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.