He looked at his wristwatch and shook his head like someone not satisfied by what he saw. He gave it a second look. The expression on his face was that of an alarm. He took another look: this time checking his watch against the ancient city-clock of monumental proportion. He smiled approvingly at his time-worn watch. “Tempus fugit!” he gasped. He quickened his pace toward the motor park…
“Ketu, Ojota, Mile-12! Ketu, Ojota, Mile-12!” the conductor announced into the empty air of the fledgling dawn. He thrust his filthy fingers into his customized pocket where he usually lodges fares collected; and brought out a sturdy stick. No sooner had he put the stick in his mouth than he began spreading spittle into the defiled air. And his coarse voice -no thanks to “paraga” and “ganja”- rang again: “Ketu, Ojota, Mile-12!” By now he knew where he was.
Lagos. Eko for show. Akeju tried to walk briskly as others were doing. The first step he took in that attempt landed him on the ground. He had just stepped on nylon of “pure water”. He cursed and cursed. People tried to raise him up but he refused. He requested for sacrifice to be made before he could get up. Those trying to help him get up burst into a lava of laughter and simply went away to mind their business.
Bracing up from his downfall and its consequent embarrassment Akeju got up. He tried to pick his bag that fell off his arm; the bag was no more on the ground. First, his mien was that of misfortune. It changed to bewilderment. And by the time he was on his feet there was fury foaming all over his body. His angry eyes caught sight of a man busy scrambling for passengers in the Onitsha-Owerri-Aba motor park. He seemed to recognize the man. He hurried into the nearby park and grabbed the man by the arm.
“Where’s my bag?” Akeju demanded. His hand now trembling as he feebly held on to the man’s muscular hand. The man took a scornful glance at him. “Yes. It’s you am talking to. I said where’s my bag,” Akeju said impatiently.
“Abi you dey craze?” the man fumed.
“You be thief. And na you dey mad,” said Akeju, tightening his grip now on the man’s shirt. This seemed to be another morning-show in Lagos. Crowd was forming like a thick mass of cumulus. Lagosians are reputed onlookers in this kind of situation. Even the police have a penchant for looking on when a scenario like this happens. A showdown was brewing. Could Akeju handle this man? Or would the man look at Akeju as a ranting ant? Before you could say “what happened?” the man thrust his clenched fist into Akeju’s midriff…a blow that left Akeju suspended in the air for several seconds. And, thud! He came down to earth. Again, the Lagos crowd had time for amusement even during a rush-hour. They laughed mockingly at Akeju and some said, “yeye-man. Abi im no know im size.”
This time around no one was willing to give Akeju a helping hand. He was stuck to the ground writhing in pain. He had never before been humiliated like this. He tried to stand up; he staggered, stumbled and was back on the ground again. Then something jolted him up. He heard a tingling sound coming from his pocket. O his cell phone, he reached for it. Before he could say “hello!” he felt a dulling sensation on his face as a hand from nowhere slammed on his bony cheek. He let go of the phone. His eyes shutting up as he went sprawling on the ground. The impact of the hard-hitting hand on his face was grueling. For Akeju there was no helper; there was no sympathizer. This is Lagos…Eko for show!
By the time he came to it was already afternoon. He looked like one dented by a bike. He murmured to himself, “What has happened? Where’s my bag, my phone?” he dipped his shaking hand into his pocket and reached for his diary. He staggered to a nearby call centre. Exhausted and disheveled, with his knees knocking each other he begged for a seat. He called out some numbers for the operator to dial for him. While waiting for the call, he requested for a bottle of Coke to cool off.
“It’s ringing,” the operator announced. Akeju held the phone against his face and for the first time felt an excruciating pain on cheek. It was quite difficult for him speak audibly enough.
“Kay, it’s me. Am now in Lagos. Where are you? Could you come and pick me up at the park? I’ll be waiting….”
He downed his bottle of Coke. He heaved a heavy sigh. He stood up. He sat down again. As if recovering from a temporary amnesia all that had happened to him earlier in the morning came flooding through his head. He shook his head wearily. He still could not figure out why he was looking so spent and haggard. He had yet not thought of his bag and cell phone. He made to leave the call centre and a voice halted him: “Oga, you never pay o!”
“Oh! Am so so sorry,” he apologized as he reached for his wallet at the back-pocket of his trousers. The wallet was not there. He shook his head in disbelief. He searched the other pockets. The wallet had been stolen. This made his chest ache with anguish. He shook his head again and slumped into the chair he was sitting on before. The creaking, rickety chair gave way…. Akeju trying to hold on to mid-air crashed to the ground. He passed out. Everyone around took to his heels. The shop-owner was confused. She stood over Akeju for several seconds calling, “Mr. Man. Mr. Man. Oga, get up now!”
“Wetin come be all this?” she queried.
She looked around as she frantically closed and locked up her shop, and took to her heels. Akeju was still lying death-like on the floor.