected freak of nature, like the descent of a tornado . . . or Iraq’s military testing out a small nuclear experiment in Nigeria, a weapon whose destination is the bridge. I start thinking these unsettling thoughts, and I have to take in deep breaths and tell myself that the devil is a liar.

So back to the woman. She caught me looking at her, and lunged at me, her meaty hand grasping my upper arm in the kind of deathlike grip that would require me using a chainsaw to set myself free. Ah-ah, just like that, madam? Won’t you buy me dinner first?

“Omo mi,” she started, “jowomoni lo iranlowo e…”

“Ah, ma, I don’t understand Yoruba,” I protested.

“Eh…my pikin…” she switched to halting English. “It’s just that…eh…I need ya help…to, eh…” She gave up and simply gestured in the direction of the walkway. There was no need for rocket science for me to understand that she wanted me to guide her across the walkway. My hand would be her staff, one she would require to take her through the valley of shadow of death.

I was tired, yes. But I was feeling charitable. It wasn’t as though I had any other choice anyway. I mean, my arm was trapped in the vice that was her hold, and unless I had that chainsaw handy, ready to hack off her fingers, then I was stuck with my duty as Moses. So I nodded good-naturedly, patted her hand reassuringly and started forward.

And stopped.Because the woman didn’t move an inch.

“Madam, let’s go nah,” I urged.

But she just stood there, trembling, her entire body humming with her terror.

“Madam, don’t worry, let us go…” I moved forward encouragingly.

She moved with me, then stopped and began groaning and muttering unintelligible words of Yoruba. She was shaking much harder, her fingers dug into my arm, and the heady and unpleasant smell of her body odour assailed my nostrils.

My impatience leaked into my voice as I said, “Madam, it’s not hard nah. Nothing will happen to you. Just follow me…”

But she didn’t seem to be listening to me. Her agitation seemed to increase. The tremors of her body juddered across to mine, and her voice climbed a few decibels in panic.

See me see wahala. It suddenly occurred to me that passersby may happen upon us and misinterpret what was going on. A young man held tight by an agitated elderly woman. Two and two put together, and the answer would be forty. You see where I’m going with this? Public beatings stemming from wrongfully-drawn conclusions happen every day in Naija, and I wasn’t about to become one such victim. Next thing you know, Linda Ikeji will splash my bruised and bloodied figure on her blog under the headline that screams ‘Young Man lynched by mob at Onipanu Bridge.’ God forbid bad thing!

I started to tug at my arm, attempting to free it from the woman’s grasp. She held fast, seemingly oblivious to my intentions, so wrapped up was she with her terror.

“Madam, leave me abeg,” I huffed. “If you no wan cross, leave me…” I tugged harder, lifted my fingers to pry hers out of my arm. We weaved about a bit, awkward shuffles right there at the top of the staircase.“What kind of nonsense is this nah?” I snapped, becoming incensed. “Madam, leave me jare! Haba!”pickpocket

And then I felt a sharp tug on my trousers. The touch was light, but sure and swift, and the fingers had already dived into my back pocket and were moving just as swiftly back out before I noticed. The grasp on my wallet was halfway out of my pocket before I whirled about and clamped my hand around the thief’s. My eyes blazed down on the gaunt face of a boy who couldn’t be more than ten or eleven. Dark-skinned. Feral eyes. Face riddled with eczema. Tattered clothing that hung and fluttered over his scrawny body.

“You dey craze?!” I snarled with enough heat to make him quail. “What do you think you are doing? Thief! Are you mad!” I twisted his wrist, and he whimpered.

“My pikin, abeg…no vex…” It was the woman.

I turned to her. Gone was her anxiety and terror. Instead, her eyes were pleading and on her face was the guilt of one nabbed in a wrongdoing.It suddenly clicked. All this had been a con, a clever ploy to distract me and relieve me of her possession. They were a tag team – mother and child, it would seem. I felt my anger pound inside my veins and against my head, especially when I remembered the charitableness I’d felt for her earlier on. It had been very un-Lagosian of me to allow myself cajoled into assisting her. I shook my head mentally at my naiveté. I shoved the boy away from me and secured my wallet back inside my pocket. Then I stabbed a furious gaze at the two culprits. “You should be ashamed of yourself!” I spat at the woman in my best ministerial voice. “Just imagine what you are teaching your son – to become a thief. You no dey shame!” And I executed a perfect ‘Mscheeewww’ before turning and stalking away across the bridge.

I am @Walt_Shakes on Twitter

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25 Comments

  1. Edeeth

     /  November 2, 2013

    WHAT?!!!!!! :O :O :O

    No way!!!…..

    Reply
  2. chika

     /  November 2, 2013

    So your dad came to lag, and you didn’t tell us? And in other news….you are now a full-bred lagosian, only a lagosian would have felt that light tug…..

    Reply
  3. Maryann

     /  November 2, 2013

    Walter, u would have shared na. Lol

    Reply
  4. carsten

     /  November 2, 2013

    wait wait wait… **ignoring the story** u were going to yaba and u took a bus to NAHCO, then oshodi, then onipanu? Hahahahaha. .. still a JJC shaa. . all that long journey. kai ^_^

    in other news, that woman should be reported to child services (˘̯˘ )

    Reply
  5. Hehehe…I keep lovin d lagos diaries…Omo,Lag na wa oh!

    Reply
  6. *Horror at the thought of entering buses in Lagos* Phlueeezzz…my ajeboness won’t do that biko ! And yes…why are you always prone to Thieves?

    Reply
  7. Excellency

     /  November 2, 2013

    Wonderful deliverance! Howz pops?

    Reply
  8. Sallie

     /  November 2, 2013

    And where was Emem with her chain saw when u needed her???

    Reply
  9. firstlady Temidayo

     /  November 2, 2013

    This is the first time I’ll comment and its bcos I’m new. Got here frm tlspace, and I just had to go tru d entire diary, Walter, I must confess, I laughed, as in I seriously laughed, and felt bad where u were almost beaten to death,*pele dear# I thnk God I discovered this blog. Now work isn’t gonna b boring# God bless ur brain walter. More ink to your pen.

    Reply
    • I appreciate уσυя presence aηd readership. Thanks a lot. Aηd I hope to keep writing stuff tнaт keep work very alive for уσυ. 🙂

      Reply
    • nik

       /  November 3, 2013

      Temi welcome, if you are laughing after reading lagos diaries, it means you will be given querry when reading eze goes to school and finding hubby cos the laugh for there no get part 2.

      Reply
      • firstlady Temidayo

         /  November 3, 2013

        Thanks Nik. I’m already having insomnia cos of dis blog oooo… I’ll say I’ll sleep after reading dis episode and b4 I know what’s happening, I’m already on d next.

  10. nik

     /  November 3, 2013

    This is exactly why when I see someone in need in lagos I turn my face the other way.

    Reply
  11. Oluwanonso

     /  November 3, 2013

    “…in my best ministerial voice…. And i executed a perfect Mscheeeew before turning and stalking away across the bridge”
    I think I was there that day.

    “There is nothing I find more cumbersome in Lagos than a visit which requires, at the most, two bus rides”- NOTED.

    Reply
  12. another lagos dairy… every thing happens in lagos

    Reply
  13. Yemie

     /  November 16, 2013

    Walter, I’ve been meaning to ask you this……, Who are you? Rotflmao! You’re cracking me up big time. Great job!

    Reply
  14. Abikoye Oluwatosin

     /  January 23, 2014

    #shocked# that’s a robbery…………………i will never forget how i lost my second bold 5 in court to a condemned criminal brother and i was like, seriously? another armed robber to be caught in the same family….smh…………Now i don dey learn ooooo………

    Reply

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