BLACK, WHITE & YELLOW:THE IRONIES OF LAGOS

In Lagos, everything is designed to kill you, everything is designed to make you laugh, everything here is business. Name anything and you’ll see that what I am saying is true. I have been here for a couple of months now, and I’m getting to rediscover the Lagos I left behind. The Lagos of Mad people in bespoke suits & sane people in tattered apparels! Lagos and it’s many ironies.

I once saw a man walk up to a mad man under the bridge in Ojuelegba and gave him two hundred Naira note, I thought he was such a kind hearted person till he brought out pen and paper hurriedly as the mad man muttered some numbers. I was confused, I had to ask my new friend, Joseph about the whole charade. Joseph and I are both undergoing our compulsory Youth service at Flobbs Media at Onikan.

Mah guy, na wetin we dey call “Too sure” be that! Joseph said
I didn’t understand so I quizzed him further
“See ehn, the numbers the mad man gave that guy, he only gives it to one person per day. Tomorrow, we fit hear say that man win Baba Ijebu money”
What’s Baba Ijebu? I asked while twitching my nose
It’s a lottery system, old and young play it, even corporate people play. You see that guy is the lucky one today, someone can give the mad man two thousand naira and he won’t even pretend like you are there afterwards, he only gives the number to anyone his spirit inclined with.
But how do you know these things? I had asked with my eyes watery with surprise

Omo, no dull o, I dey play wella. I don give that wèrè Hundred naira before, the idiot no even send me

You look like the idiot here- I thought aloud within myself

I was quiet for a while as we kept walking forward to get a Keke Napep to Adeniran Ogunsanya, I had stopped calling it Tricycle after they called me JJC at Allen junction in Ikeja the other day, I asked Uncle Akin for the street name for the tricycle. I kept thinking about what Joseph had told me about the mad man, and I was wondering who was the real mad person here? The mad man giving out numbers and collecting cash from a lot of able bodied men or Joseph and his likes, collecting numbers from a mad person.

The ironies of Lagos are kind of bitter sweet, humorous to say the least. Most times, it is a “siddon look” situation.

Last Sunday, I was going to meet up with Joyce. After my Ojota incident, I feared Lagos but I still didn’t want to look like a weak child to my parents so I stuck to my plan of experiencing Lagos (unwillingly). Joyce and I met at the NYSC secretariat in Surulere. Joseph had actually introduced me to her and like me, she schooled abroad. She always liked to flaunt “I schooled at the University of Liverpool” at everyone that came her way, I know a lot of people that don’t like Joyce because they think she is too much of a show off. Once she knew I, like herself, didn’t go through the clogged education system in Nigeria, she didn’t bother with the charade. We were both in Calligraphy CDS and she had been inviting me to her place for a while, but I had declined a number of times. Joyce actually liked me, but myself, I wasn’t ready to be choked by commitments. I just wanted to document places, sleep and eat without any woman nagging me all the way. I agreed to visit Joyce after Mass on Sunday.

Even though I barely attended one church service in New York, I still liked the idea of attending mass at St Agnes Catholic Church, Maryland. This has been our family church since I was a boy and I had always visualized myself getting ‪married in the church. The stained blue cross glass with artistic design just behind the altar was and is still my favorite view in the large auditorium. After the 7AM mass, I rushed down to Mr Biggs to grab a bite after which I headed for the bus-stop.

No King as God! The inscription written at the back of the Danfo!

Yaba! Palmgroove! Onipan! Yaba! Yaba!! Yaba!!! Wolé pèlú shangi o– the conductor was very mechanical with the way he called the location! There were like three other conductors around calling out the same tune and their keys seemed to rhyme. Their orchestra was a very coarse one! I boarded the bus to Yaba, Joyce’s house was around Alogomeji, I sat in front with the driver, on the dusty dashboard I saw different stickers of Fuji artistes, but one sticker struck me

King Saheed Osupa! One and only king we know…

An elderly man came in the front seat and sat with me. He had a very old portmanteau he was carrying and it reminded me of Professor Gilderoy Lockhart from the Harry Potter series. The bus waited about fifteen minutes before moving, I had started reading Pettinah Gappah’s “Book of memory”. I was lost in the book, I didn’t hear when the Conductor said
Owó yín dà ní wájú?
It was the old man with the portmanteau that tapped me to the realization of the conductor’s voice.

Tani ìwo? Sèbí I tell you say make you enter with your change? You go come down for next bus stop. Ó dà’pé orí yín ò fé ma pé mó.

I had forgotten I exhausted the smaller Naira denominations on me in Mr Biggs.

Mister, calm down, is One thousand naira note not money? Please take a chill pill.

Èmi ni kí’n pill àbí? Ìyé e ló ma pill! Tó’n bá ti bí e da má bó’lè ní next bus-stop

I looked at the driver’s face for some sort of support, I don’t know why I thought he would support me, but I looked at him nevertheless. He was bumping his head to ‘Òlàjú dé’ by Saheed Osupa and didn’t pay cognizance to the squabble between his conductor and me. I felt a splinter of betrayal pierce my underarm. The conductor was raising his voice on someone at the back row now!

Palmgroove na waso! I no go collect taati naira from your hand. Na your papa buy motor for us?

The guy was now pleading, please help me, Ègbón e jo… Mi ò l’ówó dání (Big bros, please help me, I don’t have money on me)

Aiyé é fé bàjé àbí? Má bè mé l’ébè òsì (it’s like you want your life to be ruined? Don’t beg me)

Muti! Muti!! Park ni Anthony! Jé kí àwon wèrè yí bólè.

Ègbón Olóyìnbó? Abeg come down! I no get change! Mister Soyinka

Chairman, you can’t just tell me to get down, I paid you, it’s your duty to get me change!

If you no carry yourself and your oyinbo wey you dey scatter comot this motor now….

The driver who was laughing at his conductor now added more fuel to the fire
Olóshì, ò kùkù lo school, oyinbo kékeré yen l’ón da opolo e rú? (Unfortunate fellow, you didn’t go to school, look at how ordinary English is scattering your brain)

This infuriated the conductor more, He came to the front and jerked the door open for me after throwing my one thousand naira note on me.

Comot my motor, I go spoil your fine boy o!

I thought about it, a peacock can’t fight a pig, the peacock will get its feathers dirty. (Or I was scared of getting slapped in Lagos again) I respected myself and came down from the bus, the conductor went to the guy with thirty naira and dragged him down too. He jumped back on the edge of the door and hit the top of the bus, signifying to the Driver to move…

Here I am, standing by the roadside with enough money to get me to my destination and another man standing with not enough money to get him to where he is going to. Well, this is Lagos I thought.

As I was putting my one thousand naira note back in my pocket, the man with thirty naira moved up to me

Oga, please help me with money, I beg you with the name of God, I am actually going to my school in Akoka for a tutorial..

I didn’t let him finish before I gave him the one thousand naira note. Well, like me , he has suffered a lot today in the hands of the hostile conductor.

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Another Danfo pulled up just beside us. “Yaba! Yaba!! Yaba!!! Wole pelu change e o”

I have one thousand Naira on me, I told this new conductor

Oya enter

What a relief! The thirty naira man also entered,

Owo yin da?

I brought out another one thousand naira and passed it to the conductor, while the man with the thirty Naira brought out a crisp one hundred Naira…

He smiled at me!

I was exploited,

I played myself.

 

Written for the Photo Series titled ‘Black,White&Yellow – An Attempt to narrate Lagos’  

All Photos by- Seun James Taiwo (IG: @seunjamestaiwo)

BLACK, WHITE & YELLOW: SMALL LONDON

Before my Uncle Akin joined the army, he used to be a mechanic apprentice around Opebi. My father had most of his car issues sorted by him. Like many Lagos mechanics, my uncle came home at night smelling of motor oil and fuel. He could go under any car wearing a FUBU shirt or a new Levis Jean, he really cared less about how he looked. My Uncle usually never lacks money, he brings home either Bournvita or coke every other evening. I actually liked him because of what he had to offer, definitely not because of his recurring slaps

For limpidity sake, my Uncle has an uncanny personality, so don’t think I am exaggerating this story, these things really happened.
It was after Nigeria’s opening game in the FIFA world cup of 1998 in France, everyone in the neighbourhood was in a celebratory mood. Bora Milutinovic, Nigeria’s coach said he felt like the Pope after the match and we Nigerians actually enjoyed the Ninety minutes long mass. Uncle Akin was a big Mutiu Adepoju fan, he even had a hairstyle like Mutiu’s at some point in his life (that is if we can call a head void of hair a style) , after Mutiu scored the opener, my Uncle declared solo coke for everyone. By everyone, I mean, about thirty four people in front of the battery powered yellow and black President television set. Uncle Akin is the type of person that doesn’t think the consequences of an act through before he does whatever he does. For example, he was using a car battery to power the television set which everyone was watching the match from, generators were not copious back then, unlike now where the whole of Lagos listens to the hazardous choral renditions of the contraptions at night. There are jokes around these days about Lagos and Generators, like the one that talks about not being sure if Lagosians will hear the sound of the trumpet once it is 7pm due to the melancholic decibels of the I pass my neighbour’s”. You see, it is actually alright to use your car battery for altruistic acts as such, but the thing is that my uncle Akin is an apprentice, a mechanic! He had brought his boss’ client Volkswagen Beetle home and unbolted the battery to power the TV. Many Lagos artisans still do this till date. Give a mechanic your car for repairs and you might end up as a passenger in it from Ketu to Ikorodu, or you give a Lagos tailor your cloth to make and you might meet them on the road wearing same outfit as you, best you just say Hi and move on, because they are family now. In Lagos, you don’t usually own anything. Your front lawn might be where beggars get their daily bread from, your backyard might be the community dunghill, you might hop into a bus sometime and meet a woman with three kids telling you “Please help me lap your brother”. In Lagos, it is never yours but ours. The Omo onile’s will tell you “Ile wa ni (It is our land)” After you’ve paid so much for the piece, just so you know, the police also co-own your car. Even though my Uncle was brought up by my grandma in Ekiti, he came to Lagos and drank the water from the Atlantic, soon he became a bonafide Lagos artisan.
Another thing is that Uncle Akin also used the money he was supposed to use for a new radiator for the grand celebration of the Headmaster’s goal. Thanks to God Nigeria later won that match, two late goals made us triumph 3-2 over the Spanish side, I can remember that Sunday Oliseh’s powerful shot like I kicked the ball myself. I know you are eager to know where I am going with this, but one more info about my Uncle, He is the first person I ever saw in my life that bathed with Omo detergent. As a mechanic, he said it was good he washed his skin clean like Aso ofi… No exaggerations in all honesty.

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In Lagos, extravagance is our normal

June 13, 1998 was a Saturday so my mother had gone to church for cleaning in preparation for Sunday service and my father was in a celebratory mood, he usually chatted with Mr Nwachukwu our neighbor on days like this in the living room, they usually had much to say to each other (Mr Nwachukwu usually did most of the talking anyway). The days of beautiful Nigerian made soccer, where everyone followed the national team with pride. These days we have a bunch of Lazy people wearing our jerseys. Uncle Akin had returned the TV back to our apartment and the battery back to the car, he ordered me to put the bottles back in the crate and wait with it while he bathed so we can return the bottles to the drink store. Uncle Akin went in and came out in a couple of minutes with a blue towel around his waist. He had applied nixoderm cream on his face and it made him look like those Ghosts in Nollywood movies.
Mò’nbò, mo fé sáré ra oúnje ni Small London (I’m coming, I want to get food from Small London) he had told me. A day never passed without my Uncle eating at Small London, just two streets away from ours.

You see, in Lagos there are always a number of food joints per street, the ones in shacks, the ones that have just benches by the road side, the ones with little shops you can hardly breathe in and there are the very fancy ones. To enjoy some certain type of food, you have to know the ropes of all these Bukas as they are called. If you are more concerned about how sweet the food is than the hygiene, you might find yourself inside one of the shacks. My uncle cared less about hygiene, he was very particular about the sweet savour of his Amala and gbegiri.
Gen Abacha had died few days before the Nigeria and Spain match, and security officers were a bit lenient in the days following the death of the brutal general, my uncle thought it good to jump in the Beetle and head to Small London to eat Amala & return to bathe without anyone stopping him. He was driving down to the place with a bare chest, towel around his waist & nixoderm all over his face. Such care free nature, such is accepted in Lagos when you know your way.

Where is your Uncle? My mother had come in and asked? My father didn’t see him leave, I was the only one that saw him take his madness out.
He went to Small London ma” I had replied her pretending to read Koku Baboni
Akin ò kín gbórò, Olórun má je kó kó’bá ara è (Akin doesn’t listen, God won’t let him implicate himself)
My mother had said.
I didn’t bother telling her he went out like a crazy, scary person.

It was when Newsline started my father started getting a bit worried! Uncle Akin is my Dad’s cousin, but there characters are a million miles apart. My father will say only few words after my Uncle had said a little above a thousand.
Where did you say Akin was going to again? My father asked me overshadowing Cyril Stober’s voice on TV
He said he was going to Small London sir.
Àwón ìwà pála pála kàn kún owó omo yí sha (this boy is fond of acting unruly) my father had said out of irritation
See, I am going to sleep, Akin won’t deprive me of my sleep again tonight.
My mother tried to persuade my father to search for him in the neighborhood, but he refused blatantly.
This woman, I am going to sleep.The other night, I was out looking for him, only to find him drinking in a beer parlour, I won’t lose my sleep over a nuisance like him. My father stood up and made for his room. I laid on the rug, pretending to be asleep…

It was the next morning that it dawned on my father that his cousin was really missing. My father didn’t wake us for devotion or to prepare for church, He was out in the neighborhood around 5AM knocking on all Uncle Akin’s friends door, none of them had seen him. He came back few minutes to 7AM and told us to prepare for church, he planned to drop us off and go to his workshop at Opebi to check him. It was after I was dressed for church I told my father how my Uncle had left the house, if it wasn’t a Sabbath day, I would have chopped a series of serious slaps, but thank God for such holidays bequeathed. My father was now very worried, my mother said we were all going to his workshop together, she couldn’t leave her husband alone.

Good morning, are you Mr Fatunrase?
Yes! My father said adjusting his glasses.
Well, a certain Akin gave me this address, he is in Area H police station, Ogudu. He was arrested last night!- the young police officer had said

We found him…

My father and Uncle Akin returned home about forty-five minutes later, my father’s Mercedes drove into the compound first, the Volkswagen Beetle followed. Surprisingly, my father came in through the door laughing so hard, he wanted to tell us something before Uncle Akin came in but his laughter didn’t let him speak well. Uncle Akin came in through the door and my mother started her own relay of laughter. My Uncle’s face still had nixoderm but I think tears made a funny line from below his eyes down to his chin. The nixoderm in that part was washed of, my Uncle’s hand still had Amala, dry and pale Amala. It had caked while he was locked in the cell. I saw why my parents were laughing, but I couldn’t join them, I knew how Uncle Akin’s slap felt on the cheek!

My Uncle Akin told us later that while he was eating his Amala, police men came in to raid everyone in Small London. There had been a fight there earlier. He said they didn’t allow him drop the Amala or rinse his hand before they whisked him into their van. My father also said he met him sitting in the cell with Amala still in his hands, his towel and slippers had been taken from him leaving him in just men pants. He told us he had to sit down close to where everyone in the cell took a piss when they were pressed. He said there were about eighteen people in the tiny cell.

He couldn’t lift a cup in the house for weeks without my father teasing him about the incident, I never saw him use nixoderm again.

Uncle Akin had been laughing at me since I told him of how my phone was snatched in Ojota, so I brought up this story again. My father started laughing like it was ’98 and it brought a nostalgic feeling.

Bodun, Do you even know why your Uncle joined the Army? My father had asked

I took a not-so wild guess…

Written for the Photo Series titled ‘Black,White&Yellow – An Attempt to narrate Lagos’  

All Photos by- Seun James Taiwo (IG: @seunjamestaiwo)

BLACK,WHITE & YELLOW: OJOTA

“Ogbodo ridin (don’t be stupid)

Ogbodo suegbe(don’t be slow)

Ogbodo ya mugun L’Eko (Don’t allow yourself to be taken for a fool in Lagos)”

Culled from BlackAss by Igoni. A. Barrett

Growing up in Ojota in the 90s and early 2000s was quite different for me. While normal kids played on the streets, I was forced to stay inside the house and read. Read my school books, read journals, I even read Tell Magazine as a kid, even though I never really understood what was in it. I usually also read my Uncle Akin‘s Hints magazine whenever he dropped it carelessly, my mother caught me on one occasion and beat every hint of the magazine content out of me, my uncle also got the sticks from her for keeping such around the house (It was in my SSS class, I solved the mystery of why my mother beat me for reading Hints). I was made to read so much that at a point I thought my parents were out to kill me with books. I watched from our window pane while other kids my age splashed water on each other in the rain, or while they ran across the street to play the rubber band game. I hated them, I envied them, I wanted to be them so bad. Anytime I got a rare opportunity to join them in playing, I always got bullied. I wasn’t street smart one bit.

There was the day I saw Muri and Niyi playing table tennis on a makeshift Tennis board, I was running an errand for my mum, but I decided to damn the consequences and play this particular game with them. They asked me if I knew how to play table tennis and without thinking it through, I said yes. Niyi was a bit nice and he gave me his Bat and with my first hit, I broke the tennis egg. Muri asked me to pay for the Tennis egg, I told him I didn’t have money and I was trying to run away, for a boy my age I was supposed to be smart and talk my way through, but to cut the long story short, Muri and Niyi beat the hell out of me. I’m grateful to my uncle Akin, he saved me from their hands, it was as if Muri was on a quest to make my legs bow like his…

I am now writing this because earlier this year, I visited Ojota again. Did I tell you that after that beating from Muri and Niyi, Mum and Dad decided to take me to a boarding school to toughen me up. I spent most of my time in the school, I even spent some holidays within its walls. I moved to New York just after secondary school and Ojota had soon become vague memory. I only came back to Nigeria for my youth service and I had planned on visiting old friends and show old foes a new me

I had read Teju Cole’s Everyday is for the thief few weeks before traveling down to Nigeria and I related with the book so much that I promised myself to experience Lagos like the character in Teju’s book had done. I promised myself to connect with the normal Lagos life, I wanted to document Lagos as much as I could, I wanted to take as many pictures as possible and I promised myself not to give in to the kingly treatment accorded to the IJGBs.(I Just Got Back)

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Black, White and Yellow- Lagos is home to all 

… I visited Ojota again. I braved the nagging of my mother, the sarcasm of my father and the blunt refusal of my Uncle Akin who was now a Major in the army. They all didn’t want me visiting Ojota again, definitely not in a Danfo, never will that happen my mother swore loud in YòrùbáOrí mí kó” The same woman who was always lapping me around in Danfos and Molues back in the day, I wondered why she was acting like I was going to the war front. I, like Teju, refused to listen to whatever they had to say and headed for the road with my Canon T5i camera in my backpack and iPhone in hand. I came to a compromise with Uncle Akin and I took his offer of a lift from Lekki to Obalende.

I love the new Lagos. The nearly pristine way people lined up for the BRT under the Obalende Bridge was not what I expected, the neat roads from Lekki and all the beautifully tended lawns around Dolphin Estate made me remember the first time I made love, she was a pretty girl from Manhattan and seeing this particular lawn at Dolphin Estate reminded me in a very odd way of how silky her hair felt in my hand, the smooth road reminded of her smooth palms caressing my jugular, like Lagos, I was pleasured in a treacherous routine.

I took a tricycle down to CMS from Obalende, I wanted to see the beautiful Brazilian (Saro) influenced architecture on this part of Lagos. I had been on this part of the city with my mother on one or two occasions as a boy, and I can barely remember any of the buildings vividly, but as the tricycle zoomed off,  my memory was refreshed by the sights. Some sights of disappointments, some other sights of hope, some sights of freshness, some just wowed you till your eye teared a little, this is really Lagos after-all.

I got to the Tafawa Balewa Square, the Old Race Course and alighted from the yellow Tricycle. I bought my tickets and joined the queue down to Ojota. The funny thing was that I was missing the Chaotic Lagos, the rush for buses, the coarse rendition of different bus stop names by conductors which wasn’t t much on this part of Lagos due to the big air conditioned buses, in place of the comical conductors, it was just uniformed people selling tickets and frowning a lot. Oddly, I miss this Lagos chaos that I had romanticized in my head.

My camera was now in my hand, I hadn’t summoned enough courage to use it all the while, but the trip down to Ojota from TBS gave me a good opportunity to shoot. I sat by the bus window and took a lot of pictures, like a little kid given a cane to beat on someone, I snapped everything and anything in my way. I couldn’t remember the names of most of the areas on the way, on a Danfo, the conductor would have called all bus-stops to everyone’s hearing, but the new Lagos is systematic, you might have to ask people around for these details…

… I got to Ojota and alighted from the BRT, the air in Ojota was a bit different. The smell of hot beef from the Gala factory in the area filled the air, at some points pungent odour came from nearby dumps and smeared the hunger inducing smell of the Gala. I think I finally found my Lagos, I grinned slightly and walked forward, my phone already beeping. “Hello, are you in Ojota now? Please be careful o and my regards to Tayo” my mother’s voice resonated from the other side. I quickly cut the call at the sound of bye, I just saw something worthy of capture…

A man dressed as a woman. He was standing just below the Ojota pedestrian bridge, and people were gathered to watch him display. He had breasts made of foam, a very large ass. If any woman had such big ass, every other woman would have a common enemy, he made up his face in a very grotesque manner and his facial expressions were the ultimate comedy. He was actually selling black soap (or maybe I was the one that thought it as black soap) and his target audience were the women around. The ones who couldn’t afford the expensive skin care creams, the ones who marvel at his comedy, they were all buying his product. This man had a good marketing strategy because he had lots of women listening to him while he displayed the magic of the soap. I decided to overcome my fear and take some pictures of the crowd and the entertainer, I looked for a vantage point and clicked and clicked and I kept clicking. I was still clicking when Uncle Akin’s call came in “Hello Bodunde, hope you’re in Ojota now? “ that was the last word I heard for the next 6 minutes.

É pèlé bòòdá

Bí wón se ma’án se níbí nìyen

Sé etí ò dùn yín?

It was like I was hearing the echoes of what all these people were saying, like they spoke from kilometers away. The petty traders, the pedestrians, the law enforcement officials, I was the new entertainment. My mind raced back to when Muri and Niyi beat me up back in the day, a skinny child who wasn’t street smart. Now right here in the same Ojota, few metres away from my old house and almost 15 years later, I am being consoled by strangers for not being street smart, my phone is gone, a single slap took it away…

Written for the Photo Series titled ‘Black,White&Yellow – An Attempt to narrate Lagos’  

All Photos by- Seun James Taiwo (IG: @seunjamestaiwo)

BASSEY! 

P-raise de Lort! P-raise de Lort!! Let us pray.The Molue bus kept making loud rickety sounds and incessant blaring of the horn by the driver didn’t stop Bassey’s voice from ringing in every pair of ear in the yellow bus. Everyone’s eyes in the Molue was now fixed on Bassey, the bus preacher. His grey shirt and tattered bible made him look more of a jester than of a preacher. Almost all the passengers bowed to pray, the bus conductor kept shouting “Yaba! Palmgroove! Onipanu!” he was holding on lazily to a brownish metal across the door and it seemed he might fall off anytime. 

Thank you Gee-sus for all of ya shidren in de bus, may your name be p-raised, the Bible says your shidren shall gather together…. Thank you Jesus because we are gathered in this bus. In Jesus name we have pray! The bowed heads were raised up as they said a Lazy Amen over the conductor’s Yaba! Palmgroove! Onipanu! Shout. A baby started crying not too far from Bassey and he waited for the young mother to start breastfeeding before he started preaching. His clothes looked like a deserter’s and his speech came with a humorous underlay. 

Bassey opened his tattered bible which was actually held-a-piece by stickers of different churches and those of prophetic words like “I shall not die but live”. The man sitting directly in front of Bassey as he preached had a lot of spittle off Bassey’s mouth on his whole existence, but he did not want to interrupt the gospel or offend the man of God, he took his plight in good faith. 

Bassey skirted his whole sermon around cheerful giving, making instances of the biblical story of Abraham and the Angels, he also talked about the young boy that gave Jesus is five loaves of bread, Bassey even found a way to relate this story with a school boy that just bought a sausage roll from a hawker through the window. Everybody laughed at his holy joke, even the driver with his deep Ibadan tribal marks had a curve on his mouth. One would never know they had a fight over pay just this morning before he let Bassey use his bus for the missionary job of the day. 

The thing about Bassey is that, he is one of the very few professionals in the Transportation Gospel business. He does his business with a lot of diligence, he doesn’t short-change his carriers. He even acts as assistant conductor some of the time, announcing each bus stop between his sermon. 
Bassey’s daily routine is a very stereotypical one. He wakes up as early as 4:30AM before there is much vehicular movement in the Maryland Tunnel bridge. He cleans up with sachet water just beside where he sleeps or on other days he goes to the nearby church to use their bathroom. Since the exist of the gateman at the Church of the Saints, he resorted to sachet water. The new Yoruba gateman doesn’t allow him unless he is ready to drop something. If only he knew Bassey himself has a mobile church he runs. 

Bassey moves around with his Ghana-must-go bag that contains all of his belongings. He had a few number of shirts he either got from his scavenger flat mate or the ones he picked off other people’s cloth line when he isn’t preaching the word of God, he calls these shirts “Ble-zzing of de Lort”. 

Bassey usually found a carriage for the day before it was 6AM. Regular commuters on Ikorodu road knew Bassey, their favorite bus preacher, who was a comic relief to many, he eases them off the Lagos stress with his deep Efik laced English and his funny over-sized or under-sized shirts. Some passengers even gave him as much as 500 Naira after he was done preaching, not because he was a fire preacher but because of the free to air comedy they get from Bassey. The conductor and driver usually had an eye on Bassey, taking mental notes of all the Naira bills that laced his hands. 

Once, when Bassey just started his ministry, he made so much that the driver and conductor allowed him to sleep on the floor of the Molue only for him to wake up to an empty treasury. Maybe he wanted to fight, but it was going to give him a bad reputation amidst the drivers and will be bad for business, or maybe it was because he woke to the driver and his friends smoking Igbo he resorted to the path of peace, we don’t know. Moreso Men of God do not hassle with flesh and blood. He moved on anyway.

All was going well for Bassey this particular Monday, it was one of the days you get good response from passengers. Everyone looks forward to a productive week, what better way to be blessed than through the messenger of our Lord Jesus? Even the conductor hailed Bassey after the second trip “Pasito nla, twale! Owo meji fun enikan” all in the bid to get extra 50 Naira from him later on. 
It was on the fourth ride that the day became the one the Yoruba people will call “Bad day, Devil drank water” 

The bus was already at Palmgroove bus stop, some passengers alighted while some new ones boarded the bus down to Yaba. Bassey upped his game, and crafted a new joke for the pleasure of the latest members of the congregation. It thrilled them and everyone was either smiling or making a funny face. 

Like the way rain falls sometimes without foretelling, or when you are taking in fresh air and someone else’s fart destroys the zephyr. A man who looks like he is in his mid-thirties stood up from the back and walked to the front of the Molue, almost to the point where Bassey usually stood. He stood first as if he was going to signal the conductor for his change. He looked at Bassey very deeply, Bassey was too engrossed in the word of God, he didn’t notice the person staring at him. 

It was the police officers at the checkpoint just before Jibowu that saved Bassey from the hands of this man and Bassey’s supposed congregation. They had pummeled his face. Slaps and blows from young and old, even the conductor joined in at a point, the driver didn’t stop the Molue to help out, instead he kept driving like nothing was happening till the Police officers stopped them. The “No padi for jungle” inscription on the Molue made more sense now.

Wetin happen? Why una dey beat am? The light skin police Officer said, his name boldly written on his badge as Cletus Ekpeyong, his supposed black uniform a bit more of brown due to long years of serving the officer. He adjusted his gun to scare the passengers away from Bassey as he came down from the bus with a swollen face, blood dripping from his nose and lips. The wonderful Ikorodu road preacher beaten to shreds, the “I shall not die but live” sticker that held his bible together was off and pages of the holy book spread on the floor of the grubby interior of the Molue.
Officer, tell am make he give us our money back the young woman that had the crying child shouted as she adjusted her head wrap ready for a fight. The other police officers rallied around Officer Ekpeyong and they calmed the situation by bringing Bassey forward, hitting him with their guns without being apprised of his offense. 

Officer Ekpeyong asked again “Wetin he do una? “ passengers shifted back, no one wanted to enter this trap of the Nigeria police. The man who started the whole katakata stepped forward, his top button now off, and sweating profusely. “Oga mi, shun sir! Na so I enter bus from Palmgroove say make I land for Yaba, ma him I see this Oporoko dey preach dey lie to people when be say the cloth wey him wear, na steal he steal am”. He said stuttering a little bit at some point. Officer Ekpeyong looked at Bassey closely after the accusations, the face looked familiar, he was sure he knew him from somewhere. “Wetin be your name? He asked” Bassey he replied amidst tears. The officer tried to add one and two, he was sure he knew him from somewhere. 
But how you take know say na your cloth? Officer Ekpeyong asked the man. My oga, na my work cloth. He moved forward and showed the blue and yellow badge ontop of the breast pocket. Bassey looked at it too like he was seeing it for the first time. Na only six of us get am for my work, I wash am put for outside na him I no see am again for the next morning he said the woman’s baby began crying again, the passengers clapped their hands in amazement, women hissing, men murmuring. They were furious their preacher comedian was a fraud afterall, he betrayed them all. Officer Ekpeyong asked Bassey his side of the story, but tears rolled down his lean cheeks instead. You go follow us go station oga, we need make you write statement” the officer told The man that owned the shirt. It was at this point most of the passengers started looking for another means of getting away from the scene fast. The other police officers held the driver and conductor. Their meal ticket for the day. 

Officer Ekpeyong was very calm and it was rare to find such calm behavior in a Police officer. He led both Bassey and the accuser of the brethren into the back of the Police van parked underneath the bridge. He sat close to both of them and it was written all over his face that he was still searching for where he knew Bassey from. Two of the officers jumped into the van with them, and the other two boarded the Molue and they were all on their way to the Police station.
Bassey! Wey my money? !!! Officer Ekpeyong finally lost his calm. 

JACOB’S CROSS

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Chioma adjusted her son’s collar, gave him a warm hug and kissed him goodbye. She entered her Prado jeep and waved. Tears rolling down Jacob’s face, he was a boy with a strong heart even his parents admired his courage and approach to issues, even though he was meant to be  a butty child. His tears is not because he saw his mum go…

It was the first day of the school year, flashes of smiles can be seen all across Greenfield School, Ikoyi. Faces all shiny in their new green and white school uniforms, new backpacks and Lunch box in a “see what my mum got me” swagger. Jacob was also shiny save for the tear drops that smeared his fluffy cheeks.
Moyin grabbed Jacob’s arm, she was his best friend and they haven’t seen each other most of the summer. “Hey Jake, how are you and how is Ikoyi? Let’s go to the assembly ground we have a lot of catching up to do “ she said smiling not noticing Jacob’s cheek. Smart Jacob would not allow any girl see his tears, he quickly bent down like he wanted to remove something from his bag and cleaned his face. They walked down to the assembly ground, Moyin opened her bag and brought out a paper and waved it at his face “Jake my daddy helped  with my composition hope you have finished yours?” Jacob Nodded. My daddy said I could take the common entrance this year” she said again, Jake didn’t answer her this time, girls and wahala
The Headmistress of Greenfield school took to the podium, she was full of smiles happy to see her kids again. Before addressing them it is customary that the teachers inspect the pupils, but since it was the first day of school that was not needed as every of them was on a new attire.
They matched to their classrooms, line by line all singing ”
We are H-A-P-P-Y
We are H-A-P-P-Y
We know we are
We are sure we are
We are H-A-P-P-Y

Jacob dropped his books in his locker and took his bag and Lunch box to the back of the class where the rack was. Mrs Essien was already in class and was welcoming the kids in with smiles, she was their class teacher last year so she knew them all and cherished them, she knew all of them and what they are capable of, she knew all their parents too. Much of a teacher she is.
After they were all seated, she walked briskly to the front of the class and they all stood and echoedGood morning Ma!God bless you Ma!!We are happy to see you!!!” She replied “God bless all of you, I am happy to see your sweet faces all again. Who missed me? she asked and all their hands flew up in a synchronized way, even Jacob’s hand was up too. “I missed you all too, hope you all have your compositions here?”she asked “YES!!!”they chorused. She told Winnie to collect the composition and submit it to her desk before they all went to the computer room for their first class.

Mrs Essien a very hard working teacher, picked up the compositions and started going through them. Some were very hilarious, like Ekene’s who said his father thought him how to drive during his holiday. She laughed hysterically, how can a normal father teach his son how to drive at the age of 8. She read a couple of other compositions, corrected many spelling mistakes her thick glasses could help her spot before she got to Jacob’s composition.

The teacher removed her glasses and wiped the tear in her eye with the back of her palm, she was emotional the scrawls that were on the paper before her was so touching she didn’t know when the tear dropped.

  HOW I SPENT MY LAST HOLIDAY
My name is Jacob Adetayo, I am writing a composition on how I spent my last holiday. I spent my last holiday in my mummy’s new house in Ikoyi. I used to spend my holidays in our house at Lekki with Dad and Mum before, but this holiday everything changed. Mum told me we had to move to Ikoyi without dad. I don’t know why we moved to Ikoyi without my daddy, I miss him. I think it is because of that lawyer that always comes to our house and ask Dad to sign a document that he always refuses to. After the lawyer leaves our Lekki house, mum will escort him to the door and come back yelling on my daddy and ask him why he didn’t sign the document, that she was tired of staying with him and living a boring life. I don’t know why my mummy said my daddy was boring, my daddy is very fun filled, he takes me and mom to the park every time and we play together. My daddy always takes me and my friend Moyin anywhere we wanted every Holiday except from this holiday. I miss my daddy, I always sleep with him on the couch in the sitting room during holidays after we both watch movies on our 3D TV, but this holiday I never get to watch much of TV because I was always in the car with mum, and when we get back at night she is always forcing me to sleep. I miss my daddy, he always calls me everyday but it is not like seeing him. I don’t like Mr. Okoh he comes to our house almost every weekend during my last holiday. When he comes, he hugs and kisses mum just like dad does and they also sit down a long time in front of the TV together while me and aunty Toyin our house help will be in the toy room together. Our new house help also sleeps a lot, everything here is not like Lekki with my Daddy. I miss my daddy, he came to visit me during my holiday and my mum shouted on him but she still allowed him to see me, that was my best day this holiday. Daddy played with me in the toy room and promised me I am going to spend the next holiday in Lekki with him and mum. I asked him who was going to take me to school when we resumed and he said mum will. I like mummy’s Prado, I love my daddy’s range rover better because he allows me seat anywhere I want unlike mum that makes me seat at the back. I miss the holidays with my dad and mum, I cried many times this holiday. I want my next holiday to be in Lekki with My daddy and Mummy. I will be 9years old, and will be big with muscles like my dad, I want someone to wrestle with, I want my Daddy and Mummy to hug each other again and not Mr. Okoh, I want to sleep on the couch with my daddy again. My last holiday was not like Moyin’s own but I want my next holiday with my daddy and mummy in Lekki.

As she cleaned the tear in her eye, the pupils walk in guided by the computer teacher. She spotted Jacob and Moyin, she couldn’t control the tears now…

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Children ought not to be victims of choices adults make for them – WADE HORN

confluence of hearts…