by Oluwakemisola Oladimeji Daniella
Shortlisted in the PureTravel Writing Awards 2023.
As the driver carried my heavily loaded box to the bus, I mean Sienna, other drivers rushed me shouting “Ibadan, Ibadan” and some shouted “Akure Akure” but unfortunately, I was going to Lagos.
My face squeezed in irritation as the driver began pressing my bag like a sardine in its can, I come wanted speaking but I knew my unpolished Yoruba would get me in trouble and I also didn’t want to speak my well-polished English so he wouldn’t think I was an ‘ ajebo’ and scam me when I want to pay.
I entered the bus thinking we would move immediately since the driver told me 6:00 am but to my surprise he sat on a concrete scooping hot beans into his mouth. Other passengers started clamoring but he didn’t care, what was important to him was his hot beans. He drowned the noise with each spoon of his beans. While we waited a vendor came advertising his strong herbal drink that would cure all kinds of diseases, as he spoke his conk Yoruba, my mind was distracted as I was looking for where to pee. The saying you can’t cheat nature might be true because I was about to do so. The so-called ‘nature’ didn’t come when I was leaving home.
As I let my mind wander, I was amused as I saw a man puffing out smoke with his hand covering his ear, while the other hand was beating drum in the air. He began dancing to his mime, I laughed hard as I thought not all madmen are naked. The real-life drama didn’t end there as more was about to unfold. A woman came in her oversized bubu and head tie, as she opened her mouth, I realized that train must have passed through her teeth, she began praying in Yoruba and I was confused if I should say ‘AMEN’ since she was just a passerby and part of me knew she wanted money, my suspicion was confirmed as she began asking for money, I removed my face immediately. Don’t call me a bad person. This is Nigeria and you have to be careful who you give your money to.
The driver finally finished his hot plate of beans and was finally ready for us, as he strode majestically as if he had one a lottery, other passengers began clamoring again, but I was too lazy to join them as I watched him enter the bus. We were about to move when one of the park men came hitting the car and asking for his money. It’s a norm for drivers to pay a fee to those who helped them in stacking or should I say pressing items of luggage at the back of the car. The driver spoke in Yoruba telling him to hold on and that he would transfer, the park man finally left us and we began our journey.
“Let us pray” I heard as I looked up and saw an elderly man. We all said ‘Amen’ in unison.
The journey was going smoothly till the bus slowed down and I immediately knew it would be a checkpoint; behold it was, to be precise, it was a soldier checkpoint. I dropped my phone immediately; my actions were guarded by the popular saying “Don’t press your phone when you are at a soldier checkpoint”. I turned to my side and told the passenger the same thing. We passed the checkpoint and soon my lashes fluttered as I fought back sleep, but I couldn’t fight it anymore. I turned to look for a comfortable position, but as I turned my head to the right side the stench from sweat, I perceived sent my head turning to the left immediately without thinking, I soon found a nice position and slept.
I woke up at another checkpoint and my eyes were fed as a uniformed man, a soldier told a bus driver to stop because he didn’t give him the usual. They went back and forth, and finally, I think the driver realized that he had no choice and he was holding up other vehicles, and ours was among them. He brought out a squeezed fist and the soldier understanding what it was stretched his shameful hands and collected what was hidden inside the driver’s fist. I honestly wished it was paper.
My journey continued at a fast but slow pace because, I was lost in my nation called imagination, creating stories while spellbound by nature. However, it was short-lived as I drifted into sleep. “Honk honk” The sounds of different cars horns jerked me up from sleep. With a squeezed face I looked up to see what caused the pandemonium and lo and behold there was a long queue of cars. However, I wasn’t surprised because we were on the infamous Ibadan-Lagos expressway known for its exhausting traffic jam. This is owing to their rank as the busiest road in Nigeria. Since I couldn’t sleep again, I decided to bask in the glory of traveling. My mouth was still but my mind was in motion, full of tranquility and beauty. It spiraled between those two emotions. Traveling became the new drug and its effect kept me in an ecstatic state.
Loud clashing voices disrupted my peaceful state. I looked up and I saw the enormous signboard which read in big words “WELCOME TO LAGOS”, suddenly the colors of the atmosphere changed and all I could see was a dusty, rough, and rowdy atmosphere. As we drove into the park, we were welcomed by hawkers selling their products, one look at the variety of products hawked, and you would wonder if the sellers took a skill class in learning how to neatly and creatively arrange their products on metallic round trays. Also, Yellow old and beaten vehicles known as “danfo” lined the park. Bus conductors shouting in thickly accented voices ‘YENOPAJA!!”, “BERGER!!”, “KETU!!”, “IKEJA!!”, “ALONG!!”. While some were planning their new schemes to scam the latest JJC (Johny Just Come). Don’t call me evil, that’s Lagos for you. There is even a saying that when you are in Lagos keep your belongings close to your chest like it’s the only one you have.
Finally, I arrived at my destination, and to my utmost surprise freshly made pounded yam with egusi soup was waiting for me in a large but lavish bowl. Mm, every typical Yoruba girl’s dream.